Five steps, twenty steps, zero steps...We’re all in favor of a successful skincare routine — but what’s the ideal regimen? With all of the competing theories out there — from “water only” to dozens of products — claiming to deliver your best skin, it’s no surprise many of us are confused.
In search of the elusive skincare sweet spot, we talked to board-certified dermatologist Dr. Sandra Lee (aka Dr. Pimple Popper). For someone with the world of dermatology at her disposal, her philosophy is surprisingly simple.
What’s the best skincare routine?
Although everyone’s skin is unique, there are a few steps that work pretty universally, says Dr. Lee. Sticking to these 3 simple steps can help keep your skin healthy.
STEP 1: Cleanse
Everyone knows that washing your face removes dirt and oil. But why is that important? Getting off the gunk (it’s a mixture of environmental pollutants, sebum, dead skin and microbes, btw) has quite a few benefits:
- Allows skin to “breathe” freely
- Helps prevent acne by keeping pores clear
- Removes environmental toxins that can cause damage
- Promotes a healthy glow by removing the filmy layer
Dr. Lee’s favorite cleanser ingredient is beta hydroxy acid, because it’s great for exfoliating, yet gentle enough for all skin types (even sensitive). Try SLMD Salicylic Acid Cleanser, which removes dirt, oil and impurities to get pores deep-down clean, while also combating dullness.
We hear you, skin care junkies: what about double cleansing? It’s true, some complexions can benefit from this extra step, based on ancient Korean skincare rituals. SLMD Daily Bright is formulated with brightening enzymes and powerful antioxidants to cleanse away dirt, oil and makeup. Use it alone, or prior to Salicylic Acid Cleanser for a double cleanse.
STEP 2: Treat
Once skin is properly cleansed, it’s prepped to absorb any remedy or treatment. It’s this second step where we delve into our skin’s unique differences, and how to address them, Dr. Lee explains. Treatments, she says, are designed to tackle any number of skincare concerns, from dryness to oiliness and acne to aging — and everything in between. Here are a few of her favorite treatment ingredients:
- Retinol: this vitamin A derivative speeds up cell turnover, which benefits those with acne, as well as concerns about visible aging. SLMD Retinol Serum uses a time-release formula combined with nourishing ingredients to work overnight for renewed skin.
- Vitamin C: the most well-researched antioxidant, this powerhouse helps prevent hyperpigmentation, dullness, fine lines and sun damage. Find it in Retinol Serum and Bright Future — a vitamin C serum that helps fight free radicals and improve brightness.
- Sulfur: this all-natural mineral that’s safe for sensitive skin is great for controlling oil production, with anti-bacterial and exfoliating properties to boot. SLMD Sulfur Lotion slows the growth of acne-causing bacteria, while Clear Out (with added salicylic acid and zinc oxide) helps unclog pores and control oil on both face and body.
- Hyaluronic Acid: a dermatologist favorite, this extremely hydrating ingredient is very well tolerated by all skin types, since it’s naturally found in skin. SLMD Hyaluronic Acid Serum also contains squalane, so it can double as an intensive moisturizer.
STEP 3: Moisturize
No matter your skin type — normal, dry, combination, sensitive, even oily — it’s absolutely necessary to moisturize, says Dr. Lee. It’s essential to keep skin balanced, especially when using powerful treatments like benzoyl peroxide or retinol that can be drying or irritating.
Remember: hydrating and moisturizing aren’t the same. When skin is properly hydrated, it means the water content is optimal for cell health (don’t forget, we’re mostly made of water).
Skin that’s moisturized, on the other hand, has an adequate amount of lubricating oils that keep skin supple and help regulate water loss and gain. When choosing a moisturizer, look for ones labeled non comedogenic, meaning they won’t clog pores. Try SLMD Facial Moisturizer, and Dual Defender SPF 30, which are both formulated for all skin types. Dr. Lee notes that everyone should wear sunscreen daily (even if you’re indoors in wintertime) to protect against damaging UV rays.
Dr. Lee’s last word
I created SLMD Skincare with my simple, 3-step Cleanse, Treat, Moisturize philosophy in mind. Skincare isn’t magic, and it doesn’t need to be complicated. Using potent dermatological ingredients in certain combinations — and using them consistently — goes a long way toward maintaining healthy skin function. If you stick to the steps, and follow a healthy lifestyle that includes adequate sleep and daily sunscreen, your skin will definitely reward you.
—Dr. Sandra Lee