10 Dermatologists Reveal Their Skincare Secrets

illustration by: ella byworth

Maintaining a skincare routine is not nearly as easy as the smiling women in facewash commercials make it look. From figuring out if you have combination skin, to patch testing products and navigating different types of breakouts, there’s a lot to learn on the skincare front.

But achieving that perfectly moisturized healthy glow is worth the process — trust us! Thankfully, there are plenty of universal tips and tricks that can apply to practically anyone, regardless of skin type or problem areas.

We spoke with 10 dermatologists about their expert skincare secrets, from developing an everyday routine to the products everyone should have in their medicine cabinet (and which products you should get rid of, ASAP!) Follow these tips and you’ll be well on your way to unveiling happier and healthier skin!

1. Use Sunscreen Every Day

Dr. Jerome Potozkin, Potozkin MD Skincare Center

Almost all of our dermatologists agreed that the single most important part of any skincare routine is sunscreen, and you should be using it way more than you think.

“The most important dermatologist secret is to use sun protection every day, even when you don’t think you’re out in the sun,” Dr. Potozkin told Quench.

When it comes to choosing the right sunscreen for your needs, it’s crucial to read the label. Many dermatologists suggest picking one that is free of parabens and oxybenzone, two ingredients whose safety has been called into question.

2. Prevention Is Easier Than Correction

Dr. Carolyn Jacob, member of the Women’s Dermatologic Society, Chicago Dermatology

Most people don’t think about fighting signs of age until they start to see sun damage or wrinkles, but the best way to get younger skin is to start early:

“Prevention is key!” Dr. Jacob said. “Start a retinoid [chemically derived from Vitamin A] at nighttime by age 20 as you lose 1% of collagen per year after age 20. Don’t forget your neck!  The skin is thin and will show age as quickly as your eyelids.”

3. Throw Out Those Collagen Creams

Dr. Cynthia Bailey, Dr. Bailey Skincare

Those anti-wrinkle creams might make your skin feel soft (and help you feel like you’re doing something productive), but they won’t actually help much, Dr. Bailey said.

“Using a collagen cream won’t add collagen to your skin because molecules of collagen are too big to enter skin – they just sit on the outside and are a waste of money,” she said. “Let science guide you in picking active ingredients for anti-aging.”

Instead, Dr. Bailey recommends using products with ingredients like retinol, Vitamin C, and glycolic acid to keep skin looking young.

4. Use Antioxidants to Slow Skin Aging

Dr. Terrence Keaney, dermatologist for Dove Men+Care

Besides sunscreen, one of the most important steps in maintaining young skin is to look for products that contain healthy antioxidants like Vitamin E and Resveratrol.

“Daytime protection with both antioxidants and sunscreen is the key to anti-aging,” Dr. Keaney said.

5. Read Labels Carefully

Dr. Hong Nguyen, Laser Skin Care Center

Don’t be scared off by long chemical-sounding names. It actually pays to know what’s in your skincare products, and certain ingredients should be green flags.

“Look for products with hyaluronic acid and ceramides because it helps to really moisturize your skin,” Dr. Hong Nguyen said. “If acne-prone, look for products that say oil-free and non-comedogenic.”

6. Keep it Simple

Dr. Catherine DiGiorgio, Westlake Dermatology

You don’t have to maintain a complicated skincare ritual to see results. Dr. DiGiorgio’s routine looks like this:

“In the morning I wash my face with a gentle cleanser, such as Cetaphil gentle cleanser or Neutrogena gentle cleanser,” she said. “I apply a good moisturizer and a tinted sunscreen. In the evening, I wash my face with a gentle cleanser. I apply Tazorac, a retinoid, to my face and a retinol to my chest and neck. I follow that up with a serum containing growth factors or Vitamin C and a good moisturizer.”

7. Moisturize at Night

Dr. Joyce Imahiyerobo-Ip, Vibrant Dermatology; Director of Cosmetic Dermatology at South Shore Medical Center

Have you ever skipped moisturizing your face because just cleansing makes it feel dewy and fresh? We get it. But skipping that step — especially at night — can make your face dry out.  

“Many people don’t moisturize their faces at night, but most of us need to,” Dr. Imahiyerobo-Ip said. “The skin does most of its repair while we sleep, which means that this is the time when our skin actually needs the greatest amount of hydration. Night creams also allow us to impart other health ingredients on the skin while it’s repairing like antioxidants.” 

She recommends HydroPeptide’s Nimni cream as her go-to “dream cream.”

8. Layering Too Many Products Can Backfire

Dr. Craig Kraffert, Amarte Skincare; Founder of DermStore.com and ReddingDerm

When it comes to skincare, the more “holy grail” products, the better, right? Not necessarily. Dr. Kraffert calls this “cocktailing” your ingredients, and says that you have to careful to make sure your products play nicely together.

“If you’re using a glycolic acid cream and/or a Vitamin C serum along with a retinoid product, the acid, and vitamin C may cause the retinoid to break down, becoming volatile and unstable,” Dr. Kraffert said. “This causes irritation and compromises the effectiveness of all of the ingredients. It’s best to drop the glycolics and simply stick with a moisturizer that uses both retinol and antioxidants, like Amarte Aqua Cream.”

9. Expensive Products Aren’t Necessarily Better

Dr. Julia Tzu, Founder, and Director of Wall Street Dermatology

Thankfully, with the right routine, quality skincare shouldn’t cost an arm and a (perfectly moisturized) leg.

“The most common misconception is probably that more expensive skincare is better,” Dr. Tzu said. “While it may be wise to steer away from very inexpensive products, good skin care does not have to be unaffordable for it to be good for the skin.”

Some of Dr. Tzu’s favorite affordable brands include Avene, EltaMD, and Neutrogena.

10. Give Your Routine Time

Dr. Cyndi Yag-Howard, member of the Women’s Dermatologic Society, Owner, Yag-Howard Dermatology and Aesthetic Center

One of the most common mistakes people make with their skincare routines is not having one, Dr. Yag-Howard said. Trying new products and expecting them to work overnight will never work.

“Another common problem is not giving a skincare routine time to work,” Dr. Yag Howard said. “Instead of flip-flopping from one product to another, it is important to create a plan and stick with it for at least a couple of months to see the results.”

She also said it’s important to cleanse and tone twice daily to “wash away the dirt and debris that builds up on the face.”