The 411 on Retinol for All

Retinol has been a powerful part of the anti-aging toolkit for decades. From drugstore brands to luxury skin care lines, over-the-counter or by prescription, retinol is the ingredient of choice for restoring skin’s youthful smoothness and even, glowing tone. How much do you know about retinol and what it can do for you? Here’s a quick brush-up.

What is retinol, anyway? In its natural state, retinol is a compound your body makes from Vitamin A. It contributes to the turnover of old skin cells and the production of new ones, keeping skin firm, resilient, and healthy. But production of natural retinol slows over time, and is affected by UV exposure. As we age–beginning even in our 20s–retinol depletion contributes to wrinkling and thinning of the skin, making it more susceptible to sun damage. Skin cell turnover slows, resulting in dullness. Fortunately, by the 1960s scientists discovered ways to synthesize retinol outside the body, and decades of research have shown that topical application of synthetic retinol is a great way to reverse the signs of skin aging.

Who should use retinol products? Because retinol products are available in such a wide variety of strengths and combinations, there’s probably a product for you no matter what your age or skin type. In your 20s and 30s, use retinol proactively to maintain skin’s resilience. It is also very helpful in the treatment of stubborn adult acne. By your 40s and beyond, retinol products can help you stay ahead of, or even reverse, signs of aging like wrinkling, lines, undereye darkness, and sun damage.

How does retinol work? At root, retinol is an exfoliator, helping skin slough off layers of dead cells. It also stimulates healthy cell production, not just on the surface but also in the deeper levels of skin’s infrastructure, where collagen and elastin are produced. Retinol works by drying–which is why you need good advice on choosing the formula that’s right for your skin–yet, paradoxically, promotes a healthier glow and firmer, more resilient skin.

When should you apply retinol products? Because UV radiation breaks down retinol, the best time to use retinol products is as part of your nightly skin care routine. Apply retinols on a schedule and in a manner recommended by your skin care practitioner, after cleansing and before moisturizing. A full-sprectrum sunscreen–a daily necessity for everyone!–is especially important while using retinol products.

Which retinol products are right for you? Retinol, whether used alone or as an ingredient in combination skin care products, is available in a variety of strengths. Over-the-counter products usually contain the mildest forms–buffered formulations like retinyl palmitate. These are fine for young or first-time users, or people with very sensitive skin, but they will not have the same effects as stronger concentrations. Higher-end cosmetic products and prescription formulas contain higher percentages of unbuffered retinol, sometimes in combination with hydrating ingredients like hyaluronic acid to balance retinol’s drying effects. Retinoids, a stronger Vitamin A product, may be prescribed by a dermatologist for certain skin conditions, but have more side effects than retinol.

Need more info or advice on choosing the right retinol products for you? Call or email our cosmetic consultant Mary Lou to set up your free cosmetic consultation today. We carry a variety of high-end and physician-formula retinol products, including best-sellers from SkinMedica and others.



Moisturize to Fight Drought, Inside & Out

When in doubt, moisturize. That’s skin’s best advice all year long in Southern California’s dry Mediterranean climate, but it’s especially true in the winter months, when chilly winds and indoor heating evaporate natural moisture.

El Nino rains may be taking the edge off our prolonged landscape drought. But don’t rely on Mother Nature to moisturize your skin. Here are 5 tips for fighting skin drought, inside and out.

