With so many preventative as well as damage-reversing procedures and products as there on the market, the options can be overwhelming. As a registered nurse and licensed aesthetician the number one thing I hear from clients is that their medicine cabinet is overflowing with products they don’t use or don’t know how to use.

The most important thing to understand is skincare is never one-size-fits-all and even products that may be marketed specifically for men or for women may not be appropriate for all skin types. For instance, just because men’s skin typically produces more oil than women’s does not mean this is so for all men. Rather than purchasing products strategically marketed for your gender, purchasing products for your skin type is much more beneficial.

Visiting a licensed specialist is a great way to narrow down what type of skin you have and what combination of products and treatments is that will work best for you. During a consultation your skin may be analyzed under a bright light and magnifying lamp to discover issues that may be difficult to see with the naked eye. Sun damage, broken capillaries and texture can better be assessed in a professional setting, as well as determining skin’s hydration level.  A consultation is also beneficial so you have the opportunity to discuss your skincare concerns and goals and develop a treatment plan, which might include at-home products (creams, scrubs, serums), professional treatments like microdermabrasion or chemical peels, or more advanced skincare such as laser treatments and injectables (i.e. Botox®, Juvéderm®).

Once skin type and goals are established some basic product information to keep in mind is that over-the-counter products, or “cosmetics” as defined by the FDA, are only designed to work on the top layers of the skin. While you might notice an initial change in moisture levels or skin texture, these products do not effect the structure or function of your skin. Long-term cellular changes, such as actually erasing wrinkles and sun damage, can only occur by using medical grade products or “cosmeceuticals,” which can only be provided by skincare professionals. Which products you should use depends on your long-term skincare goals. Combining quality products to help maintain a proper PH Balance and follow-ups with your skincare professional will ensure you are not wasting money on unnecessary or ineffective products.

It is also important to keep in mind that products should be occasionally adjusted. As seasons change more or less moisture is needed – in winter skin tends to become more dry than in humid summer months. Skin can also become tolerant to products over time, so adjustments may need to be made to strength levels or frequency of use.

Finally, keeping up with all of the new fad ingredients and products can be intriguing (who isn’t tempted by the new miracle products that promise to make you look years younger!), but more often than not, the time-tested products such as Retin A and Vitamin C are still the gold standard for anti-aging.  Although discoveries are made and product advancements can be great, it is best to avoid fad products until they have been well researched over time.