Growing up, some might say my parents were quite “lenient.” My sisters and I never had curfews. We were never forbidden from going to parties or having parties at home. We were allowed to have a sip of champagne for special occasions before the legal age.
However, there were some rules that we had to follow to the letter. Good grades in school (just because). No smoking (because it ages you). No tattoos (because they don’t always look good when you’re older). No desserts (because sugar ages you). And no sun, no tanning, no sunburns (because the sun is your enemy – at best it ages you, at worst it kills you).
From an early age, we were taught to wear hats, sunglasses, and a moisturizer with SPF. Every single day. To this day, I cannot walk out of my house without a product with SPF, regardless of weather, season, temperature.
- The sun ages your skin – this is called photo-aging, or UV-induced skin aging. Think dark spots, fine lines, broken capillaries, laxity of the skin.
- Chronic sun exposure increases your risk of skin cancer (even without sunburns). Indeed, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation: “Both intermittent, intense exposure (the kind you get on vacation on a sunny isle, often leading to sunburn) and chronic lifetime exposure add to skin cancer risk. Studies have shown that chronic sun exposure is most associated with the development of squamous cell carcinoma, the second most common skin cancer, while both chronic and intense, intermittent exposure are believed to play a role in basal cell carcinoma, the most common skin cancer.”
- Darker skin types, while not as prone to skin cancer as lighter skin types, should also wear SPF protection daily to prevent dyspigmentation.
- UVA and UVB are both nefarious to the skin. SPF is a measure of UVB protection only – it does not address UVA. Make sure any product with SPF you use is “broad spectrum”, the official indication that the product will protect your skin from both wavelengths.
- What SPF number should you look for? My father always said SPF 20+ is perfect for “normal life.” Per the Skin Cancer Foundation states: “In vitro tests have shown that SPF 15 sunscreens filter out 93 percent of UVB rays, while SPF 30 protects against 97 percent and SPF 50 98 percent.”
- Chemical screen or physical block? You choose – what matters is that you use a product with SPF 20 or above every single day.
- My pick? You guessed it: Alchimie Forever Protective day cream SPF 23. In addition to containing SPF protection, this lightweight moisturizer is packed with antioxidants including blueberry and edelweiss extracts, and vitamin C. No ashiness, no oily residue, no shine. Just antioxidant and SPF protection.
Every single day.
One of the most frequent questions I get about skin care, is in which order to apply products. Indeed, if you are using a moisturizer, a serum, foundation, and a sunscreen in the morning – what goes on first? And what if you add a treatment product on top of that?
Here are a few good rules of thumb to make the most out of your skin care routine, as recommended by my father, dermatologist Dr. Luigi Polla. Keep in mind that these recommendations are not product specific, but work even if you are using products from different brands.
- The foundation of any skin care routine is a clean canvas – only apply products to perfectly cleansed , dry (or damp) skin.
- Apply products from thin to thick. Serums first, followed by gels, followed by creams. If you start with the thicker product, the penetration of the thinner products will be impeded and diminished. In general, try to avoid mixing hydrophilic (water-based) products with oily products. The latter tend to prevent the penetration of the former.
- Sunscreen should be applied after all other treatment products have been applied. Meaning, after your serum, after your moisturizer, after your eye cream. If you are using a daily moisturizer with sunscreen, apply your serums and eye cream first, then your moisturizer with SPF.
- Makeup should be applied on top of your sunscreen. Remember, makeup is meant to cover your skin. Foundation and concealer should be applied after your sunscreen. If you are using a tinted moisturizer with SPF, apply this as you would a moisturizer with SPF (after serums, anti-aging treatments, and eye creams, before concealer and/or foundation).
- These general rules apply morning and evening, with the exception that moisturizers with SPF and makeup should not be applied before going to sleep.
- Some prescription products require specific direction. For example, retinoid creams are best used in the evening, applied 15-20 minutes after cleansing the skin, before anything else. This ensures the optimal penetration of the therapeutic actives. Creams and moisturizers should then be applied on top of the treatment product.
A couple more things to remember. In general, using products from different (non-prescription) brands will not affect the efficacy of each product. Also, the idea that your skin gets “used” to a product and that you need to change your routine every couple of months is not supported by much scientific evidence. However, your skin care routine should be adjusted according to the seasons, and when your skin type evolves (we tend to get dryer as we get older). And remember to always listen to the recommendations of your dermatologist or skin care professional. Watch this video to learn more about how to layer your skin care products.