What’s the Best Skin Care Routine?

There are so many skin care products on the market that it’s hard to know which to use. Anyone who has walked the skin-care aisles of a drug store knows just how overwhelming it can be to find a regimen that works for you. When patients ask what to buy, the answer is simple: I only recommend products that have scientific studies that support their use and have proven benefits.

A Dermatologist’s Morning Skin Care Routine

The first thing to do after waking up is cleanse the skin with a gentle foaming facial cleanser. Look for products that are free and clear, which means they don’t contain any allergens and won’t strip the skin of its natural oils. Avoid fragrances, too, because they can lead to irritation or dryness. Gentle cleansers clean the skin without making it too dry.

Next, I recommend using an antioxidant, which include vitamins C and E, as well as ferulic acid. Antioxidants protect the skin against environmental damage from pollution and other elements. They improve the brightness of the skin and can improve the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

[See: 9 Surprising Facts About Sunscreen.]

Once the antioxidant has dried, you can apply sunscreen. With so many brands and strengths of sunscreen available, it can be overwhelming to pick one. I recommend all people use sunscreens with either iron oxide, zinc oxide or titanium dioxide that are SPF 30 or higher. Most people put on half as much sunscreen as they should, which is why I recommend higher SPF sunscreens (i.e., the higher the better). The SPF determines how long the skin is protected. It’s very important to apply sunscreen at least 30 minutes before being out in the sun and to reapply every two hours if you continue to be outdoors. A common mistake people make is forgetting to reapply, which is why a higher SPF is better. It’s also important to examine the ingredients in each sunscreen. Physical blockers like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are more effective than chemical sunscreens (which end in “ate” or “one”). Physical sunscreens have no allergenic potential, and they reflect away light rather than absorbing it and breaking it down like chemical sunscreens. The tinted physical sunscreens are nice because they don’t leave a white residue.

After that, it’s fine to apply makeup if you wish to do so. I recommend using a concealer first that contains SPF, as it can cover minor imperfections. It makes the skin look flawless and blends in well with the tinted sunscreen. After that, a mineral powder makeup that looks natural and feels light. Mineral makeup that’s powder-based is oil-free, won’t clog your pores and blends well over tinted moisturizer. For lip products, look for a gloss that has SPF to protect the lips. I look for brands that are hypoallergenic and fragrance- and paraben-free.

[See: 6 Health Hazards to Watch Out for This Summer Other Than Skin Cancer.]

During the day, if you’re going to be outside or driving, keep a brush-on sunscreen for reapplication. It serves two purposes: a powder to absorb any oil on the skin and reapplication of sunscreen, since your morning SPF has long worn off (most sunscreens are only effective for two hours).

I recommend keeping a moisturizer with SPF in your bag or car for apply to your hands, which helps avoid sun damage while driving. It’s lightweight yet moisturizing — and yes, you can get sun damage through glass while driving. Other options to protect the hands are UV gloves, which can also be used during gel manicures.

Recommended Evening Skin Care Regimen

At night, it’s essential to remove all makeup; often, using a makeup remover prior to washing can help remove residue such as mascara or eye liner.

You can then use a gentle cleanser like your morning cleanser or one that contains glycolic acid — which is a beta-hydroxy acid (fruit acid) with many anti-aging benefits. It brightens the skin, prevents acne and slows down signs of aging.

[Read: Ways to Prevent Skin Cancer.]

After cleansing, a nightly routine should include the following: a vitamin A-based cream (retinol and adapalene are available over-the-counter, while tretinoin and tazorac need to be prescribed). Vitamin A-based creams can build new collagen, prevent acne and keep the skin looking young by reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. The most common side effect is dryness and irritation, which can be minimized by applying a moisturizer on top. Look for one that contains ceramide or hyaluronic acid. Hyaluronic acid is a natural molecule found in the skin; it’s moisturizing without being greasy and has many anti-aging benefits. Ceramides help keep water trapped in the skin and keep the skin barrier healthy.

Everyone’s skin is different, so there are many factors to consider when developing a skin regimen. It’s best to discuss the best regimen for you with a board-certified dermatologist.

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What’s the Best Skin Care Routine? originally appeared on usnews.com

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