9 Crucial Skin-Care Lessons We Learned From Dermatologists

Taking care of your skin can feel like an ongoing battle, particularly if you're not sure where to start. We're constantly being fed trends that put the real, science-backed information on the back burner. Should we be double cleansing? Do we really need to use a toner? How often should we use an exfoliant or peel? Do the face masks that look fun to use actually do anything? How badly will a hangover, our period, or pollution affect our skin?

With so many questions, we're in need of some expert advice to cut through the noise. So we asked a group of dermatologists, all experts in their field, to tell us their number-one tip – whether it's something they're constantly reminding clients of, or see people doing too much. From tried-and-tested classics to some more surprising advice, ahead you'll find a nine-point guide to mastering your skin-care regimen.

Give products a chance to work

Dr. Justine Hextall, dermatologist at The Harley Medical Group

“I would say 50% of those I see in my clinic have too complicated a regime that is actually damaging the skin barrier and unbalancing the natural acidic pH. The offering of skin care today is bigger than it’s ever been before and people have become a lot more experimental, particularly now with access to social media accounts focused on skin care and beauty advice.

"I advise caution, as sometimes I see problem skin among girls in their 20s and 30s purely as a consequence of constantly switching up products and overzealous skin-care regimes. My advice is find what works and try to stick to it for longer than a week! Products can take at least six weeks to start making a difference, and also keep in mind that continued use is necessary to maintain the results — you have to remain committed to achieve the results you want.”

Going dairy-free won't cure acne

Dr. Anjali Mahto, consultant dermatologist and British Skin Foundation spokesperson

"Acne is a common problem that nearly all of us suffer with at some point. It is largely caused by genetic and hormonal factors and diet has a much smaller role to play (if at all). Scientific studies show that the link between acne and dairy products is weak, and if anything, the link is stronger with low-fat dairy. For the vast majority of people, going dairy-free will not provide a cure for acne."

Step away from the exfoliator

Dr. Anita Sturnham, GP specializing in dermatology and founder of Nuriss Skincare and Wellness Centre

"Never exfoliate more than once a week — a huge skin crime is over-exfoliation. Most of us will only need to exfoliate once a week, using gentle fruit acids, rather than harsh beads or grains. Scrubbing at your skin Brillo-pad style will be your skin’s enemy. Following your weekly exfoliation, remember to put back into the skin some nourishing, barrier-boosting and hydrating nutrients, such as hyaluronic acid, squalene, and vitamin E."

Feed your skin

Andrea Pfeffer, founder of Pfeffer Sal

"Great skin starts from within! Make sure you’re eating nutrient-rich foods to ensure you’re getting vital vitamin and minerals. These will help to prevent breakouts, improve radiance, and accelerate healing. Top up with good fats too — omegas 3 and 6 strengthen your skin’s lipid barrier and reduce inflammation. We tell clients to look after their gut microbiome; a happy tummy is key for optimal nutrient absorption and reducing inflammation, so make sure to incorporate lots of probiotics and prebiotics into your diet to boost the good bacteria. Think kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir, and apple cider vinegar. Great nutrition truly is the secret to that beautiful glow and you will, literally, see the benefits."

Cleanse, cleanse, cleanse

Simple dermatologist Dr. Philippa Lowe

“An effective but gentle cleanser will remove the day’s dirt, makeup, excess oil, and even dead skin cells without leaving your face feeling greasy or dry. If you don't, this can lead to skin irritation and skin barrier damage in the long-term. The key is to find a gentle and effective cleanser that leaves the skin clean but that doesn't strip or dry the skin out. A good cleanser should leave your skin looking and feeling healthier and smoother.”

The sun is not your friend

Dr. Nyla Raja, leading cosmetic dermatology GP

"The sun is the number one cause of aging. It is important to always wear sunscreen — every single day. Look for one which protects against both UVA and UVB rays. Don’t forget to apply it to the (often neglected) hands, neck and ears, too — which are often the first areas to show signs of aging. It is better to prevent aging than to try and correct at a later stage."

Eat your water

Dr. Howard Murad, founder of Murad skincare

“The biggest skin care myth is that we should drink eight glasses of water per day to maintain an optimal level of hydration, yet there is little scientific evidence for this advice, and for most people, more water just means more trips to the bathroom. The constant flushing of water through your body can mean a loss of vital minerals as well.

If you eat your water, you won’t need to count your glasses. Try replacing at least one glass of water a day with one serving of raw fruits or vegetables; you will be able to stay hydrated significantly longer. Eating foods that are rich in structured water, especially raw fruits and vegetables, will not only help your body retain it longer, but you’ll get the added boost of important antioxidants, fiber, and other nutrients. By sticking to a healthy diet you’ll end up eating most of the water needed each day to stay well hydrated and keep skin healthy.”

Don't overcomplicate things

Dr. Frances Prenna Jones, cosmetic doctor and dermatologist

"Use a simple routine for your home care regimen and make sure it is something you can do every day easily. With products used at home, it's often about simplifying the routine, rather than using lots of products. As a formulator of skincare and a doctor, I know that the secret is in the ingredients — endless expensive serums and products can in fact unbalance the skin. Make the skin work for you."

Moisturizers only protect existing moisture

Dr. Harryono Judodihardjo, aesthetic dermatologist at Belgravia Dermatology

"Moisturizer is best used when the skin is still moist, i.e. after washing or showering. This is because most moisturizers only prevent moisture in the skin from evaporating and don't actually add water to the skin. There are, however, ingredients in some moisturizers that can add hydration to the skin, such as urea and hyaluronic acids."

Further reading:
From Fighting Frizz To Co-Washing: R29's Haircare Routine
The Fruity K-Beauty Ingredient To Embrace This Summer
A Guide To Anti-Ageing Eye Care, From Age 20 & Up

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