For Uneven Skin and Splotches: Vitamin C

What it does – This antioxidant is a powerful brightener, helping to fade dark spots and even out your skin tone. It can also help combat wrinkles because it minimizes the damage free radicals do to collagen, the protein that helps keep your skin firm, says Rebecca Kazin, MD, a fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology and the associate director of the Washington Institute of Dermatologic Laser Surgery in Chevy Chase, Maryland.

Good to know – Another antioxidant that's getting some buzz right now, according to Kazin, is resveratrol (yes, the thing in red wine you hear about all the time) and anti-inflammatory vitamin E can help minimize redness.

Where to find it – Vitamin C, like other antioxidants, is usually in serum form, and it's best to apply in the morning, before you venture out into the UV light, car exhaust, and pollution that it's meant to protect your skin from. Layer it under your daily sunscreen and moisturizer.

Recommended by our experts:

La-Roche Posay Active C10 Vitamin C Wrinkle Cream - $53

SkinCeuticals CE Ferulic - $166

For Livening Up Dull Skin: Hydroxy Acids

What they do – Glycolic, lactic, alpha hydroxy, beta hydroxy–they're all in the same hydroxy acid family, and they can all help get rid of dead cells on the surface of your skin so your skin reflects more light, says Kazin. They can also help with dark spots by sloughing them off tiny layer by tiny layer.

Good to know – Like retinol, these acids can be irritating. Start by using them once a week to see how your skin reacts. Depending on how well you tolerate it and what other products you're using (see below), you could build up to daily or every-other-day use.

Where to find them – Face washes, peels and toner-like pads that you swipe over your face after cleansing. If you're already using a daily retinoid or retinol, a peel might be too much for your skin, says Jennifer MacGregor, MD, a dermatologist at Union Square Laser Dermatology and assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Columbia University Medical Center, both in New York. In that case, consider using a wash or pads one or two times per week.

Recommended by our experts:

Wash: NeoStrata Resurface Foaming Glycolic Wash - $40

Peel: Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Alpha Beta Peel Extra Strength Daily Peel – $88 for 35 treatments

Pads: Cane + Austin Miracle Pads - $88

Last but Not Least, for Wrinkles: Retinoids and Retinol

What they do – They spur your skin to make new collagen to help fill in and smooth out fine lines and wrinkles. They can also help clear up acne by reducing oil production, because we all know acne doesn't go away just because you've left your 20s behind.

Good to know – Retinol is what you can buy over the counter–retinoids require a prescription from a dermatologist. Both can be irritating, but, "some companies have started using time-released delivery systems, so you get all of the potency with less irritation," says Kazin. Another tip: If your product comes with a pump applicator, as many OTC ones do, you only need one pump's worth to cover your whole face, and two pumps if you're also applying it to your neck and chest, says MacGregor.

Where to find them – Retinols and retinoids are typically found in nighttime creams or products, because UV light can make them less effective. They're often mixed with soothing, hydrating ingredients like hyaluronic acid to counteract any irritation.

Recommended by our experts:

RoC Retinol Correxion Sensitive Night Cream - $18

Vichy LiftActiv Retinol Treatment - $45

Peter Thomas Roth Professional 3% Retinoid Plus - $82


Next Story