Ultimate Skincare Guide

Welcome to the Skincare Critic Ultimate Skincare Guide. Please take off your shoes. Who are we kidding, the place is a mess, just get in here. We’re going to get started by telling you about our site, and what we want to do as a group. Then we’ll move on to some other areas that we like to focus on. If you want to jump to a specific section, you can do that by clicking the section on the table of contents.

About The Skincare Critic

The Skincare Critic

Pictured: The Best Site EVER

Despite how it sounds, TheSkincareCritic.com is a collection of critics that gather to review the latest skincare products, ingredients, techniques and trends. They compile reviews, guides, how-to’s, and more, and do it in a way that’s easy to understand for the reader.

That’s something that’s easier said than done. With so many hard to pronounce ingredients in skincare today, it can be tough to navigate product labels to find out what does what, and whether it’s safe for the average user. That’s not even mentioning if you have sensitive skin or not.

Recent Reviews and Guides

We pride ourselves on making our reviews informative and brief. People don’t have time to read a 10 page dissertation on the post-Freudian philosophies of collagen creation, and they sure as heck don’t have the patience to deal with a lot of personal opinion on brands. Our goal is to report facts and represent products and techniques as truthfully as we can. That means when we make claims, we’re backing them up with studies or data.

But beyond that, our biggest goal is to cover little-known products. Big brand companies get all the spotlight in this pay-for-play reality that is the modern internet, and that oftentimes crowds out some great, under-funded and less mainstream products.

With each review we write, we use a set of criteria to make judgements on those products. They don’t change from product to product—each product is stacked against the same criteria and judged fairly.

The Skincare Critic Review Criteria

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We fax in our reviews after scanning them, it’s very efficient

When it comes to reviews, we’ve always noticed that review sites aren’t fair to some products. They’re harder than they should be, or softer than they should be, and the reviews can vary from product to product. That means that you’re never sure you’re walking away with good info that you can base a purchase on.

That’s why it’s so important for The Skincare Critic to provide a consistent rating system that’s applied to each product. When we evaluate products, we’re covering the same 5 points. That’s regardless of whether it’s a big name, little name, or complete unknown. We want to provide an equal spotlight to all these products, regardless of how we end up rating them. Let’s take a look at our criteria;

  1. Price – There are plenty of sites that pretend as if their readers have access to unlimited money. Part of it is that these companies then link to luxury products to buy. The goal? They’re trying to make it seem normal to spend that much money on a skincare product. Meanwhile, back in reality, The Skincare Critic knows that most people don’t have unlimited income to spend on skincare products. They also know that people aren’t going to use products that aren’t affordable. That’s why price plays the number one role in our reviews of products.
  2. Availability – If you have to go to some alley in the lower east side to grab a bottle of the number one serum in the world, then you’re probably not getting the number one serum in the world. When we review products, we’re typically sticking with ones that are available at least nation-wide in the US. We might have outliers, like a spectacular product that’s only available in a specific region, but those are, again, outliers.
  3. Ingredients – If you’re going to put something on your face, you better know what’s in it. That’s the oversimplified, guiding mantra for us here at the Skincare Critic. While we don’t have degrees in chemistry (most of us are writers by trade) we do have a strong affinity for google-fu. That means when we run across something we don’t know, we’re looking up everything on that ingredient. Sure, some ingredients are new to the point that they’re not going to have studies out, but that doesn’t mean we can’t provide information that’s available at the moment. Lastly, we’re always going to favor ingredients that have a proven track record. But more on that in a second.
  4. Efficacy – When you buy a skincare serum, cream or other, you expect it to work. But you shouldn’t expect them to work as “advertised.” The whole goal of an advertisement is to make a product look as good as it possibly can. That means they’re often full of half-truths and sometimes even lies. That’s the peril of such an unregulated industry like skincare. That’s where review sites like the Skincare Critic come in. We’re pouring over the ingredient labels, looking for ingredients that might cause beneficial effects.
  5. Safety – If you could get rid of all your wrinkles for the cost of one of your toes, would you do it? Don’t answer that. We don’t want products with trade-offs. If a product has a reputation for giving bad side effects or uses ingredients we know will have bad side effects for a lot of people, we’re not going to recommend it.
  6. Price/Volume – Some products might seem to be set at an affordable price rate, but then you get home and you only got an week’s worth when you thought your were getting a month’s worth. That’s why it’s important that we consider the amount of product you’re getting in addition to the overall price of the skincare product.
  7. Reputation – This one might not be a fair metric, but it’s something we do consider. If your company has a reputation for causing a certain side effect with their products, then you’re going to feel that in the rating. On the flip-side, we’ll be giving higher ratings to products that have a track-record of delivering high quality products every time. For new companies, we’ll typically not use this metric, and instead put bigger emphasis on the ingredients, efficacy and price metrics.
  8. Marketing – Have you ever seen those ads on websites that show a lady with significant wrinkles in one frame, then show her with no wrinkles on a yacht in the next one? That kind of marketing is the plague of the skincare industry. Even worse is when they use celebrity names without permission. If a product is using bad marketing practices like that (and we’ve seen it), we’ll note it in our review.
  9. Functionality – If a product works, it’s inexpensive, but you have to hang upside-down while singing the South Korean national anthem to make it work, the average person probably isn’t going to use it regularly. And if the average person isn’t going to use it reliably, then the benefits aren’t going to be worth the price of admission. A product needs to be easy to use in order for us to give it a 5 shiny stars rating.
  10. Other Considerations – There are a ton of other metrics we could bring into the mix here. But we’re going to leave this last piece of the puzzle up to our writers. If they feel strongly that a product shouldn’t receive a good or bad rating and they can back it up with a reason that isn’t included in our metrics, we’re probably

