7 Dermatologists Share the *One* Product They’d Bring If They Were Stranded on a Desert Island

Photo: Getty Images/Andrea Comi
"What would you want to bring with you if you were stranded on a desert island?"

What started as my favorite game to play on a first date has recently extended into an unlikely place, the dermatologist's office. I've recently taken to grilling my favorite skin-care professionals on the one product they couldn't live without, with one catch: On this island, there is unlimited sunscreen, so SPF products are off-limits (otherwise, that's what every single one of them would have chosen).

The results? A selection of skin-perfecting potions that have proven to deserve a space not only on a desert island, but in all of our cabinets at home. Asking a dermatologist to choose the one product they can't live without is admittedly, as Dr. Rachel Nazarian so aptly put it, "like asking a mother to choose her favorite child." But we did it anyway, and you can find their picks below.


SkinMedica HA5 Rejuvenating Hydrator, $120

"I’m going with hyaluronic acid. It absorbs water—which would be lacking on the desert island. I would slather it on to keep my skin soft and supple." -Mona Gohara, MD, New Haven dermatologist

Photo: Elizabeth Arden

Elizabeth Arden Retinol Ceramide Capsules Line Erasing Night Serum, $48

"My desert island product would be a vitamin A derivative, a la a retinol or retinoid. It helps with so many skin concerns: fine lines, wrinkles, hyperpigmentation, loss of elastin and collagen, and sun damage. If I can only pick one product, I want one that addresses a multitude of issues. That said, it can increase sun sensitivity, so I’ll be hiding under a palm tree on the island. My favorite is Elizabeth Arden retinol capsules because they are formulated with ceramides that help protect against the drying effects retinol can have. Plus, they're in individual mono dose capsules that are preservative free and maintain their potency because they aren’t constantly being exposed to air and light. Awesome for travel to the island." -Dendy Engelman, MD, New York City dermatologist


Photo: SkinMedica

SkinMedica TNS Recovery Complex, $220

“It would be the TNS Recovery Complex, since it has a complex of over 100 growth factors and cytokines that, in studies, has been shown to thicken both the dermis and epidermis, resulting in the improvement of fine line and wrinkles after as early as 60 days of daily use.  It has no fragrances and is noncomedogenic and oil free so I find patients tolerate it well, and it doesn't exacerbate breakouts.  It goes well under moisturizers and makeup and does not ball up like many other serums. I travel with it wherever I go.” - Sabrina Fabi, MD, San Diego dermatologist

Photo: Skinceuticals

Skinceuticals Phloretin CF, $166

"Skinceuticals Phloretin would be my pick, as it contains a power punch of antioxidants like vitamin C, phloretin, and ferulic acid to combat sun damage and give my skin that glow by decreasing hyperpigmentation. The added bonus is that it is an oil-free serum which is perfect for my acne-prone skin."  -Marnie Nussbaum, MD, New York City dermatologist


Dove beauty bar
Photo: Dove

Dove Beauty Bar, $3

"Assuming that my deserted island had an unlimited supply of sunscreen, the other skin-care product I would make sure to bring with me would be the Dove Beauty Bar.  Strong enough to cleanse the body, but mild enough for your face, it is a go-to for skin cleansing.  Plus, since you will be swimming in salt water in the ocean surrounding the island, you'll want to make sure you are protecting your skin barrier from the drying salt water.  The Dove Beauty Bar contains the same types of hydrating ingredients found in traditional moisturizers to protect your skin barrier while it cleanses." -Joshua Zeichner, MD, New York City dermatologist


Photo: Neutrogena

Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair, $18

"I would create it! As Dermatologists, since we can custom compound ingredients, I would use Skin Medicinals to create a retinoid specific to my skin. My mix would be retinoic acid with low strength, because I have sensitive skin; hyaluronic acid, because I tend to get dry quick; azeleic acid, which helps with dark spots; turmeric; and niacinamide, which is an anti-inflammatory. If I had to choose something on the shelves, I would still do a retinol: Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair." - Dhaval Bhanusali, MD, New York City dermatologist

dermatologist skin care products choices
Photo: Alto defense

Alto Defense Serum by SkinBetter Science, $145

"This product contains a blend of antioxidants and anti-inflammatories, which protect against free radical damage, including ultraviolet radiation, infrared, and the ozone. Basically, it helps prevent skin aging, so whenever I’m rescued from that desert island it’ll look like no time has passed." -Rachel Nazarian, New York City dermatologist

Speaking of dermatologist faves, here are the 10 drugstore products skin docs don't go a day without recommending. Plus, a derm finally reveals why cold weather makes your skin breakout

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