When it comes to taking care of your skin, there's a lot of marketing jargon, misleading claims, and just plain bad information out there. But the good news is, once you sift through the excess, having healthy, beautiful skin is actually super achievable. Just keep in mind that getting "better" skin (whatever that means to you) means getting your information from the highest authorities in the skincare space—board-certified dermatologists. So we did just that.
To discover the best science-backed tips for better, healthier skin, I reached out to top dermatologists Dr. Jessica Weiser, Dr. Rachel Nazarian, Dr. Debra Jailman, and chemist Dr. Frauke Neuser. Read on for their proven tips to improve your skin.
Meet the Expert
- Dr. Jessica Weiser is a board-certified dermatologist specializing in cosmetic and procedural dermatology.
- Dr. Rachel Nazarian is a board-certified dermatologist at Schweiger Dermatology Group and a member of Byrdie's Beauty & Wellness Review Board.
- Dr. Frauke Neuser is a chemist and the principal scientist for Olay.
- Dr. Debra Jailman is a board-certified dermatologist and the author of Skin Rules.
Use Gentle Makeup Removers and Cleansers
"Many makeup removers can strip natural oils from the skin, leaving it dull, dry, and irritated," says Dr. Weiser. "I recommend trying a micellar solution where tiny oil droplets gently scavenge makeup and dirt from the skin surface while leaving skin hydrated and refreshed." The editors at Byrdie are all big fans of this formula from Simple.
When you're using a micellar water to remove your eye makeup, try soaking a cotton round in your formula of choice, then gently press the cotton round against your closed eye for five to 10 seconds. This will help loosen your makeup and prevent unnecessary rubbing and tugging.
Avoid Peak Sun Hours
UV exposure from the sun accounts for approximately 80 percent of the visible signs of aging, so the more you avoid the sun, the more healthy and youthful your skin will appear. And while it's unreasonable to think that you can avoid the sun entirely, something you can make a conscious effort to do is to avoid the sun when it's at its peak strength. "Sun is at its strongest midday," explains Dr. Nazarian. "This means you're getting more skin damage for every minute you're outdoors or inside near a window. Try moving your schedule so you're outdoors early in the morning, or later in the day."
Wear SPF 30 or Higher Every Single Day
And while we're talking about sun exposure, make sure you're wearing a broad-spectrum SPF 30 or higher every single day—regardless of the weather, time of year, your skin tone, or your skin type. This is recommended not only to prevent premature aging, but also to protect you from skin cancer. "Sun damage is cumulative, so that one-minute walk you take into the office every day adds up," says Dr. Nazarian. "By the end of each year you have hours of sun exposure, and the skin aging to prove it. Do yourself a favor and take the extra step to put it on. Minimum SPF 30 each morning will keep your skin (and your dermatologist) very happy." Be sure to apply sunscreen to all areas of the body that aren't covered by your clothing—this includes (but is not limited to) the face, neck, the tops of the ears, your scalp and hairline, and your hands. Nazarian recommends the EltaMD UV Clear SPF 46 ($37) as a great daily sunscreen (it leaves zero white cast behind). The Elta MD UV Restore formula is also highly recommended for sensitive skin, since it's chemical free.
Keep Your Phone Away From Your Face
According to Dr. Nazarian, our cellphones are hot spots for bacteria, including acne-causing bacteria. "All that bacteria accumulates on your screen, mixing with facial oils and other germs," she warns. "Either switch to speakerphone, use your headphones, or wipe down your iPhone screen often to prevent acne breakouts and skin irritation."
Think Positive Thoughts—Seriously
Olay's recent study with 23andMe, an organization that tests and analyzes DNA, showed a correlation between the act of being positive and slower skin aging. "These findings are incredibly exciting because they show that women can actively take beauty into their own hands,” says Neuser. "In this study, having skin that looks exceptionally young was not down to luck; genetics plays some role, but factors within women's control have larger effects." Stress is likely to always creep up in our lives, but maintaining a positive attitude is profoundly helpful in our self-care and beauty routines.
