The discussion surrounding the ‘R’ word is a frenzied one. Retinoids (the umbrella term for retinol products) are powerful enough to improve skin texture, pigmentation, and tone in just a few drops of a retinol serum or dollops of cream. The transformative effects on your skin are due to very potent formulations, which have caused retinols to garner a lot of differing opinions — and even more questions. When should you use them (along with when should you definitely steer clear of them)? How do the formulas work? Are they compatible with sensitive skin? And even, how do you refer to them? Are they retinols? And what’s retin-A? These questions and more have confused many a skin-care fanatic.
With plenty of false information floating around about retinoids, below are 11 myths about retinols and the truth behind them.
All these ingredients starting with ‘R’ (Retinol, Retinoic Acid) basically do the same thing.
Yes and no. Prescription formulas contain retinoic acid, the magic ingredient that fights visible signs of aging; nonprescription alternatives need to be converted into retinoic acid by the skin at the cellular level. “In off-the-shelf formulas, the ingredient called retinol is the only derivative of vitamin A worth using,” says Dana Sachs, an associate professor of dermatology at the University of Michigan Medical School. “There’s a lot of literature showing that while retinol is more gentle than retinoic acid, biochemically it does exactly the same thing — it may just take longer to see results.” The same can’t be said for the derivatives called pro-retinols (aka, retinyl palmitate, retinyl acetate, and retinyl linoleate), which are the most gentle — but weaker, too. Of these formulas, Retin-A requires a prescription, but others are available over the counter.
For a simple yet potent shot of rejuvenating power in the form of 0.3% pure retinol, try the L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Derm Intensives Night Serum, shown below. Another option: Incorporate it into your routine with a moisturizer, like Skinceuticals’s Retinol 0.5. or the Murad Retinol Youth Renewal Night Cream (which contains a less irritating form of vitamin A known as retinyl propionate).
Retinoids work by exfoliating your skin.
“There’s often peeling and redness, but that’s a side effect of the irritation, not a true and even exfoliation like the one you get from an ingredient like glycolic acid,” says Sachs. “The peeling is certainly not why people start looking better. In fact, it’s why most people give it up.” Retinoids work at a much more profound level by affecting gene expression and causing enhanced collagen production, skin smoothing, and an evening of pigmentation.
You shouldn’t wear retinoids during the day because they increase your risk of sunburn.
“This is one of the biggest myths out there,” says Sachs. It’s true that retinoids break down in sunlight, which is why they are bottled in opaque packaging and are still best worn at night to make sure they aren’t rendered inactive. However, they do not make the skin more prone to sunburn. “This misconception came about because in some early studies, people described putting on a retinoid, walking into the sun, and immediately burning. But that redness is likely related to heat exposure,” says Sachs. “Clinical studies have shown pretty definitively that retinoids do not lower the MED — or minimal erythemal dos — of human skin, which is the amount of UV light you can take before the skin burns.”
You should always apply retinoids to dry skin.
Sometimes, even doctors break the rules: “I know the instructions on the box often recommend waiting until your face is completely dry before applying a retinoid,” says Sachs. “But there’s no evidence in the scientific literature I’ve seen that shows damp or wet skin exacerbates sensitivity.” And while we’re on the topic, applying a retinoid to damp skin doesn’t maximize its potency, either. “Nothing having to do with application decides how much of the retinol is converted into retinoic acid, the form of vitamin A that actually repairs skin,” Sachs says. “That’s solely related to your skin’s chemistry and retinoid receptors.”
You’ll need to wait four to six weeks for your retinoid to really work.
Turns out it’ll be double — or even triple — that amount of time, according to Gary Fisher, a professor of dermatology at the University of Michigan Medical School. “Many over-the-counter formulas claim you’ll see results within weeks,” says Fisher. “But in my experience, it takes an average of 12 weeks for retinoic acid to produce noticeable changes in the skin. So stick with it for at least that long to see the benefits.”
Gentle retinoids can be just as effective as stronger ones.
“The words ‘sensitive skin’ on a label (such as on RoC Retinol Correxion Sensitive Night Cream shown here) are often code for a low concentration of active ingredients,” says Sachs. However, dermatologists still recommend them because these lower concentrations (and soothing supplemental ingredients) make them the perfect gateway retinoid. “Once a patient with sensitive skin has tolerated a tube of that over a period of several weeks, we can then graduate to a stronger retinoid knowing the skin cells are now better adapted to handle it,” says Jonathan Weiss, an Atlanta-based dermatologist.
You should stop applying retinoid if your skin gets irritated.
Irritation that flares up after adding vitamin A to your regimen is “all part of the process,” says Weiss. “We’ve seen clinically that after two or three weeks the skin cells adapt to the retinoic acid and begin to tolerate the ingredient.” The caveat: We’re talking about reasonably flushed, drier-than-usual, lightly peeling skin. “If the discomfort is prolonged or very uncomfortable, use it once a week or switch to a weaker formula,” says Sachs.