The Skincare Critic – Applying the Metrics

The best metric in the world doesn’t matter if the people using it don’t weight the criteria evenly. And, while it’s something we definitely try to remember here at the Skincare Critic, we admit that we’ll never be perfect at this either. But we trust our writers to put in a good-faith effort to apply the above metric as well as they can, and to approach each of their reviews with that in mind.

The Skincare Critic Metric – The Final Rating

After we’ve considered all the above criteria and boiled it down into some semblance of a product review, it’s up the writer to come up with a final rating. Typically, they’ll give the rating then offer an explanation for that rating in short terms. (Pro-tip: if you ever want to get the gist of an entire review in three sentences, read the last paragraph.) Remember, this isn’t an average of the criteria. If something is unsafe to use, we’re never going to rate it high. Just like if a product costs $20,000/use, we’re not going to recommend it either.

It’s not a perfect science, but it feels like we’re doing enough to make sure our reviews are providing solid information to our readers.

The Skincare Critic Guides

With all this talk about reviews, we’ve neglected to mention that they only account for around half of our total content. Our site content is comprised (roughly) of 50% reviews, 25% Guides and 25% How-To articles. There will be articles that don’t fit into those criteria, but that’s typically how it breaks down.

So why are we putting such importance on guides? The big reason for a lot of our writers is that guides answer questions. Sure, people have questions about products. But it turns out that educated consumers like yourselves are also interested in how those products are working behind the scenes.

In our Skincare Critic Guides, we’ll take deep dives into some of the critical points of most skincare products. Think—how collagen works, peptides explained, and hyaluronic acid for dummies.

But that doesn’t mean we’re all wrapped up with ingredients. We’re also fans of doing lists. You’ll see guides to our favorite products of the year, product guides for your given skin-types, or even guides on how to save money on your next online skincare purchase.

If there’s ever a guide you want to see that we haven’t covered, send us a message on social media. We’re happy to look into it for you.

The Skincare Critic How-To’s

Have you ever wondered how to make an apple cider vinegar and red clay mask? How about a DIY acne treatment? Maybe you’re more in the mood for a lip scrub? Whatever your fancy, we’ve got you covered. Looking for a skincare guide for everything? You’re reading it right now. Yeah, we’re good.

One of our favorite things to do as writers here is to find the latest trend; say diy charcoal scrubs, and try to add our own twist to it. Maybe we’ll combine something we really like from another product into the mix. Or maybe we’ll tailor it toward working better for a certain skin type.

Regardless of the angle, we love writing how-to articles for our readers, and we think that shows in how good they are. If you want to check out some of our latest guides and how-to articles, be sure to check out the category page here for the latest.

The Skincare Critic Guide To Skin

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Yeah, we’ve seen Westworld too

Before we go too crazy talking about skincare products, we wanted to help people learn more about the skin itself. A lot of products out there

Collagen – We could write an entire novel on how important collagen is to the skin. But, even then we wouldn’t be scratching the surface about how collagen and how it’s used in skincare. We know one thing for sure, collagen creams are a surefire favorite in the skincare world.

But the name itself, the so-called “collagen cream” is a potential misnomer. Collagen creams are typically aimed at increasing collagen production, and don’t necessarily contain the ingredient collagen itself. Some creams and serums do contain collagen, but there’s less evidence out there that topically applied collagen do much good for the skin. The real action ingredients are boosting collagen production, which in turn provide a slate of skincare benefits.

To speak a bit about collagen itself; collagen is a “main structural protein found in skin and other connective tissues.” It’s often used as an injectable skin “plumper”. But really, the best skincare products are using collagen-boosting ingredients. That makes for more long term results that people want, rather than the short-term results offered by injections.

