Stop wishing for great skin. Make it a reality with our two-pronged approach: Amp up your daily regimen with the best basics, and tackle long-term problems with proven fixes.
1. Mild Cleanser: A soap-free, non-comedogenic face wash, like Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser, lifts oil, makeup, and dirt without clogging pores or causing breakouts (available at drugstores).
2. Eye Cream: Twice daily, nourish skin and attack puffiness with the floral extracts in Burt’s Bees Sensitive Eye Cream.
3. Sunscreen: Older versions shielded you from burn-causing UVbs, not aging UVas. New FDA mandates stipulate bottles labeled “broad spectrum” address both. Go with a dime-size dollop of Eucerin Everyday Protection Face Lotion SPF 30 (available at drugstores).
4. Moisturizer: Elizabeth Arden Ceramide Capsule Daily Youth Restoring Serum protects and gives luminosity with lipids that mimic the oils Mother Nature gave you. Wear it alone, or mix a few drops into your lotion.
5. Lip Balm: Smooth lips are a better canvas for color than rough ones. A petrolatum-based salve, such as Kiehl’s Lip Balm #1, heals and seals.
6. Exfoliator: Gritty scrubs feel effective, but they can scuff and irritate skin. The Clarisonic Aria Sonic Skin Cleansing Brush gently buffs with supersoft bristles and a hum of sonic waves. Use twice a week with cleanser (sephora.com).
7. Retinol is proven to even skin tone, help clear acne, and prevent and target signs of aging. At bedtime, apply an M&M-size drop of ROC Multi-Correxion Night Treatment (available at drugstores).
8. Cleansing Cloths: Too tired to wash your face at the end of a long day? Don’t make a habit of it. Instead, reach for Pond’s Luminous Clean Wet Cleansing Towelettes, which keep bacteria at bay with grime-attracting, yet soothing, kaolin clay (amazon.com).
9. Cotton Swabs: The safest way to pop a pimple: Press Q-tips into the offender from both sides using minimal pressure (available at drugstores).
The Cause: New research links acne to high-glycemic diets (e.g., starchy and sugary foods) and dairy intake, says Joshua Zeichner, a dermatologist in New york City. Stress and hormonal fluctuations are also still suspect.
The Fix: Watch your diet and ditch the heavy-duty zit cream you had in high school; grown-up breakouts should be treated gently. After cleansing, apply La Roche Posay Effaclar Duo to your face. “It exfoliates and kills bacteria with benzoyl peroxide,” says Zeichner. Really sensitive? Limit the time irritating ingredients linger on your skin. Use a rinse-off wash, and spot-treat pimples as needed. We like Neutrogena Oil-Free Pink Grapefruit Facial Cleanser (available at drugstores) and Proactiv Advanced Blemish Treatment. Expect results in 4 months.
The Cause: Oil, dead skin, and even hair can clog pores and make them appear bigger as well as black. Contrary to popular belief, pores don’t open and shut like the lens of a camera. They’re one size no matter what you do, but you can improve their appearance.
The Fix: Acids clear out gunk, leaving pores less noticeable. If your skin is oily, try a grease-cutting beta-hydroxy acid cleanser twice a week; Switch to a leave-on version, like Clean & Clear Acne Spot Treatment, after a month (available at drugstores). Those with drier complexions should opt for milder 4 percent glycolic-acid formulas, such as M-61 Power Cleanse. And since the nose has the most oil glands of all, apply Boots Botanics Complexion Refining Clay Mask over it weekly (target.com). Expect results in 6 months.
The Cause: UV rays weaken supportive collagen and elastin fibers. Instead of bouncing back from smiles and squints, the skin settles in and stays put. There's also a genetic component: If your mom has loads of lines, chances are you will, too.
The Fix: The one-two punch of daily SPF and nightly retinol truly is your first defense. If you want to kick it up, add peptides. The naturally occuring compounds send skin cells an SOS to produce even more collagen. Zeichner suggests a pea-size amount of Olay Regenerist Regenerating Serum twice daily (available at drugstores). Expect results in 6 months.
Fade Dark Spots
The Cause: The sun activates melanocytes, or pigment-producing cells, which show up as a tawny tan at best but more often manifest as sun spots. Inflammation from bug bites, blemishes, or rashes can also leave marks.
The Fix: Meghan O’Brien, a New York City dermatologist, recommends a brightening vitamin C serum in the morning and a spot application of skin-lightening 2 percent hydroquinone at night. If you’re prone to irritation, try Elure Advanced Skin Lightening Lotion instead, which breaks down pigment with a mushroom enzyme. Expect results in 6 months.
The Cause: Solar power strikes again! UVa rays alter cells so they don’t slough off regularly, resulting in a drab, nubby com- plexion. Serious dryness can also leave skin looking rough.
The Fix: In the A.M.,sweep face with Bliss That’s Incredi-Peel Resurfacing Pads; its 10 percent glycolic acid rounds up dead skin cells (sephora.com). Follow with a ceramide lotion, and a nightly layer of retinol to go deeper and promote speedier cell turnover. Expect results in 3 months.
Lighten Dark Under-Eye Circles
The Cause: Good old DNA (thanks, Mom!); slow-moving blood showing through thin skin; sun damage; or chronic rubbing, which leads to permanent inflammation. When circles are always pigmented, genetics are usually to blame.
The Fix: Rest and water keep vessels open and blood moving, but caffeine-spiked Lancôme Gènifique Eye Light-Pearl also revs up circulation. Lighten discoloration with a few taps of a soy-intense night cream like Goldfaden MD Bright eyes. Expect results in 6 months