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How to Layer Your Skin Care Products

Learn about your options at our Lombard and Naperville dermatology practice

When it comes to skin care, it seems like a new product hits the drugstore or the cosmetics counter every week. It’s fun to try new products once in a while, but fitting them into your existing regimen isn’t always simple. My Lombard and Naperville-area dermatology patients often ask me what the most effective protocol is when it comes to using these products. My preferred regimen is as follows:

  1. Cleanser: Gently cleansing your skin is typically necessary only once daily, usually after exercise or before bed. Be sure to use a non-soap cleanser that’s formulated just for the face, and don’t use more “power” than you need. For example, if you have only occasional breakouts, it’s probably not necessary to use an acne cleanser (these products can be drying and may actually make breakouts worse).
  2. Exfoliant: I typically recommend exfoliating a few times a week with a chemical exfoliant, such as glycolic acid-containing product. These products gently slough away the dead outer layer of skin, helping skin care products penetrate deeper and work more effectively. If you choose a physical exfoliant, such as a scrub, be sure to gently massage it into your skin, and don’t use it more than twice per week. These products can cause small “micro-tears” in skin’s surface, making it more open to breakout-encouraging bacteria.
  3. Toner: While toner isn’t a “must” for everyone, many of my patients add it to their routines in the warmer months. That’s because extra dirt and oil production caused by hot weather can encourage the growth of more bacteria, and sweeping an alcohol-free toner over their skin after cleansing removes extra bits of debris. For the same reason, it’s also often useful for women with naturally oily skin.
  4. Spot treatment: Occasional breakouts and hormonal acne can be effectively remedied with a spot treatment, applied on an as-needed basis. Look for products that contain salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide, and use sparingly. These products can sometimes work too well and dry out skin around the blemish. Also, some people are allergic to the main ingredients in these products and will develop an irritating rash. If this should happen, stop using the product immediately and see your dermatologist.
  5. Moisturizer: When skin is properly hydrated, it’s more resilient and elastic, so it looks and behaves like younger skin. Therefore, even people with oily complexions can benefit from a light daily moisturizer. These come in all sorts of formulations, from super-light lotions to heavier, emollient-rich creams. The one that suits you best may change based on the season, so you may need to experiment a bit before you settle on your favorite. Many moisturizers are labeled for daytime or nighttime use, so be sure to check the labels. Nighttime moisturizers may contain ingredients that make your skin more sensitive to sunlight. It’s also important to apply these products about 15 minutes before bed so that they have enough time to sink into your skin instead of your pillow!
  6. Sunscreen: Arguably the most important element of any skincare routine, applying sunscreen every day can go a long way toward maintaining your long-term health and beauty. If you spend most of your time indoors, a moisturizer with an SPF of 30 or above and the indication “broad spectrum” is an excellent, easy solution. If you work outside or spend a lot of time in the sun, choose a “block” with SPF 30 or higher, apply liberally, and reapply every 2 to 3 hours. If you’re sensitive to sunscreens, don’t give up. Try a product with a physical blocker, such as zinc oxide, which uses minerals to reflect the sun rather than chemicals.

Whether you’re looking for products to help you look younger, correct a specific condition, or just help you feel your best, consulting with a board-certified dermatologist is a sure-fire way to get the results you want.

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