Elastin – You can’t talk about collagen without talking about elastin. They’re like the dynamic duo of your skin. They also comprise a large percentage of the underlying layers of your skin. Without them, your skin would be a sagging mess. The body produces elastin and collagen naturally, and it is in turn used to keep your skin functioning at a high level. Creams that support collagen production often try to support elastin in the same breath. But, you will find some that are dedicated to elastin itself (though they’re far less popular).

Keratin – When you think keratin, you’re probably thinking hair and nails. But there’s a reason they include skin in the mix when they talk about keratin! It’s the component of your skin that helps to provide rigidity at the outermost layer. Without keratin, the skin would be a permeable mess, letting through all kinds of bacteria and viruses that could do significant harm to you and your body.

But these are just the major proteins at play within the skin. If you really want to know more about the skin, we need to take a step back and refresh your high school skin-anatomy lessons.

The Skincare Critic Commandments: 1. Know Thine Skin

If you want to really help your skin, you need to know everything you can about it. Sure, there’s probably a limit to the usefulness of this knowledge (unless you’re going on to be a Dermatologist) but knowing some of the basics can help you to understand why you should be using certain products.

For example, did you know that one of the biggest contributors to wrinkles is UV damage? In fact, most dermatologists recommend that you use sunscreen daily, even if it’s cloudy. It’s an extra layer of protection that not only supports your skin, but also helps to prevent melanoma.

But if you dig into the why behind why the sun can cause damage to your skin, you’ll find that the skin is doing a whole lot of things to prevent damage to your body that aren’t included in that basic tenet. You want to use sunscreen not only because it helps to prevent melanoma and supports your skin, but because using it can prevent premature aging of your skin. That, in turn, can help prevent premature minimization of collagen and elastin production.

You should also know that your skin, at its most basic, functional, core has a goal of protecting your body.

Let’s jump into some basic info about your skin.

Understanding Your Skin

The skin is comprised of 3 major layers; the epidermis, dermis, and hypodermis. Let’s take a closer look at these layers.

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This android understands her skin, do you?

Know Thine Skin | The Epidermis

The epidermis is the layer of skin at the surface. It’s responsible for keeping things out of your body, like water, germs, viruses and serving as a rough barrier against physical damage. On the other side of the equation, it’s responsible for keeping moisture in. After all, our body is comprised, at majority, of water.

The epidermis itself is comprised of five layers; the stratum corneum, stratum lucidum, the stratum granulosum, stratum spinosum, and the stratum basale.

  • Stratum Corneum – The stratum corneum is comprised of roughly 10-30 layers of corneocytes, depending on the location of the body. For example, the heels of the feet, or the palm of the hand have close to 30 layers. These corneocytes are surrounded by protein, which are then filled with water-reservoir-like keratin. They’re further connected by lipids.
  • Stratum Lucidum – This layer of the epidermis is only found in thicker areas of the skin, like the palms or soles. The skin there is composed of five epidermal layers, whereas the skin in other areas is composed of only the four.
  • Stratum Granulosum – The Stratum Granulosum, or granular layer, is composed of keratinocytes  that don’t have a nucleus. They take a, you guessed it, granular form. These keratinocytes contain lipids, which are released into the space between cells to form a lipid barrier. (You’ll hear a lot about the lipid barrier today).
  • Stratum Spinosum – Keratinocytes (again, common theme here) are fused by “desmosomes” and then start production of something called “lamellar bodies.” These lamellar bodies are surrounded by immunologically functional cells called Langerhans cells. These are responsible for neutralizing pathogens that make it through the lipid layer.
  • Stratum Basale – This is the bedrock of the epidermis. It’s composed mainly of keratinocytes, which are tied to the “basement membrane”.  The basement membrane separates the epidermis from the underlying tissue, which we’ll talk about in our next section. Merkel cells, as well as melanocytes are common in this area, with Merkel cells being highly concentrated in areas of touch sensitivity.
  • Other info about the epidermis – The epidermis’s made role is to protect the body from the world. Whether that’s pathogens, the sun, chemicals, or even physical trauma, it plays a big role in keeping use safe.

The lipid barrier we mentioned above is the area that a lot of peptide products target in their anti-aging efforts.

The syndrome of transepidermal water loss is the process in which water is lost from one layer of the skin, to the next and eventually lost to the world.

The pigment (color) of the skin is mostly based on the melanin content found in the epidermal layer.