You can’t take your retinoid on vacation.
“A change in climate won’t suddenly make your skin react to a retinoid you were tolerating a few days earlier at home,” says Weiss. Once skin cells have adapted to the strength of the retinoid you’re applying, any irritation (called retinoid dermatitis) generally stops. “It’s unlikely to flare up again until you switch to something stronger,” says Weiss. Still, if you’re jumping on a long-haul flight or going skiing, it’s a good idea to layer a heavier moisturizer over your retinoid to avoid dryness, which makes skin more susceptible to irritation in general.
OK, but you shouldn’t take it with you on yourbeach vacation.
I’m still processing the fact that retinoids don’t increase the risk of sunburn, too. But get this: Combining retinoids with island hopping may even be a good thing. They not only boost collagen production, but may also have the potential to stop photoaging before it starts. “They’ve been shown to prevent the rise of collagenase — the enzyme that breaks down collagen — after UV exposure,” says Sachs.
Don’t put retinoids around your eyes. The skin there is too sensitive.
Not only can you, you really should — that’s where most of the damage shows up, says Weiss. “Studies have shown that people who apply retinoids right up to the eyes get the best results.” And if you get it in your eye? “It may sting a little, but it won’t do any harm,” says Weiss, and the skin there is no more likely to get red or flaky than anywhere else on the face.
The skin-smoothing benefits of retinoids plateau after six months.
“Several clinical studies have shown that prescription retinoids will significantly improve skin for over a year,” says Weiss — and Johnson & Johnson recently completed a trial demonstrating that over-the-counter retinol smooths wrinkles and fades blotches over 12 months, too. OK, so what are you supposed to do after the year is up? The answer isn’t to rush off and embrace a new ingredient (peptides, anyone?). Your skin may just be ready for a stronger prescription retinoid, says Weiss.
It feels almost weightless, absorbs instantly, and doesn’t leave a single trace of white cast or residue.
Every day, without fail, you need to be slathering sunscreen on your face. After not wearing SPF regularly for the first 21 years of my life, it’s basically become my way of sending a love letter to my skin. However, I’d be absolutely lying if I said that I wasn’t picky about my sunscreens.
Look, some people will stand by mineral sunscreens, and if they were the only option available — sure, I would, too. But if I’m choosing from a range of broad-spectrum (meaning it protects against both UVA and UVB rays) sunscreens that are at or above the American Academy of Dermatology-recommended SPF 30 level — barring any irritation or side effects — I’ll choose a sunscreen that I’ll actually enjoy putting on every day.
Current cult-favorite is Flesh Beauty’s Sheer Flesh Hydrating Serum, which is a chemical sunscreen that delivers broad-spectrum SPF 35 protection. “Chemical sunscreens penetrate the top layers of the skin and absorb UV rays to prevent them from causing damage,” Y. Claire Chang, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City, explains.
Sheer Flesh contains common chemical sunscreen ingredients, like homosalate, octisalate, and avobenzone (but does not contain oxybenzone or octinoxate), but there are actually over 30 chemical sunscreen ingredients. “A combination of ingredients is often used together to ensure broad-spectrum coverage,” Chang says.
Mineral sunscreens, on the other hand, are made with ingredients such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. “They are small mineral particles that sit on the surface of the skin and act as a [physical] barrier to reflect UVA and UVB rays away from the skin,” Chang says.
Science aside, let’s get into why Sheer Flesh, in my opinion, is one of the best sunscreens out there. As most people of color would agree (even though I’m light-skinned), nobody likes dealing with white cast or taking a long time to fully rub in sunscreen. “Chemical sunscreens tend to be more lightweight and non-sticky, so they are generally easier to apply and do not leave a whitening effect,” Chang says, speaking to their appeal.
So not only does Sheer Flesh absorb immediately without any hint of residue, but it’s also really hydrating — which I’m about all day, every day. It feels like a cool burst of moisture, and my skin can’t get enough of it. To be more specific, it’s infused with glycerin, pomegranate, and honey extract — all ingredients that hydrate and nourish skin. It also gives the skin a slightly dewy finish, which is usually only achieved with makeup products.
It also has a lovely, but not overwhelming, scent, thanks to a blend of chamomile, orange, and lemon notes. I can live with sunscreens that smell, well, like sunscreens — because it’s serving a greater purpose — but if a sunscreen smells like citrus fruits, I’m not complaining. It’s also the perfect follow-up to my morning moisturizer!
No more excuses for skipping sunscreen!
Wearing a bra, pants, or even a T-shirt without holes in it are all optional when working from home, but sunscreen should be non-negotiable.
I know what you’re probably thinking: “Why do I need SPF if I’m inside?” Well, if you have windows in your house, then it’s possible for UVA rays to penetrate through the glass and onto your skin.
