15 Smart Things Dermatologists Think You Should Do In 2021
New year, new me! Or so the saying goes, but once the clock strikes midnight and the glittery mirrorball drops, resolutions tend to get extinguished before they’ve begun (unless you’ve read our tips for sticking to NY resolutions!).
The new year can be a great time to make changes (like taking better care of your skin), but in order to commit to the goals you’ve set, start with baby steps.
Skincare promises are achievable only if they’re realistic, which is why we asked a few of our favorite derms to share their best tips for 2021:
1. Do a skincare audit. President of Modern Dermatology in Westport, CT, Dr. Deanne Mraz Robinson, recommends checking the expiration date on ALL products and tossing anything that’s past its prime. “As a general rule of thumb, I recommend these staples for the AM: gentle cleanser, antioxidant serum, mineral SPF 30+ and these for the PM: exfoliating cleanser, retinol or bakuchiol, oil-free moisturizer.”
2. Get your SPF layering in check. According to leading dermatologist and skincare authority, Doris Day, daily SPF is a must, but you should always use one that is separate from moisturizer. “Apply the moisturizer first and then the sunscreen. Look for one that is mineral – ideally zinc-based – with SPF 30 or higher to protect against blue light damage, infrared and, of course, UV rays.” Check out our fave mineral SPFs here.
3. Stop over-scrubbing. “It’s great to exfoliate, but not every day and not to the point where your skin stings, burns, or bleeds after you’re done,” advises Day. Use gentle cleansers, don’t over scrub, and moisturize after washing for best results.
4. Grab a vitamin D boost. “Protect your immune amidst the pandemic with vitamin D supplements and foods like salmon, shrimp, and eggs,” says Greenwich, CT-based derm Sarah Dolder.
5. Rejuvenate the lower face. AKA the zoom effect! “Try microneedling with radiofrequency (Morpheus8) to tighten collagen, remodel adipose tissue, and prevent unwanted jowls,” suggests Dolder. Or you know, if you’re on a budget, then an at-home facial massage can help tighten and tone too!
6. Get a skin cancer screening. “Early detection and prevention of melanoma is always in vogue,” adds Dolder. Never skip your annual skin cancer screening with a board-certified dermatologist. Read more about the process and why it’s so important here.
7. Avoid dangerous TikTok or Instagram skincare trends. “Some of these wacky ideas have included using glue to remove all sorts, making your own eyelash serum, fixing self-tanning streaks with a magic eraser, treating skin cancer with black salve, and the list goes on,” warns Dr. Stacy Chimento Chimento of Riverchase Dermatology in Miami, FL. Consult a dermatologist before practicing anything on your skin that seems unorthodox.
8. Know the difference between maskne and maskitis. “There are two main skin conditions caused by protective COVID face coverings: maskne and what I have coined as maskitis,” explains Dr. Dennis Gross, board-certified dermatologist and creator of Dennis Gross Skincare. “Maskne is acne that forms around the mouth and nose and maskitis is a skin rash, marked by small bumps, redness, inflammation and dry, flaky skin. Maskne requires a non-irritating or benzol peroxide-free acne treatment (I like DRx Acne Eliminating Gel, $40) while maskitis should be treated with soothing superfoods, adaptogens, and niacinamide (I like B3 Adaptive SuperFood Stress Rescue Super Serum, $74).
9. Don’t neglect your body. Another Gross no-no is concentrating so much on your face game that you disregard the neck down. “Your body skin is two to three times thicker than the face, so it needs clinical products formulated to penetrate”
Our hack? Sometimes spending money on products just for your neck seems like an expensive luxury. Instead, use those skincare products you’ve fallen out of love with (we know you have some!), and use them up by applying to your neck and décolleté instead.
10. Exercise! Even though we would love a new year’s list of self-care steps that left this one out, it sorta helps. “Studies have shown that exercise not only keeps skin looking younger, but it may even reverse skin aging in people who start exercising late in life,” says NYC-based dermatologist Hadley King.
11. Protect your skin from blue light. “We’re all spending a lot of time on our screens lately, and we’ve learned that blue light can not only affect our sleep and harm our eyes, it can also cause discoloration and aging of our skin,” explains King. “I recommend EyeJust Blue Light Blocking Screen Protectors, $45, to block blue light from the source – and protect the screen too.”
12. Start using retinol in the evening. “Retinol is perhaps the best-studied anti-aging ingredient we have,” says Joshua Zeichner, Director of Cosmetic and Clinical Research in Dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. “It stimulates collagen to strengthen the foundation of the skin, improves the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, and evens skin tone and texture.” New to retinol? Zeichner advises starting slow – every other night or even less frequently if you are sensitive. Check out our guide to using retinol here.
13. Make sure your body and hair care products are non-comedogenic. Yes, hair care products can cause clogged pores and breakouts too! “What’s on your hair is on your skin,” says Iris Rubin, dermatologist and Founder of SEEN Hair Care. “Shampoo and conditioner rinse down the face, chest, and back in the shower, and leave-in styling products leave a residue that can transfer from your hair to your skin. Try SEEN Shampoo, $29 and Conditioner, $26 in the shower and SEEN Blow-Out Creme, $24 and Curly Creme, $27 for styling, all of which are non-comedogenic and non-irritating.”
Another tip is to make sure you wash your body and your face after you’ve shampooed and conditioned to ensure you remove any lingering hair product residue.
14. Never attempt to remove a mole at home. According to triple board-certified, Boston-based dermatopathologist Gretchen Frieling, removing your own moles by attempting to scrap or burn them off is downright dangerous, as it can lead to scarring or deformity of the area. If you want to remove a mole, just see a derm.
15. Learn more is not more. Loading up on skincare when you are frustrated with skin flares can potentially make the problem worse, according to Dr. Michele Farber of Schweiger Dermatology Group in Philadelphia, PA. “It’s best to limit to only one or two active ingredients in your AM or PM regimen and add slowly as needed. Alternating ingredients every other day, especially with drying ingredients like retinoids and AHAs/BHAs can greatly improve tolerability of what you’re using.”