If there's a single way to approach getting a healthy complexion, it's treating your skincare regimen as you would a diet: Take special care with ingredients, remember that the rest of your lifestyle plays a role, and know that good results take time.
The fundamental difference, however, is that while it's virtually impossible to transform your body in a single day, there is actually a crash-diet kind of approach to better-looking skin—and it's expert approved. "Improving the true quality of skin is not typically doable in such a short time frame, but it is possible to make your complexion appear significantly better in hours," says Dr. Jessica Weiser of the New York Dermatology Group.
It's an ideal situation, since this means that even though you'll have to establish good habits and patience in order to get a really healthy complexion—and it's worth the work, trust us—you can fake it in the meantime. Below, a few of our go-to skin pros tell us how.
"Hydration is the key to all of our skin's ailments," says Ling Chan, the guru behind celeb-loved Ling Skincare in NYC. "If you can take care of dehydrated skin, you will have the bases covered for healthy, glowing skin." This means it's time to scrutinize every step of your typical routine, since everything from the products you use to your technique could be causing your complexion to lose moisture—leading to acne, flakiness, the appearance of fine lines, and more.
There's a reason makeup artists swear by Embryolisse's Lait-Crème Concentré for red carpet skin prep: The oil-based formula locks in a serious dose of hydration so that skin looks and feels impossibly smooth and firm. Smooth it on before applying foundation.
Few ingredients rival its ability to provide a near-instant refresh. "It has this immediate ability to bind moisture to the skin cells," explains Chan. "Once our skin gets that drink of moisture, everything starts working optimally." This serum from Alina—which boasts nearly 4000 stellar reviews on Amazon—also contains tea extracts to help soothe and protect skin from the elements.
Now that you know which kinds of products will moisturize your skin most effectively, kick it up another notch by focusing on your application method. We're all about CAP Beauty esthetician Stephanie Lauren Brown's go-to hack, which involves mixing a water-based toner with your favorite serum to help the skin better absorb the product.
Or give yourself a spa-worthy steam with this tip from Suzanne LeRoux, president of One Love Organics: "Apply a generous amount of product to damp, freshly cleansed skin," she says. "Put a warm, damp cloth over the face for five to 10 minutes. Using the cloth, gently remove the excess balm from your skin, and voilà! Instantly smooth and plump skin."
Here's a slightly gross little factoid for you: "We all walk around with a layer of dead skin cells," says Chan. "Our skin and body go through a renewal cycle every 28 days, so we are constantly shedding dead skin. If we don't exfoliate properly, our skin will not have a healthy glow. Dead skin cells will eventually clog pores, creating a traffic jam for our natural sebum production." Make sure you're (gently) buffing your skin to expose its freshest state. On the other hand, don't overdo it, since that can lead to dryness, acne overdrive, and even wrinkles.
We'll tell it to you straight: Getting rid of acne in a single day is a very tall order, especially if you have no plans to head to the dermatologist for a cortisone injection. Stressing about the impossible will just make matters worse for your skin, so instead, take a deep breath and focus on diminishing the appearance of your zits. Try Brown's method: "Start by using a cloth soaked in ice water as a compress to close pores, minimize redness, and shrink the swelling associated with breakouts," she advises. "You can also rub an ice cube made of frozen green tea over breakouts for an added component of healing." After that, add a dab of acne treatment, preferably one with salicylic acid.
According to our experts, there are also a few home remedies that are very effective for shrinking pesky blemishes when you have minimal time to spare. Weiser recommends mixing crushed aspirin with water to form a paste, then applying that to any zits as an anti-inflammatory salicylic acid treatment. "You can also combine honey—which has both antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties—with turmeric powder and milk to create a mask or spot treatment for the affected area," she says.
Adina Grigore, founder of S.W. Basics and author of Skin Cleanse ($17), swears by a combination of baking soda and sweet almond oil. "The baking soda will kill the bacteria causing the breakout, and the sweet almond oil will counter any dehydration," she says. "I'm too sensitive to leave this on overnight, but even a couple of minutes makes redness disappear for me."
It's not just relaxing: "Doing so helps stimulate circulation, instantly making skin appear brighter," says Grigore. It's also a great way to knead in extra moisture when you opt to use a face oil or natural cream, like shea butter. After washing your face, simple massage the product into your skin in a circular motion.
Slap on a cocktail of skin-perfecting ingredients, let it sit for 15 minutes, document it for Snapchat, and be on your merry way.
It's an easy way to give your complexion a little pick-me-up throughout the day, especially if you come armed with the right ingredients to tackle any potential issues. In the winter, for example, Weiser and Grigore both recommend using rose water to combat weather-induced redness and inflammation.
Remember that a better complexion and a healthy diet are directly related. Make sure you're knocking back plenty of water throughout the day, both for hydration and to help flush out toxins. "Consuming water is also something that can have more immediate, visible results," says Grigore. "Eating plenty of vegetables will help too, as they contain the vitamins and minerals your skin loves. I love nutrient-rich leafy greens and colorful, beta-carotene–rich vegetables like carrots and sweet potatoes. Healthy fats are awesome for your skin as well, so feel free to throw some avocado into whatever you’re making as often as you'd like." Extra helpings of guac all around.
This also means cutting out the bad stuff, like processed foods and sugar (both of which cause skin mayhem). If you're struggling with a breakout, temporarily ditching dairy might be a good idea too, says Grigore—the hormones in pasteurized milk, cheese, and butter can cause imbalances in the skin, leading to blemishes.
Finally, remember that other habits can have a major impact on your complexion, from exercise to sleep (or a lack of either). In other words, approach your skin detox as a full-body cleanse. They're really not that different—and we're willing to bet that you'll see benefits beyond a glowier complexion.
What are your favorite Hail Mary tips for better skin? Tell us in the comments below.