33 Secrets to Perfect Skin

We haven't found anyone who doesn't want to know the trick to perfect skin. Luckily for you, our expert panel has addressed everything from AHAs to whether or not you need a retinoid. Here's a laundry list of surprising tips that'll have you putting your best face forward.

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Start from Within

"Embrace an inside-out approach by combining a balanced, healthy diet and supplements with your skin-care regimen," says NYC-based cosmetic dermatologist Dr. Howard Sobel. "500-1,000 mg supplements of purified fish oil will keep your skin hydrated and naturally moisturized, and they can also help minimize symptoms of eczema."

Noxzema Consulting Dermatologist Hilary Reich adds, "The importance of fish oil is widely touted for cardiac health, preventing cancer, improving memory, and keeping our immune systems in check. When your insides are healthy, your skin looks its best."

Yearn for Youthful Eyes

"Pay special attention to the under-eye area," says Dr. Reich. "This uniquely contoured, sometimes translucent skin often fails to conceal underlying blood vessels, thus causing dark shadows. As the thinnest skin on the body, the eyelids tend to be very sensitive. I tell my patients that finding the right eye cream is a matter of trial and error. I recommend IS Clinical Youth Eye Complex — a water-binding hyaluronic acid that combines a cocktail of vitamins and collagen-building copper peptides so it plumps and smoothes fine lines, reduces dark shadows, and refines the under-eye skin texture."

Get an A+ for Antioxidants

"Antioxidants have proven to be extremely important as an aging preventative in a skin-care arsenal," says Dr. Sobel. "I recommend looking for products that have a complex of antioxidants, such as green tea, vitamin C, and CoQ10."

Treat Your Skin Like Your BFF

"Be a good friend to your skin," says Dr. Sobel. "That means no picking, squeezing, or fussing over your blemishes. That damage will lead to scarring and more breakouts."

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Sport Those Sunnies

"Find a great pair of shades," says Dr. Sobel. "Sunglasses are a must to protect your eyes and the surrounding skin from premature aging, fine lines, and wrinkles. Since retro, oversized sunglasses are in, take advantage of the fuller protection while being trendy!"
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Slough It Off: Physical Exfoliants

"Exfoliation is key in order to remove the dead, complexion-dulling skin cells that accumulate on top of your skin," says Annet King, director of Global Education at the International Dermal Institute and Dermalogica. "When you exfoliate, you're revealing fresh cells underneath, evening out the skin's surface, and giving it a healthy glow."

"Try mixing corn meal with warm water," says Mzia Shiman from OC61 Salon and Spa in NYC. The DIY money-saving mixture can act as a scrub. Use it twice a week.

Courtesy of Paula's Choice
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Slough It Off: Chemical Exfoliants

"Exfoliate with a well-formulated alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) or beta hydroxy acid (BHA) product," says skin-care expert Paula Begoun. "You don't need both — AHAs are generally best for dry, sun-damaged skin while BHAs are best for acne- or blackhead-prone skin. As a result, you will see increased smoothness, improved skin tone, and fewer wrinkles."

Try Paula's Choice 2% BHA Liquid, $18.95; paulaschoice.com

Cover All Your Bases

"Follow an ideal skin-care routine that includes a cleanser, a moisturizer, and a sunscreen, plus an antioxidant (vitamins A, C, E) at night," says Beverly Hills-based dermatologist Dr. Susan Evans.
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Stay Hydrated!

"Make sure you drink plenty of water," says Dr. Evans. "As an alternative, try coconut water — it's a huge trend in Hollywood right now and helps to naturally keep you hydrated."

"Dehydration causes inflammation and aging," says Ken Simpson, founder of Skin 2 Skin Care. "Stay away from energy drinks and soda."

Get Fit to Save Face

"Exercising regularly will retain your skin's elasticity and prevent wrinkles," says Barry Alford, co-creator of the luxury men's skin care brand Alford & Hoff. "Plus it'll keep off unwanted pounds!"
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Kick the Habit

"Avoid smoking," says Dr. Christine Rodgers, EnPointe Skin Solutions' expert. "In my practice, I can spot a smoker's skin a mile away. The difference in texture, wrinkles, and pigmentation is enormous between smokers and nonsmokers."

