No matter your age or lifestyle, maintaining a proper skin care regimen is essential to keeping your skin, the body’s largest organ, healthy. Though it’s possible to undo signs of aging with Botox and laser resurfacing procedures, the most effective path to healthy skin is proper long-term care. “There is no magic eraser that will completely remove some of the deeper lines that form,” says Dr. Jeremy Fenton of Schweiger Dermatology Group in New York City. “That’s why it’s best to avoid or postpone them in the first place.”

Along with practicing a simple skin care routine, Dr. Fenton acknowledges that diet is important in maintaining healthy skin (and overall health). “Avoiding foods that can trigger inflammation, such as processed carbohydrates, can help reduce things like acne on a short-term basis,” he says. “Eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables will provide the body with antioxidants that can be used in the skin to fight and correct oxidative damage from the sun and environment. This can help reduce the long-term damage that builds up over the years.” To get your skin care regimen dialed in, Dr. Fenton recommends four steps that, if practiced every day, will keep your skin looking younger, longer.

Wear mineral-based sunscreen. The most important factor for maintaining healthy skin is the use of sunscreen.“Your skin can recover from many things, such as being dried out or having a small acne breakout, but UV damage should be seen as the biggest enemy,” Dr. Fenton says. “UV exposure plays the biggest role in causing skin cancer and aging of the skin.” Because sun exposure adds up over a period of years, you should use sunscreen every day, even if you aren’t planning to spend much time outside.

Fenton recommends using mineral-based sunscreen. “Zinc oxide is a physical blocking ingredient that is more stable than the chemical sunscreens,” he says.  “It is less likely to irritate the skin, and you don’t need to worry about the potential impact of putting a chemical on your skin every day.” Apply every two hours if you’re out in the sun, and make sure to apply a thick enough layer to provide proper SPF protection.

Use gentle cleansers. You don’t need to power-wash your skin. Use a gentle cleanser in your daily skin care regimen so as not to cause more issues. According to Dr. Fenton, you should avoid harsh cleansers with ingredients like alcohol and sodium lauryl sulfate because they can strip away all your natural oils.

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Don’t forget to moisturize. Depending on where you live and on your skin, a moisturizer can be crucial to the health of your skin. But make sure you’re applying it at the right time. “How dry your skin is should dictate how thick of a moisturizer you use,” Dr. Fenton says. For those who suffer from dry skin or eczema, the timing of application is crucial to the moisturizer’s usefulness. “Many people don’t realize that if you have dry skin and are trying to effectively moisturize, you should pat dry and put the moisturizer on within three minutes on the skin while it is still damp,” he says.

Try a retinol cream. The use of an OTC retinol or prescription-strength retinoid can help build and maintain collagen as you grow older. Though the effects won’t be seen immediately, there is a short-term benefit: “It will also exfoliate off the dead skin cells and give you a brighter look,” Dr. Fenton says. The exfoliating properties of a retinol cream will minimize the appearance of fine lines, giving mild improvement to skin tone and texture. “If retinols and retinoids are too drying or irritating, there are some products with growth factors to help stimulate collagen growth without drying,” he says. “However, the quality of these products can vary greatly.”

Buying Guide

Recommended Products to Up Your Skin Care Regimen
Deep Wrinkle Repair by Alpha Skin Care$16
Gentle Skin Cleanser by Cetaphil $8
Broad Spectrum SPF 35 Sunscreen by Burn Out $13
Moisturizing Lotion by CeraVe $10