The Five Essential Parts of a Skin Care Routine

For all of us, how we care for our skin is essential to how it looks, feels, behaves, and matures. Your face is alive and its skin reflects that wellbeing. It is the first line of defense to sun exposure, make-up, and other external and environmental elements that we come in contact with continuously throughout the day. A commitment to a good, unwavering routine for facial skin care is key to healthy skin and graceful aging.

The five essential parts of routine skin care are:

1) cleanser, 2) moisturizer, 3) topical antioxidant, 4) sunscreen, and 5) topical retinoid

1. Cleanser: Our face should be treated like silk and cleaned with only the mildest soap. The use of harsh, irritating, or abrasive cleaning products comprised of beads, drying agents (astringents and alcohol- or witch hazel- based toners), and scrubbing materials impact pore size, skin integrity, and promotes transepidermal water loss (TEWL). Use a mild, hypoallergenic, non-comedogenic, face-appropriate cleanser that does not irritate the skin. Most over-the-counter mild cleansers are sufficient to do the job and washing the face once a day is usually sufficient.

2. Moisturizer: Daily moisturization and hydration is achieved with a face-appropriate hypoallergenic topical product, normally applied immediately after washing the face to minimize TEWL. We know that an intact skin barrier that is well-hydrated minimizes skin irritation that can result in irritant eczema, dryness, and discoloration. As with the cleanser, most over-the-counter agents made for facial skin will do the job but MUST be used on a daily basis to be effective. Increase the use of a moisturizer in colder temperatures when the face is more prone to water loss from drying, low humidity, frostbite, and wind damage.

3. Vitamin C/ascorbic acid: Daily, our face encounters oxidizing radicals that lead to skin cell damage, pigment deposition, and changes in elasticity. Use of a topical antioxidant agent that chemically reduces reactive oxygen species is critical to fighting off photodamage and impurities. While all people can benefit from the use of a topical vitamin C antioxidant, lighter skinned individuals with very little pigmentation will benefit the most and prevent significant cellular damage over time. Not all vitamin C agents are equally effective so investing in a reputable, evidence-supported product is key. Read more about topical vitamin C products in SkinInvestments.

4. Sunscreen: Not only does research tell us that most skin cancers (basal cell cancer, squamous cell cancer, melanoma, and merkel cell carcinoma) are all related to sun-damaged and radiated skin, we are well aware of the impact that photodamage has on skin elasticity, wrinkles, permanent redness, and dark spots (lentigos). Classic images comparing the left and right side of the face of seasoned trunk drivers capture the toll of UV radiation on skin very well. Ultraviolet (UV) radiation protection with a good sunscreen of at least SPF 30 daily should be used religiously. Having a sunscreen prepared with a moisturizer and or vitamin C can minimize the need for numerous product application steps and increases compliance to your skin care regimen. Look for more about sunscreens in SkinInvestments.

5. A retinoid: Topical retinoic acid-containing products play a key role in treating and preventing fine lines, wrinkles, blemishes, acne, and also combat photo-damage presenting as poor aging. Retinoic acid’s job is to exfoliate the skin, which keeps the skin texture smooth, regenerative, and firm. This is best placed on the face at night or bedtime since it can make skin more photosensitive. The use of sunscreen daily is key to prevent further photodamage to the skin while using topical retinoids. If your face is becoming too irritated from the retinoid, avoid the facial area until it improves or skip the retinoid use to every several nights. Look for more about different types of retinoid products in SkinInvestments.