You look at your array of skin-care products spread out around the sink. There are bottles and tubs of various creams and potions, all promising to do amazing things for your skin. But you may not need them all; but if you do, you should use them in the proper order, according to local experts.

The basic order for a typical skin-care routine is: cleanser, topical medication (such as a prescription retinoid or acne medicine), moisturizer, sunscreen, make-up, says Dr. Joseph Muccini, a dermatologist with the Mid-America Skin Health and Vitality Center. “And, yes, you still need to reapply sunscreen every couple of hours if you’re going to be out in the sun,” he adds.

Erin Murphy, a medical aesthetician at Aurora Medical Spa, says various cleansers are available, depending on skin type and needs. Regardless of the type or brand of cleanser, she recommends using a gentle cleansing brush (such as Clarisonic) both morning and night. “It helps exfoliate and also cleans the skin six times better than hands alone,” she says. “It will also allow your other products to penetrate better.”

If a serum is part of your routine, apply it before moisturizing, Murphy adds. “Serums are highly concentrated and fast-penetrating, designed to target specific skin concerns. If you apply your serums over your moisturizer, you won’t get as many benefits,” she says.

Muccini notes that combination products, such as moisturizers with added sunscreen, may seem like a good deal, but "combos aren’t usually the best version of either type of product." Instead, he suggests using high-quality single-purpose products. Murphy favors ‘pharmaceutical-grade products’ and encourages consumers to research the product line. However, the bottom line, Murphy says, is that "using quality products will not only improve but maintain the quality of your skin. Products that stay on the skin all day should always be of good quality."

With sun exposure typically increasing during the summer months, Muccini also recommends a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 50 or more. Only those labeled ‘broad-spectrum’ protect against both UVA and UVB rays. “And usually, people apply too little and don’t reapply as they should,” he says, noting that ‘waterproof’ sunscreen only last about 80 minutes when swimming and ‘water-resistant’ is only good for about 40 minutes in the pool.

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