You could wander the drugstore aisles aimlessly, pondering the gazillion products that promise to make your skin brighter, better, clearer, smoother, magical...But who has the time—or the sink space? We've created a handy, no-nonsense guide to the products you actually need to treat every issue under the sun—at the same time. Just find your concern (or rather, concerns) and follow the arrows to scope out treatments. Then read below for all the deets.
Dermatologists agree that there's one main thing that causes dull skin: slow cell turnover. To reclaim that healthy glow, try Avon Anew Clinical Extra Strength Peel Pads, $25; avon.com. These nubby pads contain a powerful but non-irritating dose of glycolic acid, which brightens by removing dead skin and increasing cell turnover (so only use these every other day). Also try Avon Anew AHA Refining Cream, $30; avon.com, a rich daily moisturizer with a gentle blend of alpha hydroxy acids, which slough away dead skin cells, and glycerin, a power-packed humectant.
There's this myth that if your skin is dry, exfoliating will make it even worse. Not so. "Layers of dead skin cells can plug up your pores and prevent them from efficiently absorbing moisture," says New York City dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, M.D.. An exfoliant that also moisturizes is even better. Cleanse with a gentle, creamy cleanser like Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser, $14; ulta.com, or Avon Anew Platinum Cleanser; $10; avon.com. Then follow with Avon Anew AHA Refining Cream, $30; avon.com, and double up on hydration with a powerful moisturizer like Avon Anew Ultimate Multi-Performance Day Cream Broad Spectrum SPF 25, $38; avon.com, which uses botanicals to repair skin while moisturizing.
You may be tempted to reach for the most astringent, high-power toner or face wash you can, but stop right there! "That will just make your complexion even more irritated," says Dr. Zeichner. Instead, stay the course with a gentle exfoliating cleanser like La Roche Posay Effaclar Medicated Gel Cleanser, $15; ulta.com, or Avon Clearskin Pore Penetrating Gel Cleanser, $5, avon.com which clean and unclog pores and kill bacteria. To sop up excess oil, try a mask like Tata Harper Purifying Mask, $65; sephora.com, which contains white clay to draw out impurities, or Avon Clearskin Pore Penetrating Black Mineral Mask, $7; avon.com, which contains a blend of mineral clays to remove dirt and oil.
If fighting pimples is your priority, a gentle exfoliating cleanser with salicylic acid will help treat breakouts and minimize oil. To unclog pores, erode blackheads, and fade post-blemish marks, swipe your face with Avon Anew Clinical Extra Strength Peel Pads, $25; avon.com. To help target your whole face at once (because, efficiency), try a mask like Tata Harper Purifying Mask, $65; sephora.com, which deeply cleanses the skin and removes buildup, or Avon Clearskin Pore Penetrating Black Mineral Mask, $7; avon.com, which also penetrates pores to treat acne. "That way you're treating current breakouts and preventing future ones that you can't even see," says Dr. Zeichner.
We're still waiting for a magical potion that staves off wrinkles forever (a girl can dream), but while we wait, a gentle exfoliating cleanser can scrub away dead skin cells and minimize the appearance of fine lines. Also, loading up on a powerful dose of antioxidants found in a serum like Avon Anew Vitamin C Brightening Serum, $30; avon.com can both reverse damage and enhance the effectiveness of your sunscreen—which you're wearing every day, right? Damage from the sun's rays is the number one cause of collagen deterioration, which is fancy way of saying saggy, craggy skin. We love Avène Mineral Ultra-light Hydrating Sunscreen Lotion, $28; aveneusa.com and Avon Reversalist Complete Renewal Day Lotion Broad Spectrum SPF 25, $32; avon.com. At night, try a retinol like RoC Retinol Correxion Deep Wrinkle Night Cream, $21; ulta.com or Avon Anew Clinical Line Eraser with Retinol Targeted Treatment, $30; avon.com, to boost collagen, thicken skin, and improve overall skin tone. If your skin is sensitive, try mixing it with a dab of moisturizer, which can make it less irritating.
Even the most religious SPF devotées can miss a spot occasionally. Sunburnt skin is fiery skin, so start with a cool shower, which can immediately tone down inflammation and put out those flames. Advil also helps with the sting and the heat. Over the next few days, apply moisturizer at least twice daily to keep skin hydrated (and hopefully minimize pealing), and next time you go in the sun, don't you dare leave without a big floppy hat, oversized sunglasses, and a generous lathering of sunscreen.
Freckles are cute. Dark spots are not. Caused by collections of the pigment melanin, which gets triggered by sun, age, and hormones, these pesky patches respond to a gentle sloughing off the top layer of pigmented skin with Avon Anew Clinical Extra Strength Peel Pads, $25; avon.com. Then apply Avon Anew Vitamin C Brightening Serum, $30; avon.com, which contains a high concentration of 10% pure Vitamin C to brighten the area. And again, sunscreen! That'll prevent any more dark marks from taking hold.
Red skin is usually sensitive skin (or as we like to call it, "reactive" skin), which means you should proceed with caution before using any intense ingredients ingredients, including retinols, alpha hydroxy acids, and vitamin C. A creamy cleanser like Avon Anew Platinum Cleanser, $10; avon.com is your safest bet for starting things off right. Soothe any inflammation with a powerful moisturizer, and for best results, choose a daily sunscreen with physical blockers like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, which are gentler than their chemical counterparts.