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I’ve read several books penned by dermatologists over the years. After a while, it becomes tedious as much of the information is repeated, the only differentiation being what I call “filler” anecdotes. It’s rare when I’m enlightened with something new. On the rare occasion that I do find any useful information, it’s usually about 80 plus pages into the book. However, the latest addition to the dermatology book archives is refreshingly laconic. Skin Rules: Trade Secrets from a top New York Dermatologist, by Dr. Debra Jaliman, is the CliffsNotes version of a dermatologist’s tome. The small book contains 77 rules or “trade secrets” Dr. Jaliman has compiled over 25 years of practicing dermatology.
Each rule is its own chapter, which declares what the rule is on one page, followed by a page (or two, at most) of brief insight into the rule. The list of rules covers the spectrum of skin care from the fundamentals of cleansing to advanced esthetic lasers. The usual commandments, such as beauty sleep and diet, are predictably included; however, I did find the book to be a useful, easy read. Many of the rules cover topics previously addressed on TIA (e.g., Rule 9 Winter, spring, summer and fall, use daily sun protection). And some information spans many articles; thus, I found certain rules to be very useful summaries. I’ve outlined, (or rather paraphrased) 15 rules that may not be common knowledge or are worthy of reiteration.
Rule 17 – Buy physical sunscreens that are white, not clear. White sunscreens are “micronized,” which means they sit on top of the skin. Clear sunscreens contain nanoparticles, which can potentially penetrate the skin because of their ultra-microscopic size.
Rule 19 – Steer clear of sunscreens with retinyl palmitate. This is a pet peeve of mine as too many manufacturers are jumping on the bandwagon and including the ingredient in daytime products. TIA has previously noted that retinyl palmitate in sunscreen actually ages you as it breaks down in sunlight, forming free radicals. Moreover, there is evidence these sunscreens may cause cancer.
Rule 22 – There’s a pill for that. Dr. Jaliman is a proponent of the supplement Heliocare (aka polypodium leucotomos), as am I. It doesn’t replace sunscreen; rather, there is growing evidence that popping the pill before heading to the beach provides additional sun protection.
Rule 23 – Even moles that don’t look suspicious should be checked out. It takes a trained eye to make a definitive diagnosis on whether a mole is precancerous. Besides, you can’t see all the moles on your body (e.g your back). Everyone should have a yearly body check for moles, which is usually covered by health insurance. It’s a matter of life and death, so definitely worth the co-pay. [Editor’s note: The American Academy of Dermatology offers yearly free cancer screenings nationwide.]
Rule 30 – Hypoallergenic doesn’t always equal safe. Hypoallergenic only means there is a reduced risk of skin reactions. Fragrance-free products are the better option. Also be aware that “unscented” does not mean fragrance free.
Rule 36 – The best place to keep your makeup and skincare products is in the refrigerator. A warm, steamy bathroom deteriorates products faster. This is especially worth doing if you’ve invested in expensive serums or have products on hand that you haven’t yet used.
Rule 40 – A good facial can unclog pores. While I agree that a professional cleansing yields better results than what you can do at home, I completely disagree that stainless-steel comedone extractors should be used - even by an esthetician. These instruments do more damage than good and I strongly discourage using them. Only MDs should use the instrument, and there are rare cases that call for it.
Rule 51 – Good things come in tubes and pumps. For the most part, this type of packaging is best to maintain product efficacy.
Rule 54 – Exercise your body, not your face. Facial exercises cause wrinkles.
Rule 58 – Laser treatments can remove many signs of sun damage. Machines, such as Limelight and Fraxel can erase splotchy skin, but they’re expensive so you are better off investing in sunscreen to prevent sun damage.
Rule 61 – Freeze fat; don’t suction it. The process of Coolsculpting freezes fat, which then metabolizes as if you were on a diet! Dr. Jaliman prefers the Zeltiq machine, which she deems the safest. Coolsculpting does not involve needles, has minimal down time, and is cheaper than liposuction.
Rule 62 – Tighten before you cut. Radio frequency, which tightens skin by stimulating collagen, should be considered before going under the scalpel for a facelift. Dr. Jaliman recommends Thermage CPT, as it doesn’t cause swelling, bruises or redness. It’s also gradual, natural looking and can be done anywhere on the body.
Rule 73 – Keep all cuts and scratches moist for better healing. As someone prone to keloid scars, I can attest to this and swear by this. Dr. Jaliman recommends using bacitracin or DuoDerm Extra-thin Dressing.
What I like: This book is short and to the point. Dr. Jaliman often recommends inexpensive products (I advise searching on TIA before using these products) and excludes recommendations from her own product line as that would compromise the integrity of the book. I also think the book release is well timed - before the damage of summer is incurred.
What I don’t like: I certainly don’t agree with every rule (Rule 8 – exfoliate, exfoliate, exfoliate) or the manner in which some rules are implemented as well as certain product recommendations (Rule 12 recommends Latisse and Revitalash). I would advise reading any book by a dermatologist with a healthy dose of skepticism.
Overall, Skin Rules offers (mostly) good, practical advice, written in a simple, straightforward manner.