Skincare 101: do’s and don’ts for better skin

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FROM FIGHTING ACNE decades past puberty to scoffing at the first signs of wrinkles, it’s hard to win the good-skin game. But before you curse your genes, ask yourself whether your skincare routine and lifestyle habits are up to par. And by that we don’t mean clocking hours in front of the mirror or stealing your girlfriend’s fancy facial products.

There’s no need for five-step peels or expensive serums, says Howard Sobel, MD, a New York City-based dermatologist. Layering on too many products can actually irritate skin. The key is washing and moisturizing every day and following a few other maintenance basics, he says. Check out Sobel’s do’s and don’ts for a fresher looking face.

From fighting acne decades past puberty to scoffing at the first signs of wrinkles, it’s hard to win the good-skin game. But before you curse your genes, ask yourself whether your skincare routine and lifestyle habits are up to par. And by that we don’t mean clocking hours in front of the mirror or stealing your girlfriend’s fancy facial products.

A splash of cold water does more than wake you up. A good cleanse helps slough away dead skin cells that stick together and make your face look dull. Use a wash with glycolic acid, both in the morning and before bed, advises Sobel. For a deeper clean that also stimulates the growth of new skin cells, wash with an exfoliating scrub once or twice a week. Just don’t overdo it—cut back if skin starts to get red or irritated.

Lotion should be an automatic step two after cleansing. Apply moisturizer when skin is still slightly damp to help seal in moisture, suggests Sobel. Most face lotions are oil-based, which work well for guys with normal skin—and they’re a must for dry or flaky skin, especially in the winter (check out these other top-rated cold-weather skincare essentials). If you have oily skin or are prone to breakouts, look for a water-based product.

DO Stay Hydrated
Lotion is only half of the hydration equation—skin needs moisture from the inside out, too, says Sobel, who suggests drinking six to eight glasses of H2O a day. Also keep tabs on how much alcohol and caffeine you’re gulping down. Both can make you dehydrated; but, drinking coffee or booze along with food and water can help counter the dehydrating effects.

Even if you’re still getting ID-ed at the bar, adding a retinol cream to your daily routine in your 20s will help stave off fine lines and wrinkles down the road. Plus, retinol boosts cell growth and collagen production, which improves the tone of even non-wrinkled skin. Since the wrinkle-fighting ingredient makes skin more sensitive to the sun, use it at night. Simplify your routine by picking a product that combines retinol with a moisturizer, suggests Sobel. Here are 10 amazing anti-aging products you can try.

DON’T Overdo Sugar
Indulge once in a while, but don’t turn venti caramel lattes into a daily thing. High-sugar diets cause inflammation, which can lead to breakouts. Cookies, cake, donuts, and soft drinks are obvious offenders; but don’t forget to check the grams of sugar in seemingly healthy or savory-tasting foods, like flavored yogurt, cereal, jarred sauces, and protein bars. These unsuspecting sugar bombs can deliver a huge dose of the sweet stuff without being classified as dessert.

DON’T Soak Up too Much Sun
Nothing weathers your skin more than the sun, says Sobel. Damaging rays speed up the aging process by slowing down collagen production and cell growth and forcing skin to lose its elasticity. Your best defense is a good sunscreen. Look for a moisturizer with an SPF of 15 or higher that provides broad-spectrum protection, meaning it blocks both UVA and UVB rays.

DO Get Your ZZZ’s
Clocking the recommended seven to eight hours of slumber will give your cells plenty of time to fix the day’s wear and tear. For skin, that means heading off wrinkles, fine lines, and breakouts. And don’t try to make up for a week’s worth of missed sleep on Sunday morning—the body needs consistent sleep to look its best.

DO Load Up on Fruits and Veggies
Variety is key when packing your fridge with produce. From berries to carrots, each fruit or vegetable has different good-for-you antioxidants. These compounds help fight off free radicals, molecules that exacerbate the effects of inflammation, sun damage, and aging. Go for five to seven servings (or more) of fruits and vegetables a day. Scottish researchers found that two extra servings of produce each day noticeably improved skin tone in six weeks. These 20 foods can help keep you young.

DON’T Stress Out
Traffic jams and 12-hour workdays don’t just affect your mood; stress wreaks havoc on your skin, too. Getting frazzled throws hormone levels into flux, which damages healthy skin cells and makes you more prone to breakouts and wrinkles. Because you won’t find a bottle of zen in the skincare aisle, recharge and relax by doing what you love, whether it’s CrossFit or cracking open a new book.

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