The Key to Youthful Skin: Start Today

When it comes to skin care, I think it's safe to say that we'd all prefer preventive care to reparative care. The old adage is particularly true here: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Which would you rather do: prevent sun damage, or fill in wrinkles? Stop acne before it forms, or glob medication onto that pesky pimple? Prevent hyper-pigmentation, or spend excess  money on skin-lightening products?

Since preventive skin care is the clear choice, we've done the guesswork for you and come up with a fail-proof method to help you maintain flawless skin.

Start with SPF: It's no revelation how damaging the sun's rays can be. Prevent premature wrinkles by looking for a sunscreen that won't clog your pores and that protects against UVA and UVB rays. As a rule of thumb, use 1/2 teaspoon of sunscreen solely for your face, neck, and ears. Then, be sure to apply it wherever else your skin is exposed.

Reach for an exfoliant: Different from a scrub, an exfoliant is used after you cleanse  your face and should be left on the skin instead of being washed off. Exfoliants improve skin tone and texture by sloughing off dead skin cells. In particular, look for exfoliants that contain AHA (glycolic acid) or BHA (salicylic acid).

End with retinol: A retinoid is a derivative of vitamin A that can help unclog pores, reduce fine lines, and boost cell regeneration. Applying a retinoid or retinol cream should be one of the last things you do at the end of the day since the product is sensitive to light. Retinoids come in both prescription and over-the-counter forms, so be sure to talk to your dermatologist about which product is right for you.