Adds DermaDoctor founder Dr. Audrey Kunin, "For every 10 years you smoke, your face ages 14 years."

Courtesy of Patricia Wexler MD
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Step Up Your SPF

"Never go out without SPF 30 on your face, neck, ears, chest, and hands," says Simpson. "This will help keep dark spots and premature skin aging under control. If you're driving a long distance, keep applying SPF 30 on your hands, face, and neck. And don't forget that glass doesn't filter UV rays, even in your home or office!"

Try Patricia Wexler M.D. Daily Defense Anti-Oxidant Tinted Moisturizer SPF 30, $29.50; bathandbodyworks.com

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Turn Down Tanning Beds

"Stay away from the tanning bed," says Dr. Kunin. "Even being at the beach without sunscreen is better than a tanning bed, so avoid it at all costs."
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Slough Away Debris and Dead Cells

Pollutants aren't just grimy, they can clog pores and prevent new, younger cells from shining through. Maintain your skin luster with a good, daily cleaning.

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Maximize Your Moisture

"Apply a thick night cream," says BettiJo Hirschi, Creator of Bath by BettiJo. "This becomes absolutely essential once you hit 30 to help boost your skin's regeneration at night, but if you can get yourself in the habit before then, you'll be set to age gracefully!"
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Say No to Sulfates

"Sulfates are surfactants that make your cleanser foam, but they strip too much of your skin's sebum away, leaving you feeling dry, flaky, and even itchy," says Hirschi. "Look for sulfate-free formulas of body washes and face cleansers and check the ingredient labels — sodium lauryl sulfate is the biggest culprit, but any ingredient in which the last word is 'sulfate' is best avoided."
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See Your Derm Regularly

In addition to your annual mole-check, seeing your dermatologist on a consistent basis will allow him or her to help your game plan your best strategy for anti-aging. The more comfortable you become, the better the results.

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Wait It Out

"Products should be selected for your skin goals," says Dr. Beer. "The key is to try things for six to eight weeks and decide whether they are right for you." You know your skin best, and if a product is giving you unwarranted redness, dryness, or flaking, toss and regroup.
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Kick Back

"Pamper yourself. Your health and appearance are positively influenced by increasing your emotional and mental well-being," says Dr. Howard Murad, founder of Murad Skincare. "Whether it's for a facial, massage, or even a pedicure, a visit to the spa is a foolproof way to promote stress relief and relaxation. It's just what the doctor ordered."

Protect Your Skin Year-Round

"Ninety percent of aging is due to sun exposure," says Texas-based dermatologist Dr. Naila Malik, "so adequate sun protection is an absolute must!"

"One out of seven people in the United States will develop some form of skin cancer — even people who never burn," adds Dr. Murad. "Regardless of your activities, the time of year, the weather, or your skin type, you are exposed every day and need sun protection."

Smooth Your Smooch

"Most people often neglect their lips, which if you think about it, makes up almost the lower third of your face," says Sharonn Itilong, founder of Crater Lake Company. "Here's a simple homemade scrub recipe that's effective to get plump, smooth, kissable lips: Take some white sugar, mix some olive oil, and scrub your lips. Also, get into the habit of running your toothbrush across your lips in a gentle scrubbing motion to exfoliate."

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Protect Your Lips

"According to the National Skincare Foundation, 63 percent of sunscreen users don't protect their lips," says Dr. David E. Bank, founder and director of the Center for Dermatology, Cosmetic and Laser Surgery. "Your lips lack the same amount of melanin found in the rest of your skin, so there is less natural protection against the environmental elements. The skin on the lips is also super-thin and fragile, making caring for them on a regular basis very important. I always get a surprised reaction from my patients when I tell them that excessive exposure to the sun also causes lips to lose their natural, healthy color."

Reduce Under-Eye Circles

"Of all the skin conditions that one looks to improve, reducing dark under-eye circles is probably the toughest," says Renée Rouleau, skin-care expert and celebrity esthetician. "Being that it's so closely linked to genetics, there isn't a surefire cure. You can try using circular motions to stimulate stagnant blood flow when applying your eye cream, since that can contribute to darkness. Over time, it may help to make the area appear lighter."
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Make Your Eye Cream Do Double Duty

"I like using my eye cream on the nasal labial folds and a dab right between the eyebrows on the number 11 lines [the vertical lines that tend to form in that area]," says Regina Viotto, skin-care specialist at Paul Labrecque. "Eye cream usually has a higher concentration of active ingredients so the skin in these areas will benefit greatly."

