A Dermatologist/Beauty Blogger Explains Which Beauty Products to Save and Splurge On

Exactly what a dermatologist trusts for her own skincare.

Like a lot of beauty bloggers, Jenny Liu writes posts about everything from her five-minute morning skincare routine to whether those LED acne masks actually work. The thing is, she's a bona fide expert on taking care of your skin. Liu is a Minneapolis-based dermatologist and assistant professor who started up a blog called Dermtalks as a diversion from working around the clock at her hospital. Her hobby's grown to include an Instagram with 25,000 followers, where she shares what it's like to be a dermatologist as a career.

We wanted to know: exactly what products does a dermatologist/beauty blogger use on her own skin? Liu spilled her skincare secrets for The Lookbook, including some wallet-friendly advice on what to splurge on versus save on.

1.  Protection is key.

EltaMD or Vanicream sunscreen is at the top of Jenny's list, which makes sense for a dermatologist. "That would be one thing I can't live without, because 90-plus percent of the aging we get is sun-induced; the accelerated wrinkles and the sunspots," she says. 
Next is a retinoid. "A retinoid is a vitamin A," she explains. "Names that might sound familiar to you are Retin-A and Differin. Those are like prescriptions that we would get for our acne, but in reality it also has another benefit. Over long-term use it can reverse signs of aging and help lighten up [dark spots]."

Finally, moisturizer is a must — and it does more than just ward against dry skin. "Healthy skin is meant to keep bad things out and good things in, like water," Jenny says. "If you don't protect your skin, like when we have dry skin, it gets itchy, it gets cracked, also this is where we can get secondary infections."

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2.  Apply your products in the proper order.

There's a mantra that Jenny uses when she's prepping her skin for day or night. "In general, it's always the thinnest to thickest because you want things to absorb. In the morning, you want your sunscreen to be the last thing that should go on our face. That should be the barrier between you and environmental damage and sun. Then at night, it would be your moisturizer because hopefully that would seal in moisture and seal in everything." 

For daytime, her priorities are cleansing, an antioxidant serum and moisturizer plus sunscreen for protection against the sun and the elements. "Then you can kind of stick things in between, you can use a toner if you want, you can use a lightening cream if you have discoloration," she says.

Then in the evening, focus again on cleansing and then products that help your skin repair itself. "Right now, I'm using resveratrol which is a serum from SkinCeuticals," she says. "Then I would put on my retinoid and again one of their hyaluronic acid serums and then moisturize. That's roughly my morning and night routine.”

3.  Sometimes, super effective products are worth the splurge...

Besides splurging on a quality sunscreen, Jenny says a a really good antioxidant serum with vitamins C and E is totally worth it. "I would buy a product that's worthwhile and has a lot of research and experience behind it,” she says, calling out SkinCeuticals and Obagi as brands to look at. 

4.  ...But there are other places you can save $$.

Here's where your credit card will breathe a sigh of relief. "I think the biggest misconception is that skincare has to be fancy to be effective; that you have to spend a lot of money to get really good results," Jenny says. "In reality, just basic things, even over-the-counter things will work. You don't have to spend a ton." 

"Besides my antioxidants and serums, if you look in my cabinet I use a Neutrogena moisturizer, I have a Vanicream moisturizer, I use a Neutrogena cleanser. I mix it up. I think it's true for a lot of dermatologists too." 

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