They spend all day looking at skin that’s been mistreated, badly handled or just plain ignored. No wonder dermatologists wish you’d add just one more resolution to your 2024 list. We spoke to several, and they suggested actions you can take — or stop altogether — to support skin health all year long.
The top resolution: Use sun protection every day
Sure, wearing sunscreen will keep you from getting that deep tan you might be after, but it will also prevent you from developing signs of premature aging. Worth it, right?
All the doctors we spoke to stressed the importance of sun protection. “Wear SPF 30 or higher, every day,” said board certified dermatologist Dr. Rebecca Marcus. Many also mentioned the importance of frequent re-application of sunscreen.
Sun-protective clothing and hats also make a big difference. “I urge my outdoor runners or tennis players to consider trying a lightweight rash guard and a hat instead of only relying on sunscreen,” said board-certified dermatologist Dr. Claire Wolinsky. “I urge parents of young children to buy some lightweight button-down shirts to throw over their tank tops, too.”
Be consistent with your routine
“Consistency is key to having radiant skin,” said board-certified dermatologist Dr. Helen M. Torok. “I find myself crawling into bed from sheer exhaustion at the end of the day and sometimes skip my nighttime skin care routine. But your skin will reward you even if you do a basic cleanse, moisturize and sunscreen routine. Just make sure you’re consistent and do it every single day.”
“One helpful way to stick with your New Year’s resolution is to set yourself up for success by keeping products in a place that’s easy to find and easy to see,” said board-certified dermatologist Dr. Marisa Garshick “For example, when I began incorporating sunscreen into my everyday routine, I kept it right next to my toothbrush and made it part of my everyday morning routine, so I knew I would never leave the house without it.”
Check in with your dermatologist
It’s important to schedule periodic visits to a dermatologist for skin exams. “Early detection of skin issues can lead to more effective treatment,” said board-certified dermatologist Dr. Sonia Badreshia-Bansal.
She said that your frequency of visits will depend on your specific circumstances, but in general, if you have a high risk of skin cancer, including a family history of the disease, or if you have issues with moles, you’ll want to schedule an appointment every three to six months. You’re considered a moderate risk if you have risk factors like fair skin, a few moles or occasional sun exposure, so you might want to visit once or twice a year. If you have no personal or family history of skin cancer and keep sun exposure to a minimum, you can go ahead and schedule an annual skin exam.
Avoid those TikTok fads
“Trends are for clothes, not for skin care,” said board-certified dermatologist and founder Dr. Corey L. Hartman. “I see too many people falling for every trend and every product, then changing the routine too quickly before giving products a chance to work. Nothing beats consistently following the advice of a trusted medical expert.”
Do these two things at night
“Always wash your face before bed,” Garschick said. “Even if you don’t have an elaborate skin care routine, one of the most important steps in a skin care routine is to remove makeup, sunscreen, dirt, debris and build-up from the day. Going to bed without washing your face can lead to potential breakouts or irritation of the skin.”
“Men and women should use a clinical-strength retinol nightly,” Torok added. “It will increase the turn-over rate of skin cells to minimize actinic damage from sun exposure and improve the overall appearance and texture of skin.”
Simplify your routine
“While there are many skin care trends, I find that keeping skin care simple makes compliance a no-brainer,” said board-certified dermatologist Dr. Tina Alster. Two bottles you can toss right now? “Toners and exfoliators, because they tend to over-dry the skin and cause more skin irritation, which can lead to dermatitis and acne breakouts.”
Wolinsky said, “Don’t get carried away loading up on all kinds of serums and potions that promise to reverse all sun damage and lighten brown spots. There’s no magic anti-wrinkle potion. Instead, keep it simple, find a great sunscreen and reapply it as best as you can.”
Everyone needs to moisturize
“Everyone, even those with oily skin, can benefit from using a moisturizer regularly,” Garshick said. “Those with oily skin may opt for a lightweight lotion or gel-cream, while those with dry skin may prefer a heavier cream or ointment. Those with acne-prone skin should still moisturize the skin, but should use a moisturizer that is non-comedogenic.”
While it may seem counterintuitive to moisturize blemished skin, the reason is simple, since skipping this step can cause your skin to get dry and dehydrated—and that can actually trigger the production of more oil. Be sure to read labels to make sure your moisturizer will balance out your skin without clogging pores.
Some of us are harsher on our skin than we should be. “Stop picking,” Marcus urged. “Picking at your skin will lengthen healing time and stimulate formation of spots that can remain in the skin for months after a pimple or other lesion has healed.”
While you’re treating your skin more kindly, cut it out with the over-exfoliation, too. “Over-exfoliation ultimately disrupts the skin barrier and causes dryness and flaking. A gentle chemical exfoliant twice weekly should be adequate for most skin types,” Marcus said.
Badreshia-Bansal agreed: “Harsh scrubbing or over-cleansing can strip the skin of its natural oils and lead to irritation. Opt for gentle, non-comedogenic products, instead.”
Keep some nightstand rescue on-hand
“It’s also important to give yourself grace and remember forgetting one day here and there is OK,” Gashick said. “We’ve all had those nights where we’re too tired to remove our makeup or wash our face — myself included — but that’s when keeping a cleansing balm, micellar water or even makeup wipes on your nightstand may help. Even though makeup wipes are not recommended for routine use, if it’s a choice between using them or not removing your makeup, nothing, they should be considered.”