It’s important to attend to your needs before you can attend to others. Per International Self Care Foundation, ‘Self-Care is what people do for themselves to establish and maintain health, and to prevent and deal with illness. It is a broad concept encompassing hygiene (general and personal), nutrition (type and quality of food eaten), lifestyle (sporting activities, leisure etc), environmental factors (living conditions, social habits, etc.) socio-economic factors (income level, cultural beliefs, etc.) and self-medication.’
Self care can be broken down into multiple components such as meditation practice, yoga, running, massage, bath time. Skin care can also be considered a ‘non-negotiable’ and ‘luxury’ aspect of self care.
Non-negotiable in skin care
AM Morning Routine
- Cleanser – I like to recommend a gentle cleanser in the morning (ie. Cetaphil gentle cleanser or Cerave foaming cleanser.) This step can be skipped if you feel your skin is generally dry, or if you keep your pillowcases clean.
- Moisturizer – Depending on your skin, if you’re acne-prone or oily or dry, or depending on changes in the weather, this can change my recommendation on moisturizers. For those with more oily skin, stick to gel moisturizers like Neutrogena hydrooboost water gel or cream. For those with more dry skin, stick to lotion or creams such as La Roche Posay Toleriane Ultra Face moisturizer.
- Sunscreen – The holy grail of all non-negotiable in skin care. SPF 30 or more. For those with pigmentation or dark spots, I usually recommend physical sunscreens with iron oxide ie. Tizo3 Mineral Sunscreen SPF40. Reapplication throughout the day is important as well – every 2-3 hours is recommended. I like to recommend Colorescience SPF powder Total Protection Brush-on Shield SPF 50.
Generally, the order of skin care products is essential as well. A good first step in skincare is to wash your face in the morning, pat dry, apply a thin film of moisturizer, and then apply 1/3 to 1/2 teaspoon of sunscreen for face/neck and shot glass for rest of body.
PM Night Routine
- Cleanser – for the evening, I like to recommend a double-cleanse. One way to do this is to use micellar water (ie Bioderma) followed by a water-based cleanser as above. (ie. Cetaphil gentle cleanser or Cerave foaming cleanser.) Alternatively, you can also try doing the same cleanser twice.
For evening, it’s nice to wind down with a gentle cleanser and moisturizer.
Luxuries in skin care
AM Morning Routine
- Vitamin B3 (niacinamide) – As a water soluble vitamin, it serves as an antioxidant, and studies show it can reduce enlarged pores, even skin tone, and improve hydration for skin. One that I like to recommend is Paula’s Choice 10% Niacinamide Booster. This is not necessary but a great added step.
- Vitamin C – A very potent antioxidant and studies have shown it both prevents and improves signs of aging by improving wrinkles, skin firmness and brightening complexion. Favorites include Skinceuticals Vitamin CE Ferulic or Revision Vitamin C+ Correcting Complex.
The way to add these 2 extra steps into the morning routine is to do the following: Cleanser, Vitamin C, Vitamin B3, Moisturizer, and Sunscreen. Wait a 15-30 seconds in between each step to allow for product to settle on the skin. Vitamin C acts as a very potent antioxidant so you want it to be on your skin throughout the day as the first step to catch all the free radicals and prevent skin damage. Think of squeezing lemon juice on avocados to prevent it turning brown.
PM Night Routine
- Vitamin A (retinol, retinaldehyde, retin-A aka tretinoin) – The most studied and well documented in terms of anti-aging, prevent and treats acne, prevents and treats pigmentation from acne or rashes, prevents and treat wrinkles. Over the counter vitamin A creams come in 2 main varieties, retinol and or adapalene gel, whereas prescription vitamin A creams are adapalene cream, tretinoin, tazarotene, and trifarotene. This step is not recommended for those trying or currently pregnant. I like to recommend Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair for drug store option. For those with sensitive skin or rosacea-prone skin, I like to recommend SkinBetter AlphaRet Overnight cream. For prescription strength- please discuss with your healthcare provider or dermatologist. Remember to start slow, usually I recommend starting vitamin A products once a week at night, then work your way up to nightly over the course of weeks. It takes about 8-12 weeks before you start to see improvement in your skin.
- Eye cream – Although I do not think eye creams are necessary, for those with concerns of fine lines and wrinkles, eye cream can moisturize this area and make these lines appear less deep. The eye area can be very sensitive for some people, so try doing a test spot (home patch testing) on your inner wrist for 5-7 days before applying on the eyelids if you have sensitive skin. Eye creams that I like to recommend include Neutrogena Hydroboost Eye gel cream or Epionce Renewal Eye cream.
- Neck cream – Again not necessary but for those concerned about wrinkles and sagginess, I like to recommend Revision Nectifirm.
The way to add these 3 extra steps into your night routine is in the following order: Cleanser, Vitamin A (unless your skin is very dry then you can do the sandwich – Moisturizer – Vitamin A – Moisturizer), Moisturizer, Eye cream, Neck cream.
So in summary, taking care of your skin can be a form of self care. There’s a lot of products out there in the market and these are the ones that I have personally tested myself or have had close friends test for me. By no means is it absolutely necessary to get my recommended products in each category. I list them here as options for you to review and consider on your own. That being said, the non-negotiables should be included in your self care, whereas the luxuries are things that you can consider adding one at a time for skin concerns specific to you. Good luck on your journey to taking care of your skin.
I am a board certified dermatologist at Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles. I am a comprehensive dermatologist caring for families. I love seeing children and adults. My youngest patient was 0 days old and my oldest was 110 years old. I have had psoriasis since the age of 8 and considered an expert in psoriasis and psoriasis treatments. I have lectured locally and nationally and published numerous papers on other topics such as skin manifestations of eczema, hidradenitis suppurativa, systemic lupus erythematous, granuloma annulare, microbiome, skin cancers, and more. My expertise includes knowledge in managing complex skin diseases. I am experienced with surgical treatment of skin cancers, as well as non-surgical methods to treat skin cancer and precancerous lesions. I run a full medical, cosmetic, and surgical dermatology practice. I am experienced with the use of complex dermatologic therapy, including biologic therapy, immunosuppressive medications, and phototherapy. I also treats fine lines and wrinkles non-surgically with combinations of botox, fillers, chemical peels, lasers, and radiofrequency. I perform minor surgeries such as excisions for cysts, lipomas, basal cell skin cancer, squamous cell skin cancers, and early stage melanoma. I am physician expert for Kopa for Psoriasis, part of Happify. I have been featured on podcasts and quoted in numerous online and print publications. I am honored to be named “Top Doctor” in Los Angeles magazine. In my free time, I volunteer for community events such as skin cancer screenings and at the local free clinics. I also teach internal medicine and dermatology residents at several academic centers. I try to do yoga every day and every year, I run a half-marathon at the Golden Gate Bridge.