The serum doesn’t beat around the bush with its name, and calls in double-fermented Uji green tea, Akita rice, and Okinawa algae to provide high levels of exfoliating lactic acid. Together, the brand says those three ingredients comprise 73 percent of the serum, so the periwinkle bottle is a potent resurfacer. Combined with moisture-drawing hyaluronic acid, plumping sugarcane-derived squalane, and hydrolyzed collagen and elastin, the effects have earned the serum over 1,200 five-star ratings on the brand’s site.
“My skin looked luminous and dewy, and fine lines around my mouth, eyes, and forehead seemed to disappear,” wrote a fan of the “definite” plumping action they saw within weeks. A 52-year-old reviewer confirmed the “unbelievable” difference in their wrinkles and newly even skin tone, and a third person said their skin is the most hydrated it’s been in 15 years.
Those profound changes are right in line with what editors and shoppers have come to expect from the luxury brand. Its mineral sunscreen has garnered nonstop laurels since launching in March; Jennifer Aniston uses its lip mask; and its concealer-eye cream hybrid is a “miracle product,” according to well-versed editors. The Dewy Serum plays up that same multitasking facet, toeing the balance between an exfoliant, moisturizer, and anti-ager that leaves wrinkles “practically gone.”
“My skin looks so new and young, I was asked for my ID the other day,” wrote one user, and another person said their formerly “very visible” pores were distinctly reduced by the fragrance-free formula. Others wrote that their redness is now less pronounced, as are their under-eye circles, and a self-described “very picky” esthetician dubbed it a plumping “drink of hydration” when swiped across their lips.
Between the gorgeous bottle, smart ingredients, and fast results, the Dewy Serum’s hold on Tatcha’s best-seller list is easy to understand (per the brand’s website, it even outranks the beloved lip mask and Meghan Markle-approved Rice Polish). If you’d like to try the exfoliating and moisturizing wrinkle-reducer, the Dewy Serum is $88 at Tatcha’s website and Sephora.
If the year’s midpoint has you craving a beauty overhaul, you’re in luck: Kim Kardashian’s new skincare collection, SKKN BY KIM, releases later this month. Kardashian’s new venture comes less than a year after the announcement that KKW Beauty was no more, a move which devotees speculated was simply a step toward a rebrand.
But in KKW Beauty’s place, it seems, is something entirely new. Rather than market-minded make-up, SKKN is a (characteristically sleek) assemblage of high-end skin care, and a natural, elevated step in Kardashian’s minimalist-yet-aspirational offerings.
The brand’s line-up of nine sustainably minded (read: refillable, vegan, and cruelty-free) products each centre on innovative formulas designed to revitalise skin. Housed in seriously gorgeous architecturally-inspired packaging that demands shelfie space, SKKN’s offerings are all available for under $100 (£80), a boon in the world of luxury skin care.
The line was born of a desire to understand her own complexion: Kardashian struggles with psoriasis, an immune-mediated skin condition that affects more than 7.5 million adults in the U.S. alone, and results in dry red patches on the face and body. SKKN is the tangible result of years of working with and learning from dermatologists and aestheticians (including the likes of celebrity facialist Joanna Czech) and provides a top-to-bottom routine including a gentle foaming cleanser, a hyaluronic acid serum, and a nourishing night oil. SKKN BY KIM comes from Kardashian and Coty, and is set to drop on 21 June — mark your calendars.
Over the past few years, hyaluronic acid and retinol have become such skin-care staples that coming across a product without one or the other is rare. “In skin care, they’re the holy grail,” says Ranella Hirsch, M.D., a dermatologist in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Sure, every few months a new wunderkind skin-care ingredient is discovered in some remote locale, and pretty soon it’s everywhere—in your masks, serums, foot creams, insert-step-in-your-beauty-routine-here. But at the end of the day, there are only a handful of ingredients that have stood the test of time and truly become essential.
Hyaluronic acid and retinol do deliver results—but what exactly those results are might still be confusing. (Understandably.)
Retinol: For Softening Wrinkles and Fighting Acne
If there’s one ingredient lauded more than any other for its wrinkle-fighting, complexion-perfecting abilities, it’s this derivative of vitamin A. “Here’s the deal with retinol,” explains Hirsch. “We were talking about it in 1975, and we’re still talking about it now because it works.” In study after study, retinol has been shown to build collagen, decrease fine lines, improve skin texture, and fight acne.
