When you were younger, you probably didn't think you'd have to worry about your skin once reaching adulthood. Sadly, most of us grow up to find this is not the case, and that our skin issues persist way beyond puberty. Some people even get acne for the very first time as an adult.
But breakouts aside, having clear skin is about so much more than looking good. Healthy skin can help you to feel more confident and put your best face forward. This can mean the difference between a great day and a stressful one. Beyond that, caring for your skin also means protecting yourself against skin cancer, which is the most common form of cancer in the United States, but also one of the most preventable.
To help you figure out how to best care for your skin, we asked three dermatologists about their tips for developing a daily care routine and keeping your skin feeling healthy.
Here's what they had to say:
Focus on protection, prevention, and repair.
Rebecca Fitzgerald, MD, a dermatologist specialist in Los Angeles, believes the key to healthy skin is focusing on protection, prevention, and repair. "By protecting skin, you prevent continued damage from sun exposure and the stresses of daily life, repairing the damage that's been done by past exposure and the natural aging process," she told A Plus.
So, how can you go about doing this? For starters, consult your dermatologist, a trained medical professional, before shelling out any money on skincare products.
Developing a new skin care routine? You'll want to incorporate sunscreen, vitamin A and antioxidants.
"Scientifically, the number one thing to use is sunscreen to prevent sun damage and skin cancer," Dr. Fitzgerald said. "The second most important product in a routine is a vitamin A, like a retinol or retinoid, this helps improve skin texture and tone, and also helps diminish fine lines with long term use. Lastly, antioxidants help reverse the oxidative damage and stress that occurs with daily living."
After you and your dermatologist decide on products that work best for you, be sure to remain dedicated to your skin's upkeep.
When it comes to some of her favorite products, Dr. Fitzgerald recommends ZO Cebatrol Pads for cleansing and exfoliation, ZO Radical Night Repair as a great retinol, SkinCeuticals CE Ferulic as an antioxidant, and Skin Medica Total Defense and Repair Sunscreen. "I also love the ColorScience Sunforgettable Powder Sunscreen brush," she said. "It's great for touch-ups throughout the day."
Your skin is a reflection of your health.
Jeannette Graf, MD, assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City, believes your skin's health isn't just about the products in your mirror cabinet, but also the ones in your fridge. "Your skin is a mirror of what's going on inside," she told A Plus. "I believe an alkalinizing diet which promotes positive pH balance will have a positive effect on every organ in your body, as well as your skin. Avoid acid-producing foods and consume a diet rich in fruits and green leafy vegetables. Be sure to drink lots of water with lemon or lime."
Aside from maintaining a healthy diet, Dr. Graf recommends a morning routine that includes gentle cleansing followed by a moisturizing sunscreen and antioxidants. When nighttime rolls around, don't ever fall asleep with your makeup on — no matter how tired you are. Your skin will thank you later. After you take it off, she suggests applying a retinol and moisturizer. Exfoliate once or twice each week.
Not sure what to try? Dr. Graf has shared some of her favorite products.
"I am a fan of Elta-MD UV Clear SPF 46 which uses dimethicone-coated micronized zinc oxide giving it a great texture and elegant feel," she said. "It is moisturizing and can be used by all skin types and colors as it won't leave a cast on darker skin tones."
Looking for a gentle exfoliator? Try a 10-minute peel. "Glytone Rejuvenating Mini Peel Gelis an at-home peel for all skin types and has Glycolic Acid that can gently and effectively remove dead skin cells for a glowing complexion," Dr. Graf said.
If you struggle with adult acne, she recommends trying Benzac Intensive Spot Treatment. "It uses 2 percent Salicylic Acid and East Indian Sandalwood oil, but won't over-dry skin. The East Indian Sandalwood oil has anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and antioxidant benefits making this a good treatment for those with adult acne."
Regardless of your skin type, you may want to check out micellar waters. "I like Eau Thermale Avène Micellar Lotion Cleanser which removes impurities and make-up, and contains Avène Thermal Spring Water which soothes skin," she said."
Lastly, there's one thing Dr. Graf never leaves home without: Aquaphor. "It is a great multi-tasker for dry skin anywhere on your body, and it is especially good for dry lips," she said.
Stop making assumptions about your skin.
Dendy E. Engelman, MD, FACMS, FASDS, FAAD, a board-certified dermatologic surgeon, has a few crucial tips she wishes everyone knew about skin care.
"You might not have sensitive skin. Many times people tend to self-medicate," Dr. Engelman told A Plus. "They think their skin is 'too oily' or 'too something else' so they are washing, scrubbing, peeling, exfoliating and using any product they can get their hands on to fix the problem only to find themselves with very reactive skin."
If you're worried about your skin, see a specialist before medicating it. Self-diagnosing and experimenting may seem easier than making an appointment, but it'll be better for you in the long run to have a professional consultation.
Dr. Engelman recommends being proactive about gentle cleansing, using sunscreen, and being careful about exfoliating.
"Stop over exfoliating! By stripping your skin of all its natural oils, you're doing more harm by removing all of the lipids which serve as a protective barrier," she said. "After exfoliating, apply a moisturizer like Elizabeth Arden Ceramide Capsules to seal and protect the skin barrier."
Like Dr. Graf, she also believes you can improve your skin by improving your diet. "Skin is the biggest indicator of overall health," Dr. Engelman said. "So if you want beautiful skin, take care of yourself from the inside out! Eat a diet rich in anti-oxidants and probiotics. Avoid dairy and high-glycemic index foods."
She starts her skin care routine in the morning with Nerium's new Age-Defying Eye Serum, SkinCeuticals CE Ferulic, and an antioxidant broad spectrum SPF. "I also love Colorescience powder block for re-application during the day."
When her seasonal allergies kick in, Dr. Engelman sees under eye circles as a result. "I lean on Dermablend's Quick-fix Concealer to help camouflage these away," she said. "In addition to excellent coverage, the formula is extremely blendable and is water and sweat-proof for up to 16 hours, which is a huge plus during warmer months."
At night, she applies a retinol to her face to help. "They help build collagen, correct fine lines and wrinkles, improve discoloration, reverse sun-induced damage," she said. She also recommends using a hydrating product formulated for overnight use such as Derm-Institute Anti-Oxidant Hydration Gel Masque.
One of Dr. Engelman's best tips for caring for your skin is learning to be patient. "You're in it for the long haul," she said. "Some people think that you will see results immediately when in fact most products take up to four weeks to see results. And even then you have to keep it up."