There’s so much conflicting information out there about skin care. It can be a challenge to cut through the clutter. What’s the right amount to wash? Do I have to moisturize?

What if I don’t do anything at all? We’ve dug deep to clear up common skin care questions so you feel good and get the best results from your routine.

But first…does skin care really matter?

Absolutely! Your skin is the largest organ in your body, and taking good care of it matters for your whole health. Environmental exposures, such as the sun and pollution, can harm your skin and increase your risk of skin cancer.1 In fact, men have a higher risk of skin cancer in general.1 A skin care routine can help protect skin from external hazards—and at the same time help your skin feel great and look fresh.

There are also non-external factors that can affect your skin. For example, the amount of sleep you get, and the quality of that rest, can impact how your skin looks. Similarly, eating and drinking habits are linked to the appearance of your skin. That’s why experts suggest forming good sleep habits, staying hydrated and choosing fresh, healthy foods over processed or packaged ones.

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Now that we’ve talked about why it’s important to monitor the internal and external factors that affect your skin, let’s dive into some common skin care routine questions.

Q&A: Common skin care routine questions

What’s a good, basic, no-nonsense skin care routine?

The common foundation of a solid skin care routine starts with cleansing, moisturizing and protecting your skin from environmental factors like the sun and pollution. Don’t forget your lips and neck!

How do I do skin care on a budget?

There are so many expensive products out there, but skin care doesn’t have to break the bank. Limiting the number of products is a step in the right direction to simplify your routine. Your core steps are still to cleanse, moisturize and protect your skin from the sun. But you can make your moisturizer go farther by applying it to damp skin.2 Also consider using dual-protection products like a moisturizer that contains sunscreen.1,2 And you can protect yourself from the sun by covering up and seeking shade to cut back on the amount of sunscreen you need to use.1

Face washing: What’s the real deal?

Keep it simple! First, use a gentle, non-abrasive cleanser and warm—not hot—water.1,2 Don’t scrub your skin, and after you rinse simply pat your skin dry.1,2 Limit face washing to twice a day and after sweating.1,2

Is there a correct order for applying skin care products?

Yes, order matters! Here’s the sequence dermatologists recommend:2

  1. Wash your face.
  2. Apply medication or treatment.
  3. Apply moisturizer and/or sunscreen.
  4. Apply makeup if you wear it.

How often should I replace my skin care products?

Sunscreens: The FDA mandates that sunscreens stay at their original strength for three years. Most sunscreens have a date on them, so check that before applying. If it is expired, or you aren’t sure how long you’ve had it, throw it out.

Moisturizers/skin care products: These are typically good for a year after you open them, or two to three years if unopened. It’s a good idea to give it the sniff test before using: If it smells or looks funky or questionable, throw it out.

Makeup: Most sources agree that you should toss your makeup after six months of use. And don’t share—makeup is one area where sharing isn’t caring.

Should I clean my makeup brushes? And…how?

It’s definitely a good idea to clean your makeup brushes regularly. Here’s a quick and easy way to clean yours:

  1. Rinse the tips under lukewarm, running water to remove any leftover makeup.
  2. Add a tablespoon of gentle shampoo or facial cleanser to a bowl of lukewarm water.
  3. Dip and swirl the bristles of your brushes.
  4. Rinse brush tips under running water. If the water doesn’t run clear, go back and shampoo again.
  5. Use a clean, dry paper towel to squeeze out the excess moisture.
  6. Lay brushes down to dry.

What do the pros do for skin care?

Pros start with the same skin care basics as the rest of us: cleanse, moisturize and protect from the sun. There’s just no substitute for a simple routine. Then they fine-tune it with a few best practices:

  1. Avoid tanning. Whether it’s real sun or tanning beds, the exposure can damage your skin.1,2
  2. Choose products formulated for your skin type. 1,2
  3. Remember your lips! Treat yours with sunscreen and moisturizer.1,2
  4. Try to keep your hands away from your face.1, 2
  5. Do regular skin checks to spot changes in the way your skin looks or feels.1, 2

And remember, always choose products with labels that say “alcohol-free,” “non-comedogenic,” “non-acnegenic,” “oil-free” or “won’t clog pores.”

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Keeping your skin healthy over time

Cleansing, moisturizing and protecting from the sun are important whatever your age. But since your skin changes over time, here are some age-specific tips to keep in mind:

In your 20s-30s:

  • Focus on building a routine that’s adjustable for environmental conditions, consistent and tailored to your needs.1,2
  • Target a primary concern—acne, fine lines, etc.—with an additional product or two, but keep your focus on the basics.1,2

In your 40s-50s:

  • Keep protecting your skin from the sun: Use sunscreen and seek shade.1,2
  • If you use tobacco products, quit the habit.1,2
  • Continue eating healthy foods and getting enough sleep.1,2

In your 60s and beyond:

  • Use warm water when you wash your face. Hot water strips skin of its natural oils.1,2
  • Focus on moisturizing, as your skin becomes drier as you age.1,2
  • Apply creamy moisturizer within three minutes of bathing and throughout the day.1,2
  • Use a humidifier if you live in a dry climate.1,2
  • Wear gloves while doing housework and gardening to protect your skin from chemical and environmental irritants.1,2

Does shaving require extra care?

If you shave your face, keep in mind that methods and products can affect people differently. For example, multi-blade razors might work well for some but could be too abrasive for others.1,2 If your skin becomes irritated, try switching your blade type and don’t stretch your skin while shaving. Remember to wet your skin before shaving, use shaving cream and shave in the direction of hair growth.1,2 And, when you’re finished…moisturize!

Online skin care resources

Have skin care questions? At Teladoc Health, we’ve made skin care more accessible so that you don’t have to wait weeks for an appointment. With a virtual consultation, you’ll upload and share images along with a description of your symptoms. A U.S. board-certified dermatologist will review them and return a customized treatment plan. Your online doctor will even arrange for any prescriptions, if needed, so that you can start your treatment sooner. We’re here to help you get started today!

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 Published July 21, 2023


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