When it comes to incorporating a retinol into your skin-care routine, it’s better sooner than later. “Retinol works best as prevention, so don’t wait until wrinkles and dark spots occur to start using it,” says Corey L. Hartman, M.D., the founder of Skin Wellness Dermatology in Birmingham, Alabama. “Another misconception about retinols is that they ‘thin the skin.’ This could not be further from the truth. It actually thickens your skin by increasing production of glycosaminoglycans to keep the skin firm, taut, and smooth.”
The prescription version (which goes by retinoic acid, or Retin-A) acts fastest, but it’s pricey—and it can be drying. Over-the-counter retinol, however, take 8 to 10 weeks to show results compared with 6 weeks with an Rx, but is normally paired with anti-inflammatories to calm the redness, peeling, or dryness. It can also cost less than a prescription—which, depending on your insurance coverage, can generally start around $100.
Whichever type you use, you’ll want to ease into your retinol use slowly. “I start patients on the mildest version, one night a week at the onset,” says New York City dermatologist Amy Wechsler, M.D. As your skin begins to tolerate a pea-size amount, you can eventually go up to two nights a week. But stay off harsh physical scrubs and peels while you’re using retinol; remember to moisturize, moisturize, moisturize; and use extra sunscreen for the first six months.
Hyaluronic Acid: For Serious Moisture
Despite its name, hyaluronic acid actually doesn’t exfoliate your skin (if you’re looking for one that does, try glycolic acid instead). This tiny molecule helps lubricate joints and keep skin plump, and is one of the world’s finest humectants, or molecules that attract and retain water. Since these molecules so effectively replenish skin with water, they’re beloved for their hydrating abilities.
In addition to being a terrific hydrator, Wechsler says, HA pairs well with other active skin-care ingredients (so you can layer it with retinol, for example, and use it daily). Not only that, but it also goes above and beyond its duties as a humectant. “Along with hydrating the skin and preventing dehydration, hyaluronic acid provides an environment that keeps wrinkles away,” says Hartman.
Bottom line: “The beauty of hyaluronic acid is that it doesn’t have any fine print,” says Hirsch. “It benefits any skin type, at any age. And the truth is that everyone looks great with hydrated skin.”
What Are the Potential Side Effects?
As with any ingredient, no matter how ah-mazing they are, there are potential side effects that should be kept in mind when using. “When patients start a retinol, the hyper-exfoliation can oftentimes cause redness, peeling, and dryness during the first couple of weeks of use,” says New York City dermatologist Rita Linkner, M.D., founder of RVL Skincare.
If your skin tends to be more on the dry side, it’s worth considering how you can add that extra boost before and after applying your retinol to minimize excessive peeling as much as possible. (Newbies can also try the buffering trick to take down the sting.)
As for our hydrating superhero? “Hyaluronic acid is known to increase the permeability of the skin, making it more sieve-like—which is why it should be combined with a moisturizer to draw more water to itself,” she says.
What Are the Benefits of Combining the Two?
Good news: Retinol and hyaluronic acid actually have a synergistic effect. “They can be combined so that the benefits of retinol can be achieved more easily with concomitant use of hyaluronic acid, which helps to prevent retinol irritation,” says Hartman.
As for what that ultimately means when you look in the mirror: “Overall texture should improve when using the two actives, as well as fine lines,” says Linkner.
How to Get the Best Results
To max out your benefits, “I often recommend that patients use a hydrating serum like hyaluronic acid before they apply their retinol cream,” says Hartman. “Hyaluronic acid plays well with most ingredients, while caution must be taken when using retinol in combination with alpha hydroxy and beta hydroxy acids, benzoyl peroxide, and some types of vitamin C.”
Linkner echoes the tip about avoiding vitamin C. “I also wouldn’t advise using a vitamin C after hyaluronic acid, as it can increase the irritation effects of the ascorbic acid.” (Ascorbic acid, the chemical name for vitamin C, is still an acid, after all.)
If you’re new to this combo, it’s worth doing a patch test to see how your skin reacts to the amped-up duo. Because hyaluronic acid can increase the potency of the secondary product, Linkner says, it could potentially draw out the acclimation period when you first start using a retinol.
That said, retinol and hyaluronic acid are a match made in heaven. And if you’re looking to level-up your skin-care routine with even more effective products, here are some fan favourites.
La Roche-Posay Retinol B3 Pure Retinol Serum
Thanks to vitamin B3, which can help soothe inflammation, and the gradual-release formula, this retinol serum is gentle enough even for sensitive skin types. (As with most retinols, though, you’ll still want to do a patch test and start by applying at night.) During the day, don’t forget to layer on SPF to get the most anti-wrinkle benefits.
