1. How do I start a beauty routine if I don't have one?
It can definitely feel overwhelming if you don't know where to start. Try a three-step system (from the same brand), one that includes cleanser, toner, and moisturizer. You need a cleanser to clear away all the dirt, sweat, bacteria, and oil that collects on your skin during the day; you need a toner to help bring your pH levels back to an acidic level (this maintains your skin's acid mantle, the barrier that keeps bacteria out and moisture in); and you need a moisturizer to keep your skin hydrated, plump, and youthful-looking.
2. What's the order for applying different products?
"It's best to go in order of thickness," says NYC-based cosmetic dermatologist Doris Day, M.D. You would typically start by cleansing; then using toner or a wipe; applying an essence; a serum; then an oil; followed by an SPF, cream, or lotion. If you're using a powder SPF and skipping makeup, always put the powder on last. (You don't have to use all of these products.) For makeup, reach for your foundation first, then concealer, then powder, then blush.
3. When should I see a dermatologist? How do I find one?
Dr. Day recommends seeing your derm annually to get a screen check to make sure you don't have any suspicious moles or marks. Otherwise, you should go to a dermatologist if you see a new mole crop up, notice a new skin condition like psoriasis forming, or if your breakouts get out of control.
4. How many times a day should I be washing my face?
Twice a day, but if your skin isn't that oily, you can get away with only washing it at night and rinsing it with water or using just a toner in the morning before applying your moisturizer and SPF. Regardless of your skin type, make sure you don't skip washing your face in the evening, since dirt, oil, bacteria, and makeup build up on your face during the day, and it's crucial to thoroughly wash it off to keep breakouts from happening.
5. Should I pop my zits?
The short answer: no. You only make your blemish angry (red and irritated) when you pop it, since the pressure creates more inflammation. Not to mention, you could accidentally cut your skin and cause a scar that can block the pore and cause a resurgence of another zit in the same spot.
Got a whitehead before a first date? Dr. Day (who's also the author of 100 Questions & Answers About Acne) says to apply a lukewarm, soaked green tea bag on it for a few minutes. The warmth and moisture will help lure the bacteria out and the anti-inflammatory caffeine in the tea bag will soothe the area and reduce redness. After, apply a salicylic acid treatment over the whitehead, which will exfoliate away any dirt and debris or bacteria left in the pore.
6. What will cure my acne?
Honestly, different approaches work for different people, but if you've tried every benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid spot treatment out there, plus a ton of anti-acne face washes, and oral medications like clindamycin or tetracycline, and nothing has worked, ask your dermatologist about isotretinoin (aka Accutane), a derivative of vitamin A that falls in the retinoid family. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, about 85 percent of patients see their skin clear after one course of treatment. You can't be on this prescription-only drug for very long (usually six months) because it can be damaging to your liver if your blood work isn't monitored properly and monthly. It also has other side effects that you should be aware of, which you can read about here.
7. What are the different types of acne?
All pimples start as the same thing, says Dr. Day. Your pores are lined with normal skin cells, but sometimes the lining doesn't shed as it's supposed to, so a backup of the lining grows and blocks the follicle. When that pore's opening gets blocked and the lining is still shedding behind it, you get a whitehead. If the top of the skin breaks open and the oil in the pore reaches air and oxidizes, that's a blackhead. When the follicle is blocked completely and all the protein and fat from the oil starts to grow, that's what causes a red pimple. If you pick at your pimple, an immune response is sent that creates a cascade of redness and inflammation, which leads to a pustule.
8. What causes acne?
"The cause of acne is unknown," Dr. Day says, "but we do know what makes it worse." These factors include your hormones being out of balance, stress, and a specific bacteria that lives deep in your pores called Propionibacterium acnes, which feeds off the oil your sebaceous glands produce. Sure, not washing your face at night or using dirty makeup brushes can contribute to breakouts, but the aforementioned factors are known to make acne worse.
9. What's the best sunscreen for my face? What's the best sunscreen for my body? Where should I be applying sunscreen?
Regardless of the sunscreen you're using on your face or your body, make sure it contains an SPF of 30 to 50 and is broad-spectrum, which means it protects against UVA (which cause aging) and UVB (which cause burning) rays. For your face, if you tend to break out easily, go for a gel sunscreen or make sure the lotion you're using is noncomedogenic, which means it doesn't contain pore-clogging ingredients. For your body, you're going to want to apply a 1-ounce shot glass full of lotion, which will cover your neck down. You can use a spray; just make sure you're not missing any spots. Whatever you do, remember to apply your SPF everywhere, including your eyelids, ears, tops of hands, etc.—because it could save your life.
10. I got a sunburn. Does this mean I'm going to get skin cancer?
Getting one sunburn doesn't mean you're going to get skin cancer, but any sun exposure you get mutates your cells in mere seconds and could result in a form of skin cancer down the road. This is why it's so important to wear the proper protection at all times. That said, according to a study held by the International Prevention Research Institute in Lyons, France, if you go to a tanning bed once (whether you burn yourself or not), your chance of getting melanoma (the most deadly form of skin cancer) rises 20 percent.
11. How do I get even skin tone?
- Use sunscreen religiously to prevent dark spots that rise to the surface due to too much sun exposure from cropping up.
- Exfoliate regularly to keep your skin cells shedding at a regular rate, which helps cell turnover and promotes an even complexion.
- Use products that contains antioxidants, like retinol, vitamin C, and niacinamide, which can help lighten any acne marks or sun spots.
This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.