Feeling perplexed when choosing skincare products? We totally feel you! With endless options, selecting a serum or finding a face cream can be overwhelming to say the least. So we decided to go straight to the source and find out not just what professionals recommend but what they actually use during their skin care routine. Ahead, the products three top skin doctors cannot live without.
Mona Gohara, MD, associate clinical professor of dermatology at Yale
To cleanse her skin, Gohara reaches for this oldie but goodie. And guess what? It’s technically not soap because it doesn’t contain any of the harsh detergents that can strip your skin. “It’s the original non-soap cleanser and moisturizes as you wash. I love it and don’t leave home without it,” she says. (Can we also talk about how affordable it is? Bonus!)
All the dermatologists we’ve talked to stress the importance of using topical antioxidants. Not only do they help defend against free-radical damage caused by sun and pollution, but they also help improve skin tone and texture. “I layer this serum on my face daily. It’s cosmetically elegant, easy to layer, and leaves your skin looking radiant,” Gohara says of her favorite antioxidant.
“This hyaluronic acid cream fills in my problem areas, and by problem areas, I mean crow’s feet. A dab in the morning hydrates and plumps so that my primer goes on smoothly and doesn’t clump.” Credit the magic ingredient hyaluronic acid. It draws moisture to your skin and can hold 1,000 times its own weight in water, both hydrating and, as Gohara says, filling in fine lines.
“The kind of retinol I use varies, but this is my favorite non-prescription option. Retinoids are my ‘if I were stranded on a desert island’ product—tried and true, they increase collagen production and decrease collagen breakdown. Yes, please!” says Gohara about this anti-ager. Worried that a retinoid will cause irritation or redness? Try layering it over a plain moisturizer or use it every other night until your skin becomes used to the potent ingredient.
Reapplying sunscreen can be a major pain—but not with this portable powder option, which is perfect to stash in your purse or car. “This is my go-to mineral sunscreen because it makes reapplying so easy,” explains Gohara. An added benefit: Mineral sunscreens won’t cause breakouts or irritation, and this one is also tinted for a hint of coverage.
Deirdre Hooper MD, co-founder of Audubon Dermatology in New Orleans
Hooper loves this hydrator too! She seconds Gohara: “The hyaluronic acid immediately plumps skin, smoothing fine lines and creases.” She also likes that it contains antioxidants: “They prevent ongoing damage from UV rays and pollutants in the environment.” And the supremely silky texture makes it ideal for using pre-makeup.
See spots run! The main ingredient in this treatment (hydroquinone) is considered the gold standard when it comes to evening skin tone, as it prevents skin cells from producing more pigment (i.e. color). “For fading hyperpigmentation, this product is gentle, yet powerful,” says Hooper, who uses it morning and night.
“A gentle, creamy formula that feels amazing,” Hooper says of her nighttime moisturizer, loaded with a combo of hydrating glycerin, Shea butter, and safflower oil. If you want it for the morning, use the version that also contains SPF. Tip: There’s also a lighter formula too, if your skin falls on the oilier side.
There’s no excuse to ever skip sunscreen (ever!) especially when you have options like this. Hooper tells us, “Not only does it deliver broad spectrum sun protection, but it also contains antioxidants that block damage from all kinds of light, including infrared. It also has a tint, so I get some coverage without having to apply foundation.” Who doesn’t love that?
This is Hooper’s final step in her morning routine. “It sets all my products, adds a layer of SPF, and mattifies my skin so that I don’t look shiny. Plus, it smells great!” (A delicious scent combo of rosemary and mint.)
Christine Choi Kim, MD, dermatologist in Santa Monica, CA
If you want a little extra from your cleanser, try the one Kim uses. “This cleansing gel is gentle enough for everyday, but contains glycolic acid, which helps control acne and pigmentation.” The acid gently exfoliates skin to help beat blemishes and fade spots.
She reaches for this sunscreen daily, which is a great choice for people with sensitive skin or redness. “It’s an ultra-light sunscreen that’s specifically geared towards acne and rosacea-prone skin. It also contains niacinamide, which helps reduce inflammation.”
A big fan of Korean sheet masks (now made by many different companies and easily found in the U.S.), Kim especially likes this one: “It’s a delightful and pampering treatment you can do several times a week—or more—before bedtime.” And yes, it does contain snail secretion—sounds gross, but it helps firm skin and moisturize.
4. Prescription tretinoin cream
“It would be hard to find a dermatologist who doesn’t use some sort of retinoid,” says Kim. She perfers the prescription strength version because “it has the most scientifically-backed anti-aging and anti-acne benefits.” So, if you haven’t talked to your dermatologist about a prescription yet, you may want to consider doing so.
Who doesn’t love a product that multitasks, saving you time in the morning? “This ones hydrates, delivers sun protection, and gives you natural looking coverage that leaves skin fresh and dewy,” she explains. The five shades have varying undertones making it easy to find the right match for your coloring.