Maximize Your Meals

"Eat a Mediterranean diet full of fish, fruit, vegetables, olive oil, and tea," says Dr. Macrene Alexiades, director of an NYC-based research clinic and private laser and aesthetic dermatology practice. "This diet provides the skin with the good omega fatty acids and antioxidants it needs to maintain a healthy glow and reverse sun damage."

Get Your Beauty Rest

"The body depends on sleep for every single thing it does," says Colorado-based dermatologist Dr. Meg Lemon. Skin cells are some of the most rapidly rejuvenating cells in the body. Take away adequate rest and they suffer just like the rest. When skin cells don't turn over quickly enough, our skin looks dull and lifeless, and so do we."

Prepare Your Acne Attack

"There is at least 10 percent of the American population (at least 30 million) who suffer from adult acne," says Dr. Bank. "If you have cystic acne, benzoyl peroxide will only dry out the surface of your skin. Treat these deeper cysts and nodules with a warm or hot compress several times a day to kill bacteria and reduce inflammation. The heat helps to emulsify the sebum, which helps it emerge to the head faster. It can also stimulate reabsorption, thereby shrinking the size."

"For patients with mild acne, the best way to start treatment is with over-the-counter products," says Dr. Robin Blum, brand ambassador for Clearasil. "Look for products that contain 2% salicylic acid, like Clearasil Overnight Serum. Salicylic acid is especially helpful in treating acne because of its ability to penetrate the follicle. It also functions as a mild exfoliant, helping keep the pores clear of debris. In this way, it reduces blackheads, whiteheads, and breakouts on the skin."

Under the Canopy
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Swap Your Pillowcase Often

"Change your pillowcase weekly," says Dr. Sobel. In a clinical study, it was determined that cotton draws moisture from your skin, leaving it dry and causing sleep lines and wrinkles. Not to mention that dust mites, sweat, and other gross things harbor where you sleep (maybe) eight hours a day.

Banish Bacteria from Makeup Brushes

"Wash your makeup brushes often and change your sponges," says Brett Freedman, owner/creator of VANITYMARK cosmetics. "You don’t want to apply fresh makeup with a brush filled with old makeup as it can retain bacteria and cause breakouts."

Improve Spot Coverage

"If you're having breakouts, stick with sheer foundation and spot cover," says Freedman. "While it's tempting to go with a full-coverage formula, you don't want to load up the parts of your face that are clear with more coverage than they need. Put a dab of acne-drying cream over large or bulbous pimples to 'retexturize' them and then cover up. Since zits stretch the skin, the tops can be very smooth and unable to grip makeup."
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Reconsider Retinoids

"The one must-have ingredient to help keep skin young is retinol," says NYC-based dermatologist Dr. Ariel Ostad. "Topical retinoids have been shown to improve the skin's texture and the appearance of fine lines along with increasing the thickness of the outer surface of the skin (the epidermis)."

Pick a Physical Block

Protecting your skin is important, but if your sunscreen formula is making your face break out, it's time to move on. "Opt for physical blocks like zinc oxide (titanium oxide is the other)," says Colleen Shimamoto, educational adviser for DermaQuest Skin Therapy. "This ingredient shields us from the sun by reflecting UVB and UVA rays. Sunscreen formulas made with zinc are generally nongreasy and nonirritating, making them especially good for acne, sensitive skin, and anyone who wants to prevent aging and sun spots."

Try DermaQuest ZinClear SPF 30, $51.50; skinstore.com

Say Hallelujah to Hyaluronic Acid

"Your skin needs its daily dose of water, which is more than your intake of H20," says Shimamoto. "Sodium hyaluronate, more commonly known as hyaluronic acid, helps balance your skin, bringing it to a normal pH level. "Balanced skin is optimal for all healthy skin functions. When this ingredient is used in cosmetic formulations at a high concentration (check the ingredients list and make sure it is some where in the middle or toward the top of the list), it will leave your skin plump and 'dewy' looking."

Try dermHA Hyaluronic Therapeutic Creme, $34; dermha.com