The Beautiful Skin Workout
Calgary Herald, June 5, 2007

New book details disciplined care regimen.

by Michelle Magnan

We all covet beautiful skin.

To achieve that end, some people stuff their bathroom cabinets with copious amounts of cleansers, toners, and creams. (I am a product junkie myself.)

Others try outlandish tricks based on beauty rumours.

Take some of Dr. Michelle Copeland's patients as examples, the ones who spread Preparation H, a hemorrhoid cream, underneath their eyes in the hopes of shrinking the unsightly bags there.

As Copeland explains in her new book, The Beautiful Skin Workout (St. Martin's Press, 2007, $18.50), Preparation H is "not an effective option."

When it comes to getting creamy, healthy skin, the only thing that does work is sticking to a disciplined skincare regimen. And that's exactly what Copeland provides in The Beautiful Skin Workout.

"Skin is something I'm really passionate about," says the plastic surgeon over the phone from her office in New York. "I wanted to give people the tools and make them realize they could make a difference in their lives."

Copeland knows what she's talking about. During her long career as a plastic surgeon and her 20-year affiliation with New York City's Mount Sinai Hospital, she has seen it all.

Her first book, called Change Your Looks, Change Your Life, is a guide to quick fixes and cosmetic surgery solutions for looking younger, feeling healthier and living better (Harper Collins, 2004, $24.95). She also has her own line of skincare products.

In her new book, The Beautiful Skin Workout, she shares her skin secrets and promises you'll have the radiant skin you've lusted after in just eight weeks. The workout doesn't involve anything physical like running or lifting weights. Rather, it is a five-step process she outlines in detail, called CEAMP (cleanse, exfoliate, activate, moisturize and protect).

In the 192-page book, she covers the five steps, her 10 skin commandments, and a slew of interesting questions interspersed in between, such as "Are spray tans safe?" (Copeland doesn't think so. "I certainly wouldn't want to breathe in all those chemicals," she writes. "I think that's harmful.")

One thing she does not provide, either in the book or on the phone, is recommended brand names. She does, however, give lists of ingredients, both good and bad, to look for in products. Checking for ingredients has been a whole lot easier in Canada since November, when Health Canada enforced new labelling requirements that force companies to list all the ingredients in a product on the outer label.

Based on Copeland's lists, she will have you emptying your bathroom cabinets. After reading her book, I tossed a cleanser because it had witch hazel, and a face mask and moisturizer because they had fragrance.

I also got rid of my Vaseline, even though I've used it for years to moisturize my lips. Copeland says Vaseline "can spread, melting with body heat and fill up the pores outside the lip line."

When I ask her if I should use Blistex or something similar, I am surprised by her answer. "A lot of lip products, like Blistex, have camphor in them, and it's carcinogenic," she says. "You're better off using the Vaseline than the Blistex. Look for a lip protector with UV protection."

What about other tips for Calgarians, where the air is so dry (the recent rainstorms aside)?

"Part of the workout is learning to listen to your skin," she says. "It's not the same in all climates. You might need more moisturizer in the winter and less in the summer. You need to adjust your routine to what works best for you."

Since reading her book more than a week ago, I have adjusted my own routine. I now wash my face with my hands instead of a wash cloth, which is too abrasive, exfoliate with a gentler scrub and use an alcohol-free toner.

I have yet to add the antioxidants and anti-aging serums to my routine. Even though I'm only 27, Copeland says I should start now. "If you start younger, you're going to improve the quality of your skin and you're going to do preventive work," she says.

Copeland says her workout is good for people of all ages. "It's like nutrition -- it never does you any harm to eat well. It's the same thing for your skin."

Five Steps to Beauty

Plastic surgeon Dr. Michelle Copeland says that in a perfect world, everyone would go through these five steps twice a day, every day. Once a day is fine, but don't expect to see improvements as quickly.

1. Cleanse

Forget about using washcloths to wash your face. Copeland says using your hands is the only way to go because everything else is too abrasive.

When it comes to cleansers, go for products that are free of dyes and fragrances.

"The (ingredients listed first) have the highest concentration, so that gives you a sense of what the product is about," she says.

Follow up the cleansing with a toner, which will help adjust your skin's pH level and minimize pores. Make sure the toner is gentle, which means there should be no alcohol or witch hazel. Allantoin or sorbic acid are good ingredients to look for.

2. Exfoliate

"Exfoliation is the surefire method for producing skin radiance, that lit-from-within-by-a-1,000-watt-bulb effect," writes Copeland.

The trick is learning how to exfoliate the right way. She says mild cream or serum formulations, ones with alpha hydroxy, beta hydroxy, glycolic, lactic or salicylic acids in concentrations of 10 per cent or less, can be used twice a day. Scrubs with gritty beads, on the other hand, should only be used once or twice a week.

Again, use your hands, but don't scrub too hard. Blotchiness, irritation and redness are all signs of over-exfoliation.

Exfoliating ensures your skin will be smooth and ready for the antioxidants and anti-agers that come in the next step.

3. Activate

This step is all about redemption.

"If you've mistreated your face and body in the past, now is your chance to undo the damage," writes Copeland.

"Think of the activate step as the nutrition that you're giving your skin," she says.

You may need more than one product to get a mix of the antioxidant powerhouses, such as vitamin C and grapeseed extract.

4. Moisturize

Copeland says avoiding moisturizer because you have an oily complexion or you think it will make you break out is a big mistake.

As she explains in her book, "moisturizing means bringing water, not oil, back into skin."

Oil-free products are good choices for those with greasy skin and can be applied to the areas of the face that are normally dry.

5. Protect

Applying sunblock daily is a must. Not only will it help protect you against skin cancer, but it will minimize wrinkles as you get older.

In her book, Copeland explains the difference between sunscreen and sunblock. In her opinion, sunblock is better because its ingredients don't break down in the sun. Zinc, another of its ingredients, is also good because it "is a powerful antioxidant that helps in the wound-healing process."

For daily use, she recommends an SPF 30 with UVA protection. If you're going to spend a lot of time outside, use SPF 40 or higher.

—Source: The Beautiful Skin Workout