Make the jump from good skin to great skin with this step-by-step routine for your clearest complexion yet
Perfect Skin 101
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Whether you suffer from acne, brown spots, or occasional dryness, chances are that you have at least one skin-care concern in need of some extra attention. Luckily, most aesthetic issues are more than manageable with the help of a stellar skin-care routine and the right combination of products. Here, we arm you with a dermatologist-approved skin-care routine packed with power-hitting products to serve your every need, courtesy of Jessica Weiser, M.D., a dermatologist at New York Dermatology Group, and Neal Schultz, M.D. with BeautyRx by Dr. Schultz. Read on to achieve your clearest complexion yet.
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While your morning skin-care routine will typically depend on your skin type, everyone should still generally follow these four steps: cleanse, apply active ingredients, hydrate, and add sun protection. (Related: SPF and Sun Protection Myths to Stop Believing)
If you have oily skin, wash your face every morning with a foaming cleanser to remove any excess oil that has built up during the night. Once the skin is clean, coat on a serum catered to your skin concerns and overall skin type. "These lighter-weight serums have small molecules with highly active ingredients, like antioxidants, that can easily penetrate the skin's surface and act on the deeper epidermis layers," says Dr. Weiser. Translation: Be sure to apply your collagen peptides, antioxidants or dark spot correctors before moisturizer in order to ensure that these potent ingredients are more easily absorbed into the skin.
Time-saving tip: Instead of cleansing and applying serum, just spritz your face with a facial mist to liven up the skin. Then, apply your SPF (seriously, SPF is the one step to never skip).
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"Prior to working out, it's important to remove facial makeup from the skin's surface to prevent the obstruction of pores from sweat and debris that was generated during exercise," says Dr. Weiser. "Consider using a micellar water solution for this purpose because it efficiently removes makeup without stripping the surface of moisture." For the best pre-workout skin cleansing, soak a cotton pad with micellar water like the Simple Cleansing Micellar Water ($8) and wipe it over your face before heading to the gym. (For more sweaty skin tips, check out Your Guide to Flawless Post-Workout Skin.)
Time-saving tip: No time to cleanse? Simply dab your face with makeup removing wipes like Aveeno Positively Radiant Makeup Removing Wipes ($7) to clear skin on the go.
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After an extra tough workout, your skin will most likely be left with more than just a "healthy flush." We've already clued you in on how to reduce this excess redness, but all that perspiration and buildup of oil can lead to major breakouts if not cleared away soon after you've finished your sweat sesh So, if you don't plan on showering immediately after exercising, be sure to give your face a quick wash post-workout. "Gently cleanse skin using cool water and a mild face wash to remove sweat and debris from the skin," Dr. Weiser urges.
Time-saving tip: For a quick post-gym clean-up, opt for a one-stop-shop cleanser like the Perricone Blue Plasma Cleansing Treatment ($45), which will purify pores in a flash while also adding hydration to the skin.
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"The first thing you should always do is remove your makeup," says Dr. Schultz. "I recommend first using a mild cleanser and a toner to prep your skin for night. Then, apply a low-grade glycolic-based product to optimally exfoliate, so the upcoming moisturizers can be absorbed better," he continues. After that, apply the light serum you had used that morning and layer a rich moisturizer on top of it. This step should use a moisturizer that's thicker than your daytime lotion so it can seal in the properties of the previous products while also helping your skin rebuild itself overnight. Finally as your last step, apply eye cream to the entire eye area to ward off any unwanted crows feet.
Time-saving tip: Worst case scenario, just wash off your makeup. "The most important thing you can do for your skin at night is to remove every stitch of your makeup," says Dr. Schultz. So, even if it's just swiping a quick makeup remover wipe along your face, make this step one that you'll never skip.
On the Weekend
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"Sunday afternoons are a great time to give your skin a quick refresher in preparation for the week ahead," says Dr. Schultz. Since things typically slow down on the weekends, give yourself a little R&R and indulge in a miniature DIY facial. Start off by cleansing and exfoliating the skin to start with a clean base. Then, add a luxurious-feeling facemask like the Peter Thomas Roth Blue Marine Algae Intense Hydrating Mask ($52) to nourish and protect the skin from future damage, or try one of The Best Face Masks for Every Skin Condition.
Time-saving tip: if you're short on time, apply a face mask like the LEADERS Vita Brightening Renewal Mask ($4) for as little or as long as you'd like. Although the recommended application time is 15 minutes, you'll still reap the benefits after only five to 10.
When It's Cold
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"In cold weather, it is important to focus on maintaining a healthy and intact skin barrier," says Dr. Weiser. "When the weather is cold and humidity is low, moisture is easily pulled from the surface, leaving skin prone to irritation, redness, and dryness." Use gentle cleansers that are gel- or cream-based instead of foaming or exfoliating ones as to not strip the skin of natural oils. We love the SkinCeuticals Gentle Cleanser ($34) for its calming formula and rockstar ability to keep skin free of impurities.
Finally, Dr. Weiser recommends adding an extra layer of hydration in the form of hyaluronic acid or a ceramide-rich product each morning and night. Apply a heavier cream like the Colbert MD Soothe Night Cream ($165) before bed and save the lighter-weight lotions or gel emollients for warmer weather.
Time-saving tip: Keep your moisturizer near and dear to ward off flaky skin. Skip makeup like foundation or powders since they can enhance the appearance of dry skin, and simply use a moisturizer each morning and night.
When it's Hot
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"Your skin has more of a tendency to become clogged and develop blemishes in hot weather, so it's important to gently exfoliate two to three times per week to ensure dead skin cells are sufficiently removed," says Dr. Weiser. Since oil glands tend to overproduce sebum during warmer months, use only lightweight lotions to keep the skin's surface well hydrated without clogging pores. Most importantly, with warmer weather comes a greater need to wear SPF, so make sure to apply broad-spectrum sunscreen every morning before heading out the door.
Time-saving tip: Skin will be oilier when it's hot out, so skip the moisturizer and apply SPF to prevent against burns, wrinkles or darks spots.
Annually at the Dermatologist
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In terms of overall skin health, this might be the most important part of your skin-care routine yet. To keep an eye on any questionable moles or marks, make sure to have a skin cancer check scheduled once a year. (We have Your Skin Cancer Risk, Ranked By State.) "At this yearly appointment, make sure to have your derm update you on the current state of your skin and take this time to bring up any other skin concerns you may be experiencing at the time." This appointment is vital, so be sure to make the most of it.
Time-saving tip: We're sorry to say that there's not much you can do to save time on this step. You wouldn't go to the doctor's office without telling the doctor all of your health concerns, so don't hold back or try to rush through your derm appointment either.