The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5
“Hyaluronic acid is a sugar that your body makes inherently. It provides a plumping effect in the skin by drawing water to itself like a sponge,” says Linkner. This O.G. hyaluronic acid serum from The Ordinary delivers maximum hydration (thanks to the added B5) and comes in under $10.
Peter Thomas Roth Peptide 21 Wrinkle Resist Moisturizer
While you’ll want to be cautious about mixing hyaluronic acid with peptides, the payoff is pretty incredible if the combination is suitable for your skin. “Think of peptides as Legos—they’re protein building blocks,” says Hirsch of the skin strengtheners. Studies show certain peptides can boost collagen production and speed wound healing; or they can mimic the effect of Botox when applied topically. That means you’ll likely want to introduce peptides in your 30s, when you notice your skin doesn’t feel quite as firm or bouncy as it did in your 20s.
What It Is: A gel moisturizer with circulation-boosting caffeine
What It Does: Hydrates while offering antioxidant protection
Who It’s For: All skin types, though those with oily skin may most appreciate the gel texture
Origins GinZing Oil-Free Energy-Boosting Gel Moisturizer combines my passion for skin care with my penchant for coffee. The formula is packed with caffeine, which turns out to also have benefits for your skin: it increases circulation, which in turn helps decrease puffiness and generally makes your skin look less dull. Caffeine is also an antioxidant, meaning it can play a role in protecting your skin from environmental damage (though it doesn’t take the place of sunscreen, of course).
Here, caffeine is delivered in the form of a gel moisturizer, which — unlike some thick creams — doesn’t feel heavy or greasy on my oily t-zone. The formula also has a bright, energizing citrus scent, which really hammers home that this stuff is like a wake up call for your face. Time to rise and shine!
Even with thousands of retinol products on the market, it’s still challenging to find the exact skincare item that matches your skin’s needs. Some are too potent and cause irritation, and others don’t really deliver any noticeable results at all. The happy medium? This creamy retinol moisturizer that shoppers can’t stop praising — and it’s only $20.
TruSkin’s Retinol Moisturizer is infused with retinol to help smooth signs of aging. Not familiar with retinol? Let’s back up a bit. Retinol is a derivative of vitamin A and belongs to a group known as retinoids. “Retinols contain lower concentrations of the retinoid,” Dr. Debra Jaliman previously told InStyle. “This means it will not give you the same effect as a prescription version.” And even though retinol doesn’t possess the same potency as retinoids, the ingredient still has miracle-like benefits — it diminishes lines, wrinkles, dark spots, and acne.
Aside from retinol, the cream incorporates hydrating ingredients like hyaluronic acid and niacinamide to moisturize the skin and stave off any irritation and dryness that the retinol may cause. Occasionally, when you start to use retinol, you may experience some redness and sensitivity but don’t panic, as it’s quite common. “I typically say that dryness and irritation from retinoids can last four to six weeks. Around then, we may also start seeing some improvement in mild acne breakouts,” Dr. Shari Marchbein previously explained.
Shoppers love the retinol moisturizer and say that it’s a “must-have.” One reviewer wrote, “The first impression with the moisturizer is [that it’s] light, smooth, refined, and easily absorbed into the skin. But once you continue to use it, that’s when you get an effect of it. In a few weeks, my pores closed, and my skin was rejuvenated. My face started [to] even out and looked brighter.“
Another satisfied shopper explained that the cream “made wrinkles decrease, especially the deep ones.” They added, “I am 36 years old and this year, I noticed wrinkles around my eyes while smiling or laughing. I worried a lot but after using the retinol moisturizer regularly for around three weeks, I can say yes, I have seen the difference.”
Other shoppers have said the retinol cream has been an asset when it comes to combating acne. A customer even said they “decided to try this for lines and wrinkles” and the “best part” about the cream is how it helped get their acne under control, too.
“I have been using this product for only 10 days and my skin looks wonderful,” a final reviewer enthused. “[The] fine lines around my eyes are at least 50 percent gone. Lip lines are 25 percent gone. My skin looks luminous, finer, [and] makeup looks more finished.”
As we emerge back into the world after a rather bare-faced year, it’s a worthy time to track down an old friend: foundation. The reintroduction to makeup might be an adjustment, but the wisely chosen formula should do its work by stealth, evening out the complexion while letting your natural radiance shine through.
There’s an art to finding the right foundation. First, consider the amount of coverage you usually prefer. Then, factor in the conditions. “If you’re going through a spell of extremely dry skin due to weather or other circumstances, opt for lighter coverage,” says makeup artist Jaleesa Jaikaran. “Or, if you live somewhere with changing seasons, like summer and winter, that can also help you make the decision.” Warmer months typically call for featherweight, sweatproof tints, whereas creamy foundations with more coverage are best left for winter.
