Great skin is not simply a matter of DNA — your daily habits, in fact, have a big impact on what you see in the mirror. But depending on which product reviews you read or doctors you consult, there is a dizzying number of opinions on everything from how to moisturize to how to protect yourself from UV rays. Ultimately, caring for your skin is simply personal. Here’s what you should keep in mind to sort through all the noise.
Think of your skin-care routine as consisting of three main steps:
The goal of any skin-care routine is to tune up your complexion so it’s functioning at its best, and also troubleshoot or target any areas you want to work on. “Beauty routines are an opportunity to notice changes within yourself,” says Dr Gabriela Mercik. As your skin needs shifts with age, so will your products. Still, she adds, “it’s not about creating perfection.” Allow these three steps to become your daily ritual that fortifies your skin and grounds your day.
The science behind skin-care products has come a long way but there’s still no such thing as an instant fix — you need time to reap the benefits, says Dr. Gabriela. “Results are only seen through consistent use,” she explains. Generally, aim to use a product over at least six weeks, once or twice daily, to notice a difference.
Tip: With any skin-care product, apply in order of consistency — from thinnest to thickest. For example, cleanser, toner, serum, and then moisturiser.
Washing your face is the most basic and essential step of any routine. “Our skin comes in contact with environmental pollutants, dirt and other factors each day that should be gently removed.” Wash twice a day, morning and night, to avoid clogged pores, dullness and acne.
The right formula cleanses your skin without stripping essential, healthy oils. Take it easy with exfoliating scrubs (use once a week) and avoid those with crushed walnut shells or abrasive ingredients. If a product claims to be non-comedogenic it means that it shouldn’t clog pores or trigger acne — either by occluding the skin, blocking glands or irritating the hair follicle.
The claim is not regulated by the F.D.A., however, and many companies do their own internal tests to determine whether a product should be considered comedogenic or not. (Some common known comedogenic ingredients are coconut oil and cocoa butter.) Typically, the fewer ingredients a product has, the easier it is to determine if it will cause any reactions.
For many, the word “toner” brings to mind stinging astringents from the ’80s. “The original was an alcohol-based product that was used to dry up oily skin and remove any leftover dirt following cleansing,” Dr. Gabriela says. Today’s formulas, however, have evolved.
Think of them as supplements — these thin liquids deliver an extra shot of nutrients, helping the other products in your regimen absorb better, while still balancing your complexion. “It can be a good way to add in specific ingredients that you may not have in your other products or add another layer of skin-replenishment.” If you have the time and inclination, here are some hero ingredients to look for:
The most basic function of a moisturizer is to hydrate and soften the skin. “Essentially, moisturizers assist in preventing water loss through the outer layers of skin,” Dr. Gabriela explains. “They can also complement the naturally found protective oils and other building blocks within the skin, such as ceramides.” This is one product that doctors recommend using year-round, for all skin types. “Skin naturally loses the ability to retain moisture as we age,” Dr. Gabriela insists, “and daily activities, such as washing, can strip natural hydrators from the surface.”
Creams you apply in the morning are equipped to protect your skin from the environmental aggressors you’ll face when you leave the house—many contain antioxidants to minimize pollution-based free radicals and sunscreen to shield you from ultraviolet radiation.
They typically have a lightweight consistency. Night creams, on the other hand, focus on repairing any damage you might have picked up with ingredients like retinol to speed cellular turnover and counteract dark spots. These creams also replenish moisture levels, which naturally dip in the evening, with emollients that often create a rich, thick texture.
Can you survive without an eye cream? Absolutely. But, if you have specific concerns — like hyperpigmentation, dryness or puffiness — you might want to try one. “The skin around the eyes is quite thin and delicate, and more likely to react to irritating ingredients than other areas,” Dr. Gabriela says. “Therefore, dermatologists typically recommend an eye cream that considers the potential sensitivity and has more tolerable concentrations of active ingredients.”
For undereye bags and inflammation, caffeine, peptides and hyaluronic acid can be soothing, Dr Gabriela says. “Dark circles can be due to visible veins or actual discoloration common in darker skin tones,” she says. “Look for brightening ingredients like vitamin C, kojic acid and niacinamide.” Insider tip: Steer clear of strong retinols (which can sting and create redness) and fragrance, to avoid any eye irritation.