Everyone wants glowing, flawless skin. But for many of us, it’s hard to get there, especially when you have skin conditions like acne, dryness, oily skin, and more. All hope is not lost, though. Just about anyone can have great skin—but it will take some time, commitment, and maybe even a product splurge now and then. We asked the experts—dermatologists, aestheticians, beauty experts, and event a supermodel—for their best-kept secrets to flawless skin.
1. Hurry Up.
Austin, Texas–based aesthetician Renée Rouleau says that one of the biggest skin-care mistakes people make is waiting too long after washing to apply moisturizer. Whether it’s face or body lotion, “you have just a short window after cleansing to put on a hydrating product before moisture starts to evaporate,” says Rouleau. “If you let your skin dry completely, the water on your skin plus any moisture in your skin will start to get pulled into the air.” Ellen Marmur, a New York City dermatologist recommends accelerating in the shower, too: “Long showers strip your natural oils. That’s why some people have a chronic itchy spot on their back.”
2. Reassess Your Regimen
Don’t go on autopilot with your skin care, says Marmur, who eschews a set routine in favor of amassing a mindful collection of products, then customizing day by day. “If my skin looks good and feels comfortable,” she says, “I use a lighter night cream. In October, when the barometer drops and my skin becomes drier, I choose a richer formula.” Similarly, several women mentioned their devotion to masks, which help them treat temporary conditions, like sensitivity and dryness. “I use an exfoliating clay mask followed by a hydrating mask when I’m having my morning coffee,” says Jessica Alba, the founder of Honest Beauty. Pamela Baxter, the founder of Bonafide Beauty Lab, alternates a Fresh Black Tea Instant Perfecting Mask ($92, nordstrom.com), to hydrate, with a Sapelo Anti-Aging Enzyme Mask ($75, sapeloskincare.com), to exfoliate, up to three times a week.
3. Try a New Tool
It’s called a derma roller. (Picture a mini paint roller studded with tiny metal needles.) It pricks holes in the skin’s top layer (pain is minimal), with the aim of creating minuscule pathways for lotions and serums to burrow deeper into the epidermis and so be more effective, says Mashell Tabe, an Albuquerque-based aesthetician, who uses a derma roller almost every night. Her favorite is the Clinical Resolution MTS Roller ($130, moveitgear.com). She also swears by in-office microneedling (which ranges from $250 to $1,000), a more intense procedure that involves a motorized needling device that goes deeper into the skin, causing tiny wounds and stimulating collagen production.
4. Learn to Love Your SPF
Knowing that you need to wear sunscreen daily and actually doing it are two different things, says Whitney Bowe, a New York City dermatologist, who advocates finding a sunscreen that you really like so you will be more inclined to slather it on. One of her favorites is Equitance Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 36 ($30, equitance-us.com), which has linoleic acid to help fade sun damage while preventing it. Marmur’s picks: SkinCeuticals Physical Fusion UV Defense SPF 50 ($34, Amazon), since it is lightweight and suits days when she’s both indoors and out; and EltaMD UV Daily Tinted Broad-Spectrum SPF 40 ($29, Amazon) for exercising. “It’s mineral and a bit thicker, so it has staying power,” she says. Tabe swears by Jane Iredale Powder-Me Dry SPF 30 ($47, Amazon). “I apply it throughout the day,” she says. “It can easily be put on over makeup.”
5. Treat From the Inside
“To keep my skin clear and firm, I eat the building blocks of collagen—such as copper, found in nuts and seeds; and lysine, found in legumes and lean meats,” says Marmur, who adds that foods with zinc and magnesium also help combat acne. Although there are not piles of scientific studies proving that a healthy diet equals better skin, says Marmur, “I’ve seen overwhelming anecdotal evidence in my practice and in my own skin.” Bowe agrees; a glow-boosting trick that she uses when her skin looks sallow is to raise her beta-carotene intake by adding carrots or sweet potatoes to a smoothie. Finally, and you’ve heard it before: Most experts interviewed said that drinking water is a must. Josie Maran, a model and the founder of Josie Maran Cosmetics, tricks herself into guzzling more with a bit of flavor doctoring. “I make fruit-, vegetable-, and herb- infused waters,” she says. “My favorite is spiking water with chopped strawberries and basil.”
6. Exercise Early and Often
“One of the main functions of the skin is to regulate heat, so when you’re working out, the blood vessels in the skin dilate to bring warm blood to the surface, allowing heat to be transferred out of the body and into the air. This gives you a glowy flush,” says Marmur, who begins every day with 30 minutes of running, cycling, or basketball. Boosting blood flow also ensures that your skin is getting the oxygen and the nutrients that it needs to be healthy. “Skin is your body’s last priority. Blood goes first to the brain and core organs, so getting blood filled with nutrients pumping all the way to your skin first thing in the morning means it starts the day healthy too,” says Marmur.
7. Exfoliate More, Too
“As we age, skin cells turn over at a slower rate than they did in our 20s,” says Bowe. The result: Without help from scrubs, peels, or even a clean washcloth, dead skin cells can build up on your face and body, clogging pores, preventing products from penetrating, and making your complexion look dull. Bowe uses Dr. Brandt Microdermabrasion Skin Exfoliant ($67, jet.com) twice a week on her face and hands. Baxter has devised an exfoliating plan for her rosacea-prone skin: “I cleanse every night with the gentle Foreo Luna cleansing brush ($169, Amazon), and every two days I use Tatcha Polished Classic Rice Enzyme Powder ($78,
sephora.com), which does not irritate.” Supermodel Christie Brinkley has been exfoliating for more than 40 years. “There weren’t face scrubs when I was a teenager,” says Brinkley, “so I used a foot scrub on all of my skin starting at 19.” Brinkley has long since switched to a gentler scrub made for the face, and she believes this is the secret to getting circulation going and diminishing puffiness in the morning. Sloughing below the neck is also key, says Palm Beach, Florida–based aesthetician Tammy Fender, who dry-brushes before she showers. Try the EcoTools Bristle Bath Brush ($6, amazon.com).
8. Go to Bed
“The skin repairs itself at night, so the more sleep you get, the more time your complexion has to rejuvenate,” says Bowe. And the benefits are not just long-term. In many cases, you can see results the next morning. “The more sleep I get, the less makeup I need, because my skin looks naturally refreshed,” says Alba. And the opposite is also true. “Under-eye puffiness can be caused by a spike in cortisol levels,” says Bowe. “Beauty sleep is no joke—you truly need seven to eight hours. When you don’t get enough sleep,your cortisol levels increase, and when that happens, that boosts the rate of collagen breakdown, causing under-eye bags to appear.” FYI: “Yawning and squinting can break down collagen and elastin around the eyes, too,” says Bowe.
“There are no shortcuts when it comes to beautiful skin,” says Bowe. “Diligence is key; even missing just one night of your skin-care routine—not washing off your makeup—can actually make you break out, cause inflammation, and set you back.” So in addition to the strategies outlined in this story, sticking to a solid skin-care regimen is one of your best good-skin tactics. “My mother always told me, ‘There are no ugly women,’” says Baxter, “ ‘just lazy ones.’ Now go wash your face!”