  1. Moisturize from within. Remember to hydrate. You may not feel thirst as readily in cooler weather, but you still need to drink lots of water, especially after working out in a hot yoga studio or on a cold morning run. Winter beverages like hot coffee and warming alcohol concoctions can also be dehydrating, so be sure to balance with water and water-packed foods like soups, fruit smoothies, and steamed veggies.
  2. Moisturize your atmosphere. If you keep your home heat turned up, balance the dry air by using a humidifier occasionally. Always use fresh distilled water and clean the humidifier after every use. An atomizer of mineral water can provide a spritz of moisture on the go or in an overheated office. And don’t sleep too warmly! Turn down the thermostat at night to give your body a chance to replenish and stimulate cell turnover. (Sleeping in a cool room is also known to build brown fat, the kind that burns unwanted fat cells!)
  3. Moisturize all over. You may wish to alter your bath or shower routine during cooler, drier months. Shower every other day, or shower or bathe with warm rather than hot water, to preserve skin’s natural oils. Use a gentle soap or a body wash infused with moisturizers like shea butter. Go gentle on the exfoliation. After bathing or showering, gently pat skin almost dry, leaving a bit of moisture. Moisturize all over with your favorite lotion, oil, or cream (fragrance-free formulas are best for sensitive skin) while skin is still slightly damp. Don’t forget hands and feet, which need extra moisturizing attention this time of year.
  4. Moisturize in the morning. After cleansing and before applying makeup and sunscreen, use a daily facial moisturizer suited to your skin type, sensitivities, and any existing conditions such as acne or rosacea. Apply to your neck and chest, too; skin here is thinner and dries out more easily. To speed your morning ritual, choose a combination product like Revision Intellishade that can serve as a moisturizer, light foundation, and SPF 45 sunscreen all at once. Reapply sunscreen after exposure, and use a moisturizing lip balm.
  5. Moisturize and hydrate at night! Let your skin absorb powerful hydration while you sleep, when it can have the most effect. After cleansing and applying serums or other targeted treatments, use a penetrating hydration complex like SkinMedica‘s new HA5 Rejuvenating Hydrator, which stimulates production of your own natural hyaluronic acid and helps your moisturizer work even better.

Dry skin isn’t just a flaky irritation. It adds years, speeding wrinkles and lines and dulling your glow. For help choosing the moisturizing and hydrating products perfect for your skin, call or email our cosmetic consultant Mary Lou today. Then make it a habit to moisturize–and let it rain!


Mohs Surgery for Skin Cancer

Cancer can be a scary word. But when it comes to skin cancer, it’s not a diagnosis most of us will avoid. Unprotected exposure to UV rays, whether across a lifetime or in concentrated doses, raises the odds that 1 in 5 of us will develop skin cancer at some point. “I’ve got skin cancer, I need Mohs surgery,” is not an uncommon topic of conversation.

Most of us think of melanoma when we hear “skin cancer.” It’s the form of skin cancer with the deadliest potential to metastasize, or spread, to other organs. But non-melanoma skin cancers such as squamous cell and basal cell carcinomas are even more common, and can be painful and disfiguring.

The good news on the skin cancer front is that, in all its forms, skin cancer is almost entirely preventable. (That’s why we nag about using sunscreen and practicing other UV protection techniques on a daily basis.) There have also been great advances in the treatment of skin cancer, especially with early detection. (That’s why we urge you to schedule an annual full-body skin check–more often, if you are at higher risk–and remind you to familiarize yourself with the early signs of skin cancer.) With techniques like PDT (photodynamic therapy), for example, we can address pre-cancerous lesions (known as actinic keratoses) before they have a chance to develop into full-blown skin cancers.

So You’ve Been Diagnosed

If you have received a diagnosis of non-melanoma skin cancer, you will most likely be recommended for Mohs micrographic surgery, the most successful technique for removing skin cancer while preserving surrounding healthy tissue. The surgery involves taking very thin excisions of tissue and using a microscope to check each excision for cancer cells under a microscope. When an excision shows no cancer, the surgery is complete.

Mohs micrographic surgery is particularly suited for excising skin cancers from the face, hands, and other areas where deep scarring is undesirable. When many layers must be excised to ensure no cancer cells remain, a Mohs micrographic surgeon can perform Mohs reconstruction, using plastic surgery techniques to restore the function, shape, contour, and appearance of the area where the Mohs surgery was performed.

