I never had a skincare routine until last year. I washed my face in the shower, and only applied sunscreen if I was headed to the beach. But now I’m kicking myself for not starting earlier. It turns out that tending to my face with cleanser and moisturizer each morning and night has banished most of my acne and my skin feels smoother and healthier. But I still wondered: What else should I be doing?
As it turns out, a good routine doesn’t have to take forever or cost a lot of money. For this piece, we spoke to several dermatologists we trust, and they all agreed: Skincare doesn’t have to be complicated. The essentials are: Wash your face as needed, moisturize as needed, and wear sunscreen every damn day.>Set two daily reminders on your phone, for your morning and evening routines.
Once you’ve mastered those basics, you can consider adding a few more products to deal with specific concerns, like acne or aging. If you have issues like eczema, rosacea, or severe acne, it’s best to see a dermatologist to figure out your perfect routine, which may include prescription products or medication.
So if you’re ready to get started with the basics, go ahead and set two daily reminders on your phone, for your morning and evening routines. Then read on for what to do and why.
Wash Your Face
There’s no strict rule for how often to wash your face, but most of us will benefit from doing so at least occasionally. Board certified dermatologist Dr. Fayne Frey notes that teens with oily skin see a reduction in their acne when they wash twice a day, and she advises acne-prone adults to do the same. But if you wash less often and you’re happy with how your skin looks and feels, that’s fine too.
Washing your face removes the sebum and dead skin cells that can contribute to acne. Washing also helps to take off any makeup or skincare products you may have applied. (Leaving makeup on won’t necessarily cause you to break out, but you probably don’t want it on your face literally forever, so go ahead and wash.) If your makeup won’t come off with a gentle cleanser, an oil-based makeup remover, like cold cream, may be in order.
You don’t need any special equipment to wash: just splash your face with water, massage a cleanser on with your fingertips, and rinse. Washcloths and brushes aren’t necessary, and can end up irritating your skin.>Washcloths and brushes aren’t necessary, and can end up irritating your skin.
Cleansers’ active ingredients take advantage of the fact that oil and water don’t usually mix. If you just splash water on your oily face, nothing much happens. But cleansers contain molecules that are compatible with oil on one end, and compatible with water on the other. They can stick to the oil and dirt on your face, encasing little bits of it in bubbles called micelles. Then, water can wash these micelles away. That’s why rinsing is not the same as washing.
Good old fashioned soap is good at this job—too good, in fact. It can strip away too much of our skin’s natural oils, so you’re best off using a cleanser with synthetic detergents, which means almost anything marketed as a facial cleanser. Board certified dermatologist Dr. Katie Beleznay prefers cream cleansers, which she says tend to be especially gentle. For specialized needs, you can find cleansers that contain benzoyl peroxide (used against acne) or exfoliants like salicylic acids or alpha-hydroxy acids. You can also find cleansers that are hypoallergenic and that are meant for sensitive skin. Micellar water is also a cleanser—just an especially mild one that has been watered down.
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It’s also best to avoid scrubby cleansers that contain tiny plastic beads or other abrasive elements. These can irritate the skin, or even exfoliate you too much. The plastic ones are also problematic in lakes and oceans, which is where they end up after they swirl down the drain.
“Science has shown over and over that a good moisturizer, increasing water content of skin, is good for you,” says Dr. Frey. Most of us should moisturize twice a day, especially if your skin is dry, if the weather is dry, or if you do things, like swimming that end up drying out your skin. You can moisturize less, or even skip this step entirely, if your skin never feels dry. This may be the case if you live in a place with year-round humid weather. If you’re not sure, try moisturizing and see if your skin looks and feels better; it probably will.
Just as the name implies, moisturizers keep water in your skin. This is important because everything works better when the skin has enough water. Skin cells will naturally exfoliate themselves, and your skin will be better able to do its job as a barrier to the outside world. Skin conditions from eczema to acne tend to flare up when skin is dry and settle down when skin is well moisturized.>A good moisturizer will have humectants to attract water, and occlusives to keep it from evaporating away.
To understand how moisturizers work, we need to consider the microscopic structure of skin itself. The top layer that you see and touch is called the stratum corneum, and it’s made up of flattened, dead cells that are full of proteins like keratin and the aptly named natural moisturizing factors (NMFs). Those cells are joined to each other by bridges called desmosomes, and the space between all those cells is filled with a matrix of lipids.
The dead skin cells of the stratum corneum naturally slough off when their job is done. You lose a few skin cells every time you touch anything. That’s by design, since your skin continually makes fresh cells to take their place.
