When it comes to skin-care ingredients, there are friends and there are foes. Just like us, active skin-care ingredients can be paired together to conquer the world and the peskiest of skin-care concerns, and others can work against each other and wreak havoc on our faces.
When you walk into Sephora, Target, or Walmart, there are what seems like thousands of options to choose from. Some are at a price point that seems too good to be true, and others are so stinking expensive it would take a year to save up for a month’s supply. Instead of spending hundreds of dollars and countless hours purchasing and applying products that promise to answer every skin-care prayer you’ve ever asked for with little to no results, try pairing potent, powerhouse ingredients that work together to get the job done.
We touched base with NYC dermatologists and got the scoop on how to cocktail the perfect dynamic duo to meet your skin-care needs.
Dull, Lackluster Complexion
There are days—whether it’s due to stress, lack of sleep, inadequate water consumption, or poor skin-care habits—when our skin needs a pick-me-up. While returning to a regular skin-care routine can suffice, an addition of active ingredients can revitalize and give skin a boost (think of it as a push-up bra for your face).
“For dull skin, a combination of glycolic acid and vitamin C can leave skin smooth and refreshed,” shares Marina Peredo, MD, NYC dermatologist. “Glycolic acid exfoliates dead skin cells, and vitamin C helps to brighten the skin.” If you don’t incorporate these ingredients into your skin-care routine regularly, an easy and inexpensive fix to this problem is finding a gentle face scrub with these active ingredients to revitalize your complexion. Gently exfoliate once or twice a week to slough away dead skin and reveal a natural glow.
L’Oreal Paris Revitalift Bright Reveal Brightening Daily Scrub Cleanser
Instead of opting for two unique products, use this budget-friendly cleansing scrub, which infuses both active ingredients, glycolic acid and vitamin C, to keep your complexion radiant.
$7 at Target
If breakouts pop up here and there or never seem to go away, a blend of dermatologist-recommended ingredients can not only treat existing pimples but help prevent them as well.
“Acne is multifactorial,” shares Kimberly Jerdan, MD, cosmetic dermatologist. “Not only do you need to combat the bacteria, but you also must normalize the skin cell turnover.” Dr. Jerdan recommends pairing benzoyl peroxide and retinoid to tackle stubborn breakouts.
PCA Skin BPO 5% Cleanser
$38 at PCA Skin
Cleansing acne-prone skin with this benzoyl-peroxide-infused cleanser will help eliminate acne-causing bacteria while calming and treating existing breakouts.
PCA Skin Intensive Brightening Treatment 0.5% Pure Retinol Night
This gentle retinol formula will stimulate cell turnover and improve discoloration and excess oils and will treat acne and acne scarring while you snooze.
$109 at PCA Skin
Another popular duo when combating acne breakouts is glycolic and salicylic acids. “A combo of glycolic and salicylic acids is like a mini chemical peel at home,” shares Dr. Peredo. These potent acids will gently exfoliate and relieve inflammation without drying out your skin.
M-61 PowerSpot Pads
$24 at Blue Mercury
A simple swipe of this pad will help cleanse pores and reduce those stubborn red pimples with a blend of salicylic acid, glycolic acid, and witch hazel.
While there are many products and treatments that claim to lighten dark spots, you may find yourself with a basket full of $100 creams that don’t seem to be doing the trick. If an even complexion is your skin goal, you might find that most dermatologists recommend a lightening agent called hydroquinone.
“Hydroquinone is a tried and true ingredient and organic compound used to correct hyperpigmentation, but most of the time it should be prescribed under the supervision of your dermatologist,” recommends Dr. Peredo. Pairing this brightener with a daily SPF will not only help treat existing spots but protect against future dark spots appearing.
SkinMedica Lytera 2.0 Pigment Correcting Serum
$154 at Dermstore
Safe for all skin tones, this over-the-counter pigment corrector is dermatologist-approved and aids in lightening even the most stubborn of dark spots.
La Roche-Posay Anthelios 60 Clear Skin Dry Touch Sunscreen SPF 60
A lightweight moisturizing SPF that protects skin from harsh UV rays without leaving a chalky finish.
$19.99 at La Roche-Posay
Whether you’re in your 20s or you’re legally a senior citizen, slowing down signs of aging is likely on your mind when perfecting your skin-care routine. Decreasing the sight of mostly unwanted visitors, from crows’ feet to fine lines and wrinkles, can be tackled with the proper ingredients.
“Retinoids help combat textural changes, improve signs of skin damage, and brighten your complexion,” says Dr. Jerdan. “When combined with vitamin C and E topicals, antioxidants can better access the skin to fight off extrinsic factors that may be aging the skin.”
The duo of vitamins C and E is often used by skin-care experts to repair skin cells as you age. Vitamin C helps to stimulate collagen for a plump and youthful look and protects skin from environmental pollutants while reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Vitamin E is a powerhouse ingredient that reduces the signs of aging by blocking free radicals from attacking and damaging the skin.
Skinceuticals C E Ferulic
$165 at SkinCeuticals
This serum is chock-full of potent ingredients to protect skin from external stresses while reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
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