The Minimalist's Guide To Great Skin

"Less is more" was once a phrase reserved exclusively for mothers warning daughters about the perils of one too many bracelets, brightly colored eyeshadow, and sequin tops. Now, it's the motto of an entire lifestyle movement. Minimalism is all about living an uncomplicated, simple life. Not to mention it can be incredibly chic if done right — think small wrist tattoos, decluttered apartments, and capsule wardrobes.
Even dermatologists are on board with the trend. "More is not necessarily better when it comes to skin care," says dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, Director of Cosmetic and Clinical Research in the Department of Dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital. "Simple regimens that address your skin's specific needs are much more effective than combining 10 unnecessary, repetitive, or potentially irritating steps."
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Minimalists around the world can rejoice in a low-maintenance, high-payoff routine. And we're not talking one $800 serum: Dermatologist Dr. Shari Marchbein says she doesn't believe that healthy skin needs to be expensive or complicated. Ahead, the derm-approved — and blissfully budget-friendly — bare minimum you need for perfect skin, depending on your skin type.
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Oily Skin
First things first: "The most important step in any skin-care routine is to apply a sunscreen with at least SPF 30 every morning, 365 days a year," says Dr. Marchbein. She loves this one for all skin types because of its gentle, lightweight formula. The non-greasy finish will keep you moisturized without turning you into an oil slick.
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When it comes to oily skin, it's all about cleansing, protecting, and removing oil while being careful not to strip the skin of moisture. Dr. Marchbein says this gentle cleanser should be a staple for every skin type. The hypoallergenic formula removes makeup, dirt, and pollution, and is free of irritating essential oils and known skin allergens.
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A cleanser or scrub like this one with salicylic acid is optimal for oily skin, according to Dr. Zeichner. It removes excess oil and gently exfoliates dead cells from the surface. Plus, it contains green tea, which is packed with antioxidants.
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An antioxidant serum applied in the morning will prevent free radical damage and collagen breakdown in the skin. Dr. Marchbein suggests this one for oily and acne-prone skin types. The price is steep, but she swears it's worth the cost.
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If your skin feels a bit dry, use a light moisturizer like this one, which Dr. Marchbein says works well for all skin types. This gel features a plant extract known as Pentavitin, which has the ability to actually bind with skin cells to lock in moisture and increase hydration.
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Dry Skin
Caring for dry skin is all about locking in moisture. Dr. Zeichner warns that the wrong cleanser can strip the skin of its natural oils, making it even drier, so those with dry skin should look for a hydrating formula that won't disrupt the skin barrier. These beauty bars from Dove are gentle and won't irritate the skin.
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Dr. Marchbein suggests using this vitamin C serum as your antioxidant in the morning for improved firmness and appearance of fine lines. It provides environmental protection and brightens the complexion — not to mention it's won more than 24 different beauty awards.
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Another favorite of Dr. Marchbein's, this sunscreen has the added benefit of being an anti-pollutant. Packed with antioxidants, too, this formula strengthens the skin while you wear it, making it a multi-tasking powerhouse of a product.
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Dr. Zeichner loves this moisturizer from Aveeno for calming and nourishing dull, dry skin. The formula features active natural oats and calming feverfew, two of the most effective and clinically proven ingredients for sensitive skin. Plus, it's oil- and fragrance-free.
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Acne-Prone Skin
Dr. Marchbein recommends that anyone with acne seek care from a board-certified dermatologist, and stick to mild, gentle products to reduce further irritation. For treating mild-to-moderate acne, Dr. Zeichner likes this mask, which helps to kill bacteria and unclog pores. Think of it this way: "The face is made of thousands of pipes connecting your oil glands to the surface of the skin," he explains. "Treat the whole face to keep all the pipes clear."
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This light, gel-based cream is perfect for those with acne — it's not too heavy but still gets the hydrating job done. The non-comedogenic formula won't clog pores and can be used under makeup as a smooth, velvety primer.
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Dr. Marchbein suggests using this over-the-counter retinoid gel three nights a week to start, and increasing the frequency as tolerated. She says it works for just about any skin type, not just the oily and acne-prone — but it can be a bit drying, so start slow.
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Combination Skin
"I think many of us have combination skin, and it can be tricky because it is both sensitive and prone to breakouts, sometimes oily and sometimes dry," Dr. Marchbein says. Start by looking for a gentle foaming cleanser that will remove oil from your t-zone; Dr. Zeichner suggests this one from Cerave to excess sebum without disrupting the skin.
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Dr. Zeichner recommends this lightweight, oil free moisturizer to lock in hydration and prevent dryness. The non-greasy formula features shea butter, which is known for being especially rich in omega 6 fatty acids.
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Sensitive Skin
Sensitive skin needs simple, no-fuss products that will maintain the health of the skin barrier, like this micellar facial gel wash. It's calming and formulated without harsh chemicals, so it won't feel stripping, and a variety of skin-essential minerals will bring instant hydration.
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This serum is formulated with ambophenal, a botanical extract that calms inflamed, sensitive skin, which Dr. Zeichner highly suggests for those struggling with sensitive skin. It immediately provides a cooling effect to reduce redness and coddle the skin with moisture.
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This moisturizing cream is gentle and effective — perfect for sensitive skin. It restores and maintains your skin's protective barrier while improving tone and overall appearance for skin that glows.
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