You should always be intentional with what you put on your skin, but with so many products out there it’s hard to know what’s beneficial to your skin and what’s a waste of money. We’ve broken down the essentials for your regimen, as well as what ingredients to look for in your products.

Most dermatologists recommend trying a product (once or twice daily) for six weeks to see if your skin tolerates it. There’s no such thing as an instant fix—let your skin warm up to new products or routines to see if it’s working for you!


The most basic part of any routine is your cleanser. The right product will clean your skin thoroughly without stripping the essential, natural oils. There are a lot of different forms cleansers can come in, so your first step is determining your skin type.

For oily or acne-prone skin: To control oil and prevent enlarged pores, keep your skin clean by using cleansers both morning and evening. Choose a gel or a foaming liquid cleanser. The lightweight foam will break down dirt and anything clogging your pores, but it won’t be thick or heavy on your skin. Choose a cleanser with glycolic acid or salicylic acid. Cleansers with soy or niacinamide will help with redness.

For dry, red, or eczema-prone skin: Choose a cream or lotion cleanser. Most of these are formulated with glycerin or shea butter, which wipe away impurities while leaving your skin soft and hydrated. Choose a non-irritating cleanser to remove makeup without stripping your natural skin oils. Never use make-up removers or make-up wipes.

Any skin type: Micellar water is all the rage right now and it has been a staple in French skin care routines forever. It’s soap-free and doesn’t require any rinsing or rubbing in. It contains molecules that attract debris and dirt like a magnet, completely cleaning without leaving your skin dry.


These aren’t the alcohol-based products you may remember from the ‘80s. Think of today’s toners as supplements, delivering an extra shot of nutrients to your skin and helping your other products absorb better. They’ll help balance your complexion as well as make your other products more effective.

Look for ingredients like hyaluronic acid, rose water, green tea, vitamins E and C, and alpha and beta hydroxy acids when you’re choosing a toner. Use this product after cleansing and before you use anything else! The general rule for applying skin care products is thinnest to thickest. Toners are a great oil-free way to give your skin the antioxidants it needs. One very beneficial ingredient is green tea. Toners don’t control oil since they don’t remain on the skin.

For very sensitive skin, do not use toners, which have drying ingredients designed to remove lipids from the skin. Instead, use facial waters. These waters can be enriched with CO2, sulfur or selenium, and they are free from algae and chlorine. They also have anti-inflammatory properties.


Serums are magical elixirs that can treat a myriad of skin problems, from dryness and dark spots, to wrinkles and acne. If you don’t know what problems to tackle, even a general antioxidant serum in the morning will work wonders for your skin. Look for ingredients like hyaluronic acid, retinol, vitamins B3 and C, colloidal sulfur, and niacinamide. Don’t mix your serum with your moisturizer—a lot of people do this to save time, but they should be separate steps if you want your skin to absorb all of their benefits.


Possibly the most important part of your regimen is your moisturizer. This is a step you need at any age, year-round. Your skin loses its ability to retain moisture as you age, so it’s important to start early. Even if your skin is oily, your skin still needs hydration.

For acne or oily skin: Try a serum, fluid, gel or lotions. These are usually water-based, super lightweight, and they absorb quickly. If you have acne, skin care products to avoid: lanolin, cocoa butter, coconut oil, isopropyl isostearate and myristate, propylene glycol, octyl stearate. Products with anti-inflammatory ingredients can be used to treat redness and calm your skin to prevent flushing and skin sensitivity, which can often happen even if you have oily skin. Products with retinoids can be extremely helpful to help prevent and improve fine lines.

For dry, inflamed or extra sensitive skin: Apply moisturizer throughout the day, in the morning after cleaning your face, later in the afternoon and evening. During times of low humidity, use a cream instead of lotion. Avoid heavily fragranced moisturizers and those containing essential oils. Products containing ceramides, cholesterol, and colloidal oatmeal can be beneficial.

Always get a moisturizer that has sunscreen in it. Any skincare expert will say that sunscreen is the most crucial skincare product, whatever your age and whatever time of year it is.


You should exfoliate once or twice a week, unless you have very sensitive skin or are using retinoids.

When using a retinoid, you don’t need to exfoliate unless you’d like to remove superficial scaling caused by the retinoid.


Apply sunscreen every morning, even if you don’t expect to go outdoors. Staying indoors will not protect you. UVA penetrates windows to send harmful sun rays into buildings, cars (we always tell patients, when you are in the car, you are outside) and airplanes. Keep your sunscreen in your car, desk, purse and even keychain. Select a product with SPF 30 for daily protection, when you will not be receiving prolonged sun exposure or swimming. Never trust a powder or facial foundation to give you your SPF. You must apply sunscreen first.

Chemical sunscreen absorbs into the skin and then absorbs UV rays, converts the rays into heat, and releases them from the body. The active ingredients in chemical sunscreens include avobenzone, octinoxate and oxybenzone. Physical sunscreen contains mineral ingredients, such as titanium dioxide or zinc oxide, which mainly works by sitting on top of the skin to deflect and scatter damaging UVA rays away from the skin.

If you swim, play sports, go to the beach, or drive on a sunny day, we recommend starting with SPF 45. Apply sunscreen 30 minutes before sun exposure. Stay in the shade as much as possible and don’t rely exclusively on sunscreen to protect yourself. Sun-protective clothes and hats are essential. Reapply every 80 minutes. Spray sunscreens are often ineffective and have been taken off the market in Europe since they have severe side-effects if used inappropriately.

A T-shirt only has SPF 5-8, so choose clothing with UPF 50.

If you have sunscreen sensitivity, avoid these ingredients: avobenzone, benzophones (oxybenzone), methoxycinnamate (waterproof suncreens), Para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA), butyl methoxydibenzoyl methane, isopropyldibenzoylmethane.

For sensitive skin, use physical blocking sunscreens that contain micronized zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. For darker skin tones, use a tinted sunscreen. For individuals prone to melasma or sun spots, avoidance is best, plus products with anti-inflammatory and skin lightening ingredients in addition to physical block based sunscreens. For dry skin, use a cream-based sunscreen.

For more expert skin care advice, contact Cahaba Dermatology today!