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How Much Skincare is Too Much?

Do you really need a cleanser, moisturizer, eye cream, Retin-A & exfoliator?


Woman taking vitamined fish oil capsule
Cecile Lavabre / Photographer's Choice / Getty Images

Every night I use Pond's cold cream to cleanse my skin. I follow the cleansing with moisturizer before applying eye cream and Retin-A. As you may know by now, I use Retin-A every night and swear by it. I'm convinced it will be my secret to looking 60 when I'm really 70. I follow all of this with 2 fish-oil pills, a Vitamin D3 pill and a baby aspirin. Sometimes I may use a microdermabrasion scrub or a hydrating mask.

In the morning, I use a washcloth dipped in organic coconut oil to wash off the dry skin flakes that sometimes come from Retin-A when you take a break from it and start up again. I follow that (sometimes) with Vitamin C cream (people are obsessed with antioxidants, so I had to jump on the bandwagon). My last skincare step is to slather on La-Roche Posay's SPF 60 tinted sunscreen.

After all of this, it's amazing I find the time to floss.

Dermatologists are always touting retinoids, antioxidants AND microdermabrasion, but if one is on a prescription-strength retinoid (like my Retin-A or Renova or Retin-A Micro), should she also be subjecting her skin daily to a Vitamin C cream and twice a month to a scrub? I was wondering how much is too much, so I turned to Maryann Mikhail, a dermatologist at Manhattan's Spring Street Dermatology with that exact question.

"I completely agree that dermatologists recommend too much," Mikhail said.

According to Mikhail, prescription strength retinoids are the only creams and gels proven in medical literature to reduce the appearance of fine lines over time. They are are great for decreasing pore size, preventing blackheads and whiteheads and stimulating cell turnover.

Since I'm on Retin-A, I'm may be susceptible and sensitive to other products which may cause redness, irritation and even burns, Mikhail said. She recommends gentle cleansers and moisturizers to her patients on retinoids and suggests Cetaphil, Purpose and Aveeno products.

So if I'm using a gentle cleanser and moisturizer, which I am, do I need an at-home microdermabrasion kit too? in fact, who needs microdermabrasion?

"I never recommend microdermabrasion unless a patient has superficial scarring or discoloration," says Mikhail.

So what about antioxidants? Mikhail says she occasionally recommends antioxidant sunscreens for her sun-worshipping patients. She says she does this, "based on the theory that the antioxidant might offset some of the free radical damage caused by the ultraviolet light."

So there you have it. Few people really need microdermabrasion or antioxidants. If you stick to a basic cleanser, moisturizer and anti-aging cream (love you, Retin-A), you're good to go. Now I wonder what Mikhail thinks about eye cream?
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