Try any (or all!) of these expert tips and tricks to get the clear, radiant skin you’ve always wanted
1. Slather on the sunscreen. We know, we know—you’ve heard it a million times, but wearing sunscreen is the single easiest way to look younger for life. “Ninety percent of wrinkles are from sun exposure,” says Day. “It’s so much easier to prevent the damage than it is to fix it afterwards.” That means no slacking during winter months either, when rays are just as strong and can reflect off of buildings and sidewalks. Look for a formula that offers broad-spectrum protection to guard against UVA rays (the ones that cause premature aging) and UVB rays (one of the main causes of skin cancer). Try Philosophy Shelter Broad Spectrum Sunscreen in SPF30.
2. Clean your makeup brushes. A British study found that 72% of women never wash their brushes or sponges, even though they harbor dirt and bacteria which can cause breakouts. “You should wash loose powder brushes every two to three weeks, and those used to apply foundation once a week,” says Jessica Wu, an LA-based dermatologist and author of Feed Your Face. Mix a couple of drops of gentle facial cleanser or shampoo and lukewarm water in a cup, swish your brushes around, rinse with lukewarm water, pat dry, and lay flat to air dry.
3. Munch on mixed nuts. Brazil nuts are rich in selenium, which increases skin elasticity and may decrease skin cancer, according to recent studies. Throw in walnuts—which are loaded with omega-3 fatty acids—to lower inflammation and put the brakes on breakouts, says Molly Morgan, Board Certified Sports Specialist Dietitian and author of The Skinny Rules. Finally, add some macadamias. “They’re full of high quality oils and fatty acids that aid in skin repair and rejuvenation” says integrative practitioner Isaac Eliaz. Aim for a handful of each daily to reap their pore-perfecting benefits.
4. Start using serum. “It’s much more concentrated than cream or lotion, so you tend to only need a small amount daily to see results,” says Fran Cook-Bolden, Director of New York’s Skin Specialty Dermatology. Look for one with antioxidants, the skin’s major defense against free radicals and stress, and pentapeptides, which are a must-have when it comes to boosting collagen, the support structure that gives skin a firm, youthful appearance. Don’t worry about spending a fortune on the ingredients; one of Cook-Bolden’s favorites is Olay Regenerist Micro-Sculpting Serum, a sheer formula whose small molecules can dive deep into pores. For best results, apply to freshly washed skin; follow with sunscreen or moisturizer to lock in hydration.
5. Sanitize your Smartphone. According to a Stanford University study, that iPhone you can’t keep your hands off of can get more germ-infested than a toilet in a subway bathroom. In fact, the glass touchscreens on mobile devices are so good at spreading viruses that sharing them may be almost as bad as sneezing in someone’s face. Here’s a scary thought: All those germs land right on your cheek and jawline every time you chat away, causing pimples and irritation. To keep your phone (and face) bacteria-free, wipe it down with an antibacterial wipe like Clorox Disinfecting Wipes a few times a day.
6. Put your skin stash in proper order. The sequence in which you apply your products could be even more important than the products themselves. Reach for those with the most active ingredients as soon as you wash and pat skin dry. “These are the most powerful, so you want them to come into direct contact with your skin,” says Syed Amiry, a dermatologist practicing in Reston, Virginia. If you’re using more than one active product (like an antioxidant serum and Retin-A), start with the thinner one. “Anything that’s water soluble should go first, followed by the product that’s thicker and creamier. If you do it in reverse, the heavier cream will block the ingredients of the lighter one from penetrating the skin, so they won’t have any impact.” If you need moisturizer, it’s next up in line, followed up by—what else?—sunscreen each morning.
7. Drop dairy from your diet (even that little bit in your latte). “Dairy products—even those that are organic—contain cow hormones that stimulate your oil glands and your pores, leading to acne,” explains Wu. Beware of hidden dairy in foods like salad dressing, protein bars, and shakes. And if you have to go there, stick to skim. “The hormones are concentrated in the fat, so it’s your best option.”
