Since my job requires me to research skin by poring over medical research, editorial magazines, blogs and every other valid publication available on the interwebs; interviewing cosmetic chemists, brand innovators and owners and celebrity dermatologists and estheticians who are celebrities themselves; and getting pitched by dozens of skincare companies every week, I’ve learned a thing or two about what you need to do to get your best skin possible.
Sure, there are infinite tips out there, some of which will work wonders for you and others, not, but what I’ve learned is there are some things everyone agrees on. And here they are. This might be the only skincare guide you will ever need TBH. (Side note: Nobody is paying me to do this, so I’m not obligated by an advertise to include them.)
Hint: It turns out it’s not that hard to take care of your skin. But if you follow these steps but drink massive amounts of alcohol, sleep two hours per day and smoke, you won’t be getting a celebrity glow. Don’t blame me.
1. Cleansing Is Paramount
Wash your face at night — every night — whether or not you wear makeup. Your face accumulates pollution, dirt, sweat, excess oil and bunch of other pore-clogging particulates throughout the day and your skin needs to repair itself while you sleep without impurities getting in the way. (Psst, your skin is also hardest at work while you sleep, so this is a great time to take advantage of your most highly prized topical treatments.)
Most people recommend cleansing your face in the morning too, but if you have dry or insanely sensitive skin, you may be able to get away with skipping this step in the a.m. and only rinsing with water.
Exfoliate at least once a week, more if your skin is amenable to it. This speeds up the process of getting rid of dead skin cells that crowd the epidermis, the uppermost layer of skin. When you exfoliate, you unveil fresh, healthy skin cells and simultaneously allow your following products to absorb better.
2. Sunscreen Is Vital
Apply sunscreen every day, even if the clouds ominously loom over you. In fact, unless the sun blows up and we’re all dead, there is no excuse for skipping this step — especially because sunscreen isn’t just for beauty; it helps fend off skin cancer as well. With that said, sunscreen is incontestably the most important anti-aging product you can use. Your drugstore SPF 50 is more valuable than your $300 serum from Bloomingdales.
Use a green-grape-size amount of sunscreen. That sounds crazy, but a dab won’t make a difference. Massage it in until it’s absorbed, then use the remaining on your neck and chest.
Reapply sunscreen. If you wear makeup (or even if you don’t), this isn’t exactly realistic if you’re at work or out for lunch. I recommend a mineral powder that contains SPF so you can brush it on at any time. I like Colorescience Sunforgettable Mineral Sunscreen Brush SPF 50.
3. Antioxidant Serums Make You Glow
There are a lot of great antioxidants, but go for vitamin C, which is one of the most studied substances in its application as a topical skincare ingredient. There are copious varieties of vitamin C, and it oxidizes easily (i.e. it turns rancid when it gets in contact with O2, which is the same reason your half-eaten apple turns brown when you irresponsibly leave it out for a couple of days). Instead of getting into a science lesson, consider the vitamin C serum that a lot of dermatologists, estheticians and editors rave about: Skinceuticals C E Ferulic.
Vitamin C is an antixoidant, which means it counteracts a cascade of damage that occurs to cells as they’re ravaged by environmental insults, including UV rays, pollution and terrible lifestyle choices. Vitamin C also offers other benefits you’ll enjoy, like keeping hyperpigmentation (dark spots) at bay and brightening your overall complexion. It’s also known to stimulate collagen synthesis, which will help your skin remain taut and youthful (if that’s your thing).
4. Retinol Brings Back Your Youth
Aside from sunscreen and vitamin C, retinol is also overwhelmingly lauded by experts. Unlike, say, stem cells, which sound high-tech but are causing a lot of raised eyebrows in the science community, retinol has been definitively shown to make your skin look plump and healthy while slowing down the formation of wrinkles. It renews cells — and it does so quickly enough that it also helps prevent pore clogging, which makes it both an anti-wrinkle and anti-breakout solution. I won’t recommend a retinol here since they do make skin very sensitive for some people, and it’s better to choose one of your own volition using common sense and/or professional guidance.
5. Moisturizers — So Basic, but So Essential
Moisturize even if you have acne or are oilier than most teenage boys. As much as oil gets a bad rap, dryness is just as awful if not arguably worse. It causes irritation and expedites wrinkles, and makes you red, splotchy and flaky. At least if you’re innately oily, you are far less prone to wrinkles. There are really no silver linings to being dry. There are plenty of moisturizers that won’t break you out, so do yourself a favor and give your skin a drink!