Expert-Approved Rules for Healthy Skin From Head to Toe

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Expert-Approved Rules for Healthy Skin From Head to Toe featured image
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Achieving a flawless complexion requires a dedicated skin-care routine, carefully curated products and some patience. But getting healthy skin from head-to-toe—not just on your face—takes more effort than a daily cleansing and some nightly retinol. In fact, the skin on your body commonly develops conditions that, while treatable at home, often go neglected.

Luckily, all it takes is a few changes in your routine to achieve a full skin-care reboot. From face to feet, we break down exactly how to get your healthiest—and most beautiful—skin yet. 

How to Get a Healthy Scalp

When we think about the tops of our head, we typically only consider our hair, but we really should be considering our scalp, too. “It’s important to think about your scalp in terms of skin, and not just the hair, and we have to treat that skin in a similar way as the skin on our face and the rest of our body,” says New York dermatologist Julie Russak, MD. “The scalp needs the nourishment and support to have the energy to produce healthy hair follicles, hence healthy hair.”

So what can we do to regenerate the skin on our scalps? There are a few things experts recommend. First, exfoliate. “Using exfoliants on the scalp is very important,” explains Dr. Russak. “I recommend using gentle chemical exfoliants such as fruit acids like lactic, glycolic and salicylic acids to exfoliate dead skin on the scalp.” This exfoliation will help with unhealthy buildup that leads to dandruff, blocked oil glands and inflammation of the scalp. Our favorite? The Briogeo Scalp Revival Charcoal + Coconut Oil Micro-Exfoliating Shampoo ($42), which uses charcoal and coconut oil to detoxify, exfoliate, soothe, and balance the scalp.

Additionally, if your scalp is experiencing some flakes, Nanuet, NY dermatologist Heidi Waldorf, MD recommends trying an over-the-counter dandruff shampoo. “Those shampoos generally contain one of the following ingredients: zinc pyrithione, sulfur, salicylic acid, ketoconazole or tar,” she says, adding that all these ingredients can help alleviate dandruff. 

How to Get Healthy Facial Skin

A healthy complexion all starts with a smart skin-care routine. “There are certain ingredients that we know should be used daily on our skin, these are the ‘workhorses’ of our skin-care routine,” says Dr. Russak. “First, cleansing the skin twice daily is important. In the morning, you want a mild, lighter cleanser so as not to strip your natural oils, but to prepare the skin for the protective ingredients that you are going to apply during the day.”

According to Dr. Russak, the most important ingredient you can use in the morning is vitamin C. Vitamin C is one of the strongest antioxidants used to protect our skin from environmental damage, and it also boosts our collagen production throughout the day. Moisturizing the skin is also important to maintain a protective barrier so that your skin doesn’t lose its own natural moisture. So, look for ingredients like ceramides, squalene and niacinamide that are all naturally present in our skin and work to repair our protective barrier.

Finally, the ultimate morning step to ensure healthy facial skin is none other than applying sunscreen. “One of the best things you can do for yourself in your 20s that will pay off in your 50s is to wear sunscreen,” asserts Dr. Russak. “Applying sunscreen daily will protect your skin from environmental damage and UV radiation, which will decrease the degradation of DNA that can potentially lead to serious side effects like skin cancer but will also protect from the breakdown of collagen and skin aging.”

When it comes to your nighttime skin-care routine, Dr. Russak says it’s vital to wash the face with a stronger cleanser than your morning one in order to remove all of the dirt and grime that accumulated on it throughout the day. “Especially right now it has become very important to wash off all of the air that gets trapped under our masks,” she explains. “We’re wearing masks every day now and we’re breathing into the masks which means humid air with bacteria and yeast from our mouth settles into the skin, so you definitely want to wash that off when you come home at night.”

After cleansing, use moisturizers with active ingredients like retinol before bed. “Using retinol at night helps our cells to regenerate, boost their repair potential, help our skin to look younger and prevent fine lines and wrinkles. It also helps decrease the appearance of discoloration from environmental damage,” says Dr. Russak. A good option is the Kate Somerville Retinol Vitamin C Moisturizer ($90), which uses retinol, vitamin C and wild gooseberry extract to keep skin smooth and clear.

How to Get Healthy Skin on Your Body

The skin on your body isn’t too different from the skin on your face, but it does require different care. “I recommend cleansing with a good soap such as Dove, and to avoid harsh body soaps,” says New York dermatologist Kally Papantoniou, MD. “Cleanse areas that need cleansing—the underarms and private areas—and don’t lather all over everyday, as this can lead to dry skin, and possibly eczema.”

Additionally, if you have dry skin, moisturizing immediately after the shower is best. Choose a cream that contains ceramides, like the CeraVe Moisturizing Cream ($16), for the best skin repair. “[Look for products with] aloe, hyaluronic acid, ceramides, almond oil, argan oil, rosehip seed oil, and other healthful natural oils for the skin, as they often naturally contain vitamins A, E and B and some even have vitamin C,” says Dr. Papantoniou.

Finally, it’s vital to remember that your face isn’t the only skin on your body that needs SPF. “Every single day, whether you are going outside or not, apply a sun protective product to any skin that may be exposed to ultraviolet light,” says Dr. Waldorf. “If you are going to be someplace or doing something that will require prolonged sun exposure, make sure the sunscreen is water resistant and reapply every one to two hours.”

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