8. Start using retinol. “Everyone should use retinol,” says New York dermatologist Doris Day. “It has decades of clinical data to support its efficacy, helps skin cell turnover, and boosts collagen production to keep skin firm and youthful.” Most dermatologists agree that if you’re only going to use one anti-aging product, prescription Retin-A (and even over-the-counter versions like RoC Retinol Correxion Deep Wrinkle Daily Moisturizer SPF 30 or Olay Pro-X Deep Wrinkle Treatment) is the magic bullet, and can even reverse abnormal and cancerous growth, among other forms of sun damage. “It has great anti-inflammatory effects, which is why it’s as effective at treating acne as it is at treating wrinkles and other signs of aging,” adds Amiry.
9. Hit the sack early. We know, you’ve heard it all before, but it’s called beauty sleep for a reason. “Sleep deprivation lowers circulation, which is why you look pale and washed out if you only get a few hours,” says Amy Wechsler, one of only two U.S. physicians board-certified in both dermatology and psychiatry. It’s also the best time to rejuvenate your skin. “Your body’s cellular renewal team has the night shift, so this is when you want to equip your skin with as many nutrients and hydrating ingredients it needs to do a fine job,” she says.
10. Exfoliate for smaller-looking pores. It’s amazing how something so tiny can feel so huge, but enlarged pores are one of the most common beauty complaints. “Pores appear larger when they’re filled with dirt, oil, dead skin cells, and keratin, a protein that lives on the surface of skin,” explains Amiry. “Remove those plugs, and they seem to shrink.” To clear out the gunk, start exfoliating regularly with daily applications of salicylic and glycolic acid, like those in Murad Exfoliating Acne Treatment Gel. Then add in microdermabrasions (like Physicians Formula [email protected] Mineral Microdermabrasion System) once or twice a week to clear the dead surface cells. To keep pores from getting even bigger as you age, practice safe sun. “Sun damage breaks down collagen, which can affect pore size as well.”
11. Give your skin a sip of merlot. Resveratrol, a powerful antioxidant and polyphenol found in red grape skins, has been found to prevent the lines, wrinkles, and sagging caused by environmental skin saboteurs like smog and second-hand smoke. “In many preparations, it’s an even more powerful antioxidant than vitamin C, and studies show it creates mild-to-moderate skin tightening for a firmer look,” says board certified dermatologist and research scientist Erin Gilbert. Apply a small pump of B. Kamins C-Resveratrol Serum each night to plump up lines and smooth skin texture.
12. Don’t neglect your neck and chest. Most of us are guilty of stopping our skincare routine as soon as we hit our chin. And our neglected neck and chest take vengeance by wrinkling, sagging, and displaying dark spots that beg to be hidden by a turtleneck. “The skin on these areas is thinner, and doesn’t have a strong blood supply, so it doesn’t heal well,” explains Amiry. “Plus it’s an area that we often forget to protect with sunscreen.” Use the same products as you would on your face, but start lightly (every other day) when applying active ingredients like retinols or acids since they may cause some initial irritation.
13. Strip off your makeup before bed. Leaving makeup and dirt on skin doesn’t just clog pores; it can cause excessive dryness and even skin dandruff. “Most makeup contains a sugar-type molecule that can grow yeast overnight,” says Macrene Alexiades-Armenakas, assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Yale School of Medicine. Don’t forget to thoroughly remove eye makeup too. “It can lead to bumpy rashes around the eyes or small white bumps called milia cysts,” says Wu, who loves Neutrogena Oil Free Eye Makeup Remover, a gentle, oil-free cleanser that even melts away waterproof liner and mascara.
14. Running low on sleep? Pick up some soy milk. Wu keeps a carton in her fridge at all times to “fake a good night’s sleep.” The natural anti-inflammatory reduces swelling while soy proteins hydrate skin to soften the look of crow’s feet. The cold temperature helps shrink swelling and constricts veins to make eyes look less bloodshot. To make soothing, redness-busting compresses, pour a small amount of soy milk in a bowl, dunk two cotton balls, and squeeze out the excess. Then hold the cotton balls over your eyes (or any other area where you have red or irritated skin) for five minutes.
