The best skin care routine can depend on a person’s age, skin type, skin tone, and any relevant health conditions.
A skin care routine can help keep the skin healthy and control or prevent certain skin conditions.
This article looks at the skin care routines that dermatologists recommend for different skin types and tones, and for people of different ages.
The American Academy of Dermatology Association (AAD) recommends this routine for any skin type:
- To cleanse the face, apply a nonabrasive, alcohol-free cleanser using the fingertips, and rinse with lukewarm water. Do this in the morning, at night, and after sweating heavily.
- Gently pat the skin dry with a clean, soft towel.
- Apply any medicated treatments.
- Apply a moisturizer that is suitable for the skin type.
Dermatologists also recommend:
- having a consistent morning and nighttime skin care routine
- using sunscreen that is SPF 30 or higher each day
- applying moisturizer when the skin is still damp
- making sure that all products are skin type-suitable
Routinely check the skin for any unusual changes that could be a sign of skin cancer.
Also, people should avoid:
- using tanning beds, which can damage the skin, cause skin cancer, and speed up signs of aging
- touching the face, as this can transfer dirt and germs
- picking, squeezing, or poking pimples or other lesions
The first step to having an optimal skin care routine is identifying the skin’s type. To do this, assess the skin’s appearance and texture and how it reacts to products.
These are the different skin types, according to the AAD:
- Normal skin: The skin is clear and not usually sensitive to products.
- Sensitive skin: Some products cause irritation, stinging, or burning sensations.
- Dry skin: The skin is flaky and rough, and it may be itchy.
- Oily skin: The skin appears shiny and greasy. It may be prone to acne.
- Combination skin: Some areas, such as the cheeks, are dry, while others are oily. A person may just have an oily T-zone, which includes the forehead, nose, and chin.
People whose skin type is normal can simply follow the steps in the first section of this article.
If the skin is drier in certain seasons, a person might opt for a lotion-based moisturizer. For people who are entering menopause or anyone aged 50 or above, a cream-based moisturizer may be more appropriate.
People should choose products that are fragrance-free and designed for sensitive skin. This includes cleansers and moisturizers.
Anyone with rosacea, atopic dermatitis, better known as eczema, or allergies likely has sensitive skin.
It is important to perform a patch test before using a new product to test for a reaction. To do this, apply a small amount to an area such as the inner forearm twice a day for 7–10 days.
If the product does not cause inflammation, swelling, or other adverse reactions, it may be safe to use more widely.
If itchiness, a rash, or another reaction occurs, gently wash the product off right away and do not use it.
However, patch tests may not benefit people with rosacea because this condition only affects the face.
People with rosacea should:
- Avoid triggers, such as stress and heat, whenever possible.
- Use sunscreen with
SPF 30 or higher.
- Use a moisturizer designed for dry skin.
- Use a gentle cleanser.
Certain products with active ingredients, such as retinols and glycolic acid, may irritate the skin. This can be a temporary reaction, but stop using any product that causes bothersome sensitivity.
People with sensitive skin may need to avoid organic skin care products. Some natural ingredients, such as essential oils, may irritate the skin.
For dry skin, the following routine may help:
- Choose a gentle, fragrance-free cleanser.
- Use just enough to remove dirt and oil, but not so much that it creates a lot of lather.
- Rinse with lukewarm water.
- Pat the skin dry.
- Right away, apply a thicker moisturizer, such as an ointment or a cream-based product.
Avoid products with these ingredients, which may irritate the skin or worsen dryness:
- alpha hydroxy acid
Also avoid over-scrubbing or over-exfoliating, which can dry the skin.
Cleanse the face every morning and evening with a mild, foaming face wash. It is important to avoid over-scrubbing.
Using a heavy moisturizer on oily skin may contribute to clogged pores, so people should opt for lighter lotions or gel-based products.
Products that are oil-free, non-comedogenic, and alcohol-free should not clog the pores or irritate the skin, so these might be good options.
Find out how to manage oily skin here:
Having combination skin means that some areas of the face are dry and others are oily — often the forehead, nose, and chin. Dermatologists refer to this as the “T-zone.”
People should apply moisturizer to the dry areas and avoid moisturizing the oily areas.
Depending on how dry the skin feels, a person might opt for a light gel moisturizer, a cream-based product, or an ointment.
For everyone, it is important to wash the face in the morning and evening, and after sweating, such as after a workout or a long time outdoors in warm weather.
A person should also use a moisturizer that is suited to their skin type.
For people who shave their faces:
- Wet the skin and hair in the area to soften it.
- Apply a moisturizing shaving cream.
- Shave in the direction of hair growth.
- Rinse the razor after each swipe.
Change the blade after 5–7 shaves.
If a person has ingrown hairs, razor burn, or razor bumps, they should opt for a single- or double-blade razor and avoid stretching the skin when they shave.
Having higher levels of melanin in the skin can cause the skin to be more prone to hyperpigmentation.
- pimples, a patch of psoriasis, or a healing injury
- certain medications
- a product that irritates the skin
- changes in hormones, such as during pregnancy
If a hyperpigmented area stems from pimples, injury, or psoriasis, the doctor may call it post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.
These ingredients in skin care products may help even out the skin’s tone:
- benzoyl peroxide
- azelaic acid
- topical retinoids
As the Skin of Color Society points out, darker skin tones burn less easily than lighter ones, but everyone still needs to protect their skin with sunscreen.
And for people with areas of hyperpigmentation, sunscreen can help support a more even tone.
The AAD recommends these tips for people in their 40s or 50s:
- washing the face twice a day with a mild cleanser
- moisturizing after washing the face
- avoiding indoor tanning
- avoiding smoking
- having a healthy diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats
- getting enough quality sleep
- wearing sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher each day
People in their 60s or 70s should:
- Use fragrance-free products to prevent irritation.
- Use a thicker moisturizer, as the skin can become drier with age.
- Use sunscreen, and wear protective clothing.
Protecting the lips is an important part of skin care. Skin cancer can develop on the lips, so before going outside, use a lip balm or another product with an SPF of 30 or above.
If the lips are dry or chapped, petroleum jelly can help.
Tips for whole-body skin care include:
- Cleanse the skin with a mild, fragrance-free product.
- Exfoliate with a mild chemical exfoliator and a washcloth using small, circular motions. After 30 seconds, rinse with lukewarm water. Avoid doing this every day, though, as it can damage the skin.
- Apply a moisturizer right after bathing.
- Apply sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher to any area exposed to the sun, and wear protective clothing in sunny weather.
Contact a dermatologist about any skin concerns — or for advice about tailoring a skin care routine.
People should make an appointment if they notice any unusual changes that might indicate skin cancer, including:
- areas of skin that are different in any way
- moles that change shape, size, or color
- any new skin growth that is tender, scaly, itchy, or that bleeds
For anyone looking for an optimal skin care routine, the key is choosing products that suit their skin type, skin tone, their age, and any skin conditions, such as acne, rosacea, or eczema. Consistency is also important.
If a person has any concerns or wants recommendations, dermatologist can help.