Better Skin in Less Time: How to Perfect Your Skin-Care Routine

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The science of skin care has advanced by leaps and bounds over the past 20 years. Well-formulated products really can treat even the most stubborn skin issues, from acne to dark spots, wrinkles, rosacea, uneven skin tone, blackheads, large pores, dry skin, oily skin, and, to a minor extent, even sagging skin. Because one product or one "miracle" ingredient can't do it all, it takes several different products to achieve these amazing results. Yes, skin care is rocket science, but it doesn't have to take a lot of time, either!

The vast amount of information about ingredients and products can leave you wondering what to use, when in your routine to apply it, and how often to use it for best results. The following step-by-step guide will make your morning and evening routines a breeze, and speed you along much faster than you would think. We promise that following four steps will lead to practically overnight results and continued improvement of your skin over time.

How to Use Your Cleanser, Toner, and Exfoliant

  • Use a gentle cleanser (AM & PM)—For more information about what cleanser is best for your skin type ,click here.
  • Toner (AM & PM)—This is an important and often-overlooked step. A well-formulated toner removes the last traces of makeup, reduces redness, helps minimize pore size, and loads your skin up with anti-aging ingredients, such as antioxidants, cell-communicating ingredients, and skin-repairing ingredients. Those with oily skin may find that a great toner provides all the hydration their skin needs!
  • Exfoliate with AHA or BHA (AM & PM)—Sun damage causes the surface of the skin to become abnormally thick, and acne and oily skin can further complicate this issue. Daily exfoliation eliminates the buildup of dead skin cells and oil, which otherwise would lead to clogged pores, uneven skin tone, dullness, and deeper wrinkles. Do not rinse! These types of exfoliants need time to work on your skin, and will leave your skin ready for the following treatments.
  • Find the right AHA or BHA for your skin type here.

How to Use Your Targeted Treatments

  • Targeted treatments for special concerns (AM & PM)—These specialized treatments are designed to target your specific skin concerns, such as breakouts, dark spots, wrinkles, and so on. If you're using multiple treatment products over the same area, which one you apply first comes down to texture (go from thin to thick) and personal preference. Find targeted treatments for your skin concerns here: breakouts, brown spots, wrinkles, and skin tone.

How to Use Your Moisturizer and Eye Treatments

  • Moisturize (AM & PM)—Ending your routine with a moisturizer replenishes the skin and keeps it feeling smooth and soft. During the day, a moisturizer with an SPF rating of 15 or more is essential for protecting your skin from the sun's damaging and aging UV rays.
  • At night, adding a state-of-the-art moisturizer (one without SPF) will provide your skin with beneficial ingredients minus the sunscreen (which your skin doesn't need at night), and will eliminate flakey patches if you have dry skin.

    TIP: Those with oily or combination skin should use a moisturizer with a lightweight lotion, gel, or liquid formula (toners work, too). Creams and lotions are ideal for those with dry skin. Have normal skin? Use whichever texture appeals to you!

  • Eye treatment (AM & PM)—You can and should use your facial moisturizer around the eye area to reduce dark areas and wrinkles and to even out your skin tone, but there is NO NEED to use a separate product labeled eye cream, eye gel, or eye serum. The products you use on your face to target those problems will work beautifully around the eye area also. There is no research showing that eye-area skin needs ingredients different from those you use to treat the same issues on the skin of your face.

Products for the Chest and Neck

  • Chest and neck area (AM & PM)—What you do for your face, you also should do for your neck and chest, especially sunscreen during the day! The same products you use to address your skin concerns on your face absolutely can and should be applied to your neck and chest—you don't need separate products for these areas.

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About the Experts

Paula Begoun is the best-selling author of 20 books on skin care and makeup. She is known worldwide as the Cosmetics Cop and creator of Paula's Choice. Paula's expertise has led to hundreds of appearances on national and international television including:

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The Paula's Choice Research Team is dedicated to helping you find the absolute best products for your skin, using research-based criteria to review beauty products from an honest, balanced perspective. Each member of the team was personally trained by Paula herself.

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