The correct shade can also fluctuate throughout the year. Instead of testing a formula in a single spot, “I recommend trying the color on multiple parts of your face, including your jawline, as most people have varying tones in the center and perimeter of the face,” says Jaikaran. “Additionally, be sure to test it in natural light, as different lighting can alter the look of the foundation dramatically.”
Once you have your formula of choice, it’s time to apply. “Start by prepping with moisturizer, then primer,” advises makeup artist Daniel Martin, who is the global director of artistry and education for Tatcha. Together, the two can extend the wear of your foundation and ensure that it blends seamlessly onto skin. More traditional formulas, be they light- or full-coverage, are best blended with brushes or sponges. For tinted moisturizers, Martin recommends applying simply with your fingers. This imparts a “light amount of pigment coverage while still giving you the moisturization and [breathability] you want,” he says. With that in mind, here are some of the best versatile options to best suit your skin needs.
Fenty Beauty Eaze Drop blurring skin tint
Rihanna’s beauty brand broke the mold with its huge range of inclusive foundation shades. This new launch does the same for those who prefer tinted moisturizer. It offers 25 shades—an unusually thorough offering for a lightweight skin tint—and unlike others, it’s resistant to both sweat and humidity.
For a clean formula that does it all, consider this sheer tint. It delivers a nourishing combination of hyaluronic acid and argan oil, along with just enough coverage to see you through the day. Plus, the mineral-based SPF 35 ensures your skin is adequately protected.
One of Jaikaran’s go-tos, this product touts itself as a moisturizer first, with humectants alongside vitamin C for added defense against damaging free radicals. “Water-based formulas and tinted moisturizers keep the skin hydrated as the day goes on,” she says.
If you’re a devotee of the brand’s cult classic Luminous Silk foundation, meet its sheer, nourishing sister. Infused with hyaluronic acid and glycerin, two gold-standard moisturizing agents, it leaves skin soft and smooth, even for those prone to dryness.
Merit The Minimalist Perfecting Complexion foundation and concealer stick
Merit, the new makeup line from WhoWhatWear founder Katherine Power, is all about convenience, and this complexion stick is no exception. It serves as a medium-coverage foundation or concealer, depending on how you apply it, and the solid format makes it portable enough for travel or on-the-go touch-ups.
NYX Professional Makeup Total Control PRO Drop foundation
Designed to offer customizable coverage, this buildable foundation makes it easy to do just that: Try two drops for a tint, three drops for light coverage, and so on. It’s also vegan and feels practically invisible on skin.
Clinique Even Better Clinical serum foundation SPF 25
This serum foundation reads like a greatest hits of skin-care ingredients, complete with hyaluronic acid, salicylic acid, vitamin C, and the brand’s proprietary dark-spot corrector. The formula can also withstand up to 24 hours of wear without caking, settling into lines, or losing luster.
Powder foundation can have a throwback feel, but leave it to YouTube phenom Patrick Starrr to create one that redefines a classic. This formula evens out skin texture as much as it does tone, and it imparts a matte, oil-absorbing finish designed to last all day.
There’s something of a Megan Fox renaissance happening right now, and I’M all for it. After a decade or so spent under-the-radar, these days Fox is frequently spotted out and about with boyfriend Machine Gun Kelly, looking just as effervescent as she did in 2004’s Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen. And apparently, her secret is a skincare find equally beloved by Kim Kardashian.
“I put Epicuren rose oil on everything. It’s deeply hydrating and the scent is uplifting,” Fox said, according to the brand’s website. Celebrities like Alicia Keys, Amanda Seyfried, Kristen Davis, Alexandra Daddario, Hailey Bieber, and Jessica Simpson also pledge allegiance to the Epicuren, and in 2017, Kardashian gave it the ultimate compliment. “My two fave products in the world!” the mogul wrote of Epicuren Discovery’s Bulgarian Rose Otto and Kukui Coconut After Bath Moisturizer.
Kardashian followed those with a recommendation for the $345 Guerlain Orchidee Imperiale Anti-Aging Cream, which makes the $52 face oil a comparative bargain (everything is relative). One thing seemingly less subjective is the phenomenal results the Rose Otto oil provides, both for famous faces and regular shoppers.
“I love this product. I have VERY sensitive and reactive skin and this is soothing and calming,” writes one person. “It was recommended to me by an esthetician who has rosacea and uses it. For me, it’s been a godsend. I’ve been using this for about a year and a half, and my skin looks and feels great.”