My skincare routine since the beginning of COVID-19 in March 2020 has fluctuated: from being neglected to super intense. I’ve stripped the products I use every day down to the essentials (including SPF!), but I jump at an easy way out. That’s where hybrid products like Supergoop!’s Daily Dose Vitamin C + SPF enter the conversation.
Daily Dose is the first serum to combine vitamin C with SPF. Here’s how it works: the formula contains a stable form of vitamin C (10% 3-O-Ethyl Ascorbic Acid) to tackle dark spots, plus additional radiance-boosting ingredients such as niacinamide, and kakadu plum extract. Because mineral sunscreen operates at a different pH level than vitamin C, Supergoop! has included an oxybenzone-free chemical SPF 40 in the serum. There’s also marine extract to protect skin against blue light, another cause of hyperpigmentation.
Skin cancer and sun damage are the two most important reasons for wearing sunscreen despite spending most of your time social distancing at home. But if the focus of your skincare routine is hyperpigmentation, acne, uneven texture, or all of the above, you’re wasting your money buying expensive products with active ingredients if you’re not topping off your routine with sunscreen to prevent further damage.
That’s why, as someone who has become somewhat lazy with their skincare, replacing my vitamin C serum and SPF with Daily Dose was a no-brainer.
If you’re using the serum in lieu of a traditional SPF, Daily Dose should be the last step in your morning skincare routine. However, you can add another SPF over top for an extra layer of protection, or you can finish things off with your favorite moisturizer, which won’t disrupt SPF filter.
While serum comes out of the bottle with a thin gel-like texture, it gets thicker like a traditional SPF when you apply it. However, the white cast goes away with a bit of massaging and it doesn’t feel heavy under any moisturizer or make it pill.
The verdict is still out whether the vitamin C is doing anything to get rid of dark spots. But reviews are being patient. And in the meantime, its glow-boosting ingredients gives an instantly dewy look.
Plus, I like the convenience of having two important skincare steps in one product!
Peace Out Retinol Eye Stick
This squalane-based balm not only nourishes dry under-eyes, but it also is packed with concentrated encapsulated retinol (which is more gentle on the sensitives skin region) to smooth the look of fine lines.
Maybelline New York Lash Sensational Sky High Mascara
This magical tube of mascara went viral on TikTok right after it hit stores thanks to its ability to transform stubby lashes in a few swipes — and believe us, it really does live up to the hype.
Living Proof Curl Elongator
From the brand’s first foray into the curly hair category, this cloud-like cream — designed for type 4A, 4B and 4C coils — gives game-changing definition. It also contains a Healthy Curl Complex, which provides a protective, strengthening barrier around each strand.
Supergoop! Daily Dose Vitamin C + SPF 40
Combining the two most important A.M. skincare steps, the first-ever hybrid Vitamin C and SPF lotion gives you no excuse to say you forgot either one.
Sol de Janeiro Triple Brazilian Butter Hair Repair Treatment
This mask’s three Brazilian butters deeply nourish damaged ends. The best part? The warm, tropical scent makes you feel like you’re on vacation, which we’re all craving right now.
Caudalie Resveratrol-Lift Serum
Besides looking oh-so gorgeous on your vanity, this pretty pink potion really does pack a punch. The eco-conscious brand (this packaging is 100% recyclable through Terracycle) partnered with Harvard University to develop a patent-pending booster that’s proven to pump up your skin’s natural production of hyaluronic acid and collagen.
Olay Regenerist Collagen Peptide24 Moisturizer
The fragrance-free cream contains peptides that penetrate deep to perk up your complexion. Bonus: The texture feels just as luxurious as fancy formulas.
Toners are an important part of the skin-care equation, especially if your end goal is dewy, luminous skin. However, a lot of people still don’t know what exactly toners are or what they do. Board-certified dermatologist Tiffany Libby explains that a toner is designed to help remove the debris your cleanser might have missed and to prep your skin for the next step in your routine. “I think of them more as an adjunct or add-on to your skin-care routine,” Libby tells Allure.
Toners of the past were known for their astringent properties, which often dried skin out. Today, however, toner formulations have been improved to target an array of skin concerns, such as the loss of collagen or excess oiliness that can lead to breakouts — all made with varying ingredients, depending on your skin-care goals.
Board-certified dermatologist Sapna Palep tells Allure toners that hydrate and smooth out fine lines often contain antioxidants, amino acids, and hyaluronic acid. While toners that treat acne often include salicylic or glycolic acid.
Just as there are different ingredients for you to choose from, there is more than one way to put product on. Application is very easy and Libby says it’s really up to an individual’s preference: you can use your hands or cotton pads (Palep’s preference). And beyond the traditional bottled liquid, toners can also come in other delivery systems, such as gel sticks and face mists. (Libby particularly loves the spray formulations.)
But with so many toners out there in the market, it can be difficult to know what to pick for your specific skin needs. Scroll down to find the right toner to add to your skin-care routine.