Know Thine Skin | The Dermis

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Pictured: Completely Accurate Skin Flow Chart

Sandwiched in between the epidermis and the hypodermis is the dermis. It’s composed of two primary layers, which are in turn composed of more layers. It’s like skin-ception in here. Structurally, it’s composed of a variety of fivers that range from collagen and elastin, to an “extrafribrillar matrix.” In addition, it plays host to “mechanoreceptors” that provide sensory information to our brain in the form of “touch.” Additionally, thermoreceptors convey feelings of heat to the brain. It feels like we’re piling on here, but there’s also; sweat glands, hair follicles, lymphatic vessels, blood vessels, sebaceous glands and apocrine glands. Let’s take a look at the individual layers.

  • Papillary dermis – Comprising the uppermost layer, the Papillary dermis is essentially a network of collagen fibers.
  • Reticular dermis – Forming the lowest layer of the dermis, the reticular dermis is composed of collagen  elastin and reticular fibers. These form a thick, area specific, layer of connective tissue. Within this reinforced layer, you’ll find the base for things like hair roots, sweat glands, touch and heat receptors, nails, blood vessels and sebaceous glands.
  • Dermal papillae –  This is going to take some imagination, so get ready. There are parts of your skin called dermal papillae that extend from one layer of the skin to another. These dermal papillae form ridges, which in turn increase the surface area of your skin while providing better nutrient and oxygen delivery to the epidermal layers, as well as hair follicles. In addition, they help the skin to better grip wet objects, and serve as a unique identifying mark in fingerprints.
  • Other notes – The dermis is primarily composed of three types of cells; macrophages, adipocytes and fibroblasts. Other composing elements include; collagen, elastin, glycosaminoglycans, proteoglycans and glycoproteins.

Know Thine Skin | Hypodermis

  • Also called “subcutaneous tissue”, this layer comprises the bottom-most layer of the skin. It sits below the dermis and epidermis. It’s comprised mainly of connective tissue, fat, blood vessels and nerves.
  • It’s connected to the “deep facsia” through fibrous, connective bands made out of collagen and elastin.
  • It contains larger blood vessels, with capillaries running to the upper levels of the skin.
  • Some glands call this layer home, including sweat and mammary glands
  • Also of note, the nerves which relay information from mechanoreceptors and thermoreceptors call this area home.
  • Hair follicle roots can be found in this area as well.
  • Ruffini, Pacini corpuscles, mast cells, bursae and panniculous carnosus (muscle) call this layer home.
  • In addition to the above, subcutaneous fat is found in this area.

The Skin and Aging

When healthy, the skin functions as designed—it keeps out most pathogens, provides protection against the elements (including UV rays), and serves as a rough barrier against physical harm. But all of those positive properties are dependent on the skin functioning as designed. Unfortunately, damage from external and internal sources adds up over time, leaving the skin damaged and “aged.” Let’s look at some of the ways in which aging can affect skin processes.

  1. Thinning skin – One of the primary changes you experience as you age is that your skin becomes thinner. This is caused by a gradual decrease in the thickness of the epidermal layer.
  2. Lightening complexion – As the skin ages, it becomes thinner, paler and clearer. That can lead to higher visibility of the underlying structures, which includes; age spots, veins and other pronounced structures.
  3. Skin strength – As your skin ages, it also becomes more susceptible to damage—most noticeably with physical damage.  That includes vasculature included in the various layers of the skin.
  4. Skin elasticity – One of the big changes you’ll experience with your skin as it ages is reduction in skin elasticity. Skin elasticity decreases more prominently in areas that experience sun-damage. This damage is showcased in the wrinkly, rough skin that’s found in people who spend a majority of their lives outdoors (without wearing proper sun-protection).
  5. Oil production – one of the more underrated functions of the skin is oil production. This oil production is largely responsible for keeping your skin protected against pathogens and water loss. But as you age, that production goes down. While it’s more prominent in men than women, it does happen to both sexes.
  6. Loss of subcutaneous fat – As you age, you experience a decrease in the subcutaneous fat layer. While this might sound like a good thing to people trying to lose weight, it’s actually a net loss for your health and comfort. When you lose fat from this layer, you’re losing insulation that keeps heat in or out, and can make your body work harder to keep you at equilibrium. That elevated effort can lead to fatigue.
  7. Changes in sweat production – In addition to the changes to subcutaneous fat and the resulting effect on thermoregulation, aging also affects sweat production. That means that older people are more at risk for episodes of heat stroke, which can be life-threatening.
  8. Appearance of growths – Nobody likes to talk about growths, but they’re something that all of us experience. They can take the form of warts, skin tags, patches of rough skin, and other blemishes that get in the way of aesthetic beauty.

