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Healthy Tips

Face-to-Face with a Dermatologist

An Expert’s Skincare Regimen

When it comes to preventive care, skincare often falls to the bottom of our lists — that is, until the problematic pimple pops up, or the first signs of aging appear. That’s why a skincare regimen is so important.

“A good skincare routine means healthier skin long-term,” says Dermatologist Caroline N. Robinson, MD, Northwestern Medical Group. “Healthier skin will be less prone to breakouts, inflammation, rashes and signs of aging.”

If you’re on a quest for a better skincare routine, start with an expert’s approach.

Here’s how Dr. Robinson takes care of her skin.

Skin Type

“There’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all skincare routine,” she says. “I’m prone to non-inflammatory acne — whiteheads and blackheads — as well as hyperpigmentation, or discoloration of the skin, so I use products with active ingredients that address these skin concerns.”

To curb her acne, Dr. Robinson uses products with:

  • Salicylic acid
  • Retinoids, derived from vitamin A

Both ingredients act as exfoliants, gently removing dead skin cells and unclogging pores.

To improve hyperpigmentation, Dr. Robinson uses products with:

  • Azelaic acid, which helps regulate overactive pigment-producing cells in the skin, decrease inflammation and exfoliate
  • Vitamin C, an antioxidant that can help to brighten the skin by decreasing excess pigment production

Not only should you tailor your skincare to your skin type, but also to your age.

“In my mid-30s, I’m conscious of aging gracefully, so I use products with anti-aging properties,” says Dr. Robinson. “It’s important to keep age-specific components in your skincare routine.”

For younger people, this may mean opting for products with salicylic acid, or other active ingredients that fight acne. For people looking to ward off wrinkles, this may mean using products with anti-aging ingredients, like topical retinoids and topical vitamin C, which help to stimulate collagen production in the skin and repair sun damage over time.

Dr. Robinson’s Routine

Face

Morning

Cleanse

“In the morning I use a gentle face wash with small amounts of salicylic acid and an enzyme from the papaya fruit to cleanse and gently exfoliate my skin.” The gentler the better.

“Excess scrubbing with washcloths, brushes or beaded scrubs can cause irritation and long-term damage to the skin. Consistent gentle cleansing will go a long way towards improving skin texture and tone without irritating or drying out your skin.”

Repair and Protect

“Then I apply a topical antioxidant serum containing azelaic acid and vitamin C, followed by a broad-spectrum SPF 30+ sunscreen year-round. Evidence suggests that wearing vitamin C under your sunscreen can provide an extra layer of protection against UV rays. The combination acts as a light moisturizer and pigment-corrector as well.”

Repeated sun exposure can cause free-radical damage in the skin. Antioxidants such as Vitamin C work to correct this.

Some sunscreens chemically block light, but these can take up to 30 minutes to start working. Dr. Robinson prefers physical sunscreens containing both zinc and iron oxide, which work immediately and block UV rays as well as visible light, such as backlighting on screens and fluorescent lighting in offices.

“Applying sunscreen daily has been proven to decrease the risk of skin cancer, and it has been shown to reduce the signs of aging by reducing damage to collagen fibers within the skin.”

Night

Cleanse and Correct

“At night I wash my face with something even milder than my morning face wash to remove makeup and cleanse. Then I apply a prescription retinoid gel, which helps unclog my pores, and thicken and tighten the collagen in my face for an anti-aging effect.”

Moisturize

“Because retinoids can dry and irritate your skin, I apply a thick, nourishing, cream-based moisturizer at bedtime.”

More is better for moisturizing.

“People with oily or acne-prone skin often fear that moisturizers will worsen the skin’s condition, but moisturizer helps reduce oiliness and acne long-term. If you don’t apply moisturizer, your skin will compensate by producing more oil, which can contribute to acne.”

Every Week

Decongest

“Once a week, I apply a face mask that contains salicylic acid and silt to decongest and unclog my pores.”

Body

Cleanse

“On my body, I use a synthetic detergent, or syndet soap. Syndet soaps are milder than traditional soaps and help you get ahead of dryness.”

Moisturize

“I recommend moisturizing your entire body twice a day, particularly in the winter months. I use a thick cream at night and a lighter, unscented lotion in the morning.”

Avoid

  • Spot treatment
  • “Your entire face should reap the benefits of your skincare routine. You can avoid spot treatment with a healthy everyday regimen.”

  • Devices
  • “I have a gentle philosophy when it comes to skincare. That means avoiding devices like face brushes or rolling pens, which have the potential to irritate and damage your skin. Devices and procedures performed under the direction of a board-certified dermatologist, such as chemical peels, microneedling and laser treatments, provide safer, more controlled and consistent results.”

Include

  • Retinoids
  • Topical vitamin C
  • Sunscreen
  • Moisturizer

Throughout your life, your skin will go through a lot of changes. It’s important to monitor these and adjust your skincare routine accordingly. Your dermatologist can help, no matter what your skin faces.

Caroline N. Robinson, MD
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Health System Clinician, Feinberg School of Medicine
  • Primary Specialty Dermatology
Does Not Schedule or Accept New Patients
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