We Asked the Experts: The Skin Sisters Reveal the Answers to All Your Skincare FAQs


We talk about skin a lot at the studio. We chat about our concerns, our random stress and hormonal breakouts and every other skin issue under the sun we’re facing. Although we are not doctors, we all try to offer each other words of wisdom on topics we’ve gained knowledge on over the years. But the truth is, we are not experts. We remind each other every day to stay hydrated and avoid dairy whenever possible, but these are just a couple of tried and true pointers you could find with a simple Google search. And because we know that everyone’s skin, body type, and diet vary, do we really know what products we should specifically be using or avoiding? Is there a one-size fits all to skincare? Probably not. 

That’s why we brought in the experts—Meet Lauren and Brooke! These two sisters are Dermatology Physician Assistants; they work side-by-side each other every day and have over a decade of experience specializing in both medical and cosmetic dermatology. Lauren went to Physician Assistant school in NYC and spent five years practicing dermatology until moving home to Minneapolis. While Brooke went to graduate school for Public Health and Physician Assistant studies in Washington D.C. and began working at Mohs (skin cancer surgery) surgeon right out of school and fell in love.

We recently sat down with the sisters to chat through all things skincare related. Today Lauren and Brooke give us the tools we need to build a basic structure around skincare. We want our readers to know everything they need to know in order to get started on their skincare journey. This interview is part one of a three-part series. Follow along as we discuss proper skincare steps, maintenance plans, different skin types and issues, specific products to use and ingredients to look for (and avoid). If you have any questions for a dermatologist now is the time to ask them in the comments below.

Now let’s meet the experts!

Tell us all about who you are and your role in the skincare business!

We are sisters, just one year apart in age, born and raised just outside of Minneapolis. We are both Dermatology Physician Assistants, splitting our time between the practice of medical and cosmetic dermatology. We work together in private practice (we actually job share!) seeing patients for all different types of dermatology concerns, including acne, hair loss, skin cancer screening, rashes, skin infections, mole removal, cosmetic treatments, and discussion of skincare.

Dying to know something super simple. How do we even determine what skin type we are?

L: Skin types can be tricky. I rarely discuss skin types with my patients, since so many people are a combination of different skin types. What I do mention is what products or ingredients to look for based on the skin’s specific needs at that time. For example, you have rosacea and your skin could benefit from choosing products that are labeled for sensitive skin.

 

How elaborate should our skincare routine really be according to our skin type? Does it differ for each person?

B: Skincare is not required to be elaborate, nor do you need to use a multi-step regimen, regardless of your skin type. Certainly, different skin concerns, goals and skin types will dictate what types of products that are used, but if you are using the basics like a great cleanser, moisturizer and sunscreen you can always add one or two condition-specific products in.

L: The rise in popularity of Korean Beauty products has made the “10 step” skincare routines more common. The truth is, if you use the right products, you probably don’t need 10 steps.

How do we allocate the appropriate skincare goals that also align with our issues/concerns and total budget?

L: There are so many fantastic drugstore products out there, and they keep getting better and better. There are times to splurge, like when choosing an antioxidant serum, but your skincare doesn’t need to break the bank.

 

What are the top ingredients you typically look for in over the counter products? And which ones should we definitely avoid?

B: L-Ascorbic acid (aka Vitamin C), Ceramides, Niacinamide (aka Vitamin B3) are excellent ingredients easily found in OTC products. I also love finding zinc oxide or titanium dioxide (physical sun blocking ingredients) in daily moisturizers.

L:  I would avoid products containing formaldehyde and formaldehyde releasers, as these are some of the top irritants to the skin. I also recommend avoiding products with citrus oils or extract, as citrus can predispose the skin to a rash called phytophotodermatitis (red and brown streaks on the skin due to contact with citrus and then subsequent sun exposure.)

Which products do you highly recommend for the top 5 skin issues that you see?

