Step 1: Cleanse
Purpose: Washing your face removes makeup and grime. The trick is to purge the dirt without stripping away too much natural oil. The vitamin E that exists in sebum is a powerful antioxidant that helps skin stay soft and young looking by thwarting free-radical damage and aging from ultraviolet light and air pollution.
Look for: A gentle, soap-free cleanser with glycerin or natural oils is less likely to strip oil from the skin than a soap-based wash.
We love: SONYA DAKAR RED GRAPEFRUIT WASH ($45; sonyadakar.com) is a gentle, lathering wash with sweet almond extract that moisturizes skin; LAVERÉ ACTIVE CLEANSING MILK ($32.50; lavera.com) is a creamy, non-foaming cleanser with softening olive oil and shea butter and protective antioxidant vitamin C.
Stay young secret: After washing, rinse thoroughly; cleanser residue can dull skin.
Step 2: Exfoliate
Purpose: Exfoliating helps slough off dead skin cells, which accumulate on the surface of the skin and make it look rough and dull.
Look for: An exfoliator with alpha hydroxy acids, or AHAs, made from natural sources like lactic acid (derived from milk), malic acid (from apples), or glycolic acid (from sugar), that can be used daily is best, says Valori Treloar, M.D., a dermatologist and a holistic skincare expert in Wellesley, Mass. If you prefer a scrub, choose a beaded one; beads are less abrasive than crushed shells or other natural particles like loofah bits, says Jeanine Downie, M.D., a dermatologist in Montclair, N.J. and author of Beautiful Skin of Color (Harper Collins, 2004).
We love: DR. HAUSCHKA CLARIFYING TONER ($33; drhauschka.com) with lactic acid and witch hazel is good for oily skin—apply it under a separate sunscreen or before bed in lieu of a night product; JUICE BEAUTY GREEN APPLE MOISTURIZER SPF 15 ($38; sephora.com) for normal to dry skin contains antioxidants and the AHA malic acid, and provides UV protection.
Stay young secret: When using a weekly scrub, rub it in with your full fingers instead of just your fingertips; you’ll be less likely to grind the beads into your skin.
Step 3: Moisturize in the morning
Purpose: Moisturizing during the day protects collagen, the tissue that provides the skin’s youthful volume.
Look for: A moisturizer with SPF 15 or SPF 30 prevents ultraviolet rays from damaging skin. Antioxidants protect skin’s existing stores of collagen. “As you age, your skin isn’t able to replenish lost collagen completely—that’s how lines and wrinkles form—so using antioxidants helps preserve as much collagen as possible,” explains Amy Wechsler, M.D., assistant clinical professor of dermatology at SUNY Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.
We love: AVEENO POSITIVELY RADIANT DAILY MOISTURIZER SPF 30 ($14; at drugstores) has subtle optical diffusers that stay on the skin for a brighter complexion; AHAVA TIME LINE AGE DEFYING ALL DAY MOISTURE + SPF 15 ($52; ahavaus.com) contains soothing marine extracts that nourish skin all day.
Stay young secret: Apply moisturizer with upward repeated, featherlike strokes to draw nutrients further into your skin.
Step 4: Apply eye cream
Purpose: Eye creams contain more oil than face lotions so they help moisturize the skin around your eyes, which, with fewer oil glands, tends to be dryer than the rest of your face. Thicker eye creams also cling to skin better, allowing the active ingredients and botanicals to stay in place longer, explains Downie.
Look for: An eye cream with SPF 15 or higher helps prevent sun damage. Wear sunglasses that block at least 99 percent of UVB rays and at least 95 percent of UVA rays (check labels). Look also for an eye cream with retinol or peptides (both stimulate collagen growth) and antioxidants. To reduce puffiness from fluid retention or allergies, choose eye creams with licorice, willow herb, aloe vera, or chamomile—natural ingredients that calm the skin and reduce puffiness.
We love: BOSCIA INTENSIVE EYE TREATMENT ($48; sephora.com) has calming willow herb and rice bran oil, a natural skin moisturizer and an antioxidant; AVEDA GREEN SCIENCE FIRMING EYE CREME ($45; aveda.com) contains shea butter and retinol as well as soothing rose water to reduce puffiness.
Stay young secret: With your fingertip, tap cream onto the skin under your eye from the inner corner outward to help draw away fluids and reduce puffiness.
Step 5: Use a night cream
Purpose: “Without moisturizing before bed, your skin tightens overnight as water evaporates from your face,” says Wechsler. Night creams have higher amounts of oils and hydrate more intensely than day creams. “This is a chance to use a rich cream that would be too greasy to wear during the day,” she says.
Look for: Choose a product with retinol, a natural form of vitamin A that helps rebuild collagen, lessen wrinkles, smooth rough texture, and reduce discoloration. Use a 0.5 percent concentration (or 1 percent if your skin is already lined)—percentages are on product labels—and use it every other night, to start. (On the other nights, use a plain, rich hydrating cream.) “Everything retinol helps reverse, it also prevents,” says Wechsler. Because sunlight can inactivate retinol, use it at night. If retinol irritates your skin (it can cause redness and flaking, but not usually at a low concentration), switch to a gentler peptide cream. If you have oily skin, use a lighter serum with retinol or peptides, says Downie. Check that it won’t clog pores or cause breakouts.
We love: NEUTROGENA HEALTHY SKIN ANTI-WRINKLE INTENSIVE NIGHT CREAM ($20; at drugstores) and EMERGINC MULTI-VITAMIN + RETINOL SERUM ($79; emerginc.com).
Stay young secret: Moisturize the thin skin on your neck and chest to prevent lines and discoloration.
Step 6: Wear lip balm collagen
Purpose: Using the right protective ingredients will help lips remain unlined and naturally fuller your whole life.
Look for: Use lip gloss or lipstick with SPF 15 or higher. “Lips have no natural protection against UV rays, which destroy collagen, making lips lose their natural volume,” says Downie. Because lips have no oil glands you need to lubricate them, especially when the air is dry from indoor heat or cold outdoor temperatures.
We love: MURAD ENERGIZING POMEGRANATE LIP PROTECTOR SPF 15 ($16.50; murad.com) has hydrating shea butter and pomegranate to build collagen; WELEDA EVERON LIP BALM ($5; weleda.com) has jojoba oil and cocoa butter, and a faint rose-vanilla scent—but no SPF, so use it at night.
Stay young secret: If the lip colors you love don’t provide sun protection, wear SPF lip balm underneath your gloss or lipstick to keep protected.
Step 1: Cleanse