How to Take Care of Your Face, According to Dermatologists
Illustration: Rebecca Chew
"I tell my patients to cleanse differently in the morning and evening," says Fusco. On waking, a water rinse is enough for most complexions; if you're oily, use a nonsudsy or micellar cleanser. Before bed, when you want a more thorough cleansing, use your fingers to wash with lukewarm water and a dollop of cleanser in a circular motion. Add a little pressure to stimulate circulation, says Mona Gohara, MD, associate clinical professor of dermatology at Yale University. A cleansing brush isn't necessary, but can be helpful if you wear a lot of makeup—the oscillation of the brush can dislodge makeup and dirt from your pores, says Fusco. A brush also exfoliates, removing dead cells from the skin's surface, which diminishes dullness, encourages a healthy glow and helps treatments penetrate better, she says. (Get Clarisonic Mia Fit.) Hold the brush so it "floats" over the skin; scrubbing can cause irritation. Another way to exfoliate: Incorporate an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) into your routine. AHAs loosen the "glue" between skin cells, so the dead cells slough off more easily, revealing smoother skin that reflects light better and leaves you glowing. In the morning right after cleansing, try an AHA lotion or pad (Elizabeth Arden Skin Illuminating Retexturizing Pads, 5%, if you're a newcomer; Cane + Austin 30% Miracle Pad + for AHA vets). To avoid potential irritation, use the AHA only once or twice a week until you know how your skin reacts.
Face Time: Females between the ages of 16 and 25 take an average of three selfies daily, which adds up to 48 minutes per day in front of the camera, what with the posing and grooming, according to a survey commissioned by FeelUnique.com.
Antioxidants fight free radicals, the molecules that damage the DNA in healthy skin cells, and have been shown to encourage collagen production. They also help mitigate the damage from UVA and UVB rays and reduce the appearance of dark spots, says Fusco. Look for a formula that contains ascorbic acid (vitamin C) and comes in an airtight pump or tube. For best results, use a mix of antioxidants, says Cheryl Karcher, MD, a New York City dermatologist; for instance, you could apply a serum that contains vitamins C and E (try SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic) in the A.M., and a lotion with an antioxidant such as selenium, zinc or green tea in the evening (like Dr. Brandt Xtend Your Youth Face Cream).
Hyaluronic and glycerin are two of the best ingredients for drawing moisture into the skin. Moisturizing is key because it helps support the skin barrier, which can be compromised by cold air, dry heat and other environmental insults. When the skin barrier is compromised, you're more vulnerable to irritation and infection, says Gohara. Keeping your skin well hydrated also temporarily plumps it up, diminishing fine lines and wrinkles. (Try Olay Regenerist Micro-Sculpting Cream with SPF 30.)
For nighttime, the gold standard treatment is a retinoid, the vitamin A derivative that's been shown to increase collagen production, regenerate elastin, unclog pores (reducing their appearance) and stimulate cell turnover (helping eliminate dark spots). Great news: There are many formulations of prescription retinoids and their over-the-counter versions, retinols, so it's much easier than it used to be to find one that doesn't irritate, says Fusco. If you've never tried one (or if you have sensitive skin), start with an over-the-counter retinol; it will be less potent than a prescription and not as likely to cause redness and flaking. (Get PCA Skin Intensive Brightening Treatment: 0.5% Pure Retinol Night.) Use that twice a week and build up tolerance until you can use it every night. Then you can graduate to a cosmeceutical strength (just below prescription strength), says Fusco, following the same routine. (Fusco recommends SkinMedica Retinol Complex.) If your skin tolerates that, you can move on to a prescription retinoid (such as ReFissa or a generic tretinoin).
What goes on first? Apply products according to their consistency, beginning with the thinnest. In the morning, start with the treatment serum, then follow it with a lotion or a cream moisturizer. For combination or oily skin, begin with a vitamin C serum (try Perricone MD Vitamin C Ester Serum). Over that, layer a moisturizing lotion or gel (we like Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel with SPF 15). For mature or very dry skin, start with a vitamin C or hyaluronic acid serum (such as Vichy Aqualia Thermal Dynamic Hydration Power Serum) and follow it with a lotion or cream containing glycerin. You can seal in the moisture by patting a face oil over that, says Fusco.(Clinique Smart Treatment Oil is a good one.)
Here's Looking at Me! 8 is the average number of times a day a woman checks her reflection, according to a survey by Simple Skincare.