Others with dry and reactive skin say it’s the only product that’s been able to help, leaving skin soft and smooth on contact; similarly, those with acne-prone skin write that it’s the only oil they’ve found that works on fine lines without causing breakouts. Still more report the rich, fast-absorbing oil evens out their skin tone, garnering it praise like “miraculous product” and “absolute necessity.”
As you can probably tell from the name, rose is the oil’s focal point, but a bevvy of boosters join it in the formula: Apricot kernel oil, avocado oil, meadowfoam seed oil, grapeseed oil, jojoba seed oil, two types of rose oil, jasmine oil, and sandalwood oil get in the mix, as does Damask rose flower extract. Women in their 40s call rose oil alone a “facelift in a bottle,” since it’s rich in moisturizing essential fatty acids, antioxidants, and vitamin A, which retinol’s derived from.
Jojoba oil is just as revered by dermatologists and skincare lovers, since the velvety oil guarantees instantaneous softening and pore-unclogging results. Pair that with avocado oil, which is packed with omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins A, D, and E, and grapeseed oil, which is anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant-loaded, and you have quite the product.
But looking at how Fox glows even in paparazzi photos, and you could probably guess her skincare doesn’t slack off. Intrigued? Try the Bulgarian Rose Otto oil for yourself, and scroll on for other celebs’ favorites from the brand.
Alicia Keys and Alexandra Daddario’s favorite sunscreen:
There is no such thing as a single “correct” skin-care routine, but there’s definitely an optimal way to apply your products. Whether you’re a minimalist who prefers sticking to a three-step routine or the type of person willing to undertake 11 steps daily in pursuit of glass skin, the way you layer your chosen products has a big impact on how well they work. The more product-intense you go, the more important this order becomes.
There’s a reason cleansing comes first, serum sits beneath moisturizer, and sunscreen goes on last. Understanding this order will ensure your favorite skin-care products work effectively—because no one wants to splurge on a luxury serum only to render it useless because of misapplication. If you’ve ever looked at a tube of retinol or a bottle of face oil and wondered exactly how (and when) to use it, wonder no more. Below, dermatologists and skin-care experts explain the most effective way to apply every single product in your routine.
The Best Order to Apply Skin-Care Products
The easiest way to break it down is to refer to the table above, which lays out the best order for your separate morning and night skin-care routines. “The principle behind ordering is to cleanse your skin, open your skin so products can soak in, add actives on, then seal with moisturizing products,” says Morgan Rabach, M.D., dermatologist and co-founder of LM Medical NYC. Below, the detailed breakdown of every single step in your daily skin care routine.
1. Makeup Remover/Cleansing Oil
Unless you went to bed with makeup on (please don’t), there’s no reason to do this step in the morning. But at night it makes your cleanser’s job a lot easier.
“Removing all makeup from your skin should always be your first step at the end of the day,” says Loretta Ciraldo, M.D., dermatologist and founder of Dr. Loretta Skincare. Look for formulas that are effective enough to melt away waterproof mascara, but still gentle on your face—like micellar water. You can also double-cleanse with an emulsifying oil, which gets rid of the need to buy cotton rounds.
Do this step: Morning and night.
Now that your makeup layer is gone, you can proceed with washing your face. “A cleanser gets rid of dead skin, pollutants, oils, dirt, and bacteria,” says Rabach. Both she and Ciraldo recommend also doing this step when you first wake up in the morning, in order to prep your skin to absorb the active ingredients in your other products.
The best cleanser for you will depend on your skin type. “It’s important to pay attention to what’s in your cleanser and what’s not in it,” says Ciraldo. She recommends avoiding sulfates, which can have a harsh, stripping effect on your face, and looking for actives that suit your needs. “For normal or dry skin, I favor a hydrating cleanser with peptides,” she says. “If you’re oily or acne-prone, use a mild exfoliating cleanser with salicylic acid, which dislodges the dead cells that can clog pores.“
3. Eye Cream
Do this step: Morning and night.
The first product to go on your face? Eye cream. The reason is simple—because you’ll probably forget to do it otherwise. Ciraldo recommends patting eye cream on gently with your ring finger (this way you’ll tug less at the delicate skin there) all the way around your eyes, not just underneath them. If you’re worried about eye cream causing your concealer or eye makeup to smear, choose a more lightweight option, like a hydrating gel that sinks in quickly and stays put.
For the best results, look for ingredients like peptides—which help tighten your skin and depuff—as well as antioxidants. Rabach recommends formulas that contain hydrating hyaluronic acid, brightening caffeine, and ceramides (these lock in moisture and help strengthen your skin barrier).
