Level 1: Cleanser
Let’s begin with the basics: You need to wash your face morning and night to remove everyday dirt and oil buildup. “Some people think that they don't need to clean their face at night because they don't wear makeup—this is a fallacy,” says Dr. Jaliman. For delicate complexions, try a mild foaming cleanser with glycerin, like Willa’s Start Fresh Foaming Face Wash. Oilier skin tends to have more bacteria, says Dr. Jaliman, so look for cleansers containing salicylic or glycolic acid. Try Serious Skincare’s Glycolic Cleanser, which battles acne and reduces the appearance of fine lines.
Level 2: Toner
For more cleansing power, Dr. Jaliman recommends incorporating an acid-based toner to your routine. And don’t be scared—even sensitive skin can hack this. Take Vivant Skincare’s Mandelic Acid 3-in-1 Toner, for example, whose key ingredient removes remnants of dirt and oil that may have flown under your cleanser’s radar, and witch hazel to calm redness. Need something stronger to fight breakouts? Dr. Jaliman recommends a toner with 2% salicylic acid. Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant is our pick for combination skin.
Level 3: Exfoliation
Dirt and oil are one thing, but when you need to rid your face of dead skin and rough patches, step up your game with an exfoliator. But listen up: Exfoliation is not a one-size-fits-all routine. With sonic polishing systems, exfoliating cloths, and microbead-filled scrubs to choose from, you can pick the level that works for you. Dr. Jaliman prefers sonic systems, like the DDF Revolve 500x Micro-Polishing System, featuringa selection of brush heads for different skin types. Just pour on your favorite cleanser and let the system’s revolving brush smooth away surface bumpiness. If a washcloth is more your bag, try the Liz Earle Cleanse & Polish Starter Kit, which uses muslin cloths to gently scrub away dead skin, leftover makeup, and deep-seated dirt. For sensitive skin, try Grand Central’s S.M.A.R.T Skin Perfecting Polisher, which relies on mild botanicals to whisk away dead skin (without stripping away moisture).
Level 4: Masks
When cleansing, toning, and exfoliating just isn’t enough, step things up to a face mask. Our customers love Tata Harper’s Resurfacing Mask—seriously, read the reviews!—which uses organic ingredients (pink clay, beet extract, aloe vera) to give skin a deep cleanse while you relax for 20-30 minutes. Another all-time fave: Origins’ Clear Improvement Active Charcoal Mask, which purifies pores with natural charcoal.
Level 5: Microdermabrasion
When you want to remove surface bumps and discoloration, Dr. Jaliman recommends pulling out the big guns. She’s talking about microdermabrasion, of course—and it doesn’t require a trip to the derm. Skincare pros turn to Dr. Brandt’s Microdermabrasion Skin Exfoliant, a powerful scrub infused with pharmaceutical-grade aluminum oxide crystals, designed to slough away dead skin cells to reveal fresh, smooth skin. Take note: This treatment goes on strong, so let your skin rest for a few days between treatments.