Derms say the ‘Big Four’ are actually all you need to take care of skin


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While I’m not exactly adhering to the K-beauty 10-step skin-care routine, I am slathering on almost a dozen different skin-care products every single day—and that’s not counting the multiple face masks I use per week. Sure, I’m a beauty editor and that’s kind of our thing, but even I’ll admit that my regimen is pretty extra.

So my attention was caught when the American Academy of Dermatology—the utmost authority on skin care—said that you really only need to use four products total in your routine in order to have healthy skin. That’s it.

The aforementioned, dermatologist-approved regimen? Wash your face with a gentle cleanser. Then apply your topical medication or treatment (aka your active serum, or a retinol). “If you are using medicine or other treatment on your skin, you should apply this right after cleansing,” the statement says. “When applying any cream around your eyes, use your ring finger, because it is the weakest finger and will not pull too hard on this delicate skin.”

Third step: Apply moisturizer and/or sunscreen. The staples. And then, apply makeup if desired. The document says that using too many products can lead to irritationespecially if you’re using more than one anti-aging product. But that’s it—so it’s really just three skin-care essentials and makeup if you so desire. Once I gathered my jaw from the floor, I consulted one of my go-to derms about his thoughts.

“I totally agree,” says Adarsh Vijay Mudgil, MD, of Mudgil Dermatology. “You just need a cleanser in the a.m., makeup if you wear it, sunscreen—SPF 30, and ideally one that has either titanium or zinc in it—cleanser in the p.m., and retinol before bed. No need for fancy serums or all that other BS that’s out there.” And there you have it—now we all have permission to clear up some space in the bathroom and gain some more time back into our lives.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, here’s the correct order in which to apply your skin-care products. And this is a guide to all of the retinoids that exist, from least to most potent.

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