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Are you one of those people who doesn’t use skin care products on a regular basis but thinks that perhaps you should be using something? Or maybe your skin care “routine” is simply applying Pond’s moisturizer and nothing else, à la Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and you wonder if you should be doing more.
Developing a skin care routine can be daunting if you don’t know where to start ― especially if you’re not interested in a routine that’s going to take up a lot of time. The good news is that if you’re using sunscreen, then you’re already halfway there.
We talked to three board-certified dermatologists about skin care for people who don’t “do skin care.” As most everyone can probably guess, sunscreen tops the list of the single most important product you can use to help slow aging and prevent skin cancers. If you were only going to use one thing, a good sunscreen should be it.
“The most important step of starting the process is teaching patients to wash their face before they go to bed at night,” said dermatologist Heather D. Rogers of Modern Dermatology in Seattle, Washington.
The next most crucial thing is using a good broad-spectrum sunscreen every day.
“The American Academy of Dermatology recommends that you use at least an SPF of 30,” Rogers said, “because we usually apply about half as much sunscreen as we’re supposed to.”
Rogers tries to steer people away from chemical-based screens to more physical- (mineral) based screens, which are becoming more available. Physical sunscreens sit on top of the skin as opposed to chemical-based ones that absorb into the skin.
After sunscreen, Nazanin Saedi, director of the Jefferson Laser Surgery and Cosmetic Dermatology Center at Jefferson Health in Philadelphia, recommends using some form of retinoid. Under the retinoid umbrella are retinols, which are less potent and available over the counter.
“These are vitamin A derivatives and basically what they do is increase cell turnover. So they are great for anti-aging but also good for anything that’s precancerous,” Saedi said.
Dermatologist Lisa M. Donofrio, associate clinical professor at Tulane University in New Orleans, also suggests using a peptide-containing cream.
“There’s not a huge amount of data on this,” she wrote in an email, “but studies do show an increase in collagen and a decrease in degradation as a result of using a product with peptide.”
Peptides are shown to reduce wrinkles and help repair wounds and improve skin conditions such as eczema.
Here are Rogers and Saeid’s top picks for over-the-counter products.
Sunscreen: Laroche-Posay Melt In Sunscreen Milk
“Laroche-Posay always does well on consumer reports,” Saedi said. “One reason is that it’s SPF 60, which is actually accurate. And the other reason is that it goes on really smoothly.”
A lot of people don’t like wearing sunscreen because it makes them look chalky or, if they’re walking or biking to work, it melts on your face. “This sunscreen just feels really nice and doesn’t leave a residue. It also doesn’t have any of the chemical ingredients so it’s great for reapplying,” she said.
“Most people are really bad about reapplying,” Saedi said, “You should reapply every two hours and even more frequently if you’ll be in the water.”Laroche-Posey Melt in Sunscreen Milk, $36
Sunscreen: Isdin Eryfotona Actinica
Isdin’s Eryfotona Actinica sunscreen is extremely lightweight and easy to rub into the skin – and it’s Rogers’ top choice. This sunscreen has a milky texture and comes in both white and a universal tint for people with darker skin. “It’s not cheap,” Rogers said, “but it is very well formulated and comes with a lot of bells and whistles like antioxidants including 11% zinc oxide.” Zinc oxide
reflects and scatters damaging UV rays. Isdin Eryfotona Actinica, $55
Sunscreen: Drunk Elephant Umbra Sheer
“If you decided today that you're not going to get as much sun,” Rogers said, “your body could actually go back and correct some of the mutations and damage that happened in the past because it’s not trying to keep up with any new damage you're doing.”
According to Rogers, Drunk Elephant sunscreen comes with a whole slew of antioxidants including astaxanthin
, grape juice and sunflower shoot extracts. It’s also infused with raspberry seed and marula oils. Drunk Elephant Umbra Sheer, $34
Sunscreen: Supergoop Zinc Sunscreen
Rogers is also a fan of Supergoop Zinc Sunscreen, a 100% mineral SPF 40, non-nano zinc oxide sunscreen. The pink-hued lotion is infused with ingredients like winter cherry, coconut fruit and blueberry extracts to help nourish your skin. Supergoop Zinc Sunscreen, $42
Lip Balm: Vaseline Lip Therapy
When it comes to lip balms, Rogers advises against using anything with excess ingredients like cinnamon, mint or even lanolin.
“Your lips don't have a characterizing layer on them so they’re going to absorb the chemicals so much more than other parts of your body,” she said. So what does Rogers recommend when it comes to lip balms? Good old fashioned Vaseline.Vaseline Lip Therapy, $2
Anti-Aging: Differin Adapalene
If you’re looking for a retinoid instead of a retinol (retinoids are more potent), prescription strength adapalene
is now available over the counter.
“You can get it at any drug store now for about $15,” Saedi said, “which is kind of amazing because two years ago if you were to get it without insurance, it was close to $300.” Differin helps prevent fine lines and wrinkles and maintains clear skin. Differin Adapalene, $15
Anti-Aging: Oil of Olay Regenerist Retinol 24
Anti-Aging: SkinCeuticals Retinol 0.3 Cream
Saedi is also a fan of SkinCeuticals, which makes a few different retinol creams. The 0.3 cream is recommended for first-time retinol users because of its gentler, less potent formula. Once skin has become conditioned to retinol usage, it’s usually possible to move to a higher concentrated retinol. SkinCeuticals has 0.5 and 1.0 products as well.
Skin can be very sensitive to retinol, so it’s best to start out with a small amount. Also, pregnant women should not use retinols. Skinceuticals Retinol Cream, $67
Face Wash: Neutrogena Pink Grapefruit Cream Cleanser
When it comes to face washing, Saedi said sometimes she thinks people wash their faces too many times a day. “There’s no set standard,” she said, “but I’d suggest a max of twice a day.” Saedi personally uses and recommends the Neutrogena Pink Grapefruit line.
Saedi likes this face wash because it has salicylic acid, which helps break up things that clog your pores. “I feel like the grapefruit kind of brightens your skin a bit,” she added. Neutrogena Pink Grapefruit Cream Cleanser, $9
Face Wash: PanOxyl Acne Creamy Wash
For people who are worried about bacteria on their skin or who get a lot of pustules
, Saedi suggests using a benzoyl peroxide wash like PanOxyl. Pustules are those raised pimples filled with pus. PanOxyl Acne Creamy Wash, $12