But when your skin isn’t well moisturized, the enzymes that break down the desmosomes can’t do their job as well. That means cells may fall off in clumps rather than one at a time, giving your skin a flaky or ashy appearance and ultimately removing too much of your skin’s natural barrier against the outside world.
Moisturizers fix this problem by surrounding the enzymes with water so they can do their job. The key types of ingredients to look for are:
Occlusives, which prevent water from escaping from the skin into the air. Some examples you might see on ingredient labels: petrolatum, dimethicone, cetyl alcohol, mineral oil, and vegetable oils.
Humectants, which pull water from their surroundings, including deeper layers of the skin. Examples include glycerin, urea, hyaluronic acid, allantoin, pyrrolidone carboxylic acid (PCA), sorbitol, and propylene glycol.
A good moisturizer will have both types of ingredients: humectants to attract water, and occlusives to keep it from evaporating away. Emollients like lanolin and cetearyl alcohol help the skin to feel soft, and they can provide a little bit of occlusive function as well.
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If you have allergies or if products tend to irritate your skin, avoid products with fragrances and essential oils. Board certified dermatologist Dr. Marie Leger notes that possible allergens—fine for most of us, but sucks if you’re one of the few who are sensitive—include parabens, formaldehyde, and lanolin.
Find a Sunscreen You Love
We all need sunscreen, according to literally every dermatologist I’ve ever talked to. Even if you have super dark skin. Even if you’re a dude. And you should wear it every day, year round, whether you plan to spend time outdoors or not.
Besides preventing sunburn and skin cancer, sunscreen has a crucial function in the beauty side of skincare: it prevents the thickening and wrinkling of skin that happens with age. Or as Dr. Frey puts it: “There is not one anti aging product, anti wrinkle product, firming, toning, any other product on the market … that can compare or compete with the benefits of sunscreen.”
If you think of sunscreen as something sticky, greasy, and always coconut-scented, you’re in for a treat: sunscreen comes in a ton of different forms, from sprays to lotions to deodorant-like sticks. It’s also a component of many makeup products and moisturizers. Dr. Frey points out that the only real difference between day and night moisturizers is that the daytime ones have sunscreen and the night moisturizers don’t.
Advertisement>You won’t get a sunburn if you stay indoors, but you’re still getting some of those aging UVA rays.
Higher SPF is better, within reason. SPF, or sun protection factor, measures how long a sunscreen can protect your skin from the reddening and sunburn that are caused by UVB rays. The higher the rating, the more UVB the sunscreen blocks. That said, once you’re up to SPF 30, you’re already blocking 97 percent of UVB rays, so it may not be worth paying extra for that SPF 50 or 100.
There’s no comparable rating for UVA protection, at least in the US. UVA rays are responsible for a lot of the thickening of the skin that happens with age; they and UVB can both contribute to skin cancer risk. UVA can also pass through windows, so you won’t get a sunburn if you stay indoors but you’re still getting some of those aging rays. To make sure you’re getting some protection from UVA, look for a sunscreen that says it is “broad spectrum.” (European products use a five-star system—so consider buying some high-SPF, highly starred sunscreen if you vacation overseas.)>
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Sunscreen rubs off and sweats off during the day, so you may need to reapply. We also don’t get as much protection as we think in the first place: sunscreen is tested by slathering on a super thick layer, and almost nobody applies that amount in real life. (SPF 30, applied sparingly, only works out to an actual SPF of 2.)
That’s why you may want separate products for moisturizing and sun protection: that way, you can reapply the sunscreen as needed, without glopping on more moisturizer every time.
But the most important thing about sunscreen is that it’s something you love the feel of. If your sunscreen is greasy or sticky or you just plain don’t like it, you’ll find excuses not to wear it every day, and then it’s not doing you any good.>
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So far, our routine sounds pretty boring. Cleanse, moisturize, and apply sunscreen? Where are all the masks and serums and frenzied shopping trips at The Ordinary?
Remember, when you see people get excited about a product, that’s likely to be out of proportion to how helpful it really is in real life. But our dermatologist sources also recognized that it can be fun to try new products, and if you enjoy luxuriating in a complicated routine, that’s fine, as long as you don’t choose things that are harmful and you don’t fool yourself into thinking the health of your skin depends on your 20-product routine.>Experiment with caution, but you may waste less of your time and money in the long run if you just ask a dermatologist for advice.
Many skincare products contain components that are regulated as drugs, because they can treat or prevent conditions like acne. Experiment with caution, and remember that if you have a specific problem, you may waste less of your time and money in the long run if you just ask a dermatologist for advice.
