The Best Skin-Care Routines and Products Dermatologists Actually Use
There’s no doubt that discovering the best skin-care routine is quite the undertaking—whether you’re a long-time enthusiast or novice. Even those with years of experience will share that the journey to clear and glowing skin was not without a bit of trial and error.
There seems to be an endless amount of skin-care advice out there nowadays, especially now that many of us can learn new tips and tricks on TikTok. But how do you know what to trust? As we look to answer that question ourselves, we thought to take a peek into the routines of our favorite dermatologists. They are, after all, the ultimate experts in the space who can provide medical guidance on achieving your best skin yet. And although it may seem obvious, they have the typical skin-care concerns like acne, sensitivity, eczema, hyperpigmentation, and more just like us.
So, we asked three top dermatologists to share their actual skin-care regimens from morning to night. Below, read on to shop their beauty cabinets and discover some helpful insights to inform your routine.
Dr. Karen Kagha
- Meet the Expert: Dr. Karen Kagha is a Los Angeles–based and Harvard cosmetic and laser fellowship trained dermatologist who specializes in hyperpigmentation, acne, and skin of color.
- Skin Type: “I am naturally more oily, acne prone,” Kagha explains. “With my skin type, mild hyperpigmentation can arise.”
Step One: “In the morning, I use a gentle wash. Depending on how my skin is doing, I alternate between CeraVe Acne Foaming Cream Cleanser, Senté Exfoliating Cleanser, and Revision Skincare Brightening Facial Wash.” Senté and Revision Skincare’s formulas are powered by exfoliating acids to brighten and slough away impurities, and CeraVe’s is infused with benzoyl peroxide to remove excess dirt and oil and prevent new breakouts.
Step Two: “Then, I apply a vitamin C serum; I’m currently using SkinCeuticals Silymarin CF.” Formulated with oily and acne-prone skin in mind, this serum features a cocktail of silymarin (milk thistle extract), L-ascorbic acid, and ferulic and salicylic acid to reduce oiliness, breakouts, and skin texture.
Step Three: Next is moisturizer, which at the moment is the Alastin Ultra Nourishing Moisturizer. This is packed with linoleic acid, oat kernel, and silver mushroom to soothe and nourish the skin.
Step Four: “Finally, I apply sunscreen. Currently, I am using EltaMD UV Elements Broad-Spectrum SPF 44,” Kagha says. The tinted mineral sunscreen provides universal sheer coverage to most skin types, along with protection against UV rays. “For fancier days, if I want more coverage, I may mix a drop of Dermablend Flawless Creator foundation with my sunscreen.”
“At night, I alternate between the same washes mentioned in my morning routine,” she says. “I then use a small pea-size amount of Arazlo 0.045% lotion. Finally, I apply a moisturizer, which is sometimes La Roche-Posay’s Toleriane Double Repair Face Moisturizer.” This coveted French pharmacy find is known to be incredibly gentle and nourishing thanks to its featured ceramides, niacinamide, and prebiotic thermal water.
More to Know: “Depending on active breakouts, I do have a prescription benzoyl peroxide/clindamycin lotion that I apply intermittently to problem areas,” Kagha said of what supplements her routine. In light of her specialties in aesthetics and lasers, she often treats her diverse clientele and her own skin with this approach. “One of the most common complaints of my personal skin type is hyperpigmentation,” she notes. “For this, I enjoy combining other less frequent in-office options, including non-ablative fractional lasers and chemical peels for more stubborn areas. I always encourage patients to take a more preventative approach and begin caring for their skin early for better results.”
Dr. Whitney Bowe
- Meet The Expert: Dr. Whitney Bowe is a New York City–based and board-certified dermatologist and founder of her own beauty line, which looks to address concerns from both the inside and outside.
- Skin Type: “My skin is sensitive, dry, and I am prone to occasional breakouts,” Bowe says.
“My morning skin-care routine is consistent and streamlined—I do not skin cycle in the morning,” Bowe explains. “My goal is to protect my skin from the daily stressors that can generate free radicals, like ultraviolet rays and pollution.”
Step One: “Cleanse using a gentle cleanser and warm (not hot) water,” she advises. “One of my long-time favorites is La Roche-Posay’s Toleriane Gentle Hydrating Cleanser, which is milky and leaves my skin feeling hydrated and nourished, not stripped and tight.”
Step Two: Next up, vitamin C serum. “I’ve been using SkinCeuticals Phloretin CF because their CE Ferulic tends to break me out, but I’m really excited about the newer, more stable vitamin C derivatives like tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate because we know that L-ascorbic acid, the more traditional form of vitamin C, is highly unstable.”
Step Three: “I moisturize using Bowe Glowe Microbiome Nourishing Cream, which was clinically tested using an instrument called a Tewameter to measure TEWL, or transepidermal water loss, meaning how much water is evaporating from the surface of the skin,” she says. “It’s powered by a proprietary blend of deeply hydrating and restorative ingredients including prebiotics, postbiotics, ceramides, hyaluronic acid, and squalane.”
Step Four: For sun protection, she reaches for Beauty of Joseon Relief Sun Rice + Probiotics Sunscreen, a lightweight K-beauty cream powered by rice extract and grain fermented extracts to be ultra moisturizing. Otherwise, she likes Supergoop!’s Glowscreen for a dewy and sun-kissed glow.
Step Five: “The last and final step of my morning routine is drinking my Bowe Growe,” she says. The elixir targets inner skin care—what she considers the missing layer of your skin-care routine. “Bowe Growe is a vegan elixir made with a blend of polyphenols which are powerful plant-based nutrients that help rebalance your gut microbiome and support healthy skin from the inside out. I treat the skin from the inside out and from the outside in as part of my three-dimensional approach to skin health, and although I eat an incredibly healthy diet, I also believe in smart, strategic supplementation.” Bowe drinks one to three drops of the elixir in four ounces of water once per day.
“My nighttime routine, called skin cycling, has gone viral on social media in the past few weeks,” Bowe explains of her approach to a balanced nighttime regimen. “I introduced skin cycling as a less-is-more approach, being thoughtful and deliberate about your skin-care routine. Rather than adding more products on top of one another, skin cycling encourages you to use products in a strategic way to complement one another and set you up for success while dialing down unnecessary irritation.” Her skin cycling routine consists of four nights, then repeats: exfoliation, retinoid, then recovery.
Night One, Exfoliation: “I reach for chemical exfoliating products over harsh physical scrubs. This type of exfoliation gives your skin an immediate glow, but also preps you to get the most out of night 2, retinoid night,” she explains. “On top of your exfoliating product, you want to apply a fragrance-free moisturizer that specifically rebalances the skin microbiome and repairs the skin barrier, but you [also] don’t want to use a product that is too heavy or greasy because that can drive the exfoliating acid into the skin unpredictably and create unnecessary irritation.” For the same reason, Bowe cautions against using Vaseline or occlusive oils (like coconut oil) on exfoliation nights as the skin is more vulnerable. “Bowe Glowe moisturizing cream is an ideal final step on exfoliation night, after any tingling sensation from the exfoliating serum subsides.”