Do this step: Morning and night.
Both toners and essences are meant to help further prime your skin to absorb active ingredients, but the one you choose will depend on your skin type. Old-school toners were meant to balance skin pH and counteract alkaline soaps, before soap-free cleansers became popular. Now toner usually refers to liquid formulations geared toward oily skin that’s in need of gentle exfoliation and resurfacing. Ciraldo says those with oily or acne-prone skin should look for toners with ingredients like glycolic or salicylic acid.
Essences, on the other hand, tend to be more hydrating. Rabach recommends looking for actives like hyaluronic acid, which will flood your skin with moisture that you can lock in during subsequent steps. To apply, soak a cotton pad in liquid and gently pat it over your face. Alternatively, you can use your hands to do the same thing.
Do this step: Morning and night.
This is the step where you’ll deliver the bulk of active ingredients to your toner/essence-primed face, and it’s important to do it early on in your routine. “Serums are formulated with smaller molecular-weight actives so they penetrate into deeper skin layers,” says Ciraldo. “If you apply your serum after a thicker formulation, the active ingredients may not penetrate as well.“
While you should apply serum twice a day, you shouldn’t be using the same formulation. “Serum actives differ for day and night,” says Rabach. During the day, she likes to choose serums with antioxidants that protect skin from daytime stressors like free radicals (caused by UV rays), pollutants, and blue light. The most popular ingredient for this is vitamin C, which you will have no problem finding in serum form. (Just make sure to choose one that’s properly stabilized for maximum effect.) At night, opt for a serum with peptides and growth factors to repair skin.
For both daytime and nighttime serums, Rabach also has a general list of ingredients she likes to look for across both formulations: Niacinamide to reduce redness, hyaluronic acid to pull moisture into your skin, and alpha and beta hydroxy acids (AHAs and BHAs), which help boost collagen and even out skin pigmentation. Ciraldo further splits up her preferred serum ingredients by skin type. “For acne-prone skin, look for stem cells, retinol, and green tea,” she says. “For dehydrated skin, look for lipids, hyaluronic acid, and peptides. And for hyperpigmented skin, look for vitamin C.”
Do this step: At night only.
Retinol truly deserves its own essay, but the short version is this: The vitamin A derivative boosts collagen production and increases the rate of cellular turnover. “Retinol reduces fine lines, reduces pore size, increases collagen and elastin production, takes off dead skin, reduces oil production, unclogs pores, and evens out skin tone,” says Rabach. Whether you want to clear breakouts or fade fine lines—or basically do anything to your face—retinol is your friend.
On the flip side, this is a strong ingredient, and beginners should proceed with caution when adding to their routines. Potential side effects can include flaking, dryness, retinol burn, and increased sensitivity to the sun, which is why you should stick to applying it at night. Dermatologists often recommend easing into daily application slowly. “Start three times a week for the first week or two,” says Ciraldo. From there, you can gradually increase the frequency of application.
Most will apply their retinol layer after their serums and before moisturizer, but there is one exception. If your skin has trouble tolerating retinol and you want to minimize its side effects, you can buffer it instead. Retinol buffering refers to a technique whereby you mix your retinol with your moisturizer and apply it as a single step. This helps you still get the benefits, but decreases the potential for irritation. To take it a step further, you can also apply retinol over your moisturizer. Experiment with this step, and see where it fits best in your routine.
Do this step: Morning and night.
Moisturizers are there to simultaneously hydrate and seal in hydration, which is why these formulas tend to be heavier than the layers that go underneath. “You should use moisturizers with humectants like glycerin and hyaluronic acid, which pull in water,” says Rabach. “I also recommend looking for ceramides, which seal the outer layers of skin.”
Ciraldo says that many of her patients prefer to use separate formulas for their morning and nighttime routines. This has more to do with how moisturizers feel than anything else. You can use a lightweight formula in the morning that blends better with your makeup and reserve a heavier cream for evening. Ciraldo’s additional tip is to double up on your serum and moisturizer actives. For example, if you use a vitamin C serum in the morning, you can layer a vitamin C moisturizer right on top to boost the benefits.
8. Spot Treatment
Do this step: Morning and night.
You need to use spot treatments on active breakouts only, but if you’re experiencing acne, you can apply a leave-on spot treatment both morning and night to speed up its healing cycle. According to Ciraldo, you should spot-treat after you’ve applied your moisturizer, not before. This helps make sure the product stays on top of the pimple, and doesn’t go on the rest of your face. “If you’re using a strong acid and then smear moisturizer all over your face, you run the risk of the product getting on more sensitive areas,” she says. You’ll also dilute its effectiveness. Wait for your a.m./p.m. moisturizer to sink in, then carefully pat over the affected areas.
