6 Skin-Care Routines Pros SWEAR By

Illustrated by Paola Delucca.
We know the gold standard dermatologists swear by (it rhymes with shmetinol), and the full cosmetic routines of makeup artists. But what about the chemists who not only formulate those products, but actually develop the active ingredients, too? You want to know the best kept secrets in skin care? Hello, white lab coats.

We talked to top cosmetic chemists about their skin and the products lining their bathroom cabinets at home — including some serious drugstore gems and even custom concoctions they cook up in their labs (seriously, how can we get our hands on those?). Check them out, ahead.
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Illustrated by Paola Delucca.
Kelly Dobos
Dobos has been a chemist for 13 years, specializing in skin care and color-cosmetic formulation. She kicked off her career at Bonne Bell, making its iconic Lip Smackers.
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A.M. Routine
“With all my education and experience in the industry, I know that skin care doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive,” says Dobos. “It just has to work.”

Her morning routine begins with Neutrogena Fresh Foaming Cleanser. “I love it. The gentle blend of surfactants removes eye makeup, and the second ingredient, glycerin, means it’s not drying,” says Dobos.

Fresh Foaming Cleanser, $4.99, available at Target.
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She exfoliates a few times a week with Bliss Micro Magic Dermabrasion, which contains a fine-grade pumice to remove dry skin.

Micro Magic Sea-Powered Microdermabrasion Treatment, $48, available at Ulta.
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Next, she smooths on her favorite moisturizer, Murad Oil-Control Mattifier with SPF 15/PA++. “My skin is a little oily and it was a challenge to find a moisturizer with a broad-spectrum sunscreen and a matte finish," she says.

Oil-Control Mattifier SPF 15/PA++, $39.50, available at Murad.
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P.M. Routine
At night, Dobos starts with eye-makeup remover: Clinique Take the Day Off. “It’s the best — the old chemistry principle of 'like dissolves like' applies here,” she says. “The oily phase helps solubilize the waxes in mascara.” She then cleanses with the Neutrogena wash again.

Take the Day Off Makeup Remover, $19, available at Sephora.
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Then, comes an anti-aging moisturizer. "Retinol and alpha-hydroxy acids are still the gold standards in anti-aging,” says Dobos. She alternates between Alpha Hydrox Retinol ResQ and Alpha Hydrox Enhanced Lotion with 10% Glycolic Acid. “The packaging isn’t fancy, but these are really effective products,” she says.

Alpha Hydrox
Retinol ResQ, $12.49, available at Drugstore.com.
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For a treat, Dobos smooths on a spa-like facial mask once a week. Right now, she’s loving DERMAdoctor Kakadu C Amethyst Clay Detox Mask. “The purple color makes it especially decadent and fun,” she says.

Kakadu C Amethyst Clay Detox Mask, $58, available at Sephora.
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Illustrated by Paola Delucca.
Al-Nisa Ward
Ward has been formulating cosmetics for 20 years, including products for Estée Lauder, MAC, Bath & Body Works, Meaningful Beauty, and Jurlique — among others. She is also the founder of Cosmetic Science Innovations, for which she helps create high-performance lines including 37 Extreme Actives.
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A.M. Routine
“I have oily skin, so washing my face in the morning is a must for me,” says Ward. She cleanses with 37 Extreme Actives High Performance Anti-Aging Cleansing Treatment and follows with 37 Extreme Actives High Performance Anti-Aging Cream. These are products she worked on with dermatologist Macrene Alexiades-Armenakas, MD.

“I [worked on] these products, so I know they actually contain a lot of ingredients at active levels, which means there’s enough in there to work,” says Ward. She admits that when you’re a chemist, it’s hard not to stick with formulas you helped brew in the lab yourself. “It’s a bit like when you dine out. There are plenty of great options out there, but ultimately, home-cooking is best because you know exactly what’s in the meal and you made it," she says.

37 Extreme Actives
High Performance Anti-Aging Cream, $195, available at Dr. Macrene.
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On some days, she uses Neutrogena Naturals Purifying Facial Cleanser with willow-bark extract, which is a natural source of salicylic acid. “It’s one of the few cleansers on the market that will not dry out or irritate my skin,” says Ward.

She recently added a face oil to her morning routine, which goes under moisturizer. “Sounds counterintuitive, but even though I have oily skin, I get dry patches in the winter. This way, I’m flake-free all day," she says. Unfortunately, you can't get your hands on the oil she uses — Ward formulates it herself: “They’re all light oils that are clinically proven to improve skin cell turnover, moisturize, reduce wrinkles, fight inflammation and environmental pollutants, and brighten the skin," she says. (Feel free to pass some our way!)

Naturals Purifying Facial Cleanser, $7.99, available at Ulta.
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For her body, Ward alternates between Olay Ultra Moisture Body Wash and Dove Deep Moisture Body Wash with Nutrium Moisture. “The emollients in these products really help to keep my skin from being tight and itchy all day,” she says.

