Do you really need eye cream? What should you be doing about those dark spots? Skin care is often a guessing game of trying out products, crossing your fingers, and hoping they’re right for you. And unless you have a dermatologist on speed dial, it can be hard to get answers. That’s why we asked two top dermatologists to share everything you need to know to upgrade your routine and get glowing, healthy skin.
Your lineup varies between morning and night. In the morning, the ideal basics of skin care are “a gentle wash, an antioxidant serum, hydrating moisturizer, and sunscreen,” says Dr. Nava Greenfield, a dermatologist at Schweiger Dermatology Group in Brooklyn, NY. The antioxidant serum helps repair and defend skin against DNA damage throughout the day (read: it’s anti-aging). One splurge to consider: SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic ($166; dermstore.com) has a combination of vitamins C, E, and ferulic acid that work synergistically. (Too pricey? Many affordable anti-aging skin care products get high ratings.) At night, she recommends repeating your cleanse, treating skin with a topical retinol or retinoid—which speeds cell turnover and spurs collagen production—and following with moisturizer.
While there’s no hard and fast rule on how frequently you need to exfoliate — as it depends on the exfoliant, how powerful it is, and what else you’re using — you definitely need to do it, says Dr. Deanne Robinson, a dermatologist at Modern Dermatology of Connecticut in Westport, CT. “As a general rule of thumb, I would advise one to two times per week,” she says. A glycolic acid-soaked pad, like BeautyRx Skincare Tetrafoliant 10% Peel Pads ($70; amazon.com), takes seconds to apply. Cane + Austin Acne Treatment Pad ($60; amazon.com) pairs glycolic and salicylic acids, making it a good pick for acne-prone skin.
There are a few important tweaks for your evening routine. At night, “cleanser may need to include a makeup remover in it,” says Greenfield. “And moisturizers should be thicker and more hydrating at night.” Once a week, you should also use a face mask at night. Try Korres Hydra-Biome Probiotic Superdose Face Mask ($49; sephora.com), which is rich in skin-calming probiotics, or Peach & Lily Overnight Star Sleeping Mask ($43; ulta.com), which can brighten skin as you sleep.
Short answer? Sort of. “It does not in the sense that most people talk about it — for example, chocolate doesn’t cause acne,” says Robinson. “However, foods with a high glycemic index, such as refined sugar, can increase hormone levels in the body, leading to inflammation, and exacerbate acne.” So if you break out after eating a late-night plate of fries, it’s not because of the grease. It may be because potatoes are high on the glycemic index scale. (Dealing with a breakout? Mighty Patch Original ($12.50; amazon.com) helps draws out the gunk.
Obviously, you should see a dermatologist at least once a year for a skin cancer screening. (Right? Right.) Outside of that, seek out a pro if you have any skin concern, says Greenfield, whether it’s a new rash, spot, bump, or even to have a conversation about creating the best anti-aging regimen.
So you’ve got your skin care routine down to an art — for your face. But you should pay just as much attention to your hands, neck and chest, where the signs of aging are also visible. Apply sunscreen in the morning, extend your treatments and moisturizer down to your chest, and rub excess product onto the backs of your hands. Really, sunscreen should go everywhere. “The back of the legs is the most common place for melanoma on a woman’s body, so it’s important to use care with SPF coverage here,” says Robinson. Try a moisturizing body sunscreen like Australian Gold Botanical SPF 50 Mineral Sunscreen Lotion ($14.53; amazon.com).