Want Skin Like a Skin Doctor?

We went to the most radiant female MDs we know and said "fess up."

Michele Bender
Photograph: ISTOCKphoto

They use a cleanser with horsepower

We’ve all heard dermatologists endorse washing up with a mild, gentle cleanser. But in truth that’s not what they use at home. Most of the MDs we talked to lather up with formulas filled with glycolic or lactic acid (to accelerate exfoliation) and salicylic acid (to unclog pores and make them appear smaller). “As an African-American woman in my forties, I battle blotchiness. And for that, I find an exfoliating cleanser is best: It evens out the tone of my skin better than a basic, no-frills formula,” says Jeanine Downie, MD, coauthor of Beautiful Skin of Color. Some doctors do use a gentler cleanser but rotate in a more aggressive exfoliator (a scrub or at-home microdermabrasion kit) once a week to ensure that no skin-dulling dead cells are hanging around. Some favorites: Vivité Exfoliating Facial Cleanser ($39; viviteskincare.com) and the Patricia Wexler MD Microdermabrasion System Step 1: Resurfacing Cream ($35; bathandbodyworks.com).

They f?ight free radicals on the outside—and in

According to the doctors we interviewed, the danger of free radicals—from such sources as air pollution and the sun’s rays—isn’t marketing hype, it’s real. “Damage from free rad-icals is one of the primary causes of fine lines and uneven tone,” Downie says. So she and the others minimize future wrinkles and blotchiness with antioxidants, applying a serum or cream that contains a free-radical fighter such as vitamin C, phloretin, ideben-one, green tea or coffeeberry every morning, after cleansing and before putting on sunscreen (see number 3, below). Downie loves Revalé Skin Intense Recovery Treatment with CoffeeBerry ($130; re-valeskin.com). Other antioxidant serums to try: Elizabeth Arden Prevage Face Anti-Aging Serum ($155; elizabetharden.com, available beginning in March) with idebenone plus green tea, and SkinCeuticals Phlo-retin CF ($150; skin ceuticals.com), which contains three antioxidants: vitamin C, phloretin and ferulic acid. But most docs don’t rely on topical anti-oxidants alone. Mary Lupo, MD, a clinical professor of dermatology at Tulane University, in New Orleans, also downs smoothies made with yogurt and antioxidant-rich fruit, such as blueberries or acai. “I believe skin is a mirror of your overall health. So I treat the inside of me as well as I do the outside,” she says.

Protection is a priority

To skin doctors, applying sunscreen is like brushing teeth: It’s unfathom-able not to do it. Most apply a thin layer as the last step of their morning skin care regimen to prevent UV exposure, the chief cause of premature wrinkles and discoloration. Two formulas frequently cited: For dry skin, La Roche-Posay Anthelios Daily Moisturizer SPF 15 ($30; larocheposay.us) and, for oilier complexions, Neutro-gena Ultra Sheer Dry Touch Sunblock SPF 55 ($11; drugstores). Then, to further boost their skin’s sun shield, our experts layer on sunscreen-spiked makeup. Naila Malik, MD, a cosmetic derma-tologist in Southlake, Texas, sweeps on Neutrogena Min-eral Sheers Powder Foundation SPF 20 ($13; drugstores). “It’s light, safe for sensitive skin and doesn’t make me break out,” she says. Katie Rodan, MD, associate clinical professor of dermatology at Stanford University, uses her own Rodan+Fields Mineral Peptides SPF 20 ($29; rodanand fields.com), which absorbs excess oil. And Lupo applies L’Oréal Visible Lift Foundation SPF 17 ($15; drugstores), a moisturizing liquid formula with retinol.

They rave about Retin-A

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