Anyone who has walked the skin-care aisles of a drug store knows just how overwhelming it can be to find a regimen that works for you. When patients ask what to buy, the answer is simple: I only recommend products that have scientific studies that support their use and have proven benefits.
A Dermatologist's Morning Skin Care Routine
The first thing to do after waking up is cleanse the skin with a gentle foaming facial cleanser. Look for products that are free and clear, which means they don't contain any allergens and won't strip the skin of its natural oils. Avoid fragrances, too, because they can lead to irritation or dryness. Gentle cleansers clean the skin without making it too dry.
Next, you want to apply sunscreen. With so many brands and strengths of sunscreen available, it can be overwhelming to pick one. We recommend all people use sunscreens with either iron oxide, zinc oxide or titanium dioxide that are SPF 30 or higher. Most people put on half as much sunscreen as they should, which is why I recommend higher SPF sunscreens (i.e., the higher the better). The SPF determines how long the skin is protected. It's very important to apply sunscreen at least 30 minutes before being out in the sun and to reapply every two hours if you continue to be outdoors. A common mistake people make is forgetting to reapply, which is why a higher SPF is better.
During the day, if you're going to be outside or driving, keep a brush-on sunscreen for reapplication. It serves two purposes: a powder to absorb any oil on the skin and reapplication of sunscreen, since your morning SPF has long worn off (most sunscreens are only effective for two hours).
At night, it's essential to remove all makeup; often, using a makeup remover prior to washing can help remove residue such as mascara or eye liner.
You can then use a gentle cleanser like your morning cleanser or one that contains glycolic acid – which is a beta-hydroxy acid (fruit acid) with many anti-aging benefits. It brightens the skin, prevents acne and slows down signs of aging.