Deep Moisture Nourishing Body Wash, $7.73, available at Drugstore.com.
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P.M. Routine
At the end of the day, Ward uses her own double-cleansing technique. “I cleanse with my hands and then follow up with the Clarisonic Mia, which has dramatically reduced the number of blackheads and pimples on my face,” she says. Plus, she says it provides a perfectly clean canvas for the absorption of her anti-aging and treatment products.

In the evening, Ward layers on the same formulas as in the morning, adding extra cream under her eyes and on her neck.

Mia 1 Facial Sonic Cleansing, $99, available at Ulta.
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When Ward wants to pamper her skin, she applies GlamGlow Super-Clearing Mud Mask Treatment. “I love this mask — the consistency, the cooling sensation on application, and the tightness as it dries. After I rinse, my skin looks brighter and feels wonderfully smooth and soft,” she says.

Super-Clearing Mud Mask Treatment, $69, available at Sephora.
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Illustrated by Paola Delucca.
Ron Robinson
Robinson has developed products for Revlon, Clinique, Estée Lauder, Avon, and Lancôme. Now, he runs BeautyStat, an online community where women can ask cosmetics questions and discuss issues with experts like himself.
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A.M. Routine
To begin his day, Robinson washes his face with Philosophy Purity Made Simple Cleanser. “The formula removes dirt and oil, but still leaves my skin feeling soft,” he says.

Philosophy Purity Made Simple One-Step Facial Cleanser, $24, available at Ulta.
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He always massages in the cleanser with a Clarisonic brush. “Combining it with a brush gives my skin a deep-cleanse," he explains.

Clarisonic Mia 1, $99, available at Clarisonic.
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Robinson has combination oily/normal skin, and swears by Erno Laszlo Oil-Control Day Lotion with SPF 15. “It gives me enough hydration without shine, plus it contains sunscreen," he says.

Erno Laszlo
Oil-Control Day Lotion SPF 15, $95, available at Erno Laszlo.
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For the last step in his morning routine, Robinson protects the delicate skin under his eyes with a swipe of Clinique Pep-Start Eye Cream, which has wrinkle-fighting peptides. “This is my secret weapon to make my eyes look instantly more wide-awake and refreshed,” says Robinson.

Pep-Start Eye Cream, $26.50, available at Clinique.
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When the mercury drops, Robinson’s hands get very dry, so he slathers on Ahava Mineral Hand Cream. “I can’t live without it — the formula absorbs quickly, leaving my hands hydrated, plus it has the best scent," he says.

Deadsea Water Mineral Hand Cream, $23, available at Ahava.
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P.M. Routine
At night, Robinson sticks to the same routine, but swaps sunscreen for Philosophy Miracle Worker Overnight with encapsulated retinol, which boosts collagen but is less likely to irritate sensitive skin.

Miracle Worker Overnight, $68, available at Sephora.
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He also has a few treatments stashed in his bathroom cabinet to use as needed. When his skin gets oily in summer, for example, Robinson reaches for Dr. Jart’s Pore Minimalist Black Charcoal Sheet Mask, which has Korean charcoal for oil control and arginine to tighten pores.

Dr. Jart+
Pore Minimalist Black Charcoal Sheet Mask, $35, available at Birchbox.
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And if he has a big event coming up, he refreshes his face with BioBelle #iwokeuplikethis Botanic Fiber Facial Mask, with wild-rose extract to gently exfoliate and vitamin C to brighten the skin.

#iwokeuplikethis Botanic Fiber Facial Mask, $29.95, available at HSN.
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Illustrated by Paola Delucca.
Ni’Kita Wilson
Wilson is a top-notch chemist who has formulated more than 2,000 products. She is vice president of innovation at Aware Products, with more than 20 years on the job.
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A.M. Routine
“My morning routine is always changing based on the formulas I’m evaluating,” says Wilson. However, once cleansed, Wilson always smooths on Rodan + Fields' Pore Minimizing Toner. “It’s one of those products that actually lives up to the claim. It uses a lentil extract with polyhydroxy acids — within one week, you notice a difference,” says Wilson.

Rodan + Fields
Redefine Pore Minimizing Toner, $54, available at Rodan + Fields.
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Wilson treats visible pores along her T-zone with this spot treatment. “It's a super-light serum that doesn't feel like it's adding to the mess of stuff in my pores. Within days, no more gunk,” she says.

Clean & Clear
Advantage Acne Spot Treatment, $7.99, available at Ulta.
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Before putting on makeup, she applies Neutrogena Clear Face Break-Out Free Liquid-Lotion Sunscreen SPF 30. “It’s a lightweight lotion that doesn't leave much residue behind,” says Wilson.

Clear Face Break-Out Free Liquid-Lotion, $11.49, available at Neutrogena.
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She alternates it with Ambi Even & Clear Daily Moisturizer with SPF 30 when she needs the extra hydration.

