Is a skincare routine necessary and do the products need to be applied in a specific order? A dermatologist intervenes

Have you ever found yourself standing in the skincare aisle looking at the sheer number of products and wondering what to get? Many of us have. How do we decide which products are needed? Does a daily skincare routine make a difference?

Skincare routines can be simple or complex, depending on your goals. For some, a consistent skincare routine that includes cleansing, moisturizer, and sunscreen may be enough for overall skin health. Others may want a more aggressive approach to slow the signs of aging and skin damage.

Are cheaper or more expensive products better for your skin?

It depends on what you hope to accomplish. To some extent, you can get what you pay for in terms of quality extra ingredients, but not always. More expensive doesn’t always mean better. “My biggest advice to patients is to spend what you’re comfortable spending,” says Matthew Stephany, MD, Nebraska Medicine dermatologist. “I’ve had many patients tell me that they liked their cheap moisturizer over the expensive product, and vice versa. When it comes to these products, the biggest risk is to your wallet.”

Is a daily skincare routine really necessary?

A true skin care routine may seem complicated, but the focus should be on protecting, cleansing, hydrating, preventing and supporting the skin. Although we can’t prevent all signs of aging, there are strategies that can help protect and improve our skin.

The four categories to include in your skincare routine include:

1. Prevention of skin cancer

UVA and UVB protection with a broad spectrum sunscreen is essential to protect our skin. A recent study demonstrated that higher SPFs provide additional protection against cancer. In addition to sunscreen, you will also be protected by a wide-brimmed hat and covered with clothing, especially polyester, which by its nature provides SPF 50 protection. There are also clothing brands on the market that provide different levels of sun protection.

“The best way to treat your skin is to do your best to avoid excess UV radiation,” says Dr. Stephany. “We don’t have to cover ourselves head to toe, but we do want to be smart about our UV exposure. How different levels of SPF sunscreen play out for each individual can be different, so usage Proper use of sunscreen is just as important as what SPF you use.”

Sunscreen application recommendations:

  • Adults – use 1-2 ounces per application
  • Children under 6 months should not use sunscreen
  • Waterproof and sweat-wicking sunscreens provide approximately 80 minutes of protection
  • Reapply every two hours after swimming or excessive sweating and each time a towel is used
  • If you have fine hair, use a spray or sunscreen on your scalp

Types of sunscreen at a glance:

Mineral sunscreen:

  • Diffuse light with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide
  • Are all broad spectrum (blocking both UVA and UVB rays)
  • Is good for sensitive skin
  • Can get chalky at SPF 30+, tinted physical blocker may be preferred

Chemical sunscreen:

  • Converts UV radiation into small amounts of heat. Ingredients may include avobenzone, octocrylene, and oxybenzone
  • Not all are broad-spectrum
  • Is more likely to cause skin reactions in people with sensitive skin
  • Does not cause chalky residue with higher FPS

2. Clean

Clean skin is an important aspect of overall health. The most common active ingredients in cleansers are benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid. Here are a few tips:

  • Exfoliating cleansers are best avoided for sensitive skin
  • Moisturizing cleansers are generally not a substitute for moisturizer
  • Some cleansers may contain peptides, which may eliminate the need for additional serums. Serums can help brighten skin, reduce blemishes, boost hydration, or fight signs of aging
  • If using bar soap, use sensitive soaps

3. Hydrate

Hydration fights dry skin and provides multiple benefits including improved texture and appearance and decreased inflammation (itchiness). Lotions (creams with water and alcohol), creams (ointment with water) and ointments (petroleum jelly) are different from each other, so pay attention to these words when making your purchases.

General recommendations:

  • We recommend creams or ointments rather than lotions
  • Basic is better: consider cost, texture on skin and ingredients
  • Applying once a day may not be enough, especially during the winter months. Apply twice a day at least (morning and evening), more if your skin is very dry
  • If it feels good on your skin, use it
  • Moisturizers that used to work may no longer provide enough moisture as we age

4. Anti-Aging

Sun protection should be a daily priority. Even while driving, you are still exposed to UVA through a window. As we age, we lose collagen and elastin, which leads to wrinkles and more easily bruised skin. We also lose subcutaneous fat and natural moisture, which leads to dry skin and more irritation.

“For most individuals, a consistent skincare routine using sunscreen and moisturizer is all that’s needed for overall skin health,” says Dr. Stephany. “Skin aging will occur with even the most diligent use of sunscreen, but photoaging is what we can help prevent with sun protection.”

What is photoaging? Basically, damage caused by the sun. UV radiation creates free radicals, which alter the DNA of your skin cells. This process leads to fine lines and wrinkles.

“Changes in aging skin necessitate changes in our daily routine,” says Dr. Stephany. “The desired outcome will determine how aggressive your routine is.”

Options for treating aging skin:

  • Retinoids and Retinals: Over-the-Counter and Prescription Vitamin A Treatments
  • More in-depth prevention: botulinum toxin (like Botox), a temporary treatment used as a preventive measure. Treatment approximately every three to four months
  • Fillers: last six to 12 months with some formulas considered permanent
  • Lasers: Used to improve and potentially eliminate sun spots and redness, facial contouring, and reduction of fine lines and wrinkles
  • Chemical peels: several types of acids, each with a different penetration depth

Additional Anti-Aging Support Products:
More recent research has revealed that the natural properties of collagen in the skin can be enhanced with various peptides and small molecules, including some products containing hyaluronic acid, ascorbic acid (vitamin C) and tocopherols (vitamin E).

Do skin care products need to be applied in a certain order?

Start with a cleanse, followed by an anti-aging product, moisturizer and sunscreen. Additional tips include:

  • If you’ll be indoors, apply moisturizer and sunscreen (or a combo) for about 10-15 minutes before applying your foundation and makeup.
  • If you spend most of the day outdoors, apply sunscreen over your makeup, because you’ll be reapplying it later.
  • The best time to use moisturizer is right after a shower, bath, or cleanse. You want to trap that moisture in the skin

Dermatology patients can purchase a variety of skin care products hand-selected by Nebraska dermatologists. Products are available at Lauritzen Outpatient Center and Elkhorn Health Center.

Need to see a dermatologist?
Call 402.552.7928 make an appointment.

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