What really is good for the skin


Wanting to look young at all costs is the wrong attitude, says Zurich derma­to­logist Severin Läuchli. Healthy skin and radiance have little to do with beauty standards or advertising promises.

Mr Läuchli, what do you do for your skin?

I treat it regularly, I make sure it doesn't dry out. And I protect it from the sun.

Why is sun protection important?

Besides not smoking, it’s one of the few anti-aging measures that are proven and effective. UV light is the decisive factor when it comes to skin aging. A person who spends a lot of time in the sun will have the same wrinkles ten years earlier than someone who consistently takes care to protect their skin.

Have people now heard that they should avoid blazing sunshine and solariums?

Most people have already read or heard about it, but there are still surprisingly many people who want to get a tan. The fact that tanning accelerates skin aging should be reason enough not to do it – besides the risk of cancer. Skin cancer is the greatest damage that the sun can cause to the body.

As a dermatologist, do you explain this risk to your patients?

his forms part of every consultation and our clinic is also involved in the sun protection campaigns run by the Cancer League. The fact that the skin ages faster is, of course, an incidental aspect in this context. But in the end it often makes a bigger impression on people. They often say: I’m not expecting to get skin cancer, but no way do I want wrinkles!

Why is the fear of wrinkles so profound?

Because youthfulness is linked to beauty, strength and vitality. But wrinkles, because they remind us of getting old, don’t fit into this picture. This is why most people yearn for a smooth skin. Although there are cultures in which age and wisdom are highly valued, in our Western world the desire and ambition to look young are stronger.

It's a race that we inevitably lose, as we all age eventually.

It would be nice if we could accept the aging process as something natural. When only young looks count, there is enormous pressure on people to achieve and compete, and this can become a terrible burden for some. Even young people are affected by this. Women barely in their mid-20s ask for cosmetic surgery because they think they don’t match up to their beauty ideals.

What’s your advice to these young women?

To find ways of better accepting themselves. This is also what I advise older women or men who are thinking about major surgery such as a facelift. If someone is dissatisfied with their appearance in general, their problems usually lie deeper. Self-acceptance and a healthier lifestyle are certainly the better methods in such cases.

But the cosmetic products and services available on the market are enticing. There’s almost no body part that can’t be enhanced.

That's true, but just because something can be done, doesn’t mean it makes sense to do so. Especially as patients sometimes get caught up in a frenzy and already ask for the next operation no sooner is the last one done. It’s the job of a responsible doctor to say “stop”.

Do you disapprove of cosmetic surgery in general?

No, but I find it alarming if it becomes the social norm that everyone is required to change their appearance. Or if someone asks for surgery out of sheer panic over aging. On the other hand, if you’re basically at peace with yourself and want to get rid of the frown line that has always bothered you – why not? Often it’s the little things that achieve great effect. I don’t think beauty should look like it’s been created – this soon looks artificial. The best interventions are those that other people perhaps don't even notice.

The cosmetics industry claims that special products will make you look younger. Do they have a visible effect?

Most of this isn’t proven. However, they can definitely achieve a certain effect. Even a normal moisturising treatment makes the skin look a little firmer. Then there are effective ingredients such as vitamin A acid derivatives. These stimulate the regeneration of the upper skin layer, causing the face to look smoother. We use this method mainly for acne, but it also works for wrinkles.

Beauty comes from within. Is this anything more than a cliché?

In a way, it’s true. In my opinion, there’s more to anti-aging than wrinkle-free skin. It takes a comprehensive concept for us to feel and perhaps look younger. We can make a certain difference just with a sensible lifestyle: exercise, little alcohol, no cigarettes, enough sleep. Healthy internal organs and a balanced diet are also part of it. So far there’s no hard data, but we have initial indications that if the body is in a permanent state of inflammation due to the wrong diet, more free radicals are produced and this can accelerate skin aging.

To what extent can the wrong skin care cause damage?

As dermatologists, we see the consequences every day. People who have very dry skin and may also be prone to allergies often develop eczema. The skin becomes inflamed and blisters, crusts or scales can form. But the opposite is also the case with oily skin. This can lead to certain forms of acne, for example.

Less is more in skin care. Is this correct?

Yes, it's basically enough to use a good cleansing product and a moisturising cream. It's important to find the right balance. I would apply the following principle: as much as necessary, as little as possible. People with dry skin should choose a moisturising skin care product. Those with oily skin, on the other hand, can either forgo the use of lotions or apply a lotion that is less greasy. In principle, normal skin doesn’t need any cream at all but also no soap. The best thing to do would be to wash with water and the skin would then retain its natural balance.

What’s wrong with soap?

It dries out the skin and causes the uppermost layer of skin to swell, which can lead to irritation. Synthetic soaps – called syndets – are better. These are more gentle and also come with moisturising substances. However, they too are not absolutely essential.

Skin care should be fun and using the products should feel good.
Severin Läuchli, dermatologist

The range of beauty products is wide. How do I know which product is the right one?

By testing it – this is the only way to find out what suits you and what you personally find soothing. Skin care should be fun and using the products should feel good.

There are skin care lines that are wickedly expensive. Is it worth spending a lot on creams?

Expensive is not necessarily better. A regular cream from a large retailer can be just as good, or perhaps even better, than the CHF 200 product containing gold particles or caviar.

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