TThere is no doubt that skincare can be confusing. Between 10-step treatments and all the “miracle” ingredients that the Internet constantly advises you to try, figuring out exactly what you should smear on your face is no easy task. This explains why this year people have spent a lot of time searching Google for the same skin care questions to help them navigate the basics of their daily life.
And while Dr. Google certainly has a lot to offer, we’ll do one better for you: we asked actual physician (board-certified dermatologist Mona Gohara, MD, to be exact) to answer some of the most popular skincare queries of the year. Scroll to find out everything you – and everyone else on the Internet – ever wanted to know about skin care.
1. “How to properly care for your skin”
Dr. Gohara’s cardinal rule for skin care? “Keep it simple,” she says. “Don’t be discouraged and take it step by step.” First, you’ll want to figure out what type of skin you have (dry, oily, sensitive, combination, acne-prone, etc.), and then you’ll want to figure out what you’re trying to achieve, be it rejuvenation, even complexion or simply improving skin health. Once you block this, the rest is pretty simple. In the morning, Dr. Gohara recommends using a soap-free cleanser, antioxidant (à la vitamin C) and SPF. At night, you can use the same mild cleanser, followed by retinol and lotion or cream. “Six simple steps that can change the world for the better,” she says.
2. “In what order to do skin care”
When your routine is reduced to six steps, as Dr. Gohara recommends, it becomes much easier to determine the order in which to apply them. Start with a cleanser, then apply a cleanser (vitamin C in the morning, retinol at night) and top off with sunscreen or moisturizer. If you are going to add toner to the mixture, use it between the cleanser and the serum, and in the case of eye cream, apply over the moisturizer.
3. “What is AHA in skin care?”
AHAs or “alpha hydroxy acids” are chemically exfoliating acids derived from plant substances such as sugar cane, milk and grapes. You may know them as “glycolic,” “dairy,” or “almond,” and they are all members of the AHA family. These types of acids work to melt dead skin cells from the surface of your skin. “Chemical exfoliating agents break down the glue that holds dead skin cells together, making room for new skin cells to exit,” says Dr. Gohara. This process helps in lightening skin, unclogging pores, and stimulating collagen production (which helps with the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles).
4. “How to get rid of acne”
We could write an entire book on how to get rid of acne – there are many different types and different treatments – but Dr. Gohar has a few basic tips to take to heart. First things first: consult with a board-certified dermatologist to come up with a plan. “In your daily routine, be sure to wash your face every morning and night and exfoliate regularly with chemical exfoliators such as glycolic and salicylic acids, which help flush away fat and prevent breakouts,” she says. “If you’re going through a dramatic breakthrough, be simple with your products. If you have just a couple of pimples, use a benzoyl peroxide spot treatment or exfoliating mask to dry out pimples and unclog pores. Then apply a supportive serum to your skin to soothe inflammation. ” If you have oily skin, apply a light lotion. If you have dry skin, use a greasy cream. And one more thing? You can try retinol, which you can get from your dermis or without a prescription, which will help stimulate cell turnover and get rid of dead skin cells that trap bacteria that lead to acne.
5. “What does vitamin C do for your skin?”
According to Dr. Gohar, Vitamin C Serum is like the “little black dress” of your routine. “It makes everyone look their best,” she says. “It is an antioxidant that scavenges free radicals, resulting in lighter skin and better function.” Free radicals damage cells and cause cell death (a process called “oxidation”), which causes signs of skin aging. “Vitamin C is often used as a brightening agent because, due to its antioxidant properties, it can reduce melanin production, and some studies have also shown that it is a powerful anti-inflammatory agent that can help with acne and rosacea symptoms. “Plus, because it’s an antioxidant, it can help protect against environmental factors such as pollution, so it is worth spreading it every morning.
6. “What does hyaluronic acid do?”
Hyaluronic acid is the main skin care ingredient for fighting dry skin. This is what we call a “moisturizer,” which means it pulls in water from the environment and draws it into your skin. The acid is naturally found in your skin and can be applied topically when you need a little extra energy. ” The skin can actually get some H2O, but just splashing water on your face won’t help – you need ingredients that hold water in your complexion, so again and again we turn to good old hyaluronic acid, ”says Dr. Gohara. “It is most often referred to as a moisture magnet because its job is to bind water and hold it under the skin.” His biggest claim to fame? The fact that it can hold 1000 times its weight in water. You will find hyaluronic acid listed as an ingredient in a lot of moisturizing products, and when using a hyaluronic acid serum, it is best to apply it as the last step before applying a moisturizer.
7. “What does the toner do for the face?”
At one time, the term tonic was used to describe alcohol-based astringents that were used to remove sebum (which tended to destroy your barrier). But in recent years, the product category has expanded to include many different things, from moisturizing products to exfoliating products. “There are some areas in which toners can be useful,” says Dr. Gohara, but adds that they are not essential to any routine. “For people with combination skin who need a little more love, for example, tonics may be the right product. You can apply hyaluronic acid toners to areas where you need more hydration, you can apply AHA and BHA toners to areas where your pores need a little extra love and care. ” Think of toner as the cherry on top of your daily skincare routine: it’s not necessarily “must,” but rather “nice to have”.
8. “What is combination skin?”
Simply put, “combination skin” means your skin is not exactly the same. “We don’t all fit perfectly into one skin care bucket, so ‘combination skin’ is the perfect skin care signature for most of us,” says Dr. Gohara. “Some people lean more towards the oily side, while others are drier, but in general we all have areas of oily skin in some places and dry skin in others.” How to deal with this? Understanding which areas are which, and targeting your products accordingly.