When it comes to skincare, most of us have had to make room in our schedules for rituals. Some of us light candles and put on music. Others slip into robes and close our doors from the outside world. And all of us spend minutes—quite a few minutes, actually—going through the regular motions of what we think our skincare routines should be.
If we’re being honest, the entire process takes time because of the number of products in our arsenal. We’ve added in multiple moisturizers and serums, and fit in various cleansers and sheet masks. It’s not rare to have a big collection of so-called necessities in our medicine cabinets, and the sheer amount can also contribute to why we feel the need to have elaborate daily rituals. Still, it doesn’t have to be this complicated or time consuming. Just take it from Jennifer Herrmann, a Beverly Hills dermatologist at MFC Dermatology.
"Simplicity is key," she says. "Many of my patients come in with a bag of 10 to 15 items, which isn’t necessary. It complicates regimens and makes it more of a chore rather than lifestyle."
Ahead, Herrmann describes how to pare a regimen down to the essentials, so that your skin is still getting the treatment it needs without requiring the many passing minutes of overkill. We’ve also asked her to list the order that every item should be used in, and how often to do it. While you shouldn’t get rid of the music, candles, and robes if it makes you happy, these tips should make the entire ritual easier to fit into your life.
Step 1: Cleanse
When: Morning and night
"Cleansing in the morning is important to remove dead skin cells from natural skin turnover and critically important at night to remove makeup, pollutants, and dirt that accumulates during the day. Especially for those living in cities, pollution can cause oxidative damage, which accelerates aging," she says.
"Your cleanser should fit your skin type. For those with acne-prone skin, using one that contains salicylic acid can help gently exfoliate and unclog blemishes," she continues. "For those with rosacea or sensitive skin, using one that is gentle is important."
Step 2: Apply a serum
When: Morning and night
"Serums are great to add for protection and anti-aging," Herrmann says. "At night, using one with growth factors can help target collagen synthesis to tighten skin and reduce fine lines. In the morning, using a serum with antioxidants can help squelch free radicals that damage skin and accelerate collagen and elastin breakdown."
Step 3: Moisturize
"Choose a moisturizer based on your skin type," she notes. "My favorite products include hyaluronic acid, which holds in moisture and gives the skin a dewy look. For those with acne-prone skin, a moisturizer heals the skin barrier and allows acne medications to work more efficiently. Finally, for those with sensitive or dry skin, using a heavier moisturizer with ceramides and more oil can help sooth and replenish normal skin function."
Step 4: Apply sunscreen
"Yes, this is critical to do every day. Choose a sunscreen that you’ll wear with an SPF of at least 30. And remember that if your makeup has an SPF of 15 and your sunscreen has an SPF of 15, you’re only getting SPF 15 coverage, not 30," Herrmann says. "Sunscreens help block UV, which is a known carcinogen. Some sunscreens have a tint that can serve as a light makeup and others are oil-free, which is a good option for acne-prone skin."
"You can also look for sunscreen containing DNA repair enzymes that help fix UV-induced DNA damage," she continues. "DNA damage accumulates over time and eventually leads to pre-skin cancers and skin cancers. Using a sunscreen with repair enzymes allows you to be extra proactive."
Step 5: Apply a retinoid or retinol
"A retinoid or a more gentle retinol are helpful to use at night for anti-aging," she explains. "Retinoids, which are derived from vitamin A, help turn over skin and increase collagen synthesis, which keeps it looking young. For those with sensitive skin, using a product once or twice a week is better tolerated than using one each night as these agents can be drying and may cause redness."
Step 6: Exfoliate
When: Once to twice per week
"The best exfoliants are chosen based on skin needs," she says. "Some products contain higher concentrations of acids that can be helpful for blemish-prone skin, and others are more gentle for those with more sensitive skin."
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