Dermatologists Say These Are the Most Commonly Under-Used Products and Ingredients

Photo: Getty/Caroline Tompkins
You may swear by that trusty vitamin C serum and hyaluronic acid eye cream; however, it’s safe to say there are some under-utilized skin-care products (and ingredients!) out there that don’t necessarily get the appreciation they deserve (ahem: sunscreen). Even if you've heard of them all (or in the case of retinol and Vaseline been tipped off by every dermatologist from here to kingdom come about their benefits), you might still be nervous about trying them out.

To help assuage those fears and put commonly overlooked skin-care superstars on your radar, we tapped board-certified dermatologists to give us the lowdown on the best-of-the-best products to lay your hands on this winter. From Manuka honey to rosehip oil, these are the need-to-know products that skin-care pros say to slather on (and quick!).

The most underused skin-care products

1. Manuka honey: Manuka honey may seem like a DIY skin-care ingredient that’s too messy for everyday use. However, board-certified dermatologist Tony Nakhla, MD, suggests that manuka honey benefits include impressive bactericidal properties that help heal wounds and prevent infection. “Wound care specialists use this type of honey for its highly bactericidal effects to prevent infection,” says Dr. Nakhla. “It also has miraculous effects on stem-cell induction, and poorly understood mechanisms for healing.” That means that if you're suffering from a skin-condition driven by bacteria (ahem: acne) it could be a good solution to try out. Manuka honey also has been noted to have a positive effect on skin conditions such as atopic dermatitis, according to a study published by the Central Asian Journal of Global Health.

2. pH-balanced body cleanser: Although we all have that one go-to face cleanser that effectively removes dirt and makeup, it’s fair to say that we don’t give our bodies the same attention and care. However, board-certified dermatologist Marnie B. Nussbaum, MD, FAAD, suggests that body cleanser is an under-rated skin-care product that should be on your radar, as it helps support a healthy skin barrier.

“Many people don’t think of it this way, but your skin-care routine should start in the shower with the type of cleanser you’re applying to your body,” says Dr. Nussbaum. “The skin is your body’s largest organ, and you should be caring for it by maintaining a healthy skin barrier, which means maintaining moisture levels.”

The easiest way to do this, according to one study published in the Indian Journal of Dermatology, is to reach for a pH-balanced wash. Those with higher (aka: more basic) pH levels can irritate skin and strip it of moisture. “pH-balanced body washes are usually much gentler and generally moisturize while cleansing, so they’re doing double duty,” she says. “I personally like Olay Ultra Moisture Body Wash ($8), which includes a lock-in moisture technology that infuses moisture deep within skin.”

3. Rosehip oil: While many feel discouraged to use oil-laden products on the skin in fears that it may clog pores, board-certified dermatologist Debra Jaliman, MD, suggests that skin-boosting rosehip oil is packed with benefits you won't want to pass up. “Rosehip oil is a lightweight oil that's great for the skin, and not many people are aware of its benefits,” she says. “It’s even safe for those with acne-prone skin, and moisturizes without being greasy.” Rosehip oil also works to fade the appearance of dark spots, according to Dr. Jaliman, because it's rich in brightening vitamin C.

4. Squalane: Dr. Jaliman also notes that squalane is another extremely moisturizing ingredient that keeps the skin hydrated. Since squalane rarely causes acne or allergic (or sensitive) reactions, she says that it’s safe for all skin types to use. “Squalane’s molecular makeup is very similar to our own skin's cell membrane, and this allows it to absorb rapidly,” she says. “It performs slightly better than hyaluronic acid, because while hyaluronic acid is very hydrating, it cannot hold in the moisture as long as squalane can.”

5. Vanicream: This hypoallergenic moisturizer is another product that tends to go unnoticed, according to board-certified dermatologist, Bruce Robinson, MD. “Because Vanicream is free from dyes, fragrance and masking agents," Dr. Robinson says that it can help to moisturize the driest complexions without causing any issues for the skin. And for those who have chronic atopic dermatitis, know that Vanicream currently has a four-star rating from the National Eczema Association.

The products you've heard about but aren't using every day

1. Retinoids: Ask a derm for the one skin-care ingredient they'd advise their patients to use every day (right alongside sunscreen), and nine out of 10 will say retinoids. According to board-certified dermatologist Tsippora Shainhouse, MD, FAAD, retinoids help to improve the appearance of fine line and wrinkles by speeding up skin-cell turnover. “Topical retinoids are one of the only ingredients that are scientifically proven to improve wrinkles and skin aging over time,” says Dr. Shainhouse. “If you are concerned that a prescription-grade product will be too irritating for you, start with an over-the-counter retinol a couple of nights a week.” Want more intel about retinol versus retinoids? Check out Mona Gohara MD's breakdown here:

2. Sunscreen: A quick way to tell if you've got a pulse? Ask a dermatologist which skin-care product they use everyday, because there's no doubt they'll reply: sunscreen. However,  Joshua Zeichner, MD, director of Cosmetic & Clinical Research in Dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital, says the public isn't following suit and wearing it 365. “Believe it or not, the most underused skin-care products are still sunscreens,” he says. “Yes, they are commonly purchased, but not used as much as I would want people to.”

In addition to helping prevent skin cancers, ninety percent of skin aging comes from the sun, and sunscreen can help to guard against this. To find the perfect sunscreen product that you can use daily, Zeichner advises choosing a product with aesthetics that you like. “One of my sunscreens is the Solara Suncare Time Traveler ($42), as it uses mineral-only zinc oxide to protect your skin from the sun,” he added. “It also rubs in completely, without leaving the skin feeling heavy, greasy or white.” Check out how Dr. Gohara says to select one that's right for your skin:

3. Vaseline: Petroleum jelly has been around for, no lie, 100 years, and while it's got a reputation for being greasy, dermatologists left-and-right recommend it for those who have problems with dry skin. Dr. Shainhouse, for example, says it's one of the best things to reach for in the wintertime. “This non-irritating, barrier-sealing product is a great option for preventing chapped lips, soothing irritated skin, and even treating skin clean wounds,” she says. “With no potential for skin allergy, it protects the skin by creating an artificial (and protective) skin barrier that holds in moisture, allowing the skin to heal.” BTW: Dr. Gohara totally uses Vaseline in her routine:

4. Micellar water: We all might be dabbing this stuff on cotton pads to nix stubborn eyeliners, but board-certified dermatologist Ramya Kollipara, MD, says that in the dead of winter, it's one of the best ways to clean skin without over-cleansing it. “Micellar cleansing water is a no-rinse cleanser composed of purified water, hydrating ingredients and a mild surfactant,” says Dr. Kollipara. “It doesn’t clog pores or irritate the skin, and removes everyday makeup without stripping the skin of moisture and natural oils.”

One study published by the American Academy of Dermatology suggests that micellar water not only doesn't strip skin, it can also help to replenish hydration levels. This same increase in hydration levels lasted for more than four hours, making micellar water something to consider adding to your winter skin regimen.

If you too are working with particularly parched skin, look for this ingredient in your moisturizer and make sure to avoid these ingredients.

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