Let's face it: Who has the time to apply a gazillion skincare products to look gorgeous and glowing? Or to head to the derm every time your complexion goes haywire? Don't worry — we have the ultimate DL on how to use every product in your arsenal from celebrity New York City dermatologist, Dendy Engelman, M.D. She shares her insider tips — from using unexpected application techniques to the one step you should never skip — each crucial to ensure your products work magic on your skin every.single.time.
1. Use your cleanser like a pro.
While you may not think how you apply your face wash matters — just that you get it on your skin in some way — think again. "There's a real science to cleansing," says Dr. Engelman. Concentrate the cleanser where you have the most pores, she says. This cleans out dirt and oil more effectively, so the skincare products you apply afterwards are able to truly penetrate, instead of being blocked by any gook left behind in pores.
2. Apply face serum while your skin is damp.
You've probably heard the whole "slather on your body cream while your skin is still wet from your shower" tip a thousand times over. But the same applies to face serum. "I want everyone to apply skincare products within one minute of cleansing or getting out of the shower — I always want water on the skin," says Dr. Engelman. "And while some people don't like to wash their face in the morning, all you have to do is dampen your skin before you apply your serum to help lock in hydration." Here's why: As soon as water evaporates off skin, it can dehydrate it by taking all the moisture on and below the surface into the air. Try this serum combo (packed with Idebenone, a powerful antioxidant) for eyes and skin — PREVAGE Anti-Aging Daily Serum, $162, and PREVAGE Anti-Aging Eye Serum, $100—as it targets signs of sun damage caused by the environment.
3. Exfoliate a few times a week.
"We lose radiance — and this can happen as early as your early 20's — because cellular turnover slows down, meaning skin is not exfoliating as naturally as it should be," says Dr. Engelman. "Which means those superficial dead skin cells get stuck on the surface of the skin, so your complexion doesn't reflect light as readily and looks dull."Plus, it creates a physical shield between skin and the products you're using — preventing all the amazing ingredients you're applying from absorbing into your skin, and forcing them to sit on the surface where they can't do what they should be doing. Dr. Engelman suggests exfoliating two to three times a week (daily is overkill). Look for gentle chemical exfoliators such as a low dose glycolic acid-laced (around eight to ten percent max) pads or serum.
4. Learn to layer.
Applying several serums under your face cream and sunscreen is the secret to a healthy, glowy complexion. "Don't skip serums," says Dr. Engelman. "Serums contain the mega dose of active ingredients that target what your skin needs, whether it's anti‑aging, hyperpigmentation, antioxidants, hydration, repair — serums have it all." And since most serums also contain hyaluronic acid (a powerful hydrator that can hold 1000 times its weight in water), they can also give a dose of hydration, too. What's important to remember: Serums always go first. "The rule is — apply thinnest to thickest," she says. "Some patients apply face cream first, which blocks their serum from penetrating — so cleanse, use a botanical toner (if you use one), then your serums, and a cream and sunscreen last."
5. Use the dot method to apply sunscreen.
The classic mistake when applying the final face-cream-with-sunscreen step? Putting it in your palm, rubbing both hands together and slathering it onto skin. The result: spotty application with most of the cream absorbed into your palms, leaving your skin unprotected. Dr. Engelman suggests the dot technique to ensure a smooth and even application. "I probably demonstrate this to my patients 300 times a day, whether it's applying face cream with SPF or retinol," she says. Her how-to: Apply two-to-three dots on your forehead, two on each cheek, one on your nose and chin, then finish with two on your neck and one on the top of each hand. "No dermatologist is ever going to tell you you're putting on too much sunscreen." Dr. Engelman's favorite is PREVAGE City Smart Broad Spectrum SPF 50 Hydrating Shield, $68. It not only acts as a sunscreen but contains a unique DNA enzyme complex to strengthen skin.
6. Change up your a.m. and p.m. skincare routines.
"I don't want your morning routine and nighttime routine to be the same," says Dr. Engelman. "Nighttime is more about repair and morning is about protection." During the day, opt for an antioxidant-rich serum and hydrating cream with sunscreen. Before bed, use a vitamin A or retinol-based product to help cell turnover and cocoon your skin with moisture. "I love having clients use something thicker than they would use for the day, like a night mask (such as Elizabeth Arden Ceramide Overnight Firming Mask, $88)," she says. "Not only does it feel elegant, it won't end up on your pillow." Ample hydration overnight is key: "Our body temperature heats up at night and our blood vessels dilate, which can dehydrate skin as we try to release that heat," she says. "If you have a more occlusive barrier on skin, you can keep your skin's natural hydration level at its peak."
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Nicole Catanese is a beauty and wellness editor.
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