With the massive amount of skin care products available on the market these days and the numerous ways in which these products are marketed to us — Instagram ads, YouTube beauty gurus and even skin care enthusiasts on TikTok — it can feel overwhelming to curate a skin care routine that suits your lifestyle and budget, and addresses your goals.
But you know who’s good at cutting out the BS? Dermatologists.
To that end, we chatted with three board-certified dermatologists to get the ins and outs of their morning skin care routines ― because if it’s good enough for a dermatologist, it’s good enough for us, right?
Of course, if you’re looking to build a skin care routine tailored to your specific needs and skin type, a private consultation with a dermatologist is a great first step.
Dr. Joyce Park
Dermatologist at Palo Alto Medical Foundation in Mountain View, California, and founder of skin care and beauty blog Tea with MD
Skin type: Combination
When it comes to layering products, Park recommends starting with ones having the thinnest consistency and ending with the thickest. “This way you aren’t blocking absorption of thinner products,” she told HuffPost. “One caveat to this is medications; I tell patients to put medications like retinoid or acne medicines first thing on clean skin for maximum efficacy.”
Park’s morning skin care routine is all about protection and preventing sun damage. “I focus on vitamin C, which is a powerful antioxidant that prevents DNA damage from UV radiation, and also sunscreen, which protects against photoaging and the development of skin cancers,” she said.
Park’s Routine And Favorite Products
Park starts her day with an optional cleanse using La Roche-Posay Toleriane Hydrating Gentle Cleanser. “I don’t always cleanse in the morning because I do a thorough cleanse at night, and I don’t think there is really a need to cleanse in the morning,” she said. “In fact, too much cleansing can result in stripping the skin of its natural oils and end up drying the skin.”
Next, she applies a vitamin C serum, rotating between Revision C+ Correcting Complex 30% and Skinbetter Science Alto Defense Serum. “I really like the texture of these products, they absorb easily and they are lightweight,” Park said.
Following her serum, Park puts on tinted sunscreen, with go-to favorites including Alastin HydraTint Pro Mineral Broad Spectrum Sunscreen SPF 36 and BareMinerals Complexion Rescue Tinted Hydrating Gel Cream. She keeps Colorescience Sunforgettable Total Protection Brush-On Shield SPF 50 or Supergoop! (Re)setting 100% Mineral Powder SPF 35 on hand for reapplication throughout the day. “I love tinted sunscreens because they are major multitaskers; they double as sunscreen and as foundation so I don’t need to put on additional makeup!” she said.
Skin type: Oily, acne-prone
For Hartman, there are three non-negotiables when it comes to a skin care routine: SPF, antioxidant and retinol. “These are the three ingredients that everybody needs; they are the most studied, and the ones that we know will have benefits going forward,” he told HuffPost. “After that, you tailor any additional steps in your regimen to your specific needs.”
He applies SPF and antioxidant serum in the morning, and retinol (right now it’s Arazlo) at night. “In the morning it’s all about protection, so antioxidants are going to help fend off the free radicals that cause collagen degradation and sunscreen gives you that level of armor on the outside to not be affected by ultraviolet and visible light,” Hartman said. “Night time is about restoration and replenishment so I want to hydrate and give my skin time to start the rejuvenation and exfoliation process while I rest.”
Hartman’s Routine And Favorite Products
Before even washing his face, Hartman uses Cyspera. “It’s a novel pigment corrector that does not contain hydroquinone that, in my opinion, evens out skin color and discoloration in a more natural appearing way that’s safe and can be sustainably used for maintenance, unlike hydroquinone,” he said. Hartman explained that hydroquinone — which is used for lightening darkened areas of skin like age spots, melasma or acne scars — is potent and must be used as a spot treatment. “It can cause halo hypopigmentation or lighter skin around the dark skin, which only highlights the dark skin — Cyspera doesn’t do that.”
Hartman waits around 15 minutes after applying Cyspera to wash his face to give the active ingredients time to absorb into his skin. In the shower, he cleanses his skin with SkinCeuticals LHA Cleansing Gel. “This cleanser has polyhydroxy acids that unclog pores, help control oiliness, stop breakouts and even out skin tone,” Hartman said. “It also delivers some hydroxy acid benefits for anti-aging.”
Once he’s out of the shower, Hartman applies his serum, SkinCeuticals Silymarin CF. “It’s a new antioxidant from SkinCeuticals that has salicylic acid and silymarin (which is derived from milk thistle) and helps with oil control,” he said. “It still has vitamin C and ferulic acid, like their marquee product C E Ferulic, but it’s more targeted to people who have oil-prone, acne prone skin.” He adds that the punch of salicylic acid in this product provides anti-acne and anti-aging benefits.
Next, he applies Skinbetter Science InterFuse Eye Treatment Cream. Hartman notes that this eye cream is a catchall for common concerns. “It gives moisturization, has a little bit of caffeine to help with discoloration and puffiness, and it helps with fine lines and wrinkles.”
After that, Hartman puts on some Vichy Minéral 89. “It’s like a cool glass of water and always feels very refreshing,” he said. “It helps to fight any irritation or redness that I’m dealing with. It has 15 different minerals and is fortified with that Vichy volcanic water.”
Hartman finishes off his morning routine with ISDIN Eryfotona Actinica. “It’s a SPF product that has zinc only, but it does not leave a cast of white on my brown skin.”
Skin type: Normal/dry