If all it took were good intentions to take care of our skin, we’d be basking in the glow of our own dewy complexions. (We’d also theoretically get a decent amount of sleep and rely on Seamless fewer than three nights a week.) In reality, however, it’s hard to sift through the profusion of skin-care advice out there and know what’s actually essential.
To narrow it down, we asked Dr. Neal Schultz, a dermatologist who’s been practicing in NYC for over 30 years, to tell us the non-negotiable steps for keeping our skin healthy. And it turns out we’ve definitely been getting a few things wrong this whole time.
Use a Toner
News flash: We have a higher-than-average amount of dirt in the air, thanks to nonstop construction on every block (among other things). And said dirt inevitably ends up on your skin. You might think that washing your face is enough, but, as Dr. Schultz explains, “Most facial cleansers are too mild to remove all the dirt, oil and debris. They would have to be much stronger to get all the junk off, and that strength of cleanser would be irritating.” The solution? A swipe of alcohol-free toner to remove any residual grime after cleansing.
Dead skin cells—the enemy of the coveted glow—are accumulating on your face constantly, and removing them daily is the only way to keep your skin its freshest. But many forms of exfoliation (like manual scrubbing) can be way too irritating for that kind of frequency. A treatment containing glycolic acid (what Dr. Schultz calls “the gold standard of exfoliants”) boosts cell turnover without the irritation.
Wear Real Sunscreen—Always
Before you chalk this one up as common sense, listen up: Not only do you have to apply SPF every day (yes, even when it’s raining), you need to apply it before any other step in your routine, including moisturizer. (Acne spot treatments are the one exception.) And that tinted BB cream with the built-in sun protection might not be cutting it—think about your neck, your hairline, your eyelids… Dr. Schultz recommends applying a proper broad-spectrum sunscreen over every inch of skin first—and any additional SPF is just an added bonus.
Apply Antioxidants at Night
By now you’ve probably heard about how everyone’s smearing vitamin C on their face—it helps fade scars and spots and stimulates collagen production. But when you apply it is just as important as why. UV light (aka sun) destroys the antioxidant if it hasn’t had a chance to absorb yet, so bedtime is the best time to apply. For maximum benefit, look for a serum that contains tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate, a fat-soluble form of vitamin C that’s most easily absorbed by the skin.