Day creams, night cream and serums...ack! The skin care aisle can make your head spin. Not only are there myriad of items we supposedly need to keep our skin in tip-top shape, but there are hundreds of products from a mind-boggling number of companies. Overwhelmed yet?
In order to make your shopping experience less stressful, we turned to the experts to find out if you really need all of those potions and creams, serums and masks. Here's what we found:
What everyone's skin needs:
Paula Begoun, skin care expert and author of "Don't Go to the Cosmetics Counter without Me" also recommends using a toner and exfoliant (salicylic acid or alpha hydroxy acid) daily. A well-formulated toner (one that is free of irritants and contains lots of beneficial ingredients) helps to remove traces of makeup and delivers antioxidants - which you can never have to many of - to the skin. Toners can also take the place of a moisturizer for those with very oily skin. While they are not a necessary skin care step, many people and experts swear by them. See Begoun's article on toners for help in choosing one that works.
To give your skin a fighting chance against aging:
Those of us with problem areas (wrinkles, acne, age spots etc.) will want to add in targeted products that address our specific needs. The good news: several moisturizers can double as treatments. In fact, Zoe D. Draelos, MD, vice president-elect of the American Academy of Dermatology, says: "Whether the product is a facial foundation, an anti-aging night cream, a sunscreen, a topical antioxidant, or a skin-lightening serum, the formula is basically a moisturizer. The majority of skin care products are moisturizers with added ingredients..."
Your best bet is to choose a moisturizer (whether that is a serum, cream, lotion or gel) that is loaded with antioxidants and other good-for-skin ingredients. During the day, choose one that contains broad-spectrum sunscreen (with an SPF of at least 15). At night, look for one with targeted ingredients such as retinol for wrinkles, benzoyl peroxide for acne and hydroquinone for age spots. (See our report on facial moisturizers for recommended products.) Of course, problems can also be treated separately after exfoliating and before applying moisturizer.
What to leave on the shelf:
Everything else is optional. Masks can feel luxurious but there really isn't any research to back the need for them. Serums are just a form of targeted treatment or lightweight moisture. They don't serve a purpose in and of themselves. Eye creams are really nothing more than facial moisturizers in smaller packaging. Your regular facial moisturizer will do as long as it doesn't contain fragrance.
Here are a few tips to get the most out of your skin care regimen: