Which Skin Care Routine Reigns Supreme?

Nailing smooth, flawless skin has always been beauty’s most hard-to-tick box. Which is probably why we spend the mega bucks (think $5.6 billion in the US last year) on potions and products that’ll help us get there. But when it comes to cleansing, moisturizing, toning, scrubbing, and all that jazz, how much is, well, just one plumping pineapple enzyme peel too much? Is it better to keep things simple, or is a cabinet creaking with bottles a surefire shortcut to a Miranda Kerr glow?
We took two women — one a no-nonsense ad-whiz with a $10 soap-and-water habit and the other a globetrotting glamazon rocking a routine edging over $1,000 — to straight-talking dermatologist Debra Jaliman (who wrote this beauty bible) for the skinny on who’s working it best and to answer, once and for all, the age-old question: Is it better to do nothing to your skin, or everything?
No Frills
Jamaican-born Giselle Bailey’s calendar might be jam-packed (the 27-year-old head-turner works crazy hours coordinating ads for the likes of Nike and John Frieda at hip LES post production house Mass Market), but her skin care routine oozes Zen-like simplicity. It’s two-step and less than two minutes: Cetaphil to cleanse (“I never really even chose it; my mum loves buying in bulk, so I just never run out!”) and Aveeno skin cream.
Giselle wasn’t thrilled about the prospect of going under the eye of our derm, and not just because it meant schlepping uptown on a crazy-busy workday. “I don’t really have anything to ask her,” she confessed. “I guess I get breakouts sometimes, but I’m not sure if changing products would help — I suspect it’s just the way my skin is.”
The Expert Take
First up, Giselle’s face wash got the eh-eh from Dr. Jaliman. “Giselle has oily skin with clogged pores, so Cetaphil is too mild. She needs something more exfoliating, ideally with salicylic acid. Neutrogena’s Oil-Free Acne Wash Pink Grapefruit would be an excellent option, as it contains 2% salicylic acid.”
Dr. Jaliman also told Giselle she should quit using her hands to take off the day; she recommends investing in a Clarisonic Sonic Cleansing System with the acne brush (or the Olay Pro-X Advanced Cleansing System as a cheaper alternative). “It’ll make whichever cleansers Giselle uses even more effective,” she explained.
On breakout days, Giselle should make a beeline for Stridex Daily Care Acne Pads (which are both alcohol-free and loaded with oil-nixing salicylic acid). At night, she should try RoC Multi Correxion Skin Renewing Serum. “Retinol works similarly to Retin-A, which will help unclog pores,” explains Dr. Jaliman. Another to-add product is AzaClear, which, according to Dr. Jaliman, contains a powerhouse of  “niacinamide, vitamin B3, and azelaic acid, making it an excellent anti-aging product that also evens out skin tone and helps with acne.”
Giselle also went away with a prescription for Aczone, “an anti-inflammatory gel to decrease her bumps, which should be used every morning” and a suggestion that she up her use of sunscreens (her current Aveeno moisturizer is only SPF 15) with a product like EltaMD UV Clear SPF 46. If she is doing sports, Dr. Jaliman recommends a waterproof sunscreen like the EltaMD Physical SPF 41.
Cetaphil Moisturizing Lotion, $11.99, available at Drugstore.com; Aveeno Positively Radiant Daily Moisturizer Broad Spectrum SPF 30, $16.99, available at Aveeno.
Photo: Courtesy of Giselle Bailey
Product Junkie
Okay, we feel way better. It takes an arsenal of over 20 skin care products (totaling well over the $1,000 mark) to keep red carpet regular Asha Leo looking smoking hot. The 31-year-old model turned BBC America entertainment presenter spends her days interviewing stars like Michelle Williams and George Clooney, so she was always bound to pick up a few tips and product reccos.
What are they? Take a deep breath people, it’s a freaking long list. First up are the spendy bottles: La Mer Lifting Serum and Moisturizing Cream (“I use it as a night mask"), Elemis Papaya Enzyme Peel once a month, Capture XP by Dior, and Estée Lauder Advanced Night Repair. Then there are the natural favorites: tea tree oil for pimples, vitamin E for scars, coconut oil (“ I just use it all over”), and John Masters Organics Pomegranate Facial Nourishing Oil (“add three drops to your regular daily moisturizer – it’s incredible”). And here's a smattering of targeted products she’s amassed over the years: Dermalogica Multi Active Skin Toner, RoC Multi Correxion Eye Treatment, and Embryolisse Lait Creme Concentrate.” But, the cornerstones of her routine are Invisible Zinc Sun Screen (“I spend half my year in LA and love convertibles — it’s a must") and her Clarisonic Pro because “every beautiful, fresh-skinned older woman I know swears by it.”
