AT THE RISK of engaging in hyperbole, ask a hundred dermatologists about the best skin-care arsenals, and they’ll likely recommend a hundred products. Walk into any drugstore, or worse, visit a department store’s beauty counter, and you’ll likely be stumped by a myriad of wrinkle-fighting serums, gold-sheet masks, organic, natural lotions free of parabens and sulfates, some of this and that. Even social media is rife with celebrity-endorsed formulas touting marketing buzzwords—“age-defying,” “perfect for a balmy glow,” “revitalizing”—that claim to turn back the clock. The world of skin care has never been more in vogue, or more mystifying, or more mind-boggling.
Despite the oversaturation of products in the beauty industry, there are several basic tenets of skin care that most dermatologists will nod their heads sagely about. Keeping your skin in tip-top shape requires a certain choreography of potions, and Dr. Terri Martin—dermatologist at Pinnacle Dermatology in Little Rock—likes to keep the steps fairly simple.
“I see people who come in with whole bags full of products, and they get irritation and become more acne-prone because they are trying to do too much to their skin,” she says. “I think if you talk to most female dermatologists, you’ll realize that we tend to be more simple.”
Now that the season of sun, sweat and dryness is upon us, having a skin-care game plan is more important than ever—no matter your skin color or complexion. So we turned to Dr. Martin for advice on vanity-top staples and a few tips for putting them into practice.
Wash it all off.
“When you’re talking about cleansing your face, it kind of depends on these factors: Is your skin oily, dry, or sensitive or acne-prone? The purpose of cleansing is to remove the dirt, oils, makeup and sweat that accumulate on your skin. For the face, I usually recommend—and this is more of my personal preference—cleansers that are foamy, because the bubbles and the foam usually help carry away the oil and the dirt and makeup more easily. I know cleansing oils are very popular right now, but a lot of that is about personal preference.”
Get scrubbing—just not too often.
“Some people think of exfoliating as a form of cleansing. With exfoliating, you have to be very careful. You don’t want to overdo it. There are lots of different scrubs out there that are a little bit gritty that help remove the barrier of dead skin cells and things on the surface of the skin. This helps unclog your pores, but this is not something you’d want to do every day. I would do it once or twice a week—if you can tolerate it, and if it doesn’t irritate your skin. In general, most dermatologists will recommend that you use products that don’t have dyes or perfumes. You know, use things that are going to be easier on the skin.”
Don’t forget your vitamin C.
“Usually, serums will have some sort of botanicals and antioxidants that are supposed to help with anti-aging. There are a lot of different options out there. The most popular ones among dermatologists are vitamin C serums. Vitamin C is an antioxidant that helps protect your skin from free radicals (Editor’s note: basically, unstable atoms that can damage cells) and reactive oxygen damage. One thing you have to be aware of with antioxidants in skin care is that vitamin C is not stable when exposed to air and light. You may buy products at the drugstore that say they have vitamin C or antioxidants, but you don’t know how active they are. They might have degraded after sitting in heat and light. There are a lot of different skin-care lines now that are trying to achieve better stabilization.”
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.
“Moisturizers are there to hydrate your skin. When it comes to moisturizers, the buzzword in cosmetics and skin care is hyaluronic acid. Hyaluronic acid helps keep your skin hydrated by trapping water. I actually do use a hyaluronic-acid moisturizer in my daily regimen. And what I do is wet my fingers a little bit, then put the moisturizer on my face. Some people will spritz water on their face with it. Since it holds onto the water, you might get some mild plumping of the skin.”
Bring on the SPF.
“Protecting your skin from the sun, for us dermatologists, is the most important thing for a few reasons. For starters, the sun ages your skin when it comes to wrinkles, discoloration and things like that. There’s also, obviously, the fact that prolonged sun exposure increases your risk for getting skin cancer. That’s why we really harp on sunscreen. For sunscreens, we usually recommend something like SPF 30 or greater. We do like broad-spectrum sunscreens that protect from ultraviolet A and ultraviolet B radiation from the sun. You want to apply those every day, rain or shine. If you’re outdoors getting sweaty or swimming, you want to reapply them.” (Editor’s note: After the interview, Dr. Martin wrote us an email with the following best-practices advice: “Chemical sunscreens absorb the UV rays from the sun and need to be applied 15 minutes before sun exposure. Physical sunscreens, [which] contain titanium dioxide or zinc oxide, reflect the rays and you can immediately go out after applying.”)
Find your eye(-deal) cream.
“Finding an eye cream that works—to me, that’s like the holy grail of dermatology. I have tried a lot of eye creams. A lot of them have peptides, retinol, botanicals or even caffeine, which may help with puffiness. Some help a little bit with fine lines and wrinkles. You don’t typically see dramatic effects from eye creams, but the skin around our eyes is very thin and very sensitive, and I think it is important to moisturize around that area. If you want to do more of a preventative thing, the sooner you start using an eye cream, the better. By the time you’re in your late 20s or 30-ish, you should probably get on a good topical anti-aging regimen.”