Causes of Skin Aging

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Don’t get burnt like poor Gary here

While there are a few common sources of skin-aging that people point to, it turns out that there are a handful of sources that can cause ill effects. While we cover this list, we’ll be offering up prevention techniques immediately afterward. Let’s start with the big (yellow) one;

  • UV Radiation – There is a direct correlation between Ultra Violet (UV) radiation damage and skin aging/damage. UV radiation takes a few different forms, let’s take a closer look;
  • UVA rays – these rays are the least powerful of the three, but that doesn’t mean they’re not dangerous. They’re the cause of wrinkles, and can be the source of skin cancer. Tanning beds are a major source of UVA, which has been linked to a higher risk of skin cancer.
  • UVB rays – these slightly more energetic brothers of UVA rays can damage your DNA. Isn’t that scary? That’s why they’re directly indicated as a cause of skin cancer. They’re also responsible for causing sunburns.
  • UVC rays- these rays are the most powerful of the three UV ray types. Luckily for us, we’re not typically exposed to them on Earth. They’re not found in typical sunlight, and, except in rare cases, don’t have ties to skin cancer.

About UV Radiation

When you’re considering ways to prevent damage from UV radiation, you need to consider a few things. The amount of UV radiation is affected directly by 7criteria;

  1. Distance from equator – When you’re closer to the sun, you’re experiencing more UV radiation. That’s because UV radiation is more able to breakthrough the ionosphere when applied perpendicular to the surface. At an angle, significant portions of the incoming rays are reflected away from the earth.
  2. Altitude – From an atmospheric point of view, the more in the way of you and the sun, the better. That’s why when you’re at a higher altitude, you’re more at risk at receiving more UV radiation.
  3. Season – Seasons are directly correlated with the amount of sunlight we receive per day. The amount of sunlight we receive per day is directly correlated with the amount of UV radiation we experience. So it stands to reason that during the summer, we’re more likely to experience higher levels of UV radiation. In places that are in a perpetual spring/summer, this doesn’t really hold true.
  4. Time – Just as daylight is strongest from 10am-4pm, UV radiation is as well.
  5. Cloud cover – Cloud cover can provide some protection against the sun. But if you’ve ever gotten a sunburn on a cloudy day, you know how untrue this can be. Some clouds reflect UV radiation better than others. Some clouds can even increase UV radiation experienced on the ground. How does that work?
  6. Environment – Depending on where you are, and the type of terrain, you can experience reflected UV radiation. Remember those mirrors that people use to use while sunbathing? It’s the same principle. More reflective surfaces—like water, snow, pavement—can leave you experiencing more severe UV radiation.
  7. Exposure- Just as the above criteria can determine how much radiation damage you experience, so does the amount of time exposed to those criteria. If you’re out in the sun for hours instead of minutes, you’re obviously experiencing more damage. Add to that the fact that most of us are more active during the peak hours of the sun.
  8. Protection- you should always use protection. Sun protection. Whether that means wearing long sleeves a hat, and shades, or slathering up with your favorite sunscreen, you need to be protecting your skin. We’ll talk more at length about ways to protect your skin from UV damage later, but it’s a basic tenet of skincare. If you know you’re going out in the sun, protect yourself.

Preventing UV Radiation Damage

There are a few main strategies for preventing UV Radiation damage, but it all starts with the above information. If you understand when and where you’re at the most risk, you can take steps to prevent exposure. But because the above criteria are often too much for the layperson to consider before heading outside, the EPA has launched a system called the UV Index. The UV index is essentially a number generated from the above criteria that represents the amount of UV radiation you’ll receive in a given place on a given day.

The higher the number on the scale (1-11+) the higher the risk of UV radiation and the higher the risk of skin damage.

Regardless of the UV Index, you should always take steps to prevent sun damage whenever you go out. That starts with…clothing.

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You can still look great while being smart about sun protection

Clothing – when you’re working (or playing) outside, a long shirt and sun hat can mean the difference between having a bad sunburn, or not having one at all. But not all shirts are created equally. If you’re wearing an almost see-through blend, that’s not going to stop much of the incoming UV radiation from getting through. Keep that in mind when picking out your next wardrobe.

Additionally, even your color choice can affect the amount of radiation getting through. Bright colors can absorb more of the radiation. But that’s also dependent on the density and weave of the fabric itself. Something with a looser weave isn’t getting in the way of the radiation in the same percentage as a denser weave.

But you also need to keep in mind that you should be protecting all areas of your skin, not just some areas. When it’s too hot to wear sleeves and pants, you need to go for the sunscreen.

Sunscreen – Where to start, where to start? Sunscreen is an essential if you want to keep your skin looking great into your twilight years. Hell, even if you want to keep it looking good into your 40’s. For a lot of women, one of their biggest regrets is that they didn’t take enough care of their skin when they were young.

