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WebMD health-e head2toe: skin care today

The Truth About Skincare for Your Face

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By Karen Bruno
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

There are thousands of anti-aging creams, moisturizers, lotions, serums, exfoliators, and cleansers available, and you can spend hundreds of dollars on luxury brands, or just a few dollars at the drugstore. But many inexpensive drugstore brands work just as well as the luxury brands, dermatologists say, because they contain many of the same ingredients.

The secret? Find your glow with the right products for your skin type.

Bar Soap and Liquid Cleansers

Most bar soaps are too harsh to use on your face because they contain ingredients that may irritate and dry the skin. Liquid facial cleansers or foaming products are less harsh. Some even moisturize your face as they clean.

Aesthetic dermatologist Amy Derick, MD, advises women to use a liquid facial cleanser containing ceramides, lipids that help skin retain moisture.

If you insist on bar soap, avoid soaps with sodium lauryl sulfate which can dry skin. Instead, look for moisturizing soaps with ingredients such as glycerin and plant-based oils.

If you have oily skin or acne, use a cleanser containing salicylic acid, which removes dead cells from skin, or benzoyl peroxide, which helps unclog pores. This may prevent further breakouts too.

Anti-Aging Creams

How do retinoids and over-the-counter moisturizers and serums that contain retinoids help diminish signs of aging? Yale dermatologist Jeffrey Dover, MD, says they increase cell turnover and may build collagen. Another compound, GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), a neurotransmitter, seems to work at the nerve level to relax wrinkles temporarily.

  • Try creams containing retinyl propionate or retinol, which are found in the skin as vitamin A derivatives.
  • Read your labels. Ingredients such as peptides and sirtuin, a protein, help smooth uneven texture and improve skin’s elasticity.
  • Look for the terms PAL KTTS, copper peptides, and palmitoyl oligopeptide on the ingredient list of anti-aging creams.

 

Moisturizers

The skin on your face is constantly exposed to air and pollutants that rob skin of moisture. Old-fashioned petroleum jelly has been used for decades as an inexpensive moisturizer. It works by sealing in moisture, but it’s greasy and heavy.

Moisturizers with emollients and humectants hydrate the skin without the greasy effect. Humectants help retain moisture while emollients help soften and soothe skin. Together, they can temporarily minimize fine lines around the eye or on the neck.

Many skincare products both moisturize and provide anti-aging benefits, dermatologist Doris Day, MD, says.

  • Look for creams that contain glycerin and hyaluronic acid, which plumps the skin temporarily, minimizing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

 

Exfoliating Scrubs and Lotions

Ingredients in moisturizers and serums must get through the the skin’s outermost layer to work effectively. Using an exfoliator twice a week will help slough off dead skin cells, allowing creams to penetrate. It also helps make skin appear smoother and less blotchy. Some all-in-one skin cleansers and exfoliators are gentle enough to be used every day.  

For an effective but gentle exfoliator, look for products containing glycolic acid, lactic acid, salicylic acid, or malic acid. 

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