The Ultimate Radiant Skin Routine, Straight From Derms

Woman applying a serum, head to the side looking downward.

Anna Tabakova / Stocksy

If you're looking to achieve that lit-from-within glow, it's time to change up your routine. Making a few simple swaps in your morning and nighttime regimen can make all the difference, taking you one step closer to the glowiness you're aiming for. But surprisingly, the results you've been looking for won't require slathering on a whole barrage of new products or spending hours in the bathroom.

In fact, it'll only require five simple steps when you wake up and before you head to bed to catch some ZZZs. As you can imagine, the real key is using the right products. To make the change as seamless as possible, we spoke to two board-certified dermatologists, Joshua Zeichner, MD, and Shereene Idriss, MD, to find out what exactly you should be using.

Meet the Expert

  • Shereene Idriss, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist, founder of Idriss Dermatology in NYC, and creator of the #pillowtalkderm series on Instagram.
  • Joshua Zeichner, MD, is an associate professor of dermatology and director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital.  

Want to see precisely which products they recommended and how to incorporate them into your schedule? Keep reading for everything you need to know.

AM Routine

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Step 1: A Gentle Cleanser

"I believe an AM routine really begins with a PM routine the night before: making sure you have washed your face and cleared any gunk out of the skin before heading to bed," explains Idriss. And when it comes to a morning routine, you'll want a way to gently cleanse without stripping or drying your skin. "I look at washing your face as the foundation of your skincare routine," says Zeichner. "The goal of cleansing is to remove soiling (like any dirt, gunk, or buildup) from the skin without compromising your skin barrier."

It's important to note that using the right cleanser and the temperature of your water can have a huge impact. "Be cautious with overheated water as it may strip your skin of its natural oils, further damaging an already sensitive skin barrier," says Idriss. When it comes to washing your face the type of cleanser you use is crucial, so opt for something gentle like a water-based cleanser. "Simple's Micellar Facial Gel Wash removes dirt and oil with ultra-gentle micellar cleansing agents and without causing dryness or irritation," advises Zeichner.

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Step 2: Vitamin C Serum

Both dermatologists recommend applying a vitamin c serum as your next step. "It is a very well-proven antioxidant that can help boost the effects of your sunscreen," says Idriss. Vitamin C can also help protect the skin against free radical damage from the environment and block the production of abnormal pigmentation. Zeichner advises using the Bliss Bright Idea Vitamin C Serum since it contains antioxidants along with peptides.

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Step 3: Eye Cream

After applying vitamin C, Idriss recommends putting on an eye cream. "When skin is drier eye areas tend to get red, so I recommend utilizing an eye cream with vitamin K, such as Isdin Isdinceutics K-Ox Eye Cream," she says. "I also use this around my nose in the wintertime as I tend to get redness around my nostrils."

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Step 4: A Lightweight Moisturizer

Idriss recommends using a lightweight moisturizer. "I opt for Embryolisse Lait-Creme Concentre," she says. "This can also serve as a makeup primer."

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Step 5: SPF

Every skincare routine needs SPF, and a radiant skincare routine is no exception. "The last step in a morning routine is sunscreen," says Idriss. To make sure you're getting proper coverage, choose an SPF 30 or higher and re-apply every two hours. Zeichner recommends Rodan and Fields' Reverse Brightening Defense Fluid SPF 30 as it's a lightweight, hydrating formula that fully rubs in without leaving behind a white cast or heavy feeling. Idriss recommends Supergoop! Glow Screen SPF 40, claiming that it's a staple in her skincare routine.

PM Routine

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Step 1: Micellar Water or a Cleansing Balm

The first step in your nighttime routine should be the same as your morning routine: cleansing. However, in the evening, Idriss recommends double cleansing. "I always say to never wait until the last minute to wash your face or do your skincare routine at night—do it first thing," she says. "The first step is to always cleanse your skin and remove any makeup." She uses micellar water for this—like Bioderma Sensibo H20 Micellar Water—but she advises using a cleansing balm like the Then I Met You Cleansing Balm if you wear a heavy face of makeup.

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Step 2: A Water-Based Cleanser

Follow up your first cleanse with a water-based cleanser to really ensure that any dirt, grime, residue, or leftover makeup is removed. Idriss recommends using Vanicream Facial Cleanser since it provides a lightweight cleansing that she loves. Make sure to be cautious of the water temperature to help prevent potential dryness and irritation.

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Step 3: Serums

Next, slather on the serums. "I recommend starting with one to even out pigmentation, like the Differin Dark Spot Correcting Serum," says Idriss. "I combine this with SkinMedica Lytera 2.0 Pigment Correcting Serum as it helps with my pigmentation as well." Evening out pigmentation can also give a more radiant appearance and may help brighten overall.

Zeichner advises applying retinol during this step since it helps fight the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. "I recommend retinol to all of my patients," he says. "It's important to look for a retinol formula that helps protect the skin barrier because, while retinol is effective, it can cause irritation and disrupt the skin barrier." He adores the Bliss Youth Got This Retinol Serum as it contains a stabilized form of retinol along with squalene to help protect the skin.

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Step 4: Eye Cream

As with any nightly routine, eye cream should be your next step. "Apply eye cream around the eyes," explains Idriss. In particular, she recommends alternating between prescription retinol and a lighter over-the-counter retinol eye cream. "I use Kate Somerville Retinol Firming Eye Cream," she says. She also suggests the A313 Vitamin A Retinol Cream since it delivers instant gratification the next morning.

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Step 5: Moisturizer

To finish off your radiant routine, apply a thick coating of moisturizer. "I always allow the moisturizer to melt into my skin after application," explains Idriss. She advises using La Roche Posay's Cicaplast Baume B5, while Zeichner recommends using the Lano Face Base Vitamin E Day Cream. "This moisturizer uses lanolin to offer emollient and hydrating skin benefits and vitamin e to calm the skin and provide antioxidant effects," he says. "You always want to protect the skin barrier and replace hydration, especially if you are using actives like retinol or hydroxy acids."

Key Ingredients

Cica creams are powered by the medicinal herb centella asiatica. The ingredients have been shown to help relieve minor burns, heal scars, and soothe psoriasis.

Article Sources
Byrdie takes every opportunity to use high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.
  1. Pullar JM, Carr AC, Vissers MCM. The Roles of Vitamin C in Skin Health. Nutrients. 2017 Aug 12;9(8):866. doi: 10.3390/nu9080866.

  2. Mukherjee S, Date A, Patravale V, Korting HC, Roeder A, Weindl G. Retinoids in the treatment of skin aging: an overview of clinical efficacy and safety. Clin Interv Aging. 2006;1(4):327-348.

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