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The 11 Key Skincare Rules Dermatologists Want You To Live By


Photo: Carolin Lauffenburger

The world of skincare can feel overwhelming at times. If you’re still grappling with how to get your skincare routine right, take some advice from some of the best names in the industry. Here we share their all-time top skincare rules.

Be consistent

“Don’t swap and change products repeatedly. It is a myth that skin stops responding to a specific active ingredient,” says Malvina Cunningham, consultant dermatologist at Skin + Me.” Consistency is key so try and maintain a regular morning and evening routine to get the best benefits out of your skincare.”

Get to grips with cleansing

“Find the right cleanser,” says Dr Justine Hextall, consultant dermatologist. “No moisturizer is going to compensate for an over-stripped skin barrier. If your skin feels tight after cleansing, you need to find a gentler – preferably hydrating – product that leaves the skin feeling soft and hydrated and not crying out for moisturizer. I love the Toleriane Dermo Cleanser by La Roche-Posay and CeraVe’s Hydrating Cleanser.”

Target winter skincare concerns properly

Flaky skin does not need exfoliation, it needs moisture!” says Dr Cristina Psomadakis, dermatologist. “I often see people over-exfoliating their face and body when they are flaky, thinking this is the best strategy to get rid of dead skin cells. In truth, skin needs adequate hydration levels in order for our normal shedding processes to work properly. Exfoliating for the wrong reasons can lead to skin sensitivity, a sign of a weakened skin barrier. For dry winter skin consider a rich formula like the Cetaphil Rich Night Cream for overnight repair and rehydration.”

Go cautiously

“Go easy on retinol and retinoids when first starting out,” cautions Dr Alexis Granite, consultant dermatologist at Skinesis Medical. “Apply just a pea-sized amount to the face and follow with a hydrating serum or moisturizer. Try starting on alternate nights only and increase as tolerated.”

Don’t overlook essential oils

“I generally advise that if you have eczema-prone skin or skin prone to allergies, you may want to give essential oil products a miss or patch test them first, but for the vast majority of people these products are wonderful to use and add a nourishing, sensorial element to your skincare routine,” says dermatologist Dr Thivi Maruthappu. “There has been an extraordinary amount of research put into developing these products so that they incorporate the potent benefits of specifically formulated natural-origin oils, whilst delivering results. They have also been tested rigorously to minimise the possibility of irritation.”

Safeguard sensitive skin

“If skin is super sensitive and irritated, shower water and shampoo can cause redness and irritation. In this case I always recommend applying a moisturiser [first] to the delicate skin of the face such as around eyes, neck to protect against shower gel and shampoo that is not designed for facial skin,” advises Dr Hextall. “Then after the shower use a gentle, hydrating cream cleanser to remove any residual soap or surfactant which left on skin will dry it out. If you are a swimmer, get that swimming pool water off your skin (and definitely your face) as soon as possible to stop the inevitable disruption of the delicate slightly acidic skin barrier.”

Consider retinol alternatives

“There are other great topicals for the skin beyond retinol, which may not be for everyone. [For example] pared down medical grade skincare with ingredients such as topical niacinamide and hyaluronic acid,” says NYC Dermatologist and clinician Dr Anthony Rossi. “Niacinamide is a potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory that helps with signs of ageing and irritated skin. Topical hyaluronic acid is a wonderful hydrator and helps to improve the skin barrier. Dermatologists even use oral nicotinamide and niacinamide to help reduce precancerous lesions and in conditions such as acne and rosacea respectively.”

Make sure you use enough product

“I highly recommend using my 13 Dot Technique whenever you want to ensure you’re evenly ‘dosing’ your skincare,” says Dr Sam Bunting, dermatologist and founder of Dr Sam’s Skincare. “This applies to everything from sunscreen to using a retinoid. It’s especially helpful when trying to make the correct dose of SPF (a whopping ¼ teaspoon for the face alone) manageable. I developed it for my patients when I realised so many of them were missing bits, like the nose, because they weren’t using a systematic approach.”

Give your products a chance

“I’ve lost count of the number of times somebody will tell me a product or treatment they’ve used in the past was useless or didn’t work for them, and when I ask how long they used it for, they say 2 or 3 weeks,” says Dr Justine Kluk, consultant dermatologist and scientific advisor to Renude. “When we prescribe treatment for skin conditions in clinic, we typically arrange to review progress 2-3 months later because it takes that long to appreciate a real difference and to understand the overall trend. I.e. are things getting better, worse or stabilising? With the exception of moisturiser, which can relieve dry skin very quickly, most skincare results are not instantaneous, and success should be measured in months not days.”

SPF really is everything

“Never forget to use your UV radiation protection,” says Dr Emma Craythorne, consultant dermatologist. “You need an SPF 50 that is broad-spectrum to protect against UVB and UVA rays, which is what contributes to aging and pigmentation. It’s also important to account for infrared energy and visible light and this is usually best done by adding a topical antioxidant – usually in the form of vitamin C or D, or ideally together. This is the best way to prevent aging and the worsening of many conditions that result from over-exposure to UV.”

Aim for continuity of care

“Build a relationship with your GMC-registered consultant dermatologist specialising in cosmetics,” advises dermatologist Dr Anjali Mahto. “Continuity of care, or having one person who knows you who can manage everything from your skincare routine, annual mole screenings, injectables, lasers, peels, to any medical skin issues such as acne, rosacea or a variety of other skin rashes, is important and allows you to build a long-term relationship and plan for your skin.”

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