Try Sleeping on Your Back
"The way you sleep does affect wrinkles—that’s why some lines are called 'sleep lines,'" says Dr. Jaliman. She advises that sleeping on your back is the ideal position to prevent the formation of wrinkles (that way you're not smearing and smashing your face into your pillow throughout the night). "While it's best to sleep on your back, I understand that can be difficult, especially when you've been a side-sleeper all your life," she says. "Luckily, there are pillows out there that prop you up and support your neck—all while preventing sleep lines from forming." Try this option from Nurse Jamie—it's a Byrdie favorite.
Wash Your Pillowcase Often
While we're on the topic of sleep, it's a good idea to wash your pillowcase regularly. During sleep, Dr. Jailman says your pillowcase gets the brunt of all the oil, dirt, germs, and dead skin cells from your face. Without washing it, this can turn into a vicious cycle of breakouts and bacteria. Instead, make sure to wash your pillowcases each week, and make sure to use a detergent that isn't irritating for your skin.
Scrubbing the skin can be very harsh and overly abrasive to the skin surface, which can trigger excess irritation and inflammation, explains Dr. Jessica Weiser. She advises against using harsh physical scrubs every night and instead opting for a gentle exfoliating pad or chemical exfoliant a few nights a week. "Gently exfoliating the skin two to three times a week can remove dead skin cells and debris without aggravating your skin." She recommends using the Colbert MD's Intensify Facial Discs ($70).
Nazarian agrees: "It may seem like you're doing yourself a favor by washing more aggressively—but our knowledge about skin cleaning has evolved, and we know now that it's about cleaning smarter, not harder. Save your time, and your money, for another part of your skincare regimen. This is one place where gentle and simple are best."
Always Wash Your Face Before Bed
Sure, you're tired, and aside from the mess it may leave on your pillowcase, you don't think sleeping in your makeup this once is such a big deal. Turns out, it is. "Sleeping in your makeup allows free radicals from daytime to cling to makeup and skin overnight, which accelerates the aging process," notes Weiser. "Wash skin before bedtime to remove makeup, associated debris, and pollutants to allow the skin to heal and rejuvenate overnight. Then follow up with a hydrating product with hyaluronic acid like the Drunk Elephant B-Hydra Intensive Hydrating Gel ($52) to draw and hold moisture at the skin surface. It will keep skin cells plumped and your skin will appear more smooth and radiant when you wake up."
Moisturize Your Face and Beyond
"Do not skimp on treating your neck and décolletage," Weiser says. "One of the biggest skincare blunders is treating the skin on your face and not paying close enough attention to your neck and chest. Make sure cleansers, sun protection, hydrators, and anti-aging products are used in all of these areas."
Try to Stop Picking Your Face
"Popping those pimples: It's tempting, but the more you pick and poke at your skin, the higher the risk for scarring and stains," says Nazarian. "Squeezing a pimple can create more trauma and inflammation that can cause skin infections, and ultimately a worse cosmetic result than leaving it alone. If you're desperate to clear your skin faster, your dermatologist can inject most pimples and improve your skin within a day." If you can't resist picking at your breakouts, try using hydrocolloid pimple patches; they not only protect your skin from picking, but they've been shown to actually speed up breakout healing time as well by drawing out bacteria and impurities.
Lee J, Oh SJ, Park S, Park J-H, Lee JH. Anti-pollution skincare: Research on effective ways to protect skin from particulate matter. Dermatol Ther. 2021;34(4):e14960.
Flament F, Bazin R, Laquieze S, Rubert V, Simonpietri E, Piot B. Effect of the sun on visible clinical signs of aging in Caucasian skin. Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. 2013;6:221-232.
Sander M, Sander M, Burbidge T, Beecker J. The efficacy and safety of sunscreen use for the prevention of skin cancer. CMAJ. 2020;192(50):E1802-E1808.
Osborne R, Tiesman J, Tamura M, et al. Genetic and lifestyle factors contribute to youthful facial appearance. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2017;76(6) Suppl 1:AB144. doi:10.1016/j.jaad.2017.04.562
Chao C-M, Lai W-Y, Wu B-Y, Chang H-C, Huang W-S, Chen Y-F. A pilot study on efficacy treatment of acne vulgaris using a new method: results of a randomized double-blind trial with Acne Dressing. J Cosmet Sci. 2006;57(2):95-105.