But just putting on any old sunscreen isn’t enough to keep UV radiation at bay. You need to be meticulous in your selection.

Finding the Perfect Sunscreen

Sunscreens come in many forms. They can be your classic lotion, the more modern spray, or even wipes, lip balms, or gels. More, one of the latest trends in makeup is including a sunscreen element.

But not all sunscreens are created equally. Here are some criteria that separate sunscreens;

SPF – SPF, or sun protection factor, is the number that represents the percentage of blockage it can provide to incoming UVB rays. But the scale isn’t 1 for 1. Instead it works on an interesting scale where the higher the SPF level, the more it protects but the higher end of the scale has less returning benefit as it grows larger.

Take an SPF 15 sunscreen for example. You’re not getting 15% blockage from an SPF 15, but rather a 93% blockage. But when you go up 85 points to an SPF 100, you’re getting 99% blockage. It’s not tit for tat.

Spectrum – As you probably know from reading our material above, there are different types of UV radiation. While UVB is the most dangerous for your skin, UVA presents some risks as well. That’s why it’s important to use “broad spectrum” sunscreen.

Water resistance – If you’ve put on sunscreen, went for a swim, then went home looking like a tomato, then you know that not all sunscreens are waterproof. In fact, the term waterproof is misleading, as at best, sunscreens are water resistant for periods of 30 to 80 minutes. Check instructions on water resistance to make sure you’re applying often enough.

Expiration– While sunscreen should be effective as long as it contains the base ingredients in a usable way, it can decrease in efficiency. Be sure to shake your sunscreen well before use. And, if you have a bottle that’s been around for a couple years, one, you’re not using sunscreen enough, and two, you need to go get a new bottle.

Which Sunscreens Work Best?

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Don’t forget to apply sunscreen to your hands!

One of the big steps in using sunscreen is finding one that you’ll use regularly. But that means that you need to find something that works with your skin, and not against it. After all, you’re using this to keep your skin beautiful as long as possible.

That’s why we’re going to recommend some products based on need, rather than wide appeal.

  1. Sensitive skin – One, you need to be wearing protection beyond sunscreen. Two, if you’re looking for a good hypoallergenic sunscreen that doesn’t cause acne, is full spectrum and suited to problem skin conditions like Rosacea or Hyperpigmentation, use elta md. It’s highly-rated and highly recommended.
  2. High SPF – if you want the most protection, you need to use a high-SPF, broad spectrum sunscreen. But finding one that doesn’t feel like you just took a dip in a pool of malox is tough. One of the better ones we’ve seen is the Neutrogena 100spf Dry Touch sunscreen. It’s a good choice because it’s highly-rated, and gives you some forgiveness if you forget to reapply regularly for some reason.
  3. Moisturizing – Do you suffer from dry skin? Does going out in the sun cause problems with that? Then you might want to consider a two-in-one moisturizer/sunscreen. There are a few different options out there, but one that we really like is the Revision Intellieshade SPF 45. While it’s on the expensive site at $75 for 1.7oz, it’s a great product.
  4. Don’t forget your lips – They say the lips are the gateway to the mouth. Well, they literally are. But you do want to keep your lips in lip-lop shape (jesus, who is writing this). Luckily for you, there are a variety of lip balms that incorporate sunscreen properties. But, for a lot of these, they’re just a marketing gimmick. One of them that isn’t doing the old marketing gimmick is Vanicream. Their lip protectant/sunscreen is a great choice for people who want advanced protection for their lips. It’s broad spectrum, and SPF 30. Additionally, it can be applied to the body, face, and lips (if you want to, there’s not much in a container).
  5. Spraaaaaay – So you’re a post-lotion gal living in a world of spray application skincare products. There’s a sunscreen for that. Enter sunscreen sprays, the legends. These things are great, except when they’re not. They have a capacity to fail badly, and that’s not something we can have. No. No we need something that’s going to work at the drop of a hat, or an impromptu vacation to Bermuda. What? Here’s one we like; Trader Joe’s Spray SPF 50+. We know, we know, it’s the last place you’d think to look. Which is why it’s so perfect.

Using the Perfect Sunscreen

This is where things get tricky. If you’re like us, then you apply once, forget for around 2 hours. Then have a moment of panic followed by a reapplication—repeat ad infinitum. It’s a common theme we see with just about everybody. But it’s one of the most important parts of using sunscreen. You need to reapply.

But beyond that, you also need to use it regularly. Sure, it helps when you use it when you go to the beach. But there are a hundred other days a year where you’re getting high exposure to UV radiation that you’re not protecting. It’s important to remember to apply, reapply, and reevaluate when you’re using sunscreen.