The two most common over-the-counter ingredients for spot treatments are benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid. Rabach differentiates them like this: Benzoyl peroxide helps kill acne-causing bacteria, while salicylic acid gently exfoliates and dries out your oil glands.
9. Face Oil
Do this step: Morning and night.
If there’s one step in your daily skin-care routine that surprisingly divides experts, it’s face oil. The most common recommendation is to apply it last at night and second-to-last before sunscreen in the morning. That’s because oils are occlusive, says Mona Gohara, M.D., dermatologist and associate clinical professor at Yale School of Medicine. Meaning, they help trap moisture in your skin. This is why Renée Rouleau, celebrity esthetician and founder of Renée Rouleau Skin Care, says you should think of face oils as a topcoat. “Oils provide a protective barrier to help prevent moisture from evaporating,” she says. “Anything applied over it may not be offering as much benefit to your skin because it can’t get through.”
However, some derms advise their patients to take this step earlier in their routines (usually before moisturizer), depending on the formulation of the oil they’re using. “Some oils are designed with ingredients that hydrate, others to brighten or even to strengthen your skin,” says Joshua Zeichner, M.D., director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. Ciraldo also says it’s okay to mix oils with your moisturizer if you prefer.
Whichever way you land, the important thing is that you don’t overdo it—with face oils, a little goes a long way. To apply, warm about two to three drops of oil in your palms and pat lightly over your face.
Do this step: In the morning only.
What derms unanimously agree on is that you should wear sunscreen every single day to prevent UV damage—whether or not you go outside. Sunscreen needs to go over face oil in order to be most effective. “You do not want anything to stop the sunscreen from working, or making it less effective,” says Gohara. “Putting an oil on top of your sunscreen can decrease it’s efficacy.”
There are two types of sunscreens to choose from for your final step: physical and chemical. Physical blockers contain minerals like titanium dioxide and zinc oxide and work by reflecting light away from your skin. Chemical blockers, on the other hand, work by absorbing light and converting it into heat, preventing it from penetrating into your skin. Rouleau says that mineral formulas are often better for sensitive skin, while chemical formulations tend to be thinner and spread more easily.
Chemical formulas also come with the benefit of not leaving a white cast on darker skin tones. While mineral sunscreens traditionally cast an ashy tone, Zeichner points out that brands have begun formulating better physical sunscreens to counteract that. “The newest formulation technology has brought us micronized sunscreens that rub in to your skin much better than ever before,” he says. “So using a zinc-based sunscreen no longer necessarily means your face will have that white cast. No matter what your personal preference is, there are sunscreens for every need.”
Sure, vitamin C serums are great, and they’re typically at the forefront of a great skincare lineup. But vitamin C cleansers deserve a look, too. Vitamin C is a potent ingredient for brightening the skin and eliminating signs of aging, after all. It’s commonly found in serums and moisturizers — and now Amazon shoppers are making a case for why vitamin C belongs in your cleanser, like this gentle and cleansing face wash that’s $20.
Eve Hansen’s Vitamin C Face Wash makes vitamin C the hero ingredient of the formula, and it’s clear why. Vitamin C not only works to brighten the skin, but as Dr. Michelle Henry previously explained to InStyle, “the antioxidant activity of vitamin C protects against UV-induced damage caused by free radicals, which will prevent accelerated aging and skin cancer.” Along with targeting those common concerns, vitamin C “also boosts firmness by regulating collagen production,” Dr. Henry added.
In addition to vitamin C, the anti-aging face wash includes aloe and tea tree oil, which both help soothe and reduce redness and inflammation. So how does this one-two punch work? Well, the aloe assists in clearing acne and cleansing pores without causing any irritation and dryness, and at the same time, the tea tree oil acts as an anti-fungal that eliminates bacteria from pores that cause inflammation and redness. Together, the ingredients create a refreshing face wash that actively clears skin and leaves it with a more youthful appearance.
Shoppers have confirmed how stellar the formula truly is and have reported that it gives “fantastic results.” One 31-year-old reviewer, who explained they suffer from redness, large pores, and sun spots, called the product their favorite after having been on the hunt for a cleanser that didn’t irritate their skin. “This stuff is amazing. I have been using this for a few days now, and I can already tell a difference in my skin. I have tried hundreds of different facial products, and I think I’ve finally hit the jackpot,” they said.