The Expert Take
“Asha gets high marks for taking care of her skin. She puts a lot of effort in and it definitely shows,” says Dr. Jaliman, who thinks for Asha it’s more about tweaking things, rather than a total overhaul. “She’s been using the Clarisonic with the white brush for normal skin, but should change to the delicate blue brush as it’s more gentle and better suited to her skin.” It’s a thumbs-up for the Elemis Papaya Enzyme Peel: “This is an excellent product, high in antioxidants, but Asha should up her monthly use to weekly for extra exfoliation," says Dr. Jaliman.
Sunscreen-wise, Dr. Jaliman rates Invisible Zinc Sunscreen as great in general, but thinks it’s a bit heavy for Asha’s skin. “Neova DNA Damage Control Everyday SPF 43 is a better choice, as it provides sun protection as well as reversing sun damage,” she says.
According to our derm, Asha’s eye area feels a little dry, so “she should switch up her RoC eye cream for Neocutis Lumiere Bio-restorative Eye Cream. It contains caffeine, so it constricts blood vessels and glycerin and bisabolol, which are moisturizing agents.”
The presenter also takes a raft of vitamins to boost her complexion: Bio-K+ cultures daily, spirulina, amino acids, biotin, a multivitamin, and fish oils. “Biotin is great for hair and nails,” says Dr. Jaliman, “I’d recommend she take 2.5 mg per day, but she is so young, I doubt she needs a multivitamin. Fish oil is good, but if she eats salmon, she probably gets enough in her diet.”
And finally, before she gets her ZZZs, Asha should get serious with a retinol-packed product. “Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair has this key ingredient, so it is great for evening out skin tone and minimizing fine lines and wrinkles.”
Who "Wins"?
Sorry, low-maintenance gals, but it has to be Asha. "She actually inspired me to make more of an effort with my skin," admits Dr. Jaliman, "and I'm a dermatologist!" But don't think that means the jam-packed route always wins out. "It's actually more often I see patients with problem skin who have been doing too much rather than too little; for example most women simply don’t need a toner — it's only really suitable for those with oily skin — but so many people make the mistake of using it."
And, the lowdown from Dr. Jaliman is that even those with a super-sparse soap n' water set-up don’t need to add many products (or spend much money) to get a routine that takes their complexion to another level. What are her must buys? A cleanser used morning and night — "You never need to spend more than $10, though," she says. "This is one of those products that you wash down the drain. Look for ingredients like glycerin and ceramides if you have drier or sensitive skin and salicylic acid if you tend towards breakouts." Next up, an antioxidant to wear under your sunscreen — green tea and vitamin C are two of Dr. Jaliman's top-rated ingredients. Of course, a broad spectrum SPF is a must: "I’m a fan of physical sunscreens, so buy those with zinc oxide or titanium cream," she says. Finally, a moisturizer that gives you a hit of anti-aging ingredients to use at night.
The total cost for all that beauty booty? Dr. Jaliman reckons you can easily come in at under $100 for 3 months. And, if you're thinking in cost-per-wear terms that makes it a so-cheap-it's-practically-free $1.11 a day. Proving you don't need a Gwyneth Paltrow budget to get an A-list glow.
Elemis Papaya Enzyme Peel, $43, available at Nordstrom; Estée Lauder Advanced Night Repair, $55, available at Estée Lauder; Clinique Comforting Cream Cleanser, $19.50, available at Clinique; Dermalogica Multi Active Skin Toner, $34, available at Dermalogica; Invisible Zinc Body Sunscreen, $34.45, available at Amazon; Lancôme Rénergie Lift Multi-Action Eye, $68, available at Lancôme; La Mer Lifting Face Serum & Intensifier, $315, available at Neiman Marcus; La Mer Moisturizing Cream, $150, available at Nordstrom; Bio-Oil Specialist Moisturizer, $27.99, available at Drugstore.com.
Photo: Courtesy of Asha Leo.
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