Skip to content

    Whether you're a product maven with jars and bottles galore, or a minimalist with just a few tried-and-true basics, you want those items to deliver serious results. Did you know that how you use them can be as important as what you use?

    To keep your skin looking its best, follow these eight tips from dermatologists.

    1. Follow the right order.

    Here's the classic plan: Cleanse, tone (this step is optional), facial treatment/serum, moisturizer, sunscreen, and then any makeup.

    The general rule is to apply products from thinnest to thickest.

    But there's one exception, says Illinois dermatologist Amy Forman Taub, MD. Her advice: First put on prescription lotions or products that have the most retinol, glycolic acid, salicylic acid, or skin-brightening ingredients. Follow those with other products for soothing or moisturizing, from thinnest to thickest.

    2. Toss it on time.

    Most skin products have a shelf life of 6-12 months. You should use makeup and sunscreen for only 1 year.

    Check the expiration date printed on the package, says Miami dermatologist Alicia Barba, MD.

    Also, "if the product has changed color or consistency, or begins to smell unpleasant, it's time to dump it," says New York dermatologist Eric Schweiger, MD. He recommends storing products in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight to help them last.

    3. Choose the right products for your skin type.

    There's an easy way to check your skin type.

    "When you wake up in the morning, take a tissue and press it against your face. If you see oily and translucent spots, you probably have oily skin," Schweiger says.

    "If the tissue comes away clean and your skin feels tight, you most likely have dry skin," he says. "Combination skin is oily in the T-zone [your forehead, nose, and chin], and normal skin may only show the slightest bit of oil. Sensitive skin is often red and gets easily irritated."

    4. Read the label and follow the instructions.

    "You have to be careful how much, when, and where you apply [products]," Taub says.

    The label lists ingredients from highest to lowest concentration. With some trial and error, you'll be able to pinpoint ingredients that work with your skin and ones that don't.