Kate Somerville Liquid Exfolikate
If adding a toner to your mix feels like an unnecessary middle step, the Best of Beauty-winning Liquid Exfolikate by Kate Somerville may change your mind. Think of this toner, packed with alpha hydroxy acids and fruit enzymes, as a multi-purpose treatment that helps get rid of dead skin buildup so that your products absorb better. Spritz it on a night right before your moisturizer and sunscreen.
$58 (Shop Now)
Clean & Clear Lemon Juice Toner
Some facial toners use alcohol to clear away dirt and oil, but it can seriously dry skin out. Clean & Clear’s Lemon Juice Toner does the exact same thing, sans the stripping alcohol. There’s also vitamin C in this Allure Best of Beauty 2020 winner to help brighten and even dullness and dark spots.
$6 (Shop Now)
Mamonde Rose Water Toner
Mamonde Rose Water Toner is made with 90 percent rose water to give skin an intense boost of hydration. Not only will your skin will feel soft after using it, you’ll also get that dewy look that so many of us are constantly chasing.
$23 (Shop Now)
Pixi by Petra Glow Tonic
If you’ve been using and loving the Pixi by Petra Glow Tonic for as long as I have, you know it’s basically magic in a bottle. It’s made with hero ingredients — such as glycolic acid, aloe vera, and witch hazel — recommended for clearer, softer skin.
$29 (Shop Now)
Boscia Resurfacing Treatment Toner
Those who are blemish-prone will want to pay special attention to the Boscia Resurfacing Treatment Toner. It contains alpha- and beta-hydroxy acids (like glycolic and salicylic acid) to gently remove dead skin cells and clear pores of dirt and grime — both of which will prevent breakouts in the long run.
$28 (Shop Now)
Dr. Jart+ Ceramidin Liquid Moisturizing Toner
Can a toner really be moisturizing? The 2019 Best of Beauty winner Dr. Jart+ Ceramidin Liquid answers that question and more. Thanks to a formula full of ceramides, an ingredient that helps restore any lost moisture, skin is left feeling soft and supple after every use.
$39 (Shop Now)
Ole Henriksen Balancing Force Oil Control Toner
Ole Henriksen Balancing Force Oil Control Toner is made with a powerful blend of glycolic, salicylic, and lactic acids to control excess oil production without stripping away too much moisture. Plus, the 2019 Best of Beauty winner has a refreshing eucalyptus and peppermint scent that makes it a joy to use.
$29 (Shop Now)
Too Cool For School Rules of Mastic Facial Tonic
As the only mist on this list, Too Cool For School Rules of Mastic Facial Tonic doubles as a toner and hydrating spray you can use in the morning and then throughout the day. It contains ceramides and mastic oil, which strengthens the skin’s resiliency and helps heal damaged skin.
$14 (Shop Now)
E.L.F. Cosmetics Supertone
The E.L.F. Supertone toner livens up dull and tired skin, thanks to exfoliating glycolic acid, while soothing aloe reduces redness and inflammation.
$8 (Shop Now)
Fresh Rose Deep Hydration Facial Toner
I came to the Fresh Rose Deep Hydration Facial Toner because I have an unhealthy obsession with all things rose, but I stayed because it’s just that damn good. The 2017 Best of Beauty winner contains rose fruit extract, rosewater, and angelica leaf extract — all known for their nourishing and soothing properties. Plus, it’s alcohol-free, so it won’t dry your skin out.
$45 (Shop Now)
Laneige Cream Skin Toner & Moisturizer
Laneige Cream Skin Toner & Moisturizer is a two-in-one formula that both strengthens skin’s natural defense barrier and moisturizes. Double the hydration, double the fun?
$33 (Shop Now)
Lumene Glow Lumenessence Brightening Beauty Lotion
Lumene Glow Lumenessence Brightening Beauty Lotion contains only the best ingredients to get you glowy skin. Yes, it has vitamin C, but it also has wild arctic cloudberry, which helps fight off oxidative damage and strengthen your skin’s natural defense barrier.
$15 (Shop Now)
Milk Makeup Matcha Toner
Milk’s Matcha Toner is truly unique for many reasons, but the obvious? It’s a solid, gel-stick toner, made with anti-inflammatory matcha green tea and oil-wicking kombucha, to soothe skin and prep it for its next skin-care product.
$28 (Shop Now)
Morning Skincare Routine
The main focus of your morning routine should be hydration, plus setting the stage for the day with protection against whatever elements your skin is going to come into contact with.
Although most of the world is still abiding by shelter-in-place or social distance mandates, our day-to-day routines right now still impact our skin, from wearing a face mask regularly to the endless Zoom work calls you’re doing all day long. And if you’re anything like me, not adhering to proper posture and resting your chin on your hands instead.
