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When it comes to skincare results, we're total Veruca Salts—we want them now. But the reality is, for most skincare products, you can't expect to see actual, tangible results until you've used them consistently for several weeks. It's true that patience is a virtue since consistent application and preventative care will serve you well as you age. (But back to wanting the works right away.) What can we do today to have better-looking skin tomorrow, you know, aside from injectables? We turned to three top dermatologists for their sage advice on how to achieve noticeably better skin texture and clarity in 24 hours (it's possible), as well as how to do our due diligence to ensure our skin is surpassing its full potential a decade from now (and beyond).
For Better Skin Tomorrow…
Michelle Henry, MD, of Laser & Skin Surgery of New York says she's "obsessed" with microdermabrasion to remove dead skin cells. It's a process by which a small vacuum-like machine is moved around the face in short strokes to suction up dead skin and congestion. Doing so helps clarify the skin and even diminishes the look of fine lines. If you're considering it, know that at-home microdermabrasion devices won't yield as impressive results as an in-office visit.
Get a Glycolic Peel
Tara Rao, MD, of Schweiger Dermatology Group is a big fan of these glow-inducing peels for immediate results. If done in-office, a high concentration of glycolic acid (around 40%) is applied to the skin for around two minutes and then wiped off to reveal glowing, more even skin. The acid dissolves inactive top layer cells as well as lightens discoloration by removing hyperpigmentation.
Melissa Kanchanapoomi Levin, MD, agrees: "Exfoliation is key and necessary in order to continue the turnover of dead skin cells. I recommend incorporating an alpha hydroxy acid product [Ed note: glycolic acid is an AHA], or for those with more sensitive skin, a gentle exfoliating cleanser like Cetaphil Extra Gentle Daily Scrub ($10) is a great entry point that uses fine microparticles from bamboo extract to buff and soften the skin."
Take Care of Your Body
Very simply, Rao says sleep and hydration are "key" for a "quick fix." Drinking water may not help with skin maturation, but it does reduce swelling. Being dehydrated from not drinking enough water or eating salty foods can cause the body to retain water, especially under the eyes and along the contours of the face.
For Better Skin in a Year…
Diligently Apply Sunscreen
This is a no-brainer. Just one sunburn can slightly raise your risk for melanoma, not to mention prolonged sun exposure is damaging to your cells in general. "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 Levin.
Get an In-Office Laser Treatment
A few in-office laser treatments can also do wonders in a year's time. "Gentle resurfacing laser treatments like a light Halo or Clear and Brilliant keeps the skin cells turning over," says Levin. "The laser creates microthermal injuries, which boosts collagen, turns over the skin, and minimizes inflammation in order to generate healthier and clearer skin."
Rao agrees: "Depending on skin type, age, and budget, you may consider a series of chemical peel and lasers, such as Clear and Brilliant, to improve tone and texture of the skin." A package of six treatments can cost around $1800, so it's certainly an investment.
Invest in a Safety Razor
For better-looking skin on your legs and around your bikini area, consider switching up your usual razor. "Switch to a safety razor like my favorite by Bevel," says Henry. "It will help reduce the number of ingrown hairs that are created after each shave. With time, you will have smooth, even-toned skin."
While this magical ingredient can be a bit too harsh on sensitive skin, if your complexion reacts well to it, consider giving it permanent residency in your medicine cabinet. Says Levin, "The truly tried-and-proven, vitamin A–derivative ingredient has been long studied since the 1980s and has been proven to improve the appearance of wrinkles, diminish brown spots, and even out discoloration in the skin. At the cellular level, retinoids work by increasing collagen formation, decreasing breakdown of collagen, and normalizing cell turnover. For those with acne, using a retinoid such as Differin Gel ($29) is a prescription-strength, over-the-counter retinoid that not only normalizes skin cell turnover but also has anti-inflammatory properties and improves the skin texture and tone with regular use. Furthermore, Differin Gel is more tolerable and gentle compared to other retinoids."
For Better Skin 10 Years From Now...
Maintain a Routine
All three dermatologists were in agreement that sticking to a consistent skincare routine (cleanser, moisturizer, daily SPF, and actives like vitamin C and retinol) is the best thing you can do for your skin in the long term (in addition to caring for your body internally, of course). Explains Rao, "This is where good habits practiced yearly can really pay off. Really good habits for sun protection, particularly avoiding burns, pay off in the long run. This is important because excess sun exposure can be responsible for dryness, wrinkles, and discoloration that build up slowly in the skin over time."
Visit a Dermatologist Regularly
While initially pricey, seeing a dermatologist for resurfacing treatments offers a high ROI. "In-office procedures in addition to a solid skincare routine are necessary," says Levin. "Resurfacing laser treatments like Halo Pro and Fraxel Dual remain the workhorses not only for treating wrinkles, discoloration, freckles, and scars but also for turning over the skin to create new skin cells which are healthier. Also, light-based therapies like intense pulsed light (IPL) or broadband light (BBL)—this is an in-office procedure that not only treats discoloration (both red and brown spots) but also stimulates the production of important proteins such as collagen and elastin as well as repair DNA. Microneedling can also be coupled with topical treatments such as vitamin C, trichloroacetic acid, platelet-rich plasma (PRP), which helps not only stimulate collagen and treat discoloration but also smooth out wrinkles."