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Skin Care: Cleansing, Moisturizing and Anti-Aging Tips

The right (& wrong) ways to cleanse, moisturize & exfoliate your skin

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Woman washing face
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To keep your face looking as youthful as possible, you need to proper skin care. Here I show you how to properly cleanse, exfoliate and moisturize your skin while never leaving the house without at least 30 SPF sunscreen. I've dubbed this process "The Basic 4-Step Skincare Regimen," which I outline in this article. I also include organic skincare tips for the growing number of you who are concerned with putting only natural, organic products on your skin.

How you care for your skin is utterly dependent on the type of skin you have: oily, normal/combination, dry, sensitive or sun- damaged. Find out what skin type you have.

The Basic 4-Step Skincare Regimen Step 1: Cleansing

Simple is key here. You need to find a good cleanser that your skin responds well to, and stick with it: See the best cleansers for your skin type.

You can find a good cleanser at the drugstore. There's no need to spend $40 on a fancy wash. Avoid bar soaps as they tend to dry out the skin. For you organic types, you can cleanse skin with milk or yogurt (who knew?).

Here are some tried-and-true cleansing tips:

  • Be careful not to cleanse too often or you risk over-cleansing skin, see signs you are over cleansing your skin. You really only need to wash your face at night to remove makeup and sunscreen, which can clog pores.
  • If you have dry skin, consider cold cream like Pond's, which the French use or make your own organic cold cream using this simple cold cream recipe. Simply apply cream, then wipe off, no water needed (if you have hard water, it can be especially harsh on skin).
  • To cleanse skin, most women prefer the water method: Use warm water to loosen dirt and clogged pores. Use a dime-sized bit of cleanser, then rinse with cool or lukewarm water.
  • Skin purists believe tap water is bad for your skin because it contains harsh minerals and additives like flouride and chlorine. If this stuff freaks you out, find out how to wash your face without tap water in How to Cleanse Your Face the Expert Way.
  • I personally swear by my Clarisonic Mia, as does pretty much everyone I know who has one. The machine does all the work for you.

Make sure to remove eye makeup with a proper makeup remover. The area around the eye is delicate so don't pull or rub too hard. You can also use olive oil as a natural eye makeup remover. Find out more in Use Olive Oil as an Eye Makeup Remover.

In the morning, a splash of lukewarm water is all you need (I find it's great for removing excess oils from your nightly moisturizing). Never wash your face with hot or cold water (both can cause broken capillaries).

For detailed tips on cleansing, see How to Wash Your Face Properly and, for those of you who really want to do it right, check out How to Cleanse Your Face the Expert Way.

Step 2: Exfoliate

Exfoliation is the step most people skip in their weekly skincare routine. But trust me, if you start properly exfoliating your skin, you will notice an almost immediate difference. According to Berg, one of the reasons men's skin looks more youthful than women's is because men tend to exfoliate daily when they shave.

In my article, How to Exfoliate, I share all my tips and tricks to proper exfoliation. Including why you should throw out the loofah.

There are several exfoliating options that I use weekly. Here are my favorites:

  • A facial scrub. You can buy a great scrub or make your own. I prefer sugar scrubs to salt ones, but it's just a matter of preference. See my list of the best facial scrubs or try out a recipe using brown sugar and coconut oil in Make a Face & Body Scrub With Sugar and Oil.
  • A washcloth. Put a dab of cleanser and a sprinkle of white refined sugar on a damp washcloth and massage skin in a circular motion. After a quick rinse, any sign of dead skin is erased. If you have dry skin, try extra virgin coconut oil.
  • Microdermabrasion. You can buy microdermabrasion kits. I have and found quite a few I like. See my list of the best facial scrubs and microdermabrasion kits.
  • Chemical peels. In the hour it takes to get a chemical peel, you can take a year from your face. Can't afford the price tag for a monthly peel? Try some over-the-counter peels that work over the course of a month. I prefer MD Skincare's.
  • Retinoids. Retinoids (such as Retin-A or the more moisturizing Renova) also work by removing the top layer of dead skin cells while also generating collagen in the skin. "Collagen is the skin's structural fiber," dermatologist Dennis Gross said in O Magazine. "As we get older, it breaks down, creating lines and large pores." Skincare experts disagree on all sorts of things, but most of them consider retinoids to be a miracle skin saver. I'm addicted to Retin-A, which I pick up in Mexico on my yearly jaunts.
Should you use a toner? Some people swear by toners, but many beauty experts do not (I once read a skincare expert claim, "toners are only for copy machines"). Toners are meant to remove all remaining traces of oil, makeup and dirt, but a good cleanser should do this. I firmly believe it's up to you. If you like the way your skin feels with a toner. Buy it. Use it. Enjoy it.

Step 3: Moisturize

While I know of at least one famous beauty editor who swore skin doesn't need moisturizer, basically everyone else I've read disagrees and is an adamant believer in it. A basic rule of beauty is that if you have dry skin, you should invest in a basic moisturizer. So how much should you moisturize? Your skin will tell you. When your skin is tight, it's crying out for moisture. Be careful not to over-moisturize -- this can clog pores.

See my list of the best moisturizers on the market. For you natural girls, nothing beats a good oil for your skin. You can use extra virgin coconut oil, olive oil, sweet almond oil or jojoba oil. Learn more in Organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil as Overall Body Moisturizer.

Are eye creams necessary? Well maybe. Some beauty experts strongly recommend eye creams. Why? The skin around the eye contains no fatty tissue and is therefore very thin and susceptible to wrinkles. Special eye creams are formulated to "thicken" this area. Yet other experts (including the beauty editors of Allure in their new book) claim your daily lotion works around the eyes just as well.

See my list of the best eye creams.

Step 4: Apply Sunscreen

The #1 cause of wrinkles is sun damage, so it's important to use a sunscreen of at least 30 SPF from your early years on even in winter and on cloudy days. A great trick is to purchase two moisturizers: One for night and one for day that includes UV protection. Don't use moisturizers with sunscreen at night, the ingredients are not meant to be used 27/7 and can aggravate skin. When choosing a sunscreen, make sure it contains Mexoryl (found in my favorite sunscreen La-Roche Posay) or Helioplex, found in Neutrogena products.

See my list of top sunscreens

My Best Anti-Aging Tips

Here are a few of my favorite anti-aging tips:

  • Read any magazine article about skincare past age 50 and it's downright depressing. The list of things that happen to us as we age may make you want to shun the beauty sections of magazines forever. In this article, 20 Skincare Tips Every Woman Over 50 Should Know, I talk about Botox, a miracle cream I swear by and all sorts of other goodies.

  • From Prevention magazine: Move your sun visor over to the left to keep harmful UV rays off your face while you drive. It turns out most women's faces are more sun damaged on their left sides. Why? They drive a lot. I would also suggest keeping sunblock in your purse. You should apply every few hours (sunscreen needs reapplication, especially on hot, sweaty days). And yes, if you are usually the passenger, move that sun visor over to the right.

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