Here’s the thing about getting good skin: It takes a lot of work (unless you’re, like, Emma freaking Watson who has the preternaturally smooth, line-free skin of a Grecian statue. But then why are you reading this article? Get out of here, Emma!).
In an ideal world, you would apply something to your face just once and see immediate results forever more. But this is reality, and to stave off wrinkles and plump fine lines, you need a consistent regimen of sunscreen, a gentle cleanser, a night cream, and blah, blah, blah—you're already exhausted and over it.
Which is why I’m here to give you what you want: the most basic, low-maintenance, easy-peasy anti-aging routine for your most extreme levels of laziness. Keep reading to get the skin of your dreams, without having to completely overhaul your life—or even your bedtime habits.
Level 1: You have a semblance of a skincare routine.
Congrats! You’re lazy, but not too lazy, which, in my book, is winning. You wash your face pretty consistently, you almost always remove your makeup (even if it is with a skin-destroying face wipe), and you use a moisturizer most days or nights. Great. Now we’re going to step it up a bit.
What to Use:
“My two favorite anti-aging products in the world are retinol and vitamin C,” says dermatologist Mona Gohara, M.D., associate clinical professor at Yale University. “Retinol literally slows down your skin’s aging process by increasing collagen production and decreasing collagen breakdown.”
Basically, it smooths the wrinkles you’ve got, while preventing new ones from forming. Vitamin C, meanwhile, protects your skin from environmental damage that causes dark spots, wrinkles, inflammation, and discoloration. “It essentially makes everyone look really, really good,” says Dr. Gohara.
How to Use 'Em:
Don’t get overzealous—both retinol and vitamin C can be a tad irritating at first, so start slowly to build up your skin’s tolerance. At night, before your moisturizer, apply a pea-size drop of retinol to clean, dry skin once a week for one week, twice a week for two weeks, three times a week for three weeks, and then every other night indefinitely (hey, anti-aging is a lifelong process).
Make sure your usual moisturizer isn't already an anti-aging moisturizer—one that contains a low dose of retinol—since double retinoids will irritate your skin. (Not sure if yours does? Check the ingredients label for retinol, retinyl palmitate, or retinaldehyde, all of which are different forms of retinoids.)
As for vitamin C, apply it to clean, dry skin (before your moisturizer, sunscreen, and/or makeup) every other morning for a few weeks, before switching to every morning. You should start noticing results after a month, with a slight reduction of fine lines after three months.
Level 2: You can only manage a moisturizer.
…And even then, your moisturizing habits are as consistent as “I sometimes use this face cream I got on sale last year that I don’t really like.” Cool.
Listen, I’m not here to push you too far out of your comfort zone, but I will need you to throw away that expired cream. (If you got it more than a year ago, it's definitely too old.)
What to Use:
An anti-aging moisturizer. Wow! Such shock! Such brilliance! Your bread-and-butter product is going to be a two-in-one night moisturizer that also has a hefty dose of retinol in it. “Retinol speeds up your skin’s production of new cells, which results in smoother, brighter, softer, and less-wrinkled skin,” says Dr. Gohara. “It’s truly the best anti-aging ingredient that exists today.”
How to Use It:
Retinol-spiked moisturizers tend to be gentler than pure retinol formulas, which means you can get away with applying one every other night for a month, before switching to every night for the rest of your life.
The only downside is that retinol takes time—like, 3 to 6 months—to start giving you a noticeable reduction in fine lines, so you need to be consistent and patient. Which means every night when you’re lying in bed and don’t want to get up and apply your cream, repeat this to yourself: Every day I skip my moisturizer is another day I'll have to wait to see results.
Level 3: You washed your face, uh, last week?
So, we’ve officially reached the laziest of lazy levels (don’t worry—you’re in good company with literally all of my can’t-be-bothered friends).
But, hey, we all gotta start somewhere, and your somewhere is right here, right now. But don't worry—it’s going to be painless.
What to Use:
If you know yourself, and you know you won’t be able to commit to something on a regular, nightly basis, no matter how hard you try, then a once-weekly treatment of glycolic acid will be your new buddy. “Glycolic acid is an alpha hydroxy acid—AHA—that speeds up cell turnover to treat acne, fade dark spots and scars, and smooth fine lines, even if you use it just once a week,” says Dr. Gohara.
Glycolic acid is nowhere near as effective as retinol (glycolic acid will only reduce baby fine lines, and won’t do anything for deep wrinkles), but retinol is only effective if you use it consistently. So, as your mother would say, beggars can’t be choosers.
How to Use It:
Glycolic acid is strong, no matter the percentage, so use it no more than once a week, and make sure to pick the product with the lowest percentage of glycolic acid if you have sensitive skin. (P.S. Using it five times a week won’t give you five times the perfect skin—it’ll just irritate your face—so don’t even think about it.)
To use, gently wipe the pre-soaked pad over your clean, dry face once a week at night, letting it sit for 1–3 minutes (less time if you have sensitive skin), before rinsing it off. Ideally, you’d slather on a hydrating moisturizer after that, but I won’t push my luck.
And that’s it! The lowest-maintenance anti-aging routine for the highest of the lazy. Now go forth, sloth-like, into a new world of smooth skin.