Consider it Protection, Not Modesty

Photo of Person Covered With Brown Textile - Ultimate Skincare Guide

Alright, you might be overdoing it a bit here

Sure it can feel like you’re a 19th century woman when you head to the beach fully clothed, but there are some good looks out there that incorporate sleeves, or even pants in the right situations.

One of our favorite looks right now is a long flowy top that offers good sun protection. It’s a good safeguard against our forgetful nature, and it can help to hide some ahem bad meal choices.

One of our favorites right now is the boyfriend style shirt. It’s flowy, it protects well against the sun, and looks pretty great.

If you’re a more action-oriented beach-goer, there are plenty of tightfitting tops that show off your curves while protecting your skin from the sun. Remember, pick brighter colors if possible for better UV protection.

One of our favorite brands right now for beach-ready sun protective wear is Coolibar. They offer a lot of products to choose from that fit all kinds of needs. From the weird, full face covering sailing hoodie, to more typical things like sun hats. But what really sets them apart is that they’re using enhanced fabrics that block the sun better than your typical fabric.

Oftentimes, companies incorporate dense weave patterns, or even threads of reflective material into their fabric in order to do this. While SPF is used to measure sunscreen, UPF is used to measure fabric resistance to UV radiation.

UPF, or Ultraviolet Protection Factor, measures the ability of clothing to block broad spectrum UV radiation.

Coolibar takes a variety of approaches in order to get their fabrics rated highly in UPF. Whether it’s using a bamboo-based fabric, or incorporating zinc oxide, Titanium Dioxide into a fabric weave. With another approach, they use a densely packed weave they call the “Fort Knox” of UV rays.

Even if you’re not going to spring for the sometimes costly offerings from Coolibar, it’s important to wear clothing that helps prevent UV damage.

Dietary Causes of Skin Aging

While this is still an emerging area of study, there are some studies out there that indicate a correlation between diet and skin aging.

Editors note: Right now I’m ordering lunch for tomorrow, and we’re ordering from a Doner place. It’s salty and probably going to give me wrinkles down the road, but I’m still ordering because it’s that good.

Fruit Salad In White Ceramic Bowl - Ultimate Skincare Guide

Pictured: Diet Goals

But which foods specifically can cause this premature aging? There’s some disagreement on that topic, but some studies indicate that it’s not really the foods you’re eating, more the foods you’re not eating.

In one aggregate study done in 2012, they pointed to intake of fruits and vegetables as a key to youthful appearing skin:

“A promising strategy for enhancing skin protection from oxidative stress is to support the endogenous antioxidant system, with antioxidants containing products that are normally present in the skin.11 However, this should be not confused with a permanent intake of non-physiological high dosages of isolated antioxidants. Fruit and vegetables consumption may represent the most healthy and safe method in order to maintain a balanced diet and youthful appearing skin.”

But one point that stands out for us there is that isolated anti-oxidant dosages (aka antioxidant supplements) aren’t necessarily as beneficial as eating a balanced diet that’s rich in those same antioxidants. It could be that the body doesn’t process them the same, or not as efficiently. It could be that we’re glossing over other aspects of these fruits and vegetables that are netting these great effects. But one thing’s for sure, eating a balanced diet is good for anti-aging—including the skin.

Foods (and Drinks) To Avoid for Great Skin

On the flip side of that equation is eating “bad” foods. One study we looked at found that eating high amounts of sugar, or other rich sources of carbohydrates, can cause premature aging on the face via interference in a repair process.

“Glucose and fructose link the amino acids present in the collagen and elastin that support the dermis, producing advanced glycation end products or “AGEs.” This process is accelerated in all body tissues when sugar is elevated and is further stimulated by ultraviolet light in the skin. The effect on vascular, renal, retinal, coronary, and cutaneous tissues is being defined, as are methods of reducing the glycation load through careful diet and use of supplements.”


Another one that gives a lot of people problem is alcohol. Aside from making people dehydrated (hello, hangover) it’s also interfering with liver processes that help to clear out toxins. That can mean acne, wrinkles, or even bouts of rosacea. If you add in the lack of sleep, you’re getting a lot of aging from a single source.

We’re not saying you should quit drinking, but the next time you go out drinking for a night, give your skin a check in the morning. If our experience is shared, it’s not exactly a positive thing for your skin.


Another problem area for a lot of us is SALT. It’s in everything, and if you eat out a lot, then it’s even more of an issue. Restaurant foods are packed with salt, which can make your skin look puffy. As you know, when you make a certain face long enough, your skin starts to form wrinkles in that expression. We would think the same for constantly salt/water bloated skin.

