Thursday, February 23, 2012

3 Steps to Great Skin

3 Steps to Heavenly Skin

By Mandy Hendrix

Confused about what's necessary for great skin? If your bathroom medicine cabinet is cluttered with dozens of lotions and potions, it's time to pare down your daily regimen. Dermatologists agree: All you need are three basics -- a cleanser, a moisturizing sunscreen, and a night cream -- to get the gorgeous complexion you crave.

Step 1: Cleanser

You should wash your face twice a day (unless you have sensitive skin). Cleansing in the morning removes the oil and dead skin cells that build up while you sleep and washing again at night gets rid of all the makeup, sunscreen, pollutants, and dust your face confronts over the course of the day. It also prepares your skin to better absorb your day and night creams so you can get the most out of their ingredients.

Step 2: Moisturizing Sunscreen

Do not leave your house until you've applied a moisturizer that contains SPF 15 or higher. Yes, it's that important. This smart combination does more to keep you looking young than any anti-aging cream, says Jeffrey Dover, MD, associate clinical professor of dermatology at Yale University. Moisturizer seals in water in the skin's outer layers, plumping your face and fading fine lines.

Step 3: Night Treatment

Applying an anti-aging treatment before you go to sleep has its advantages. "Ingredients work better at night when they aren't exposed to sun and sweat," says Cheryl Karcher, MD, a dermatologist in New York City. Look for retinols to speed cell turnover, fade age spots, and boost collagen. Or choose creams with antioxidants and peptides, which can repair damage, rebuild collagen, and reduce inflammation.

Is More Better?

While a three-step routine is plenty effective to maintain great skin, a few more steps can make your skin look even better. We asked the experts which products are worth adding and which to skip.
Exfoliator: Add it.
As you age your skin's natural shedding process slows down, so an exfoliator is one of the best extras you can buy. Try a scrub or a peel, both of which are sold in cleansers or as separate products.
Serum: Consider it.
Dermatologists love serums because the thin liquid texture delivers powerful ingredients into your skin's deeper levels. Serums easily can be layered under a sunscreen or moisturizer every day for more benefits.
Eye Cream: Consider it.
"If you have a special eye concern, such as dark circles, crow's-feet, or puffiness, you might want to add it to your daily routine, but a nighttime moisturizer without acids can be a good substitute," says Dr. Luftman.
Facial Mask: Consider it.
A mask isn't important for everyone but it may increase the benefits of a basic routine by helping your skin retain moisture or clearing away excess oil. There's no reason to use a mask more than twice a week.
Toner: Skip it.
It's old-fashioned and unnecessary and may contain ingredients such as witch hazel or ethyl alcohol that make skin tingle and feel tight but otherwise don't have any positive effects, says Dr. Dover.

Originally published in Ladies' Home Journal, July 2009.

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