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An evening skincare routine that works

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As a dermatologist at SIU Medicine, I tell my patients that maintaining a consistent and personalized routine improves your skin's health, appearance and function—no matter what your skin type is (mine is oily). A daily skincare routine also helps you avoid issues like acne, dryness, dark spots, fine lines and even skin cancer.

My skincare routine starts in the morning and ends at night. In this article, I'd like to talk about the three things I do every evening to protect my skin. 

1. Wash with a gentle, fragrance-free cleanser

No matter how tired I am at the end of the day, I always make sure to wash my face before going to bed. I use the same facial cleanser at night that I use in the morning, which contains just a few simple ingredients.

It's incredibly important to wash your face at night in order to remove the sebum, oil, makeup and dirt that accumulates on your face throughout the day. Otherwise, these substances can clog your pores and lead to breakouts. 

Cleansing your face at night also ensures your skin can fully absorb the other skincare products you put on before bed.

You don't have to spend a lot of money on a cleanser (nor any other skincare product, for that matter). Just look for one that is free of fragrance and dyes to avoid skin irritation. 

2. Apply a thin layer of a topical retinoid

After cleansing and patting my skin dry, I apply a thin layer of a prescription topical retinoid onto my face and neck, taking care to avoid the sensitive eye area.. Retinoids act like a superficial chemical peel that can gently exfoliate the most superficial layers of skin, slowly increase overall skin thickness and stimulates collagen production, reverses some sun damage and can even help reduce the appearance of acne scars and hyperpigmentation. 

When it comes to retinoids, less is best. Be careful not to use too much (no more than the size of a chocolate chip), especially if you're new to the product. Avoid the eye area, where your skin is thinner and more sensitive.

It's normal for your skin to go through an adjustment period when first starting a retinoid, and you might notice some flakiness or dryness for the first few weeks. It’s important to continue through the dry period so that your skin can adjust to the product. However, there are a few tips that can help you manage the initial dry, flaky adjustment period:

  • Make sure you are using a small amount and only applying a very thin layer. Again, no more than a chocolate chip sized amount for the whole face.
  • Instead of using the product nightly from the beginning, you can start 2-3 times a week, and gradually increase to nightly use
  • You can apply a layer of your moisturizer to your skin prior to applying the retinoid, and you can also apply moisturizer the next morning


You can but don't have to see a dermatologist to obtain a retinoid prescription. Many family medicine doctors are comfortable prescribing topical retinoids. You can also start with an over the counter retinoid, such as a product that contains retinol or the ingredient adapalene. 

3. Moisturize

Nothing fancy here. My nighttime moisturizing routine is the same as it is in the morning. I don’t always apply a moisturizer at night except when my skin is on the dryer side. 

Be sure to look for a moisturizer that is free of fragrances and dyes, and ideally one that contains hyaluronic acid, which helps the skin hold onto moisture.

Getting the most out of your skincare routine: A final thought

Having a daily skincare routine featuring products like a gentle cleanser, moisturizer, sunscreen and prescription retinoid is important. But remember—the fundamentals of healthy skin are actually found outside the medicine cabinet:

  • Eat a well-balanced diet
  • Get good sleep
  • Minimize stress
  • Don't smoke
  • Sun-safe practices


If you practice these skin-healthy habits and nail down a regular routine that's the right fit for your skin type, your skin will thank you! And as always, if you have specific concerns about your skin, or a skin condition or rash, please come see us!

Do you have concerns about your skin?

To schedule an appointment with a Springfield dermatologist or to learn more about our dermatologists, contact SIU Medicine at 217-545-8000 today. 

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