Mohs Micrographic Surgery at Comprehensive Dermatology of Pasadena

Our Dr. Han Lee has performed hundreds of Mohs micrographic surgeries and is an expert in Mohs reconstruction. Mohs surgeries are performed here in the comfort of our office, with Mohs reconstruction usually done at the same time. Click here to learn more, to view a video of Dr. Lee conducting Mohs micrographic surgery, and to download a patient brochure on the procedure.

Skin cancer can be scary. But we’re here to help you prevent, diagnose, and treat it–for a healthy, beautiful, no-fears future. Call or email us today to schedule your full-body skin check or to assess any changes in your skin.

Sunscreen: Your #1 New Year’s Resolution

It’s the single best way to insure healthy skin, beautiful skin all year. It protects against skin cancer and slays premature aging. It doesn’t require the beauty budget of a Hollywood star or the services of a cosmetic surgeon. It’s no secret: you’ve known about it since your earliest beach days. The means to keep this most important resolution is probably sitting right on your bathroom counter or in your makeup bag. But if you’re like most people, it’s sitting unused.

Sunscreen: The Prescription Nobody Follows

As well advertised as the benefits of sun protection are, many of us still haven’t caught on. In a Centers for Disease Control survey shared by the American Academy of Dermatology in 2015, only 43% of US women and 18% of US men reported using sunscreen regularly on their faces. When it comes to applying sunscreen to other exposed skin, men did a better job than women (though the overall percentage of use is still less than 1 in 5). Women seem to be getting and paying attention to the message that UV radiation advances skin aging as well as contributing to the epidemic of skin cancer, but all of us–women and men–have a long way to go in doing what we need to do to protect our skin.

Don’t Just Say You’re Using Sunscreen; Do It, and Do It Right

Even those of us who claim to be faithful practitioners of sun protection often fall short. So make it your New Year’s resolution to up your sunscreen knowledge and use, starting today. Don’t just skim these AAD guidelines; post them on your mirror, and follow them.

  1. Choose a broad-spectrum (effective against both UVA and UVB rays), water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.
  2. Apply sunscreen at least 15 minute before sun exposure.
  3. Use enough sunscreen to cover your whole body (about an ounce for most adults), and apply it to all exposed areas, including the ears, scalp, tops of the feet and legs.
  4. Ask someone else to help you apply sunscreen on hard-to-reach spots like your back.
  5. Reapply sunscreen at least every two hours, or immediately after swimming or sweating.

This means, by the way, you–whatever your age, gender, or skin tone. And it means every day, in every kind of weather. Children, the elderly, people with previous incidence of skin cancer, those who work outdoors, and people who’ve had recent cosmetic procedures or who use certain skin care products like retinols need to take special precautions.

Let Us Help You Keep Your Sunscreen Resolution

At Comprehensive Dermatology Center of Pasadena, we see daily the effects of not keeping the sunscreen resolution. So we want to be your partner in healthy skin and beautiful skin all year long. We carry a wide line of physician-approved sunscreens for every skin type, including those formulated for special circumstances such as post-procedure protection. To help make your daily UV protection a breeze, we recommend combination products like Revision’s Intellishade tinted moisturizer, which offers daily moisturizing, skin-matched tinting, and broad-spectrum SPF 45 sunscreen in one application. You can also find stylish, packable sun hats with built-in UPF 50 protection.

For advice on the best sunscreen for you, call or email our cosmetic consultant Mary Lou. And remember that we also offer a full array solutions for addressing existing UV damage and reversing signs of aging, as well as superb medical diagnosis and treatment of skin cancers–we’d just rather not have to use them so often for such a preventable problem.

Happy New Year. Now go slather!





Our treatment suites are equipped with the latest dermatological lasers, for advanced, safe, comfortable treatment of your skin's medical and cosmetic needs. Our in-house Acne Treatment Center offers complete care for all ages and acne stages. We offer a full line of skin care products designed to suit your unique...

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