Achieving healthy, glowing skin doesn’t happen overnight. The new year is a great time to revamp your skin care routine and commit to habits that will help you achieve healthier skin, but where’s the best place to begin? We asked four board-certified dermatologists to share some approachable skin care resolutions, as well as their definition of healthy skin.
Dermatologist Joyce Parkdefines healthy skin as skin that successfully performs its job as your main barrier against the outside world. “Healthy skin is strong, not prone to cracking or breaking, and looks even and radiant,” she said. She added that the definition of healthy skin can vary from person to person, as skin concerns and goals can differ. “For me personally, if my skin is in a healthy state, that means I’m not suffering from my chronic enemy of hormonal acne,” she said.
Resolution #1: Wear sunscreen every day — rain or shine, hot or cold
We know you’ve heard this one before (and you’re probably rolling your eyes at us), but sunscreen is an everyday skin care must-have. There’s a reason dermatologists stress the importance of regular sunscreen use. “I know sunscreen isn’t ‘sexy,’ but you know all the other skin care products that help to smooth, tighten, brighten and otherwise promote glow? You might as well throw them all in the trash if you’re not using sunscreen every day,” Papri Sarkar, a dermatologist based in Brookline, Massachusetts, told HuffPost.
It all comes down to protecting your skin. “No matter what age, ethnicity, skin tone or gender you identify with, every person does better with some shielding from that beautiful ball of warmth and UV radiation in the sky we call the sun,” Sarkar said. She tells her patients to find a sunscreen they love and truly don’t mind wearing every day.
Another tip for sticking to this resolution is to not base your sunscreen use on the weather. “Think of it like brushing your teeth,” Sarkar said. “Just like you don’t check to see if it’s sunny outside before deciding whether to brush your teeth, you shouldn’t let clouds sway your sunscreen application.” Make wearing sunscreen a habit so that it’s as much a part of your daily routine as brushing your teeth and hair.
Park added that if you can’t wear sunscreen or prefer not to, sun-protective clothing, hats and sunglasses are also good options.
Resolution #2: Add a face mask to your skin care routine
No, not the COVID kind. Give your skin care regimen an extra boost once weekly with a face mask that’s appropriate for your skin type and addresses any concerns you may have.
“Whether you are using a mask to treat acne, deliver moisture or calm inflamed skin, think of it as extra TLC for your face,” said Annie Gonzalez, a dermatologist at Riverchase Dermatology in Miami. “The benefits of masks, whatever their designated purpose, is that they enable ingredients to more effectively penetrate into your skin in a relatively short window of time.” She explained that face masks create a film that, depending on the ingredients, helps to moisturize, exfoliate or hydrate the skin.
To choose an effective face mask, you first need to figure out what your skin type is and what your skin care goals are. Gonzalez notes that gel masks generally work for most skin types because they’re gentle, lightweight and can quickly absorb into your skin. They hydrate and calm while tightening and firming. For people with oily, acne-prone skin, a clay mask can be a good option, as they soften and smooth the skin and remove debris buildup. “Clay masks also remove blackheads, firm your skin and work wonders for the T-zone area,” Gonzalez said.
Resolution #3: Wash your pillowcases more often than you think
It’s probably time to wash your pillowcases. Like, right now. Sarkar recommends washing them at minimum one to two times per week, or at least changing them out with fresh ones. “People tend to stretch a blowout as long as possible,” she said. “All that oil, sweat and product that builds up on your hair? It gets on your pillowcases and over time can get on your face and increase the possibility of clogged pores and acne.”
In a similar vein, resolve to remove your makeup (including eye makeup) before going to bed. Gonzalez explained that when you sleep, your skin renews and repairs itself, so sleeping with makeup on impedes this process. This tip is especially important for people who are acne-prone, as most makeup is oil-based. “Sleeping with makeup on can increase the odds of breakouts because the makeup mingles with built-up debris, making it the perfect storm for clogged pores, blackheads, acne and even cysts,” she said.
Resolution #4: Take stock, shuffle and simplify
In a time where we’re constantly bombarded with marketing and skin care advice, it’s especially important to put yourself first and find what works best for you. Keeping it simple is a good place to start — forget the FOMO. “Find a regimen that addresses the core tenets of anti-aging and also targets your particular skin problems and focus on those,” advised Corey L. Hartman, a dermatologist at Skin Wellness Dermatology in Birmingham, Alabama. “Resist the urge to follow every marketing ploy that you’re presented with; I know there are many. You don’t have to try every product that you hear about.”
The new year is a great time to take stock of how your skin feels and how it’s behaving. From there, figure out what it needs and cut out the filler. This process is something that Sarkar does at the start of every season. “Every year I whip my skin care routine into an effective but minimalist one and then somehow new products creep into it, and suddenly my vanity is covered in skin care bottles again,” she said.
For her, five to six products work best, but the number for others may be more or less. “No matter what your number is, make sure you’re using skin care deliberately and tackling what your skin needs at each time of the year,” she said. “And don’t waste money or time on filler products unless they bring you joy!” If you aren’t sure what parts of your skin care routine should be added or removed, consulting with a board-certified dermatologist can help.
Resolution #5: Commit to consistency
Whether you have a 10-step skin care system or a basic cleanser and moisturizer, sticking to a routine over the long haul will be the most beneficial to achieving healthier skin. “The products and the regimen are secondary to a commitment to actually using them regularly,” Hartman said. “This one simple tactic will take you farther than the most expensive product or in-office procedure.”
This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.