Even & Clear Daily Moisturizer with SPF 30, $12.49, available at Ambi.
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P.M. Routine
Wilson tests cleansers and moisturizers from the lab at night, too, but admits to being a chemical-peel junkie. “I have my own special concoction of lactic, phytic, glycolic, and salicylic acid,” she says.

She also uses a clay mask — GlamGlow YouthMud — two to three times a week. “It makes my skin feel so smooth," she says.

Her other at-home brews are so luxe that you can't find them on shelves. “The formulas I make for my skin would be way too expensive to sell in a store because I cram them full of so many active ingredients — and contravene a few FDA regulations,” she admits. “A bottle would run into the thousands.”

YouthMud Tinglexfoliate Treatment, $69, available at Birchbox.
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Illustrated by Paola Delucca.
Lauren Trahan
Trahan is a senior product development chemist at Living Proof, the company behind some of the biggest breakthroughs in hair.
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A.M. Routine
When Trahan started out in the industry, she studied the life cycle of a pimple. “I found the best approach to be offensive, using benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid every day with a light moisturizer. And my routine still reflects that,” she says. She washes with Neutrogena’s Oil-Free Acne Stress Control.

Oil-Free Acne Stress Control Power-Cream Wash, $7.99, available at Neutrogena.
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"For a splurge,” Trahan swears by Kate Somerville’s ExfoliKate Cleanser. “I like creamy bases in cleansers because it feels less stripping,” she says.

Kate Somerville
ExfoliKate Cleanser Daily Foaming Wash, $38, available at Sephora.
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She follows with Neutrogena’s On-the-Spot Acne Treatment. “I prefer it over other acne products because it has a lower level of benzoyl peroxide; 2.5% versus the 5%,” she says.

On-the-Spot Acne Treatment, $7.49, available at Walgreens.
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A layer of Clean & Clear’s Advantage Acne Control Moisturizer follows, “purely for the salicylic acid to keep my pores open,” says Trahan.

Clean & Clear
Advantage Acne Control Moisturizer, $7.99, available at Drugstore.com.
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Then, it's time for Olay Total Effects Anti-Aging Moisturizer with SPF 15. “I’ve tried others over the years, but love the texture, level of moisturization, and the pump that fits perfectly in my hand,” says Trahan.

Total Effects 7-In-One Anti-Aging Fragrance-Free Moisturizer with Sunscreen, $22.99, available at Ulta.
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Trahan switches to Neutrogena Pure & Free Baby Sunscreen with SPF 60 when she’s outside for more than 20 minutes. “I’m a fair-haired redhead, so I usually gravitate towards physical sunscreens with titanium dioxide and zinc oxide," she says.

Pure & Free Baby Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 60+, $11.99, available at Ulta.
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P.M. Routine
At night, Trahan keeps it simple. She removes makeup and daily grime with Huggies Natural Care Wipes. “Not just for baby bottoms,” she jokes. “It’s a habit that started when my kids were small.”

She then moisturizes with her own concoction: an oil-free cream with vitamin C, vitamin E, and a blend of peptides to keep wrinkles at bay.

Natural Care Baby Wipes, $1.77, available at Target.
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Illustrated by Paola Delucca.
Serina Tran Dai
Tran Dai is director for research and development at Aware Products.
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A.M. Routine
“As a working mother, I have to admit that my skin-care regime is simple and efficient,” says Tran Dai, who prefers to use fewer products that have multiple purposes. “I know ingredients, so I tend to pick very simple, affordable brands where the majority of the cost of the product goes into the ingredients, not the marketing.”

She says, "I tend to have oily skin, so I cleanse and exfoliate with Neutrogena Deep Clean Gentle Scrub, which has salicylic acid to prevent and control acne breakouts."

Neutrogena Deep Clean Gentle Scrub, $6.29, available at Drugstore.com.
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She then moisturizes with Shiseido’s Perfect Hydrating BB Cream SPF 30, which also acts as a primer, sheer foundation, and SPF sunscreen. “One of the major causes of aging is UV exposure, so for me, the biggest thing I can do [to] prevent wrinkles is to wear sunscreen every day,” says Tran Dai.

Perfect Hydrating BB Cream SPF 30, $35, available at Sephora.
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P.M. Routine
In the evening, Tran Dai uses the same Neutrogena cleanser and follows with a heavier moisturizer, Olay Regenerist Night Recovery Cream. “It has dimethicone, which is great for barrier repair, niacinamide, a vitamin B3 that helps even skin tone and moisturize, and an amino peptide that helps to boost collagen and reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles,” says Tran Dai.

She makes her own serums and eye creams. “That way, I can load them with high enough levels of actives like peptides and encapsulated retinol for them to be effective,” she says. Then, for special events, she alternates between at-home skin peels with glycolic acid and microdermabrasion treatments.

Olay Regenerist Regenerating Night Recovery Cream, $21.99, available at Ulta.
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