A trip to the esthetician is often a necessary luxury—when our pores are clogged or our overall complexion is a lackluster representation of the softer, dewier versions we once knew, it's high time to book an appointment. And yet, although the overall spa-like experience and lasting results feel like a worthy investment, we're interested in doing a bit of upkeep at home to spare our bank accounts as much as we can. (That being said, estheticians undergo extensive training for a reason: In some cases, it's best to leave the work to the pros, especially as it relates to certain tools, extractions, and the like, or if your skin is particularly sensitive and broken out.) So to help stretch out the time between our appointments and maintain the clarity of our skin with practices and products recommended by the pros, we tapped some of our favorite experts for their thoughts.
Below, we've rounded up the products dermatologists and estheticians say work the hardest for flawless, glowing, healthy skin.
Dermatologists agree that one of the best treatments you can do for your skin is a glycolic acid peel; Neal Schultz, MD, raves that it's "literally an instant glow." Glycolic acid dissolves dead and discolored skin cells, helping the skin to reflect light and appear even and smooth as glass. If your goal is to cut down on redness, however, glycolic's main goal is to clear dead and damaged surface cells, not inflamed capillaries below the surface. Don't fret, though—this can still be treated with other products, which brings us to our next point…
Yes, technically this redness-relieving cream is by prescription only, so while you might not need to see a facialist, you will need to pay your derm a visit. But once you have it on deck, you'll save money in forthcoming treatments. It works similar to Visine in that it constricts blood vessels for up to nine hours so redness is far less apparent. Rosacea isn't curable, so the only thing that makes a marked, sustainable difference is laser treatment, which can clear redness for years at a time.
Francesca Fusco, MD, of Wexler Dermatology says retinol is one of the best skincare ingredients you can possibly use, especially if you have acneic skin. She explains, "Retinol is one of the most effective treatments because it addresses all acne: blackheads, whiteheads, cysts, pimples—all. It clears existing acne and prevents clogging and new acne." Breakouts are often caused by dead cells that "stick" together and clog pores, so retinol works to unstick those cells and sweep them out of pores for smoother, clearer skin.
Retinol is also a great solution to skin maturation, as it helps to boost collagen and thicken the deeper layer of skin where wrinkles begin to form. If you want to ease your way into the retinol world to reap these benefits, try Luna Oil, a hydrating, nourishing facial oil without the tingling, skin-burning side effects of high-powered retinoid creams.
Dermatologist Kenneth Mark, MD, says he's been using this acne wash "for decades." It's a 2% salicylic acid solution that unclogs pores and has anti-inflammatory effects, perfect for acne- and blackhead-prone skin.
Continuing the salicylic acid love, Joyce Imahiyerobo-Ip, MD, says leaving the exfoliating acid on the skin longer will yield even better results. "One company that makes great salicylic acid leave-on products is HydroPeptide," she says. "Their 5X Power Peel pads contain a blend of acids, including salicylic acid, that you wipe onto your skin after washing. You then apply your moisturizer right on top of that. This helps fight breakouts all day long."
A compromised skin barrier (the skin's natural defense mechanism) means your skin is more prone to inflammation, redness, and irritation due to environmental aggressors driving in and moisture evaporating out. By using a moisturizer with lipids and fatty acids, you're creating a film that mimics the skin barrier and traps moisture in as well as protects it from skin-harming factors.
When done correctly and gently, derma-rolling is an excellent way to boost collagen production and erase the look of fine lines and dark circles. Says Fusco, "[This roller] helps to restore the look of tightness to the face, neck, and body. It reduces the appearance of fine lines, softens the look of scars, and enhances the performance of skincare ingredients."
"When someone asks me the most important anti-aging skincare product, it is easily, without hesitation, sunscreen since premature skin aging is driven primarily by the sun, so protection is key," says Melissa Kanchanapoomi Levin, MD. Every dermatologist in Byrdie's Rolodex says that sun protection is the most paramount thing you can do for your overall skin health, so lather up daily (and reapply), will ya?
Celebrity esthetician Joanna Vargas says microcurrent is a great treatment to do on skin of "any age." What happens is when the negative and positive currents from microcurrent wands run through your face, the muscles are lifted and the skin is de-puffed, like a noninvasive face-lift.
If you're doing microcurrent at home, this tool from NuFace boosts collagen, encourages product penetration so your serums can sink in even deeper, and promotes cell growth. The cost is steep, to be sure, but it'll pay for itself in results and nixed facial appointments.
The secret to baby-soft skin? Hyaluronic acid, which is created organically within our bodies. Babies naturally have very high levels within their skin, but as we age, we tend to lose it, which is why dermatologists constantly recommend replenishing our skin with HA through serums and moisturizers. After continued use, you'll notice your skin will be plumper, firmer, and smoother.
Like sunscreen, antioxidants are a powerful protective force against the environment's wrath. Says Vargas, "As anti-inflammatories, antioxidants assist the body in healing and provide protection from future damage." This mixable powder from Philosophy is 99.8% potent and protects the skin from aging free-radical damage, while also working to lighten hyperpigmentation. It's a win-win.
Up next, check out the top 25 skincare tips your dermatologist wants you to know.
Opening Image: @emmahoareau