“You may believe that most of the skin damage you get is caused by sun exposure and outdoor pollution, but the World Health Organization has now determined that indoor pollution is worse than outdoor pollution,” says Dr. Loretta Ciraldo, a board-certified dermatologist and founder of Dr. Loretta skincare. “Consider what you’re doing during the day and what elements you may be facing when you’re applying your skincare products in the morning.”
Step 1: Cleanser
Using a gentle cleanser in the morning is important for any skin type, concern, etc.
“Cleansers for sensitive skin in particular should have a creamy or milky formulation,” says Dr. Jennifer MacGregor, dermatologist at Union Square Laser Dermatology, who also notes that any topical treatments can have a bit of a drying effect at first. “I love Cetaphil milky cleanser because it gently cleanses without drying or stripping your skin’s moisture barrier.”
Step 2: Any topical treatment
“Differin is the only topical that can be applied day or night,” says MacGregor, but it should always be applied to skin directly after cleansing and patting — never rubbing — skin dry.
“Use only a pea-sized amount of Differin gel around your entire face,” recommends MacGregor. Then gently massage until the gel is absorbed.
Step 3: Serum
A hydrating serum is a great option for morning to ensure the skin is moisturized. MacGregor’s favorite, Alto Defense Serum by Skin Better, offers a generous mix of antioxidants, fatty acids, and ceramides. These powerhouse ingredients build a saran wrap-like cover over the skin, which protect from dryness and free radicals, plus it soothes inflammation and the appearance of skin redness. Remember: Hydrated skin is happy skin.
Step 4: Eye Gel
An eye gel can de-puff smooth out the under-eye area, which will make makeup application easier. Tap Biossance Squalane + Peptide Eye Gel around the upper and lower eye area with your fingertip to calm and hydrate skin.
Step 5: Moisturizer
Once your serum and eye gel are fully absorbed, follow up with a lightweight, but seriously hydrating moisturizer to further prime and prep your skin for the day ahead.
When it comes to the best ingredients in a moisturizer to satisfy thirsty skin, “look for barrier repair ingredients, like fatty acids and squalane,” recommends Alexiades, as a healthy skin barrier is essential to smooth, hydrated skin. Omega-3 and omega-6 are the most popular fatty acids. Although common plant, nut and seed oils, like sunflower, safflower, flaxseed, and rose-hip seed, also have high concentrations of omega acids, so keep an eye out for those ingredients, too.
But before you settle on a morning moisturizer, evaluate whether stress is also affecting your skin’s oil production, causing your face to look extra shiny by lunchtime.
“If moisturizers with those ingredients are too creamy and your skin is oily, consider Theraplex HydroLotion or CeraVe moisturizing cream,” says MacGregor, adding that these formulations were specifically designed for sensitive skin.
Step 6: SPF
“You should finish off with SPF,” says Dr. Ellen Marmur, dermatologist and founder of Marmur Metamorphosis Skincare. “No matter the time of the year, this ingredient should always be a factor in your routine in order to fully protect your skin from the sun’s UV rays.”
Active topicals (like Differin) that work to increase cell turnover tend to also increase photosensitivity, says Alexiades, making daily sunscreen applications an absolute must.
Marmur suggests using a mineral sunscreen with zinc or titanium dioxide, which sits on top of skin instead of getting absorbed. EltaMD’s UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46 is a sunscreen beloved by beauty editors and dermatologists alike.
Nighttime Skincare Routine
At night, Dr. Marmur says that your primary concern should be repairing and rejuvenating your skin.
“Your skin needs to be nourished morning and night,” adds Dr. Ciraldo. “But nighttime is when you should address your personal skin issues.”
Plus, let’s be realistic: Who has time to do a face mask when they’re getting ready in the morning?
Step 1: Cleanser
You’ve probably heard how important it is not to sleep with your makeup on, so unsurprisingly, cleansing your face should be the first step in your nighttime routine, but which cleanser you reach for depends on your skin type.
“People with normal to dry skin should choose a hydrating cleanser,” says Alexiades. “If you strip the skin with an alpha hydroxy acid cleanser, it may be too dry and the Differin gel will further peel the skin and result in itchiness and flaking.”
If you have oily skin, “a sulfur or acid cleanser may be okay to prep the skin before your topicals,” she explains, while noting that with serious breakouts, a medicated cleanser may be prescribed and should only be used at night.
Step 2: Any topical treatment
Just like in the morning, “a pea-sized amount of (in this case) Differin should be first on cleansed skin and then layer creamier formulations on top,” says MacGregor. Be sure to apply Differin all over your face rather than as a spot-treatment to defend against future breakouts.
Step 3: Serum
When treating acne with a topical product, there is truth to the “too much of a good thing” saying. Dr. Alexiades says to definitely avoid using retinol, Retin A, or other retinoids, and think twice before adding chemical exfoliants or peel pads to the mix. “If you use a benzoyl peroxide or acid, beware that your skin may get too raw, dry and inflamed,” she warns.