Processed Meats

We know there’s a lot of info out there about processed meats and their additives, but there seems to be a connection between certain preservative and inflammation. If you’re especially skin-conscious, pay attention to the next time you eat a hot dog or lunch meat. Does it make your skin seem for inflamed than normal? If it does, it might be time to trim it out of your diet.


While it’s not really a thing you eat or drink, smoking has a distinct effect on the aging of your skin. According to the Mayo Clinic, it can “speed up the normal aging process of your skin, contributing to wrinkles.”

Not only that, these changes can come within as little as 10 years of active smoking. The more you smoke, and the duration for which you smoke will have a direct effect on how your skin looks.

That’s because nicotine, a chemical found in cigarettes and tobacco, causes your capillaries, veins and arteries to narrow. This means that less blood is getting delivered to your skin, and that means fewer byproducts are getting carried away by the blood. It also means that the things that are responsible for repairing your skin, like nutrients, aren’t making it to their final destination. That means less repair for your skin (which is under enough stress as it is.) Do yourself a favor

Drug Use

Listen, we know not many of you are going to be abusing drugs. But for those of you who may be, you can add skin aging to the long list of nasty side effects that come with drug abuse. While certain drugs affect your skin worse than others, we don’t know of any that come without unpleasant side effects in some way, shape or (lack of) form. If you’re looking for a reason to get help or stop using drugs, then this can be your excuse.

Picking the Right Anti Aging Product Type

There are a lot of factors that can go into picking the perfect skincare product. But one of the big ones that we haven’t covered so far is product type. In modern skincare, there are a ton of product types; but the major genres are well known. They include; creams, serums, moisturizers, masks and scrubs.

  • Skincare creams – Creams are the standard in skincare. They hold ingredients well, they’re pleasant to use (depending on the application) and they can fulfill different needs. Compared to a serum, they’re much more versatile in what they can do. Whether it’s moisturizing, lightening or anti-wrinkle applications, skincare creams are capable of getting the job done. The only downside (and this is dependent on the product) is that they’re heavier than a serum.
  • Skincare Serums – While less versatile than your standard skincare cream, serums can do things faster and lighter. Depending on the application, they can be a much more convenient (and makeup friendly) option. They can also fulfill a lot of the same goals set out by creams. The only drawback is that they’re somewhat limited in which ingredients they can use, and with the duration of application.
  • Moisturizers – While you could technically say a cream or serum are moisturizers, we think they deserve a category of their own. Moisturizers are by far the most popular skincare product, and for good reason. They’re effective at preventing wrinkles and other skin issues, and, when used regularly, can keep skin looking great well passed your 50’s.
  • Masks – While you might be thinking that masks are just pamper-yourself treat that you do once every few months, there are actually a ton of affordable facial masks out there. And they’re not necessarily the little cloth packets or mud that you think of when you think mask. There are leave-on masks, overnight masks, or even “packs.” If you want to dive into our favorite masks, be sure to check out our section here.
  • Exfoliants – Nobody likes dry, scaly skin. And, while moisturizers can serve a big role in getting your skin soft and touchable, exfoliants can do that job as well. There are a few different methods that people use to get the job done. One popular route is the scrub. A scrub essentially exfoliates by scrubbing away dead skin with coarse granules that mimic a liquid sandpaper. Other methods, like chemical exfoliants, can do the same job without all the friction (but they have their own drawbacks).

The Skincare Critic Ultimate Skincare Guide | Final Thoughts

There’s a ton going on in this gigantic guide we’ve put together, obviously. But we feel like we haven’t even scratched the epidermis (we’ve got skin jokes folks) of what there is to know. Luckily, we have this great site to continue diving into everything skincare. If there’s a product, we’ll critique it. If there’s a new way to get rid of pimples, we’ll see what’s poppin’. Basically, we’re going to have our ear on the skincare beat, and if we hear of anything cool, we’ll be talking about it here. Be sure to subscribe to our push notifications if you’re not on social. Or, if you’re socially-inclined, check out our Facebook page. We’re not cool enough to have Instagram yet, sorry about that.

The Skincare Critic - Ultimate Skincare Guide

Pictured: Success

Thanks for reading our giant article, we hope you found it helpful. If you have any questions, be sure to reach out. We’re usually happy to chat unless we have a date with a new product. Additionally, if there’s a product you ever want to see reviewed, reach out to our social accounts with the request. Be warned, we don’t do “paid” reviews, so don’t ask.

If you want to keep reading, be sure to check out our latest reviews here. We cover all kinds of products, and typically publish our reviews every couple of days.

If you’re more in discovery mode, check out our guides. We’ll guide you through some of our favorite techniques and ideas.

If you’re tired of reading and ready to start doing, read our section on DIY. There’s always something that you can try out there. Just try and avoid that next nailed it.