Here are some of the most common active ingredients you’ll find in skincare products that actually (probably) do something.
Salicylic acid, one type of beta-hydroxy acid (BHA), helps to exfoliate dead skin cells. Because it’s oil soluble, it works well on oily skin. These properties make it a great first-line treatment for mild acne, and you’ll find it in tons of different acne-fighting products, like cleansers and moisturizers. You can also buy liquids or pads that have salicylic acid as their main active ingredient.
Alpha-hydroxy acids (AHA), such as glycolic acid, are another type of chemical exfoliant. If acne isn’t your concern, AHAs may be a better option than BHAs to make your skin look smoother and brighter.
Benzoyl peroxide, another classic acne treatment, works by bombarding bacteria with free radicals—so it’s essentially an antibacterial medication. Beware: those free radicals can also destroy dye, leaving bleached-out streaks on your clothes, towels, and pillowcases.
Retinoids are chemical relatives of vitamin A, and they speed up the rate at which your skin produces and sloughs off skin cells. Retinoids are effective against both acne and “fine lines” (small wrinkles), and can also help lighten dark spots, like the kind that can remain after a pimple heals.
Vitamin C may help protect against damage from UV rays and help to lighten dark spots, but the evidence on this is limited.
If you’re hoping to see results from any of the above, make sure to buy a product that states how much of the active ingredient is present. For example, if you’re looking for a retinoid, differin gel is 0.1 percent adapalene, a concentration that studies show to be effective at treating acne. Meanwhile, a random moisturizer from the drugstore might list retinol toward the bottom of the ingredients list, but there’s no guarantee that it contains enough to do anything.>
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Whatever you do, don’t try all of these at once. Many of the above can irritate or dry out your face, even on their own. Combining products makes the chance of a bad reaction more likely. Dr. Beleznay says that “whether different products can be used at the same time often does depend on the formulation, so it’s hard to make a blanket statement, but if there is any question about compatibility I get [my patients] to use one active ingredient skin care product in the morning and one at night, i.e. glycolic in the morning and retinol in the evening.”
As you head out on your skincare journey, a word of warning: It’s hard to find solid, science-based, unbiased advice on skincare. Companies want to sell their products, researchers are often funded by the companies, and publications that talk about beauty and skincare get more clicks when they talk about how new and exciting each product is. There’s no money in telling people their same old drugstore moisturizer is just fine.>
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For the rest of us, it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement. Maybe that product that worked for someone else is exactly what I’ve been missing all my life! And perhaps it is, but that’s not going to be true for every new lotion or serum that comes along.
By the way, those drugstore products are usually just fine. Trader Joe’s sells a sunscreen moisturizer for $3.99, although I’ve tried it and don’t love the feel; my next purchase will be CeraVe’s SPF 30 moisturizer for $12. Cleansers can be had fairly cheap as well: I use this $4 one from Clean & Clear. Prices go up and up from there, of course. It’s not hard at all to find fancy skincare products for hundreds of dollars. Dr. Frey keeps a database of products she says are worth considering, and that she has no financial interest in.
The active ingredient products we mentioned above can also vary drastically in price from one brand to another, so always check the ingredients and fine print to see if they really have what you need. (If you need anything prescription-strength, all the chaos of drug pricing comes into play.)
Advertisement>To figure out what works for you, start by keeping track of what you use and when.
To figure out what works for you, start by keeping track of what you use and when. Some treatments, like retinoids and benzoyl peroxide, take a while to show results, and your skin may get worse before it gets better. Snap photos to keep track of your progress.
But also, be smart when you hear about other people’s progress. As fallible humans, we often collapse an anecdote into the narrative we want to tell (or hear). Dr. Leger noticed that in one recent post on r/SkincareAddiction, a redditor boasted of success with a 14-product daily routine—but was taking Accutane at the same time. Dr. Leger says: “when I use Accutane I get the kinds of results in her photos while having my patients use water, moisturizer, and nothing else.”
Sadly for fans of r/SkincareAddiction, none of the dermatologists I talked to felt that the reddit is a great source for skincare advice. It centers around people’s experiences, which can be misleading, and the featured routines are often more complicated than they need to be. Finally, the reddit’s official advice lists sunscreen as optional, which earned major side-eye from our sources.
So browse the threads if you like, but consider looking up advice from more science-based places, like the American Academy of Dermatology’s skincare pages. Even though it’s not always easy to find great advice, skincare is still worthwhile, and we’ll be here helping you make sense of it.
Source : https://vitals.lifehacker.com/lifehackers-essential-science-based-guide-to-skin-care-1824029261