Beauty is deeply personal. The way you style your hair, the makeup you wear (or don’t wear), and even how you groom yourself are all influenced by your own unique preferences. Skincare, in many ways, is the same. The best skincare products for you are those that suit your skin type and concerns—and since those characteristics can vary immensely from one person to the next, there’s a good chance that your ideal routine will look different than, say, your best friend’s.
That being said, there are a few things that skincare experts generally agree can be beneficial for most people. To get the scoop on what experts consider must-haves, we consulted two board-certified dermatologists, Dr. Alix J. Charles and Dr. Marisa Garshick. Ahead, we’ll share their answers—and provide tips on incorporating their everyday essentials into your personal routine. Keep reading to discover Kiehl’s best skincare products for healthy-looking skin.
The “Core Four” Skincare Essentials
Skincare doesn’t have to be complicated to be effective. According to Dr. Charles, many dermatologists tend to focus their recommendations around “four basic products that you can use as a foundation” for building an effective skincare routine. Here, we’ll introduce you to the so-called “core four” and offer recommendations on the best formulas for your routine.
Expert Essential #1:
“Sunscreen, of course, is number one,” Dr. Charles says. Everyone should be wearing a broad-spectrum sunscreen every day to help keep their skin protected from the sun’s damaging rays (and not just because of the medical implications of chronic sun exposure: Studies show that UV radiation is responsible for up to 80% of all facial skin aging).I Dr. Garshick agrees, adding that wearing sunscreen daily is “one of the best things you can do” for your skin.
Generally speaking, experts recommend using a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a sun protection factor, or SPF, of at least 15. For daily protection, we suggest Super Fluid Daily UV Defense SPF 50+. The lightweight formula helps protect against UVA and UVB rays. Thanks to antioxidant protection, it also helps defend the skin against free radicals. This fast-absorbing sunscreen is suitable for all skin types and leaves the skin with a natural-looking matte finish. Apply a thin, even layer to exposed skin at least 15 minutes before going outside in the morning. Reapply it every two hours, plus after sweating (or swimming), for lasting protection.
Expert Essential #2:
Both of the experts we spoke to agreed that retinoids—in other words, vitamin A derivatives—are must-haves in their skincare routines. Per Dr. Charles, vitamin A derivatives, like retinol, can help address a wide range of age-related skin concerns, including dullness, wrinkles, and skin discolorations. Some retinoids can even help address breakouts. “It’s a great ingredient to include as a cornerstone of your skincare regimen,” he says. Plus, he adds, vitamin A derivatives come in varying strengths—which means there are options for different skin types and levels of sensitivity.
If you’re looking to introduce your skin to a retinoid, we recommend seeking out a product with retinol, like Micro-Dose Anti-Aging Retinol Serum with Ceramides and Peptide. The unique serum, which contains a precise daily dose of pure retinol, helps promote gentle skin turnover for a more youthful appearance. It’s clinically-demonstrated to visibly reduce wrinkles and unevenness with minimal dryness or redness and is mild enough for daily use—even for sensitive skin.*
*Results based on expert grading in a clinical test for subjects showing improvement after 12 weeks of use.
Expert Essential #3:
Antioxidants, by definition, are substances that help neutralize free radicals. Generally speaking, they can help protect the skin from visible signs of stress and prevent some of the early signs of skin aging. There are many different types of antioxidants used in skincare, but one of the most popular is vitamin C, which Dr. Garshick says she uses every day. In addition to its antioxidant benefits, vitamin C can help firm the skin and visibly improve discolorations, giving the skin a more even appearance.
If you’re looking to incorporate vitamin C into your routine, Dr. Garshick says Powerful-Strength Vitamin C Serum “is a great option.” Made with 10.5% pure vitamin C and 2% ascorbyl glucoside (a vitamin C derivative), this fast-absorbing serum instantly boosts radiance. With continued use, the concentrated serum also helps diminish the appearance of fine lines and deeper wrinkles to reveal smoother, firmer-looking skin over time.
For added antioxidant benefits, pair your vitamin C serum with another antioxidant formula like Ferulic Brew Antioxidant Facial Treatment with Lactic Acid. The water-light essence with ferulic acid provides powerful antioxidant protection to help support the skin’s natural recovery processes. It also provides gentle exfoliation and helps improve skin texture and tone, leaving the skin with a healthy-looking glow. We recommend splashing a palmful onto your skin after cleansing and toning, then following with your vitamin C serum, moisturizer, and sunscreen.
Expert Essential #4:
Moisturizer is a must “all year round,” Dr. Charles says. The type of moisturizer you use should be dictated by your skin type and concerns—and these may very well change with the season. Dr. Garshick, for example, says she often needs “a little bit of a thicker cream” in the wintertime. Dr. Charles agrees, noting, “you’ve got to kick up your moisturization in the winter.”
If you’re unsure where to start with moisturizers, we recommend trying a mild formula suitable for all skin types, like Ultra Facial Cream with Squalane. This Kiehl’s classic provides instant hydration that helps the skin feel hydrated for up to 24 hours. It absorbs quickly, with a lightweight texture, and is suitable for all skin types, from oily to dry. It’s a favorite of Dr. Garshick, who says it’s what she reaches for when her skin “needs something a little bit more nourishing” than a lightweight lotion or gel moisturizer.
What Else Should Your Skincare Routine Include?
The “core four,” as Dr. Charles notes, is just a jumping-off point: It shouldn’t be the entirety of your skincare routine. Everyone, for example, needs a cleanser to start their routine—what type of cleanser should be dictated by your skin type (if you’re oily, for example, you may want to reach for a foaming cleanser; if you’re prone to dullness, try an exfoliating cleanser). Other products, like face masks, oils, and eye creams, can also have a place in your routine.
Ultimately, that’s the main lesson both experts emphasized. Your skin is yours—and while you can build a routine around expert recommendations, the most important thing to remember is that your skin will tell you what it needs. You just have to listen.
Next: Now that you know what type of skincare products you need, learn The Right Order to Apply Your Skincare Products.
Source I. Zhang, Shoubing, and Duan, Enkui. “Fighting Against Skin Aging: The Way From Bench to Bedside.” Cell Transplantation vol. 27, 5 (2018): 729-738.