Whether you’re a product maven with jars and bottles galore, or a minimalist with just a few tried-and-true basics, you want those items to deliver serious results. Did you know that how you use them can be as important as what you use?

To keep your skin looking its best, follow these eight tips from dermatologists.

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Cody Fisher  –  Manchester, Kentucky 39495

1. Follow the right order.

Here’s the classic plan: Cleanse, tone (this step is optional), facial treatment/serum, moisturizer, sunscreen, and then any makeup.

The general rule is to apply products from thinnest to thickest.

But there’s one exception, says Illinois dermatologist Amy Forman Taub, MD. Her advice: First put on prescription lotions or products that have the most retinol, glycolic acid, salicylic acid, or skin-brightening ingredients. Follow those with other products for soothing or moisturizing, from thinnest to thickest.

2. Toss it on time.

Most skin products have a shelf life of 6-12 months. You should use makeup and sunscreen for only 1 year.

Check the expiration date printed on the package, says Miami dermatologist Alicia Barba, MD.

Also, “if the product has changed color or consistency, or begins to smell unpleasant, it’s time to dump it,” says New York dermatologist Eric Schweiger, MD. He recommends storing products in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight to help them last.

3. Choose the right products for your skin type.

There’s an easy way to check your skin type.

“When you wake up in the morning, take a tissue and press it against your face. If you see oily and translucent spots, you probably have oily skin,” Schweiger says.

“If the tissue comes away clean and your skin feels tight, you most likely have dry skin,” he says. “Combination skin is oily in the T-zone [your forehead, nose, and chin], and normal skin may only show the slightest bit of oil. Sensitive skin is often red and gets easily irritated.”

4. Read the label and follow the instructions.

“You have to be careful how much, when, and where you apply products,” Taub says.

The label lists ingredients from highest to lowest concentration. With some trial and error, you’ll be able to pinpoint ingredients that work with your skin and ones that don’t.

5. Give your products time to work.

Instant happiness would be nice. But it can take 6-12 weeks of using the same products to see results, Taub says.

6. Boost absorption.

To help your skin soak up products, exfoliate first with glycolic acid or retinol, Taub says. She adds that electronic facial skin-cleansing brushes are “phenomenal for getting the most absorption benefits, and they’re also ideal for removing makeup prior to cleansing.”

Put on your first layer of moisturizer or serum when your skin is damp, since it’s easier for moist skin to absorb active ingredients, Schweiger says. He also recommends that you let each product absorb completely before you smooth on the next one.

7. Choose products that multitask.

You don’t need an overflowing cabinet to take care of your skin from head to toe, Barba says.

  • You can use baby wipes to remove makeup, and baby shampoo can be a gentle facial cleanser.
  • You can also mix moisturizer, foundation, and sunscreen to create a tinted moisturizer.
  • A clay or sulfur-based mask makes a great spot treatment for blemishes. Petrolatum-based ointments soothe chapped lips, cracked skin, sunburns, and wounds, Schweiger says.

8. 'Read' your skin.

Notice how your skin does so you know when to back off on certain products or treatments.

For example, if your skin starts to feel sensitive or stings when you apply sunscreen, try another type. Or if you’ve been exfoliating or brushing a lot, take a break from that for a few days.