Even if you're under 35, it's never too soon to start smart skin habits-and stop any that could be damaging or accelerate aging. "If you stick to just a few basics, your skin can look younger longer than you thought possible," says Dennis Gross, MD, a dermatologist in New York City and founder of the Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare line. Here, four you can safely live without (your face will thank you).
Myth 1: Skin Should Feel Tight after Washing
Truth: If your skin doesn't feel fresh and supple, you're probably washing with a cleanser that's too harsh. Daily cleansing banishes blemish-causing bacteria and removes radiance robbers such as makeup, oil, and dead cells. However, harsh detergents and overwashing can increase the appearance of fine lines and often trigger breakouts, too, as oil production kicks into overdrive to compensate for a lack of moisture.
Switch to a creamy cleanser with hydrators such as glycerin as well as mild surfactants like sodium or (long word alert) disodium cocoyl glutamate or cocamidopropyl PG-dimonium chloride phosphate (CPG), which are derived from coconut oil. "They all wash away makeup but restore moisture too," says Marianna Blyumin-Karasik, MD, a clinical instructor of dermatology at the University of Miami.
Myth 2: Drugstore Products Aren't as Good
Truth: "Regardless of where they're sold, most anti-aging lines contain the same ingredients," says David Bank, MD, a dermatologist in Mount Kisco, NY. These include scientifically proven anti-agers such as retinoids, alpha hydroxy acids, peptides, and antioxidants (like vitamin C and green tea). To get the most bang for your buck, look for packaging designed to maintain a product's freshness and potency. For example, an airless pump keeps oxygen (and your fingers!) out of a cream, while an opaque coating around a bottle blocks sunlight. Another tip to boost effectiveness: Check the ingredient label to be sure the rejuvenators you want are listed high up-ideally, within the top 10.
Myth 3: Anti-Agers Make Skin Look Worse
Truth: Topical creams won't leave skin as red and blotchy as either of the big anti-aging guns--lasers or chemical peels. But key rejuvenators like retinoids, which speed cell turnover and stimulate collagen production, can be so irritating that you may just want to give up. Don't! These simple tricks will keep you from hoisting the white flag: First-timers should prep skin for 2 weeks with an antioxidant like green tea, often found in skin serums.
And consider a milder OTC retinol instead of a stronger Rx version. Mix a pea-size amount of retinol with your face cream to help offset dryness, and apply it every second or third night. Skin still too dry? Build up tolerance for a few weeks by putting the cream on for 5 minutes every other night and then rinsing it off. As skin becomes acclimated, work up to full nightly applications.
Myth 4: If a Product Doesn't Work Quickly, Move On
Truth: It's crucial to stick to a regimen long enough to see what works for your skin and what doesn't. "I suggest waiting 8 to 10 weeks before you abandon a product and try the next thing," says Mark G. Rubin, MD, an assistant professor of dermatology at the University of California, San Diego, and author of Your Skin, Younger. And keep in mind that not everyone's skin will respond the same way to an anti-ager. "Most active ingredients do work on everyone-just to varying degrees," he says.
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