1. Slather on the sunscreen. We know, we know—you’ve heard it a million times, but wearing sunscreen is the single easiest way to look younger for life. “Ninety percent of wrinkles are from sun exposure,” says Day. “It’s so much easier to prevent the damage than it is to fix it afterwards.” That means no slacking during winter months either, when rays are just as strong and can reflect off of buildings and sidewalks. Look for a formula that offers broad-spectrum protection to guard against UVA rays (the ones that cause premature aging) and UVB rays (one of the main causes of skin cancer). Try Philosophy Shelter Broad Spectrum Sunscreen in SPF30.
2. Clean your makeup brushes. A British study found that 72% of women never wash their brushes or sponges, even though they harbor dirt and bacteria which can cause breakouts. “You should wash loose powder brushes every two to three weeks, and those used to apply foundation once a week,” says Jessica Wu, an LA-based dermatologist and author of Feed Your Face. Mix a couple of drops of gentle facial cleanser or shampoo and lukewarm water in a cup, swish your brushes around, rinse with lukewarm water, pat dry, and lay flat to air dry.
3. Munch on mixed nuts. Brazil nuts are rich in selenium, which increases skin elasticity and may decrease skin cancer, according to recent studies. Throw in walnuts—which are loaded with omega-3 fatty acids—to lower inflammation and put the brakes on breakouts, says Molly Morgan, Board Certified Sports Specialist Dietitian and author of The Skinny Rules. Finally, add some macadamias. “They’re full of high quality oils and fatty acids that aid in skin repair and rejuvenation” says integrative practitioner Isaac Eliaz. Aim for a handful of each daily to reap their pore-perfecting benefits.
4. Start using serum. “It’s much more concentrated than cream or lotion, so you tend to only need a small amount daily to see results,” says Fran Cook-Bolden, Director of New York’s Skin Specialty Dermatology. Look for one with antioxidants, the skin’s major defense against free radicals and stress, and pentapeptides, which are a must-have when it comes to boosting collagen, the support structure that gives skin a firm, youthful appearance. Don’t worry about spending a fortune on the ingredients; one of Cook-Bolden’s favorites is Olay Regenerist Micro-Sculpting Serum, a sheer formula whose small molecules can dive deep into pores. For best results, apply to freshly washed skin; follow with sunscreen or moisturizer to lock in hydration.
5. Sanitize your Smartphone. According to a Stanford University study, that iPhone you can’t keep your hands off of can get more germ-infested than a toilet in a subway bathroom. In fact, the glass touchscreens on mobile devices are so good at spreading viruses that sharing them may be almost as bad as sneezing in someone’s face. Here’s a scary thought: All those germs land right on your cheek and jawline every time you chat away, causing pimples and irritation. To keep your phone (and face) bacteria-free, wipe it down with an antibacterial wipe like Clorox Disinfecting Wipes a few times a day.
6. Put your skin stash in proper order. The sequence in which you apply your products could be even more important than the products themselves. Reach for those with the most active ingredients as soon as you wash and pat skin dry. “These are the most powerful, so you want them to come into direct contact with your skin,” says Syed Amiry, a dermatologist practicing in Reston, Virginia. If you’re using more than one active product (like an antioxidant serum and Retin-A), start with the thinner one. “Anything that’s water soluble should go first, followed by the product that’s thicker and creamier. If you do it in reverse, the heavier cream will block the ingredients of the lighter one from penetrating the skin, so they won’t have any impact.” If you need moisturizer, it’s next up in line, followed up by—what else?—sunscreen each morning.
7. Drop dairy from your diet (even that little bit in your latte).“Dairy products—even those that are organic—contain cow hormones that stimulate your oil glands and your pores, leading to acne,” explains Wu. Beware of hidden dairy in foods like salad dressing, protein bars, and shakes. And if you have to go there, stick to skim. “The hormones are concentrated in the fat, so it’s your best option.”
8. Start using retinol. “Everyone should use retinol,” says New York dermatologist Doris Day. “It has decades of clinical data to support its efficacy, helps skin cell turnover, and boosts collagen production to keep skin firm and youthful.” Most dermatologists agree that if you’re only going to use one anti-aging product, prescription Retin-A (and even over-the-counter versions like RoC Retinol Correxion Deep Wrinkle Daily Moisturizer SPF 30 or Olay Pro-X Deep Wrinkle Treatment) is the magic bullet, and can even reverse abnormal and cancerous growth, among other forms of sun damage. “It has great anti-inflammatory effects, which is why it’s as effective at treating acne as it is at treating wrinkles and other signs of aging,” adds Amiry.
9. Hit the sack early. We know, you’ve heard it all before, but it’s called beauty sleep for a reason. “Sleep deprivation lowers circulation, which is why you look pale and washed out if you only get a few hours,” says Amy Wechsler, one of only two U.S. physicians board-certified in both dermatology and psychiatry. It’s also the best time to rejuvenate your skin. “Your body’s cellular renewal team has the night shift, so this is when you want to equip your skin with as many nutrients and hydrating ingredients it needs to do a fine job,” she says.
10. Exfoliate for smaller-looking pores. It’s amazing how something so tiny can feel so huge, but enlarged pores are one of the most common beauty complaints. “Pores appear larger when they’re filled with dirt, oil, dead skin cells, and keratin, a protein that lives on the surface of skin,” explains Amiry. “Remove those plugs, and they seem to shrink.” To clear out the gunk, start exfoliating regularly with daily applications of salicylic and glycolic acid, like those in Murad Exfoliating Acne Treatment Gel. Then add in microdermabrasions (like Physicians Formula Derm@Home Mineral Microdermabrasion System) once or twice a week to clear the dead surface cells. To keep pores from getting even bigger as you age, practice safe sun. “Sun damage breaks down collagen, which can affect pore size as well.”