An ultra-nourishing and replenishing serum is your best — and safest — move for a bedtime serum after a topical. Go with a formula that has soothing, hydrating ingredients to bind moisture to skin without clogging pores, like SkinCeuticals Hydrating B5 Gel.
Step 4: Eye Serum
“Always use an eye repair serum, since this is one of the more sensitive parts of the face and ages faster than other areas,” says Dr. Marmur. “People may habitually itch and rub their eyes during the day due to dryness or just pure stress.” Elemis’ Absolute Eye Serum is designed to reduce dark circles and puffiness while keeping the entire area soft and smooth.
Step 5: Moisturizer
Nighttime is when you can use a moisturizer that’s richer than what you would typically use in the morning. “This will keep your skin hydrated throughout the nighttime and ready for the morning,” explains Dr. Marmur. “Look for a moisturizer that’s oil-free in order to not add to the amount of natural oil your body produces when you’re sleeping.”
Top four French makeup artists have spoken about high-quality, democratically priced future cult classics that they stock up on in U.S. drugstores. Here, 12 steals you should add to your beauty repertoire, with some of my tips along the way.
Batiste Original Dry Shampoo
“When you have bangs, dry shampoo is your best friend. I also use it to give my hair texture and help shape and style it. I love the mini travel size version.”
My tip: working early mornings and late evenings leaves me no desire to wash my hair as often as I’d wish, so, this bad boy has been my third-day staple for years! It comes in a variety of different scents and sizes, as well.
NYX Jumbo Eye Pencil
“You can create a smoky eye on the go in just two minutes. I bought the entire shade range and pick one each day based on my mood.”
My tip: the shade MILK from this lineup is an industry staple white base, perfect for other shadows to pop on the lid or in the waterline. No-budge formula of this pencil has been around for years for a good reason.
Pixi Sun Mist
“I like a sun spray that you can apply over makeup. That way, all day long you’re protected and still look perfect.”
L’Oréal Paris Voluminous Original Mascara
“This mascara not only makes your lashes look longer and full, but lets you easily add more than one coat without clumping.”
My tip: this industry staple is one for a reason, with almost every brand out there trying to recreate their own version of a result that this mascara gives you. Volume, length, separation, longevity – it has it all. It also comes in a waterproof version, and a variety of fun shades!
Ardell Individual Lashes
“These are perfect for opening up the eye in a very natural way, as they blend perfectly onto the lash line and are knot-free.”
My tip: I also like packs of individual lashes of different lengths, so I can customize them to each client.
Sally Hansen Airbrush Leg Makeup
“This is amazing for leg flaunting! It will hide imperfections, like spider veins or bruises, dries quickly, and doesn’t transfer on clothes.”
My tip: fantastic to use at photoshoots or an event, fuss-free and easy to remove when you’re done with it.
Wet n Wild Lip Pencil in Brandy Wine
“This pencil is one of my all time favorites and a great price. Shade ‘666’ is the perfect berry, as it can go from very natural to more dramatic.”
My tip: I really enjoy the formula of this pencil – very creamy but stays put in place, doesn’t dry out too fast, and you’re getting SO much product for your buck. I have all of the shades!
Maybelline Great Lash Mascara
“This mascara is beloved by everyone in the business. A great intense black. It’s hypoallergenic, builds up well, and washes off very easily.”
My tip: use a clear version of this product as an eyebrow gel.
L’Oréal Paris Colour Riche Le Matte Lip Pen
“I keep a few of these with me so I can use it on my clients and give it to them for touch ups or a night on the town. The formula is rich, velvety, and easy to apply, and the pen doesn’t need to be sharpened.”
My tip: if you can’t find this product in your local stores, I recommend Maybelline’s SuperStay Ink Crayon as an alternative.
Eucerin Daily Hydration Lotion
“This lotion is paraben-free, doesn’t clog pores, and is great for very dry skin.”
My tip: this is fantastic for a makeup kit because it suits every skin type.
Visine Redness Relief Original Eye Drops
“I use this to refresh eyes and remove the veins when we do film.”
My tip: a great product to soothe irritated eyes.
Sudden Change Under-Eye Serum
“I mix this serum into foundation to get rid of bags. I place two drops into the palm of my hand, add one dot of foundation, blend with my finger, and smooth it from the inner to outer corner of the undereye area.”
My tip: for a quicker and better result, use this product by itself before makeup application. Perhaps along with a moisturizer, while you’re working on the eye makeup or brows.
During the dog days of summer and moving into fall, it’s easy to fall short on safe sun practices—even when you know better. But the reality is that no body part is safe from the sun’s wrath, and one of the most important and overlooked areas for protection from harmful UV rays is the lips. Yes, even under a mask. That’s why a lip balm with SPF is a must-have for any makeup bag, says New York dermatologist Dr. Dennis Gross.
