Healthy glowing skin doesn’t have to be complicated. There are a few steps that everyone should keep in mind as a starting point, and then tailor based on skin type.
1) Cleanse. In general, it is best to use a gentle non-soap based product to cleanse the skin once to twice daily. Cleansing helps to remove dirt, oils and make-up. However, you don’t want to over-cleanse and strip the skin – be careful of scrubs, which can injure the skin and sometimes make acne-prone skin flare.
2) Moisturize. Hydrated skin looks and feels healthy – fine lines become less prominent so skin looks younger and more radiant. For day, chose a facial moisturizer with sunscreen or sunblock – these feel light on the skin while giving important protection. For night, chose a gentle non-comedogenic (won’t clog the pores or cause acne) moisturizer – a cream for dry skin, a lighter lotion for oily. This can be layered over exfoliators/retinols (see below).
3) Protect. Sun (UV) exposure is cumulative and is the major cause of premature aging of the skin. Even those few minutes in the car on the way to work can cause damage. And, UV exposure is the major risk factor for skin cancers. Sunblock is easy to use – apply a moisturizer with a sunscreen or sunblock of SPF 30 or greater daily during your morning skin care routine. If you’re out in the sun for longer periods of time, increase the SPF, apply it to all exposed areas, and remember to reapply every two hours. Read: UV Protection For Skin of Color
4) Exfoliate. Proper exfoliation is important to keep skin bright and fresh by removing some of the dead top layer of skin – it can take years off your appearance if you haven’t been exfoliating. Because exfoliation also opens the pores, it helps reduce sweat-induced blemishes. Products with salicylic acid and glycolic acid are great exfoliators – these come in washes (good for sensitive skin or in combination with a retinoid) as well as leave-on lotions/creams.
5) Repair. There are strong, high quality research studies which demonstrate the benefits of topical vitamin A (retinoids) to exfoliate and induce collagen growth (the substance of the skin), both of which improve the appearance fine lines. These can be used once daily to a clean face before bed. Retinoids can be somewhat drying at first, so start 2-3 times per week and increase to nightly as tolerated; also, it is fine to use a moisturizer after applying a retinoid (or for very sensitive skin, a small amount of moisturizer before the retinoid).
Skin type can vary from person to person, or within a person by area of the face, or by season if you live in a place like Minnesota where we have hot, humid weather in the summer and cold dry weather in the winter.
For sensitive skin there are strategies to help you tolerate the exfoliating and repair steps. You can alternate them – exfoliate one night, use a retinoid the next – if your skin feels dry or sensitive, skip a day in between. Chose milder products – for example an exfoliating wash with glycolic acid may be easier to use initially than a leave-on product, and over the counter retinols are milder than prescription strength tretinoin. And, apply a non-comedogenic moisturizer after these treatments.
For oilier skin, don’t skip the moisturizing step (especially because you need sunblock during the day!), but do chose lighter non-comedogenic moisturizers. You may be able to tolerate exfoliating in the morning (as a wash, or as a lotion under your moisturizing sunblock) and a retinoid at night.