“I really like this product. It does a great job cleansing the skin without over-cleaning, [and never] causing dryness,” another customer wrote, adding, “I find my skin is brighter with less fine lines and dullness like other cleansers leave behind.”
Another shopper said that the cleanser is also great for fighting hyperpigmentation. “I had acne marks from when I was 17 (55 now), and within one month of using the toner, wash, and serum, I can say I cannot see [a] spot on my face. For the price, these products work super. Now with sunscreen upkeep, I’m set. Don’t bother wasting money on higher price hyperpigmentation products, this is all you’ll need.”
“After only three days of use, I’ve experienced overall [improved] skin tone, along with a more youthful look. The blemishes are gradually fading away as well,” a final shopper said.
As the days get shorter and the temperatures creep lower, your skin needs warm and cozy layers, too. Come fall, products with gentle, hydrating formulas help prevent dryness caused by both indoor and outdoor air.
“As we head into fall, temperatures get lower and humidity decreases. There can also be brisk winds and dry heat from heaters — and all of these factors can contribute to drying out our skin,” says Dr. Hadley King, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City. “In low humidity environments, we lose more moisture from our skin into the air.”
The shift in seasons can also exacerbate inflammatory skin conditions, like eczema, that are associated with dehydration in the skin. “You can begin to counteract these changes by taking some initial easy steps such as turning down the water temperature to lukewarm when bathing, using a more emollient soap, and switching to a heavier moisturizer,” adds Dr. Carlos Charles, board-certified dermatologist and co-founder of 4.5.6 Skin.
Ahead, the two dermatologists help us breakdown what skincare products to use in your fall skincare routine to help prevent and repair dryness, along with what to shelve until next summer.
Add: Creamy Cleanser — Drop: Gel or Foam Cleanser
Look for a creamy cleanser that will support and cushion skin as fall weather settles in. “A creamy cleanser that supports the skin barrier while it cleanses may be helpful as the weather gets drier,” says Dr. King. “Avoid harsh detergents that strip natural oils from the skin.”
Dr. Charles adds that gel and foam formulas may fall into the drying category. “Gel and foam-based cleansers that are meant to decrease oil production and increase cell turnover may become overly drying and strip away much of the essential and innate protection of the skin as we move into the fall months,” he says.
Add: Hyaluronic Acid Serum — Drop: Chemical Exfoliant Serums
For an extra layer of moisture, Dr. Charles recommends incorporating a hyaluronic acid serum into your routine. “When evaluating serums for the fall, thicker hyaluronic acid-based serum can help lock in moisture as opposed to the lighter water-based serums that you may use in the summer,” he says.
But depending on your skin type or concerns, you may still want to use a serum with chemical exfoliants or anti-aging benefits. “Proper formulations and usage of ingredients like hydroxy acids and retinols can still be helpful, depending on your skin,” says Dr. King. “So this means that depending on your skin type, it may be best for you to decrease exfoliation in colder weather — frequency and strength. And look for exfoliators that support the skin barrier while they exfoliate.”
Given that retinol is considered the gold standard of skincare ingredients, because it can treat a number of common issues like fine lines, hyperpigmentation, acne, and uneven texture, you might want to use it year-round. Dr. Dennis Gross’ Advanced Retinol + Ferulic Acid Texture Renewal Serum has supporting ingredients that help prevent irritation and dehydration.
Add: Rich Moisturizer — Drop: Lotion
“Moisturizers should always include a combination of humectants, emollients, and occlusives, but heavy occlusives may feel like too much when the weather is hot and humid,” Dr. King explains. “Lower humidity may make heavier occlusives more important to lock in moisture.”
Dr. Charles seconds this. “Cream-based moisturizers are heavier and therefore are more effective in sealing moisture content to the skin. A lotion is lighter with more water content and less oil, whereas creams have more oil content and less water which is ideal for the dry season.” He recommends the Day Hack Matte Moisturizer from 4.5.6. Skin.
Add: Moisturizing Mask — Drop: Clay Mask
While clay masks can be effective at drawing the extra gunk out of your pores, they can also leave skin feeling dry and tight. That’s why if you’re looking to indulge in a face mask during the fall, Dr. King recommends reaching for a hydrating formula.
Topicals’ Like Butter mask is designed to soothe and minimize irritation, while strengthening the skin barrier.
Add: Hydrating Toner — Drop: Exfoliating and Alcohol-Based Toners
If you’re a fan of toners, you guessed it: ditch ones with harsh exfoliants and alcohol during the fall. “Toners are always optional, but if you want to use one, you may want to switch to a more hydrating and soothing formula that is alcohol free,” says Dr. King.