15. Roll away your puffy eyes this morning. “Fluid fills up under our eyes each night because we’re lying down,” says dermatological surgeon Anne Chapas. Start by sleeping on two pillows to elevate the face. In the morning, massage away the excess fluid with the Garnier Nutritioniste Skin Renew Anti-Puff Eye Roller, which manually pushes out fluid. To reduce dark shadows, use your ring finger to lightly tap Origins GinZing Eye Cream, which contains caffeine, onto the delicate area. “Caffeine constricts vessels to minimize leaking, which causes the darkening, while titanium dioxide, mica, and iron oxides reflect light away to brighten.”
16. Stay out of hot water. A steamy shower may feel great, but it’s one of the worst things you can do for your skin. Not only does the heat strip essential oils, but it creates a mild burn. Blood vessels respond by dilating in an effort to cool the skin, causing flushing and ruddiness. “When you’re in your twenties, you can take a hot shower, be red & swollen and recover in an hour, but in your thirties, it may take 2 hours,” says Alexiades-Armenakas. “By your forties, your skin just doesn’t have the ability to shrink back to its original state so you stay ruddy all the time.”
17. Don’t wait to moisturize. Most creams and lotions have key ingredients that create a protective barrier on the surface of the skin to lock in moisture, but because skin cools itself by evaporating water, you only have a few minutes before that hydration is gone forever. Slather on a moisturizer with dimethicone, a form of silicone, while your face is still damp. Alexiades-Armenakas’ research shows that it locks in moisture for up to 24 hours, plumping and improving the appearance of fine lines as skin drinks up the moisture (like the difference between a raisin and a grape). Try NIA24 Skin Strengthening Complex.
18. Be extra gentle when defuzzing your face. Waxing and tweezing can cause scarring or spots, especially for women with darker skin. Prep your skin before hair removal by washing the area with an antibacterial wash, suggests Cook-Bolden. And to avoid discoloration, make sure to have an aftercare plan that includes anti-inflammatory ingredients to quickly calm skin and help it heal. Cook-Bolden recommends a dab of Avène Cicalfate Restorative Cream immediately after hair removal, and for a few days afterward. “Investing in this type of product will save you money in the long run since preventing discoloration costs a lot less than trying to get rid of it.”
19. Snack on watermelon. Adding a lycopene-rich food, such as this juicy pink treat, “helps reduce damage and redness caused from sun exposure, prevents future wrinkling and possibly even lowers skin cancer risk,” says Elizabeth Somer, nutritionist and author of Eat Your Way to Sexy. Aim for one cup each day by tossing it in salads, salsas, and smoothies. Or try her recipe for refreshing ice cubes: Purée watermelon, sweeten with concentrated apple juice, pour into an ice tray, and freeze. Then add cubes to water or club soda for a refreshing, skin-saving mocktail.
20. Exfoliate… without scrubbing. “Over time, the natural enzymes in your skin work less effectively at removing dead skin cells, so they hang on and prevent your skin from reflecting light,” says Wechsler. The result? You look ashy and gray. Speed up your skin’s cellular turnover and smooth its surface with alpha-hydroxy acids (AHA) like glycolic or lactic acid. But beware: Although lots of products include AHAs, the concentration is often too low to do much. “Look at the label to see how much it contains and pick one that’s around 8%. Anything more is too much.” Expect some initial stinging at first; it should subside as your skin gets used to it.
21. Slip on your sunglasses. As if you need another reason to buy a new pair of sunglasses, turns out they provide more protection against undereye wrinkling and aging than sunscreen. “While your eyes are equipped to handle sunlight, the area around them is comprised of the thinnest skin, where most of the signs of aging are,” says Amiry. “Every time you squint from bright light, you’re creating lines from that repeat movement.” To keep the wrinkles away, choose a pair of polarized glasses that’s wide enough to fully cover the eye area.
22. Drink an extra glass of water. “Water helps clear the toxins that cause inflammation and blemishes,” explains Eliaz. “It also assists in transporting nutrients and oxygen to skin cells, and preventing dehydration, which can cause premature aging.” It can even make skin appear fuller since the hyaluronic acid that naturally exists in skin will pull in and hold the water for a wrinkle-plumping effect, according to Day. Both recommend at least 8 glasses of water each day, more if you’re active or live in a warm climate. To add a little flavor, try a skin-soothing tea like chamomile or mint.