“Lips have no ability to produce a protective suntan, unlike other skin areas, so they’re prone to burning,” he explains, adding that oily balms and glosses attract more sun to the skin and increase radiation to boot. Over time, exposure can lead to a loss in volume, discoloration, the formation of fine lines—and worse. “Skin cancers on the lower lip are particularly dangerous because they can spread internally into the chest via the lymphatics vessels,” says Dr. Gross.
To safeguard your mouth during the sun-drenched months and beyond, there are a crop of shielding lip treatments that are impressively lightweight, free of chalky white residue, and don’t taste, well, icky. Tried-and-true favorites include Context’s soothing Lip Repair SPF, which nourishes thanks to ingredients such as aloe vera and rosemary extract, and Shiseido’s Sun Protection Lip Treatment, which contains 5% titanium dioxide sunscreen, yet smooths on easily and injects the lips with hydration. And whether you’re looking for a popsicle-stain-like wash, or something a little bolder, you don’t have to sacrifice color. Tinted formulas like Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream Lip Protectant Stick or Fresh’s Sugar Lip Treatment deposit rich pigment along with a slew of moisturizing butters and antioxidant-packed oils. From the beach to your daily sanity walk, refresh your UV defense with a lip balm with SPF below.
Supergoop! Lip Shield Trio SPF 30
Housed in a trio of mini tubes perfect for stashing wherever it’s most convenient, this water-proof SPF 30 lip formula is laced with antioxidant-rich coconut, avocado, and grape seed oil.
Buy on Amazon
Clé de Peau UV Protective Lip Treatment SPF 30
As it provides broad-spectrum SPF 30 protection, this luxe treatment moisturizers and restores the mouth with smoothing mango extract, energizing Asian ginseng extract, and soothing scutellaria baicalensis root.
Buy at Saks Fifth Avenue
Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream Lip Protectant Stick SPF 15
For a juicy dose of color, Elizabeth Arden’s sheer bullet comes in a slew of warm shades and features UV filters as well as emollient lanolin, healing beeswax, and free radical-fighting vitamin E.
Buy at SkinStore
Solid & Striped Shell Lip Balm SPF 45
With its silky gel wax texture, Solid & Stripe’s natural SPF 45 lip balm glides on smooth with plumping peptides, hydrating cactus flower, and anti-aging ginseng.
Buy on Revolve
Context Lip Repair SPF 30
Context’s water-friendly SPF 30 lip elixir moisturizes and riches with a laundry list of nourishing oils and antioxidant-packed vitamins A, B, and D.
Buy on Revolve
Fresh Sugar Lip Treatment Sunscreen SPF 15
Fresh’s cult SPF 15 lip balm boasts moisture-retaining sugar, meadow foam seed oil, and grapeseed oil, and is offered in a wide range of berry hues.
Buy at Sephora
Shiseido Sun Protection Lip Treatment SPF 35
Shielding the sun’s UV rays without any trace of white residue, Shiseido’s supercharged SPF 35 balm, which has the EWG seal of approval, enhances softness and luminosity with a boost of antioxidants.
Buy at Nordstrom
As summer’s scorching temps and steamy humidity slowly turn to earlier sunsets and cooler, drier air, the seasonal change in weather has a larger impact on our skin than you might think.
“Our skin is our first and most important barrier between our bodies and the outside world,” says Stanford-educated dermatologist Dr. Laurel Geraghty. “As temperatures and humidity levels drop, skin is one of the first organs to feel the effects, as it becomes dryer, more fragile, flakier, and itchier.”
Fall and winter are also when recurring skin conditions, like eczema, dandruff, and psoriasis rashes, tend to flare up, she cautions.
To keep skin radiant and healthy — and dry skin freak outs far, far away — follow these dermatologist-approved skincare swaps and tweaks to make the seasonal shift seamless.
Why Does My Skin Get So Dry in the Fall?
“In the fall and especially in the winter, the dip in humidity, cooler weather, hot showers, and indoor heaters all dry out the skin and damage the skin barrier,” explains Dr. Melissa Kanchanapoomi Levin, board-certified NYC dermatologist and founder of Entière Dermatology. “When the skin barrier is compromised, skin becomes sensitized, leading to cracks in the outer layer of the skin, loss of hydration, and eventually, inflammation.”
To soothe these negative seasonal effects on skin, a hydration-boosting skincare routine is critical and should also work to keep the skin barrier healthy. To help combat these changes, Dr. Kanchanapoomi Levin recommends using products rich in cholesterol, fatty acids, and ceramides.
When Should I Change My Skincare Routine?
It’s a subtle, delicate dance between summer and fall — one day it’s toasty enough for a tank top and the next you’re reaching for a hoodie — but there are a few seasonal red flags to nudge you to begin the transition.
A good rule of thumb is how often you’re reaching for a light jacket before going outside, says Houston-based dermatologist and cosmetic surgeon, Dr. DiAnne Davis. If you’re grabbing another layer of clothing more days than not, that’s a sign to re-evaluate your routine.
