More than a great wardrobe or a skilled hand with make-up, glowing skin turns heads.
Just ask Kelly Campbell, a Los Angeles public relations consultant and mom. She regularly gets stopped by strangers complimenting her on her seemingly poreless, lit-from-within complexion.
The key to that gorgeous skin? She was born with it.
"Honestly, I’ve always been lucky to have good skin," Campbell says. "Except when I was pregnant and I broke out from all the hormones, I’ve never had trouble with my skin."
Yes, some people win the hereditary lottery when it comes to good skin. "Not all skin is created equal," says Paula Bourelly, MD, a dermatology professor at Georgetown University. "You can’t underestimate the value of genetics."
But genes are just the starting point. Beautiful skin is also about good skin care habits practiced day in and day out.
Here are, from top dermatologists and Campbell herself, the secrets to stunning skin.
No. 1 and No. 2: Smoking No, Sunscreen Yes
Imagine two people starting out with the same exact DNA. One smoked and sunbathed, the other avoided both. Would that make a difference in the appearance of their skin?
A team of experts led by plastic surgeon Bahman Guyuron, MD, of Case Western Reserve University analyzed photographs of the faces of 186 pairs of identical twins taken at the Twins Day Festival in Twinsburg, Ohio. The twins had also filled out detailed questionnaires about their lives and daily habits.
Those who smoked and spent lots of time outdoors without wearing sunscreen looked years older than the brother or sister who shunned cigarettes and tanning. They had more fine lines, deeper and more plentiful wrinkles, and skin that was more mottled.
Bourelly isn’t surprised. "Many of the things that my patients complain about -- dull, rough skin and uneven skin tone -- are related to chronic sun exposure," she says. "And studies have shown that smoking is associated with premature wrinkling." Her advice:
No. 3: Consider Retinoids
"A retinoid should be the foundation of any topical anti-aging regimen," says dermatologist Paul M. Friedman, MD, co-author of Beautiful Skin Revealed: The Ultimate Guide to Better Skin.
He recommends that men and women make a retinoid part of their evening regimen beginning in their 20s.
The downside is that retinoids can cause dryness, flaking, and redness at first.
Starting out slowly by applying a pea-sized amount of retinoid every second or third night can help your skin adjust to the powerful ingredient.
Or consider an over-the-counter cream, gel, or serum containing retinol. This nonprescription version of a retinoid works more gradually and gently but is still effective in rejuvenating your skin.
No. 4: Keep Skincare Simple
Overuse of products is the biggest mistake people make in their skincare regimens, says Jeanie Leddon, MD, PhD, a dermatologist in Boulder, Colo.
"Some patients come in with a grocery bag full of products and wonder why their skin doesn’t look or feel great," Leddon says.
Using a lot of different ingredients can be irritating, and some ingredients cancel out each other's benefits.
Friedman agrees. He says the products needed for beautiful skin are "a simple cleanser, sunscreen, moisturizer, and a retinoid or retinol."
The simpler your skincare regimen, the more likely you are to stick with it.
No. 5: Give Products Time to Work
Changing your products every couple of weeks can also be counterproductive.
Give them a chance, Leddon says. Finish the entire tube or bottle of a skincare potion before you decide how well it works.
You might, though, want to adjust your beauty regimen seasonally, swapping, say, the oil-free moisturizer you use in the summer for one that’s more emollient during the winter when frigid temperatures and indoor heating can rob your skin of moisture.
The exception: If your skin reacts with swelling, redness, or burning to a new product you’ve tried, stop using it immediately.
If not, Leddon says, finish the entire tube or bottle of a skincare potion before you give up on it.
No. 6: A Balanced Life Leads to Your Best Skin
Campbell says about her traffic-stopping gorgeous skin, "I don’t have a secret."
But then she reveals a host of healthy daily habits:
All these markers of a healthy lifestyle undoubtedly help Campbell keep her skin looking its best.
Regular sleep, Friedman says, optimizes the natural secretion of human growth hormone, which promotes cell turnover and collagen production. And exercise increases circulation and the flow of nutrients to the skin.
Meditating regularly may even make treatment more effective. In one study, people with psoriasis, a condition that causes itchy, scaly skin, listened to meditation tapes while they got ultraviolet light treatments. The results: They healed four times as fast as those who didn't meditate.
The bottom line: The key to gorgeous skin turns out to be a mix of science, common sense, overall good health habits, and a simple stick-to-it skincare regimen.