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To keep your face looking as youthful as possible, you need to properly cleanse, exfoliate and moisturize your skin while never leaving the house without at least 30 SPF sunscreen. I`ve dubbed this process "The Basic 4-Step Skincare Regimen," which I outline in this article.
But before we go there, how you care for your skin is utterly dependent on the type of skin you have: oily, normal/combination, dry, sensitive or sun- damaged
The Basic 4-Step Skincare Regimen Step 1: Cleansing
Simple is key here. You need to find a good cleanser that your skin responds well to, and stick with it: See the best cleansers for your skin type.
You can find a good cleanser at the drugstore. There`s no need to spend $40 on a fancy wash. Avoid bar soaps as they tend to dry out the skin. According to Rona Berg, in her book, "Beauty," a French cosmetics executive once told her, "Soap should only ever touch your skin from the neck down." I agree. Choose a creamy cleanser if you have dry skin or a clear cleanser if you have oily skin.
Be careful not to cleanse too often, you risk over-cleansing skin, see signs you are overcleansing your skin. You really only need to wash your face at night to remove makeup and sunscreen, which can clog pores. If you have dry skin, consider cold cream like Pond`s, which the French use. Simply apply cream, then wipe off, no water needed (if you have hard water, it can be especially harsh on skin). Most women prefer the water method: Use warm water to loosen dirt and clogged pores. Use a dime-sized bit of cleanser, then rinse with cool or lukewarm water. I personally swear by my Clarisonic Mia, as does pretty much everyone I know who has one.
Make sure to remove eye makeup with a proper makeup remover. The area around the eye is delicate so don`t pull or rub too hard.
In the morning, a splash of lukewarm water is all you need (I find it`s great for removing excess oils from your nightly moisturizing). Never wash your face with hot or cold water (both can cause broken capillaries).
Step 2: Exfoliate
Exfoliation is the step most people skip in their weekly skincare routine. But trust me, if you start properly exfoliating your skin, you will notice an almost immediate difference. According to Berg, one of the reasons men`s skin looks more youthful than women`s is because men tend to exfoliate daily when they shave.
I use a facial scrub weekly to exfoliate my skin, but I also find using a washcloth when I cleanse my skin works just as well. I simply put a dab of cleanser on a damp washcloth and massage the cleanser into my skin in a circular motion. After a quick rinse, any sign of dead skin is erased. You can also exfoliate skin via microdermabrasion, chemical peels and retinoids. In my article, How to Exfoliate, I share all my tips and tricks to proper exfoliation. Including why you should throw out the loofah.
See my list of the best facial scrubs and microdermabrasion kits.
Scrubs work by removing the top layer of dead skin cells that tend to dull your complexion. We find exfoliating skin once a week with a microdermabrasion kit keeps skin glowing year-round. Make sure you use a gentle scrub with tiny grains. Big grains in cheap scrubs can tear skin and cause more harm than good. My favorite microdermabrasion kit is made by Lancome.
In the hour it takes to get a chemical peel, you can take off five years from your face. Can`t afford the price tag for a monthly peel? Try some over-the-counter peels that work over the course of a month. I prefer MD Skincare`s.
Retinoids (such as Retin-A or the more moisturizing Renova) also work by removing the top layer of dead skin cells while also generating collagen in the skin. "Collagen is the skin`s structural fiber," dermatologist Dennis Gross said in O Magazine. "As we get older, it breaks down, creating lines and large pores." Skincare experts disagree on all sorts of things, but most of them consider retinoids to be a miracle skin saver. I`m addicted to Retin-A, which I pick up in Mexico on my yearly jaunts.
Should you use a toner? Some people swear by toners, but many beauty experts do not (I once read a skincare expert claim, "toners are only for copy machines"). Toners are meant to remove all remaining traces of oil, makeup and dirt, but a good cleanser should do this. I firmly believe it`s up to you. If you like the way your skin feels with a toner. Buy it. Use it. Enjoy it.
Step 3: Moisturize
While I know of at least one famous beauty editor who swore skin doesn`t need moisturizer, basically everyone else I`ve read disagrees and is an adamant believer in it. A basic rule of beauty is that if you have dry skin, you should invest in a basic moisturizer. So how much should you moisturize? Your skin will tell you. When your skin is tight, it`s crying out for moisture. Be careful not to over-moisturize -- this can clog pores.
See my list of the best moisturizers on the market.
Are eye creams necessary? Well maybe. Some beauty experts strongly recommend eye creams. Why? The skin around the eye contains no fatty tissue and is therefore very thin and susceptible to wrinkles. Special eye creams are formulated to "thicken" this area. Yet other experts (including the beauty editors of Allure in their new book) claim your daily lotion works around the eyes just as well.
See my list of the best eye creams.
Step 4: Apply Sunscreen
The #1 cause of wrinkles is sun damage, so it`s important to use a sunscreen of at least 30 SPF from your early years on even in winter and on cloudy days. A great trick is to purchase two moisturizers: One for night and one for day that includes UV protection. Don`t use moisturizers with sunscreen at night, the ingredients are not meant to be used 27/7 and can aggravate skin. When choosing a sunscreen, make sure it contains Mexoryl (found in my favorite sunscreen La-Roche Posay) or Helioplex, found in Neutrogena products.