Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

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

1. Follow the Right Order

Here's the basic order: Cleanse, tone (this step is optional), facial treatment/serum, moisturizer, sunscreen, and then makeup, if you wear it.

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 only use makeup and sunscreen for 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.

5. Give Your Products Time to Work

Instant happiness would be nice. But it can take 6-12 weeks of using the same products to see results, Taub says.

6. Boost Absorption

To help your skin soak up products, exfoliate first with glycolic acid or retinol, Taub says. She adds, "Sonic skin cleansing brushes are phenomenal for getting the most absorption benefits, and they're also ideal for removing makeup prior to cleansing."

Put on your first layer of moisturizer or serum when your skin is damp, since it's easier for moist skin to absorb active ingredients, Schweiger says. He also suggests letting each product absorb completely before applying the next one.

7. Choose Products That Multitask

You don't need an overflowing cabinet to take care of your skin from head to toe, Barba says.

  • You can use baby wipes to remove makeup, and baby shampoo can be a gentle facial cleanser.
  • You can also mix moisturizer, foundation, and sunscreen to create a tinted moisturizer.
  • A clay or sulfur-based mask makes a great spot treatment for blemishes. Petrolatum-based ointments soothe chapped lips, cracked skin, sunburn, and wounds, Schweiger says.

8. 'Read' Your Skin

Notice how your skin is doing so you know when to back off on certain products or treatments.

For example, if your skin starts to feel sensitive or stings when you apply sunscreen, try another type. Or if you've been exfoliating or brushing a lot, take a break from that for a few days.