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The ultimate anti-aging skincare routine you should try before getting Botox, according to 2 dermatologists

Julia Pugachevsky   

The ultimate anti-aging skincare routine you should try before getting Botox, according to 2 dermatologists
  • To reduce signs of aging like wrinkles and dark spots, you'll need a consistent skincare routine.
  • 2 dermatologists shared the ideal order to put on products, as well as their recs.

A great skincare routine is simple and effective. But if you're looking to reduce signs of aging, adding more products can be confusing (and pricey).

Do you really need an expensive retinol or eye cream? Can you layer vitamin C serum with other anti-aging products without breaking out? And after a certain point, does anything work as well as Botox does?

"The best anti-aging routine can be as simple as just a few steps," especially in the morning, Lindsey Zubritsky, a board-certified dermatologist, told Business Insider.

You'll need:

  • Cleanser
  • Antioxidant serum
  • Moisturizer
  • Sunscreen
  • Makeup remover (optional)
  • Retinol
  • Night cream (optional)

Zubritsky's videos on anti-aging are among her most viral. She and Dr. Carolyn Stull, another board-certified dermatologist, shared their tips and product recommendations for anti-aging concerns — and both said that one step in particular should never be skipped.


1. Always cleanse your face — unless you have sensitive skin

"I recommend starting out with a gentle cleanser if you have oily or acne-prone skin," Zubritsky said. Ingredients like hyaluronic acid can help keep skin hydrated, but if that's still too drying, "this step can be skipped if you have drier or more sensitive skin," she said.

Stull agreed that those with more sensitive skin should skip the morning cleanser or just opt for gentler ones that "won't further strip your skin barrier or irritate your skin."

Zubtritsky recommended Cetaphil Gentle Cleanser, a creamier formula for dry or sensitive skin. For oilier skin, she suggested La Roche Posay Toleriane Foaming Cleanser, which can also be used for sensitive skin.

2. Apply an antioxidant product

Next, you want an antioxidant, like vitamin C.

Zubritsky said a vitamin C product adds a layer of protection "against external aggressors like UV rays and pollution which can accelerate aging." She recommended Skinceuticals CE Ferulic, a bestselling serum recommended for most skin types, including sensitive and dry.

If you experience irritation after using vitamin C, Zubritsky recommended choosing products with tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate or niacinamide, instead of L-ascorbic acid, a commonly used ingredient in antioxidant serums.

"Niacinamide naturally helps to calm inflammation and redness in the skin," she said.

3. Add a hydrating moisturizer

The ingredients to look out for in a moisturizer are ceramides and hyaluronic acid.

"Every good routine should also include a moisturizer, preferably containing ceramides or hyaluronic acid, to repair the skin barrier and help plump and hydrate," Zubritsky said.

Hyaluronic acid is a humectant, meaning it helps the skin soak up more moisture, and ceramides are fatty acids that help maintain your skin barrier.

One of her favorites is Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Cream, which contains both ingredients and is non-comedogenic, so it won't clog pores.

4. Always finish with sunscreen

Both dermatologists said sunscreen is the most important and non-negotiable step if you want to both protect your skin and prevent wrinkles in the long term. Stull said your sunscreen should be at least SPF 30 to adequately block UV damage.

She also suggested sunscreen "containing zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, since these filters are generally less likely to cause skin allergies or irritation."

Zubritsky's recommendation, ISDIN Eryfotona Actinica, is 11% zinc oxide and SPF 50+. There are also other options for minimal white cast or even offering better protection than US sunscreens, so it's worth trying a few until you find one you love — and are willing to wear every single day.


1. Cleanse again

Even if you don't wear makeup, Zubritsky strongly recommended fully cleansing at night to start with a "fresh palette."

If you do wear makeup or thicker sunscreen, she suggested double-cleansing with an oil cleanser, such as Clinique Cleanse the Day Away Melting Makeup Balm, followed by a gentler cleanser like the one you use in the morning.

2. Use a retinol or retinoid

Retinol, a derivative of vitamin A, is often incorporated in anti-aging skincare routines because it stimulates cell turnover, giving skin a more youthful appearance.

An over-the-counter retinol or prescription retinoid like tretinoin "can help stimulate collagen production, soften fine lines, and improve skin texture and tone," Stull said.

If you have sensitive skin, you'll want to start with retinol, Zubritsky said, as it's gentler. She loves Skinbetter AlphaRet Overnight Cream, which contains hydrating ingredients like hyaluronic acid. Dr. Blair Murphy-Rose previously told Business Insider that it's one of her personal go-to anti-aging products.

If you're really worried about irritating your skin, "look for products that contain hydrating, calming, or moisturizing ingredients with something like encapsulated retinol to slow absorption," Stull said. Encapsulated retinol includes other ingredients that mitigate its potential side effects. She likes Olay Regenerist Retinol24 + Peptide Night Moisturizer and First Aid Beauty 0.3% Retinol Complex Serum with Peptides.

If you've been using retinol for a while, have had no issues with irritation, and are "seriously looking to up your anti-aging routine," Zubritsky said a stronger option like tretinoin will yield more drastic results.

Even if you haven't experienced dryness from retinol before, Stull said it's important to slowly incorporate stronger retinoids slowly to prevent damaging your skin barrier.

3. Finish with a rich moisturizer

While you can simply use your regular moisturizer, Zubritsky recommends "a thicker, creamier, nourishing nighttime moisturizer to help heal the skin barrier overnight." An option she likes is L'Oreal Midnight Cream, which also includes antioxidants, and many of the best night creams boost hydration with ingredients like hyaluronic acid and vitamin E.

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