Want gorgeous skin? It’s time to start thinking like a dermatologist. While you can’t see your skin doc for every bump and blemish, you can impress them at your next appointment by going back to the basics. Rather than complicate your life with fancy formulas packed with ingredients you can’t even pronounce, do as the pros do and focus on the essentials. By simply switching to a gentle cleanser, sticking to a daily regimen, and eating healthier foods, you can achieve the healthy glow you’ve always dreamed of. Click through our gallery now for more expert-approved ways to treat your complexion.
1. Shun the Sun 24/7
Just slathering on SPF in the morning? That isn't enough, says every dermatologist ever. Shield yourself from UVA and UVB rays with a broad-spectrum- protection product like Philosophy’s Miracle Worker Multi-Rejuvenating Cream Broad Spectrum 30 ($75; nordstrom.com), which also has antioxidants to help neutralize sun damage. Reapply sunscreen every two hours, and when outside, "seek shade, wear a hat, and cover up," says N.Y.C. dermatologist Joshua Zeichner.
2. Gulp Down (Good) Bacteria
Probiotics aren't just digestive aids. Studies show that ingesting good bacteria, like the lactobacillus in kimchi, neutralizes the bad, helping curb inflammation and acne. Most research addresses the internal benefits of probiotics, but evidence also suggests they can be effective topically. "I do a weekly mask with one cup of probiotic-rich Greek yogurt, half an avocado, and one tablespoon of honey," says N.Y.C. dermatologist Whitney Bowe. "It calms my skin and helps keep it clear.” Try Culturelle Digestive Health probiotic capsules ($22/30; drugstore.com).
3. Play Offense, Not Defense
Rather than wait for problems to pop up, doctors design routines that preempt them. For example: "We avoid spot-treating blemishes," says Dr. Bowe. "We use types of retinoids all over the face to prevent breakouts—and premature aging—by increasing cell turnover and prompting collagen production." We recommend Revision Retinol Facial Repair ($56; revisionskincare.com for dermatologist locations).
4. Switch to a Soothing Cleanser
If you're suffering from sensitivity issues, your squeaky-clean washing routine could be to blame. "Patients often aggravate their own skin by using overly aggressive daily cleansers," says N.Y.C. dermatologist Cybele Fishman. Look for nonabrasive, sulfate-free versions, which rid your face of excess oil and residue but don't disrupt the very important (and very persnickety) skin barrier. We like Neal's Yard Remedies Calendula Cleanser ($26; us.nyrorganic.com) and Shu Uemura Porefinist Anti-Shine Fresh Cleansing Oil ($67; shuuemura-usa.com).
5. Wean Off Wipes
Reaching for a cloth instead of soaping up at the sink is fine once in a while—late nights, early mornings, late nights that turn into early mornings—but don't make it a habit. "Pollution and particulate matter really do settle into skin and cause damage," says Dr. Zeichner. "For the most part, wipes just aren't thorough enough." Cleansing brushes, on the other hand, not only make washing your face feel more luxurious but also get rid of deep-set buildup. A few times a week, try a sonic tool with supersoft bristles, such as Sephora Collection’s Pore Cleansing Brush ($29; sephora.com), to gently purify while leaving your skin more luminous.
6. Scrub Smarter, Not Harder
There are many ways to get a smooth complexion, but scraping your face daily with beads, balls, or other abrasives shouldn't be one of them. "Overexfoliating leads to redness, bumps, and even broken capillaries," says Dr. Fishman. If you dig scrubs, try a sugar-based blend just once a week, she says, which promotes moisture in the skin. And although chemical sloughers, such as a glycolic acid-spiked face wash, sound intense, they can actually be amazing for sensitive types, dissolving dead, dull cells without any tugging. Try Suki Exfoliate Foaming Cleanser ($33; sukiskincare.com).
7. Puzzle 'Em
Side sleepers, take heed: "I can often guess which side a patient sleeps on by a subtle volume loss and fine lines on that side of their face," says Solano Beach, Calif., dermatologist Melanie Palm. The ideal snooze pose? On your back with your head slightly elevated (this counters dark circles). If that sounds torturous, prop up on a puzzle-piece pillow like this Nurse Jamie Beauty Bear Age Delay Pillow ($69; net-a-porter.com). It'll keep you from smushing your face as you slumber.
8. Focus on Food
We look at our face and see a blemish we need to blast with benzoyl peroxide. A dermatologist looks at our face and asks, "How are you sleeping? What's your diet like?" That's because skin is a reflection of your well-being, says Dr. Fishman, and your lifestyle and diet are written all over it. "I see patients with acne that's triggered by cow's milk and high-glycemic- index foods, which can lead to inflammation." A diet rich in antioxidants (blueberries), omega-3 fatty acids (avocados), and zinc (spinach and almonds) can improve your complexion and overall health.
9. Commit to a Daily Regimen
You'd be hard-pressed to find a dermatologist who doesn't swear allegiance to this tried-and-true (and clinically proven) trinity: "For day, use an SPF 30 (EltaMD UV Clear SPF 46, $32; dermstore.com) or higher, plus a topical with antioxidants like green tea or polyphenol extracts (Caudalie Polyphenol C15 Defense Serum, $62; sephora.com)," says Dr. Fishman. "At night, apply a prescription retinoid or an over-the-counter retinol (Skinceuticals Retinol .5, $57; skinceuticals.com)." The result? Skin that's armored against daily damage and actively repairing itself, building new, firming collagen while you sleep.
10. Upgrade Your H20
"Everything that touches your skin matters, including your water," says Miami dermatologist Leslie Baumann. "In New York there's a lot of calcium and hard water, and here in Miami we've got too much chlorine. Both can dry you out." No need to start bathing in Evian, though: "Water filters make a huge difference to your skin and even to your hair," Dr. Baumann says. We like T3 Source showerhead ($130; sephora.com).