By now you’re probably in a good rhythm with your baseline skincare regimen—cleansing, exfoliating, and moisturizing. Since you have that down, it’s time to consider adding a couple more simple grooming products, whether you want to take a proactive stance against aging and breakouts, or because you want to reverse signs of wear in your face. Regardless of your motive, there’s more to skincare than just face wash and moisturizer—and the more you invest, the more results you see.
To help with our recommendations, we sought the expertise of two dermatologists, Dr. Francesca Fusco, M.D. at Wexler Dermatology in New York City, and Dr. Nancy Satur, M.D. Read what both had to say about the most common products outside of the baseline cleanse-exfoliate-moisturize regimen, and how they can further improve your complexion, control oil levels, and reverse signs of sun exposure and aging.
Serum is kind of like moisturizer. “It delivers a concentrated amount of active ingredients,” says Dr. Fusco. Serums are packed with anti-oxidants and vitamins, and are absorbed into all three layers of the skin. A moisturizer, on the other hand, sits atop the skin like a protective barrier, and nourishes the outermost layer. “Serums leave out airtight moisturizing ingredients such as petrolatum or mineral oil, making them the lightest form of hydration,” Dr. Satur says. If applied with a moisturizer, use the serum first, so that it can absorb into the skin.
Try this: Paula’s Choice Resist C15 Super Booster: “It fortifies your skin against ultraviolet damage,” says Dr. Satur. “Vitamin C stimulates collagen production to repair fine lines and wrinkles, and inhibit melanin formation.”
Toners help balance the skin’s oil levels and can help treat your oily skin. Both doctors agree that toners are less necessary these days, since skincare as a whole is better at regulating oil production. But if you have especially oily skin, you’re a prime candidate for a toner. “Depending on the ingredients, toners may simply refresh skin or provide an astringent factor to dry out excessive oils,” Dr. Fusco says. “Some toners are packed with anti-oxidants so that they simultaneously deliver benefits like decreasing puffiness, neutralizing free radicals, and minimizing the appearance of enlarged pores.”
Try this: Thayers Rose Petal Alcohol-Free Witch Hazel with Aloe Vera or anything else without alcohol, says Dr. Satur. This will avoid overly drying out the skin, which would then give you the opposite problem from the one you sought to correct.
Masks are like super cleansers because they soak up all the excess oils and impurities embedded in your skin. They should be used once a week after cleansing, unless otherwise directed on the packaging. Because they come as muds, clays, creams, and sheets, the intensity and frequency can vary from one to the next.
Try this: Ursa Major Three-Minute Flash Mask. “I recommend this to patients for a quick exfoliation,” Dr. Fusco says. “It contains alpha- and beta-hydroxy acids, which dissolve dead skin and unclog pores without irritation. It leaves the skin looking brighter and will enhance the absorption of any moisturizer.”
While moisturizers hydrate and protect the skin during the day, a night cream is packed with even more nutrients and capitalizes on the body’s overnight regenerative cycle. Since your cells regenerate while you rest, the healing and anti-aging benefits are magnified. “A night cream tends to be too heavy to wear during the day, although it is perfectly fine to do so,” Dr. Satur says. Dr. Fusco adds that night creams are especially good for people who have dry skin, eczema, or are using acne medications that dry out the skin.
Try this: Lab Series Night Recovery Lotion. “My patients who use it wake up with nourished, moisturized skin that is not sticky,” Dr. Fusco says. Less expertly engineered night creams on the other hand can leave a tacky residue.
Retinol is a retinoid, which is a topical Vitamin A derivative. It’s proven to reverse signs of aging, like dark spots, fine lines, and wrinkles, and to minimize breakouts. Some over-the-counter products contain retinol, while many others are available with a prescription. “When applying retinoids, there can be an initial reaction of increased cell turnover which would appear as flaky skin,” Dr. Fusco says. “Retinol is photosensitizing, which means it should not be used when you’re having extensive exposure to the sun.”
Try this: Neutrogena Rapid Tone Repair Night. “It uses a combination of Vitamin C and retinol to boost surface skin cell renewal, as well as brighten skin tone and diminish signs of aging,” Dr. Satur says. And, talk to your dermatologist about prescription-strength options, to see which might be right for you. Dr. Fusco often prescribes tretinoin, which is a stronger dose of retinol that also contains moisturizer.
By Adam Hurly