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In a world where new miracle fixes and super serums are landing every second on a beauty counter near you, it can be hard to determine exactly what you need and when – and how much you're willing to pay.

Dermatologists are in the business of looking at – and treating – skin conditions every day, and often aren't driven by the lofty promises, fancy packaging and big price points that come with hyped skincare brands. Their recommendations are more often than not common sense, easy and affordable, and they have firsthand knowledge of what works.

The bare minimum you need to do to your skin according to dermatologists starts with cleansing. It's crucial to keeping your skin healthy, removes dirt, pollution and the dead skin cells that can make your complexion look dull.

What are the most important things to look for in a cleanser? It should be soap-free, gentle and suitable for your skin type. To find your cleansing match, wash your face with any soap-free cleanser then wait about 30 minutes.

If your whole face feels tight, your skin is dry, and needs a creamy or milky formula. If you face feels greasy or looks shiny, you've got an oily complexion, so opt for a foaming cleanser. If your skin feels tight just on your cheeks, chances are you have combination skin: so can use either depending on the season.

Next, Dr Vania Sinovich, dermatologist at Skin Institute in Auckland says, "the best thing you can do to protect your skin is apply adequate sun protection, particular to the face, chest and backs of hands where most visible photo ageing occurs".

She also stresses the importance of staying out of the ‪midday sun, the use of protective clothing such as hats to cover the face, ears and back of neck, and "avoiding repeated, unprotected sun exposure which creates free radicals with resultant photo ageing, photo pigmentation, skin cancers and premature skin thinning."

Sinovich recommends finding a sunscreen that contains antioxidants to help mop up free radicals, and to use it every day, rain or shine.

On the topic of anti-ageing, she says the use of a topical Vitamin A/retinoid formula at night is a no-brainer, and more efficacious than any hope in a jar.

"It helps to even skin tone, reduce pore size, smooth out fine wrinkles and boost collagen," says Sinovich, "which helps to keep the skin firm".

Some are so potent that can completely change your skin overnight, and unlike standard exfoliators, retinoids work at the cellular level to increase collagen, smooth out annoying fine lines and even out the tone.

Prescription retinoids are more effective but can irritate, so ask a professional for advice on the best one for you – and go easy.

"I recommend gradual escalation over time to avoid any reactions," says the good doctor. Start with twice weekly use and reap the benefits.

Written by Helene Ravlich. Republished with permission of Stuff.co.nz.

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