Dry Skin

B: SkinCeuticals HA Intensifier has been really helpful for me this past winter for treating extra dry skin. I mix 2-3 drops with my moisturizer for extra hydration.

L: Kypris Cleanser Concentrate is an awesome cleanser that adds moisture, rather than stripping away moisture while cleansing.

 

Mature Skin

B: Retinoids stimulate collagen production and help to smooth out fine lines and improve skin texture. Differin 0.1% gel, a retinoid previously available only by prescription, is now available over the counter and is a great option for skin of all ages.

L: Parents love that Differin can help their child’s acne, but they can sneak it into their bathroom for its anti-aging effect.

 

Oily Skin

B: Products with Alpha or Beta Hydroxy acids are great for oily skin. Paula’s Choice RESIST Daily Pore-Refining Treatment with 2% BHA is a nice choice.

L: I also love Pixi Beauty’s Glow Tonic for oily skin.

 

Acne-prone Skin

L: The Clarisonic Brush is a great choice for acne-prone skin. It cleans the pores much more effectively than traditional cleansing, but is gentle enough for most people.

B: Benzoyl peroxide cleanser can be very helpful – it reduces the acne-causing bacteria and helps to clean out pores. Just be careful, because it can bleach your towels!

 

Pigmentation:

B: La Roche Posay Anthelios AOX 50 is one of my favorite products for all skin types, but it’s particularly helpful for those battling pigmentation. It contains an antioxidant, to fight free radical and prevent the development of pigmentation from sun exposure, but also contains SPF to protect your skin from sun exposure – sun protection is the most important part of treating pigmentation.

L: Lytera 2.0 by SkinMedica is a great lightening serum that helps to even out skin tone and prevent the development of new pigmentation.

Would you say your skincare approach is more holistic or invasive by nature? And does it differ for each client?

B: My approach is to always 1) use products that work and 2) formulate a treatment plan that is comfortable and approachable for the specific individual.

L: If a patient wants to stick to a certain approach, I’m all for that and will work with them to find the best regimen for their needs and goals. The truth is that some treatments or products work better than others, but in order for the plan to succeed, my recommendation needs to align with the patient’s preference.

 

Is natural always better?

L: Not necessarily. The term “natural” isn’t clearly defined in the realm of skincare. When comparing truly raw or organic products with more traditional skincare, there will be some items that are superior, and some that are equal or inferior.

B: It’s all about aligning our recommendations with the patient’s preferences.

 

Did we miss anything important that you think our readers should know when first diving into the world of skincare?

B: There is so much out there right now in terms of skin care – it’s a very hot topic! We approach skincare not as a trend, but as something integral to your overall health and well being. Try not to be blinded by a pretty marketing campaign or number of Instagram followers a brand has. Know where your information is coming from and trust the experts. A good dermatology practitioner will never try to push a product on you that you don’t feel comfortable with, and they will always be transparent about why they recommend a certain product over another.

L: Remember that skincare can, and should be, fun. Find products that work, but also find things that you enjoy using!

Paula’s Choice RESIST Daily Pore-Refining Treatment  // Pixi Beauty’s Glow Tonic

Differin .001% Gel

SkinCeuticals HA Intensifier // Lytera 2.0 by SkinMedica

The Clarisonic Brush

Kypris Cleanser Concentrate // La Roche-Posay Anthelios AOX

 

Follow along with Lauren and Brooke as they share their skincare tips and secrets through @TheSkinSisters IG and on their blog at TheSkinSisters.com. The two sisters also practice medical and cosmetic dermatology at Zel Skin & Laser in Edina and Plymouth, MN, so if you live in the neighborhood, stop in for a consultation and say hello!

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Stefani Ellenbecker is the Editorial Director at Wit & Delight. When she’s not feverishly editing or writing about style and interiors, she runs her bohemian shop  Arden Trading Co. where she sells artisan-made home goods. She lives in Minneapolis with her fiancé Muhamed.