Are you one of those people who doesn’t use skin care products on a regular basis but thinks that perhaps you should be using something? Or maybe your skin care “routine” is simply applying Pond’s moisturizer and nothing else, à la Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and you wonder if you should be doing more.
Developing a skin care routine can be daunting if you don’t know where to start ― especially if you’re not interested in a routine that’s going to take up a lot of time. The good news is that if you’re using sunscreen, then you’re already halfway there.
We talked to three board-certified dermatologists about skin care for people who don’t “do skin care.” As most everyone can probably guess, sunscreen tops the list of the single most important product you can use to help slow aging and prevent skin cancers. If you were only going to use one thing, a good sunscreen should be it.
“The most important step of starting the process is teaching patients to wash their face before they go to bed at night,” said dermatologist Heather D. Rogers of Modern Dermatology in Seattle, Washington.
The next most crucial thing is using a good broad-spectrum sunscreen every day.
“The American Academy of Dermatology recommends that you use at least an SPF of 30,” Rogers said, “because we usually apply about half as much sunscreen as we’re supposed to.”
Rogers tries to steer people away from chemical-based screens to more physical- (mineral) based screens, which are becoming more available. Physical sunscreens sit on top of the skin as opposed to chemical-based ones that absorb into the skin.
After sunscreen, Nazanin Saedi, director of the Jefferson Laser Surgery and Cosmetic Dermatology Center at Jefferson Health in Philadelphia, recommends using some form of retinoid. Under the retinoid umbrella are retinols, which are less potent and available over the counter.
“These are vitamin A derivatives and basically what they do is increase cell turnover. So they are great for anti-aging but also good for anything that’s precancerous,” Saedi said.
Dermatologist Lisa M. Donofrio, associate clinical professor at Tulane University in New Orleans, also suggests using a peptide-containing cream.
“There’s not a huge amount of data on this,” she wrote in an email, “but studies do show an increase in collagen and a decrease in degradation as a result of using a product with peptide.”
Peptides are shown to reduce wrinkles and help repair wounds and improve skin conditions such as eczema.
Here are Rogers and Saeid’s top picks for over-the-counter products.