A slightly more playful seasonal sign, according to Dr. Geraghty, is when it’s cold enough to see your breath.
But most importantly, you have to listen to your own body. “Some patients with sensitive skin or extremely dry skin may have to make adjustments sooner than patients with oilier skin,” Dr. Davis explains.
Skincare Swap 1: Cleansers
Foaming cleansers or gels that help to control oil and do a nightly deep clean are a godsend when summer temps hit the 90s. But in the winter, when there’s less moisture in the air to begin with and the skin produces less oil, it’s a double dry skin whammy. Cleansers that strip skin of its natural oils will accelerate and intensify dry skin.
Tread lightly with acne-focused skincare made with salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide, cautions Davis, as these harsh ingredients can exacerbate dry skin. Bottom line: shelve the clarifying, acne-focused and super foamy cleansers until next summer.
Instead, opt for a gentle, creamy formulation, like dermatologist favorite CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser or the High Performance Cleanser from Macrene Actives. For an extra shot of moisture to the skin, try a cream-to-oil cleanser like Laneige’s Cream Skin Milk Oil Cleanser, to ensure a hydrated and healthy skin barrier.
Skincare Swap 2: Moisturizers
During the dog days of summer, a light lotion or tinted cream may be enough to keep skin moisturized and supple, but as soon as the temperature drops, all bets are off. There’s no way around it: Keeping skin hydrated in the cooler months is the cardinal rule of wintertime skincare.
To build a defense against dry skin, choose a rich, creamy moisturizer with humectants and occlusive ingredients. “Not only to draw water into the skin but also to seal the hydration into the skin,” says Dr. Kanchanapoomi Levin, who recommends the moisture-packed StriVectin Re-Quench Water Cream to her patients. “Overall, ingredients like glycerin, ceramides and Niacin ensure well hydrated skin as well as a robust and intact skin barrier.”
For the driest skin types, and those with eczema and psoriasis rashes, heavier creams and ointments containing petrolatum, like shelfie staple Aquaphor, quench and heal skin better than anything else, says Dr. Geraghty, even if it leaves a slightly messy, gooey feeling on the skin. And really, what’s a little stickiness compared to a lot of relief?
To really amp up the skin’s absorption, follow the technique that dermatologists often call the ‘soak and smear’: apply your serum or moisturizer after cleansing your face and patting dry, but while the skin is still damp for maximum hydration.
Skincare Swap 3: Serums
To go the extra mile to combat skin dehydration, layer on a nourishing serum, like the popular cult classic Dr. Barbara Sturm Hyaluronic Serum, that will help replenish lost moisture, giving you long-term hydration and smoother, plumper skin.
Pat the serum onto damp skin after cleansing but before a moisturizer.
Skincare Swap 4: Sunscreen
“Unless you’re out skiing, exercising, or golfing on a bright winter day, or unless you live in a southern state, there’s not much need for a high SPF sunscreen, that being SPF 50 or higher, since UVB rays are at a minimum,” says Dr. Geraghty.
On the flip side, UVA rays — the long wavelengths of sunlight that penetrate into the skin’s dermis, breaking down collagen and elastin, which contributes to sun spots, sagging, and wrinkling — dominate the winter months. And even worse: because of the cooler temps, it’s harder to feel the ray’s effects on your skin, which can lead to serious sun damage without even noticing.
“During the cool months, it’s important to choose a sunscreen labelled ‘broad spectrum,’ since the SPF rating refers only to protection against UVB and not UVA light,” explains Dr. Geraghty, who favors Elta MD UV Daily and Supergoop! Superscreen Daily Moisturizer SPF 40. “The ingredients available in the US that most effectively protect against UVA light are zinc oxide and avobenzone.”
Skincare Swap 5: Actives and Exfoliants
For sensitive skin types, tread lightly with potentially irritating ingredients, like alpha hydroxy acids, beta hydroxy acids, retinoids, and toners, says Dr. Geraghty, who scales back her own topical retinoid cream during the winter to three to four times per week versus her nearly daily summertime use.
Because it’s easier for the skin to become inflamed during the drier months, Davis also recommends cutting back on exfoliating. Chemical or physical exfoliation once or twice a week should be plenty, unless you have visible flakiness, as it can perpetuate the dehydration cycle by stripping the skin’s oils. And when you do exfoliate, go for a lighter, less intense exfoliant, like Skinceuticals Glycolic 10 Renew Overnight.
When in doubt with wintertime actives, follow Dr. Geraghty’s words of wisdom: If anything makes the complexion stingy, burning, or pink, that could be a sign it’s too irritating for the season.
Skincare Swap #6: Lip Balm
If you think a thin swipe of flavored tinted lip balm will save your lips from getting chapped or cracked, think again. Load up on tiny tubes of Aquaphor — Dr. Geraghty keeps hers in several highly trafficked areas — or Vaseline to layer on throughout the day to proactively protect the skin.