23. Pour yourself a bowl of Cheerios for breakfast. If your skin has a case of the blahs, a lack of zinc may be to blame. “People who are trying to lose weight or eating a lot of processed foods might not be getting enough zinc to keep their skin glowing,” says Wechsler. And since zinc helps repair damaged tissues and heal wounds, it also helps clear acne and other irritating skin conditions. A cup of Cheerios has 25 percent of the daily recommended value of the powerhouse nutrient, which will get you well on your way to a clear complexion.
24. Be patient with your products. We’re all in a hurry to see results, but putting on the brakes can ensure that the results you get are positive. When you’re starting a new product, use it every other day, and never try a few new buys at once. “Even if you just got a new skincare system, introduce one product every three to four days at the least,” says Cook-Bolden. “You’ll rarely experience dryness, irritation, and burning. And if you do, you’ll know right away who the culprit is.” Give any new potion at least 12 weeks (and up to 6 months) to see if it’s really improving your skin before calling it quits.
25. Put down the French fries. Research shows that a diet high in fats and carbohydrates causes more wrinkles. “Creamy cheeses and red meats are actually known as aging fats because of what they do to our skin,” says Wechsler. To keep your cells revved up and rejuvenated, stick to lean protein like fish, white meat poultry, tofu, beans, and lentils.
26. Don’t forget your veggies. Look for an anti-aging cream that has plant-derived antioxidants such as mushroom or soy. Data from Alexiades-Armenakas’ lab shows that the level of antioxidant-free radical scavenging (i.e. the little warriors that fight off all of the bad stuff that causes premature aging) with plant-derived antioxidants is off the charts. “Plants have anti-cancer properties when we eat them, which means they survive the digestive process,” she says. “Think of what that that means for their long-lasting powerful benefits when applied directly to the skin.” Try Dr. Andrew Weil for Origins Mega-Mushroom Skin Relief Advanced Face Serum.
27. Eat your broccoli. Move over, oranges. “Just a half cup of raw broccoli is loaded with 65 percent of your daily value of vitamin C,” says Morgan. Research shows that vitamin C-rich foods not only mop up the free radicals that cause wrinkles and sagging, but can help remove the DNA damage they form. While you’re reaping the wound-healing and skin-protecting benefits of eating more vitamin C, try smoothing some on your skin as well. In one study, women who treated sun-damaged skin with a vitamin C cream for 6 months saw significant improvement in fine lines and discoloration.
28. Keep your hands off your face. “Picking—even lightly—can permanently damage skin,” says Amiry. “I actually have patients whose skin cleared up with no medications, just because they stopped touching it.” Every time you press against a pimple, it causes inflammation and distress to the skin. At the same time, bacteria is pushed deep inside the pore, and the oil glands burst, causing even more trauma. The result? More acne, plus discoloration and scarring. If you’re really hooked on popping, leave it to the pros and schedule regular monthly extractions with an aesthetician who knows how to do them safely and gently.
29. Whip up a berry tasty treat for your skin. A powerful (cheap!) anti-aging potion is lurking right in your fridge. Raspberries are loaded with ellagic acid, an antioxidant that research shows can prevent wrinkles when applied to the skin. “It protects the collagen that keeps skin plump and beautiful from being worn down by the sun,” says Wu. Add in honey, a natural humectant that holds water against the skin for maximum moisture, and you’ve got a recipe for gorgeous, dewey skin. Mash up a handful of raspberries with a spoonful of honey, and apply the mask to clean skin for 15-20 minutes. Rinse and pat dry.
30. Make your sunscreen work harder for you. Antioxidants like vitamin C offer an extra layer of protection again environmental damage and toxins, diverting them before they can damage your cells. “That’s why applying them as part of your morning routine boosts the efficacy of your sunscreen,” explains Amiry. “It’s important to know that sunscreens are chemicals that you are applying to your skin and they absorb into your body. So, use a lighter sunscreen daily such as SPF 15 along with vitamin C and a higher sunscreen (about 30) every two hours if you are outdoors for a long period of time.”