Reviewed by Stephanie S. Gardner, MD on January 08, 2021
Step 1: Know Your Skin Type
The right routine starts with knowing what kind of skin you have. Then you'll know how to take care of it.
Dry skin is flaky, scaly, or rough.
Oily skin is shiny, greasy, and may have big pores.
Combination skin is dry in some spots (cheeks) and oily in others (forehead, nose, and chin).
Sensitive skin may sting, burn, or itch after you use some makeup or other products.
Normal skin is balanced, clear, and not sensitive.
Step 2: Cleaning Normal/Combo Skin
Don't just grab whatever soap is in the shower or at the sink to wash your face. And don't feel like you have to buy fancy, expensive products, either. Just find skin care that works for you. Apply a gentle cleanser or soap with your fingertips. Don't scrub your face. Rinse with plenty of warm water, then pat dry. If your skin dries out or gets oily, try a different cleanser.
Step 2: Cleaning Dry Skin
For this skin type, use a gentle cleanser that doesn't have alcohol or fragrances. Those ingredients can dry you out even more. Gently wash your skin, then rinse with plenty of warm water. Don't use hot water -- it removes the natural oils from your face faster. Try exfoliating once a week to get rid of flaky skin cells. It will make your skin look clearer and more even.
Step 2: Cleaning Oily Skin
Use an oil-free foaming cleanser to wash your face. Rinse with plenty of warm water. You may want to use a toner or astringent after, but be careful because it might irritate your skin. These products can remove extra oil, which makes your face less shiny, and help keep skin clean.
Step 2: Cleaning Sensitive Skin
Wash your face with a gentle cleanser and rinse with warm water. Don't rub your skin with a towel -- gently pat it dry. Exfoliating may irritate sensitive skin. Try not to use products that have alcohol, soap, acid, or fragrance. Instead, look on the label for calming ingredients like aloe, chamomile, green tea polyphenols, and oats. The fewer ingredients in a product, the happier your face may be.
Step 3: Moisturize
You may think you're too young to need moisturizer -- or your skin is too oily -- but all skin types need one every day. Apply it while your skin is still damp from washing or rinsing to help seal in moisture. If you have acne or your skin is oily, find a moisturizer that's lightweight and oil-free, so it won't block your pores.
Step 4: Put on Sunscreen
Your moisturizer may already have sunscreen in it. But it's a good idea to use separate protection, too. The sun can damage your skin in only 15 minutes. Look for a sunscreen that gives broad-spectrum protection with an SPF of at least 30. Wear it every day, even if it's not sunny and even if it's cold. Reapply every 2 hours.
When Should You Wash?
You can dry your skin by washing it too much, so once a day is fine for most people. In the morning, rinse your face with lukewarm water. Use a soft towel to pat it dry. At night, wash with a cleanser or gentle soap gets rid of the day's dirt and makeup. If you exercise, play sports, or have PE, you may want to wash your face afterward with a gentle cleanser. Sweat can clog your pores and make acne worse.
Don't Wear Makeup to Bed
When you're tired, it can be tempting to go to bed without washing your face. But leaving makeup on your skin can clog your pores and cause acne. So wash it off with a gentle cleanser or makeup remover. Use a soft wash cloth or cotton pads. If you use acne medicine, now's a good time to put it on -- when your face is clean and you won't be putting on makeup.
All About Acne
Why does acne usually start when you're a teen? Puberty causes your body to make more hormones, which lead your skin to make more sebum, an oil that comes from your pores. Too much sebum and dead skin cells can clog pores and trap bacteria inside. The germs thrive and acne starts. It can show up as whiteheads, blackheads, and pimples.
How to Treat Acne
Don't pop those pimples! That can lead to infection and scars. Instead, try acne-fighting products. They come as lotions, creams, gels, and cleansing pads. Follow the directions carefully. If you use them too much or too often, they can irritate your skin and cause more blemishes. Just be patient -- they can take 8 weeks to work. If your acne is really bad, get help from a dermatologist.
To make zits less noticeable, you can cover them with oil-free makeup. Foundation may help cover large patches of acne. Concealer covers smaller areas. Green-tinted color-correcting concealer may cancel out redness. You also can hide acne and treat it at the same time. Some tinted creams and concealers contain salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide to help dry the blemishes. Stop using any product if it bothers your skin or causes more acne.
The Dangers of Tanning
You may like to be tan, but you hurt your skin when it changes color from the sun or indoor tanning. UV exposure can make you more likely to get skin cancer -- now or later. It can also lead to wrinkly, leathery-looking skin and spots. Regularly using tanning beds raises your chances of getting melanoma (the deadliest skin cancer) by 8 times.
For a safer tan, try sunless self-tanner. It stains your skin and comes in many forms, including lotions, sprays, and towelettes. Or try airbrush tanning, where a salon expert sprays the tan right on your skin. For a quick fake tan, try some bronzer. It's a brush-on powder or tinted cream that gives the look of a fresh tan. But remember -- you'll still need to protect your skin from the sun.
If you wear makeup, choose products that have "nonacnegenic" or "noncomedogenic" on the label. They should be less likely to cause acne or clog pores. Look for makeup that's water-based and not oil-based. Some products have expiration dates, even though they aren't required. Most of the time, you'll need to replace eye makeup first. For example, don't use mascara longer than 4 months.
Makeup Safety Tips
Don't share makeup or makeup tools. Use fresh applicators when you try on makeup in stores. Don't apply eyeliner inside your lid, because it may irritate your eye. If you've had an eye infection, buy new makeup so you don't reinfect yourself. Never put on makeup in a car or on the bus. A bump or swerve could make you scratch your eye or get makeup and germs in it.
Seeing a model's perfect skin in an ad may make you want to buy the product. Don't be fooled. It takes a team of stylists and professionals to get them to look that great. Graphic artists can digitally remove pimples and freckles. Lighting experts use light and shadow to show the model's best features. CVS drugstores have pledged to move toward non-retouched photos in store displays.
Other Things That Bug Your Skin
Try to avoid habits that can cause acne, redness, and scars. Don't pick at your skin -- especially pimples. Keep hairspray and gel away from your face. They can clog pores. Don't wear tight headbands or wool hats that can irritate your skin. Don't smoke. It can age your skin and make it yellow and dry.
Food and Sleep for Healthy Skin
Keep your skin healthy by eating smart. Fill your plate with veggies, fruits, and whole grains. Choose lean proteins like chicken, fish, lean meat, beans, and eggs. Avoid foods that are high in cholesterol, trans fats, saturated fats, salt, and sugar. Get plenty of sleep to avoid dark circles, fine lines, dull skin, and other side effects of bad rest. Relax! Even stress can make you break out. And stay hydrated.
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Amy Derick, MD, dermatologist, Barrington, IL.
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