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The best simple skin care routine, according to a dermatologist

Cleansers, moisturizers, serums, oils and more — the number of products you could include in your skin care routine can be overwhelming. If you aren't sure what to use or your routine has become complicated, BestReviews skin care expert Dr. Alina Zufall recommends keeping it simple.

“I always say less is more,” Zufall said about products that keep your skin looking its best. She provided her expertise as a dermatologist to help you create a routine that's simple yet effective. 

In this article: Paula's Choice Clinical 1% Retinol TreatmentElta MD Daily UV Broad Spectrum SPF 40 Tinted Moisturizing Facial Sunscreen and Cetaphil Intensive Healing Lotion with Ceramides.


If you are finding that you don't have time for your current skin care routine, that's an important reason to make it easier to follow, Zufall advised. "I think that oftentimes, everyone can benefit from simplifying their routine if it means people are more likely to comply with it."

She went on to describe some key reasons people may find it daunting to keep up with their daily skin care program.

"I think that someone might need a simple skin care routine in the winter if they are experiencing depression, if they have a lot going on at work or at home and don't have time for a long routine, if they are trying to pare down their regimen," said Zufall. She added that people whose skin is irritated by products they use in the winter may also need to simplify their routine. 


Whether your see products advertised on TV or touted by influencers on social media, you may get the message that caring for your skin requires multiple steps and products. Zufall said it's actually much easier than that. 

"You only really need to wash your face, moisturize, and wear sunscreen daily, " she advised.

She did recommend several additional steps for those prone to skin issues. "If people have skin conditions such as acne, rosacea and eczema, then they may benefit from additional products to treat the underlying condition at that point. But trying a million serums and oils and creams is oftentimes going to cause more harm than good."


Zufall said you can simplify caring for your skin with a few key products.

  • Combine moisturizer with sunscreen. "This includes tinted moisturizers with sunscreen so that you have a little bit of an added makeup in there."
  • Use multi-purpose products. An example, Zufall said, would be a cream with azelaic acid and retinol that treats hyperpigmentation, acne and rosacea, or a cream with retinol that moisturizes and minimizes lines. And a tinted moisturizer with a sun protection factor rating serves three purposes. 
  • Invest in a moisturizer that works on both face and body. This eliminates the need for more than one in your routine, Zufall said. 
  • Control oil while protecting against the sun. For acne-prone skin, Zufall recommends an oil-control sunscreen. 


Paula's Choice Clinical 1% Retinol Treatment

Combined with vitamin C and peptides, this retinol treatment plumps skin while minimizing the appearance of lines. The formula helps exfoliate the skin, revealing an appearance that's brighter and smoother. It's made without fragrances and harsh chemicals.

Sold by Amazon and Sephora

CeraVe Am Facial Moisturizing Lotion with Broad Spectrum SPF 30

A multitasking product means you can eliminate steps in your daily skin care regimen. This lotion does several jobs, as it moisturizes, protects and provides SPF 30 without oil or harsh ingredients. It's formulated to be used in the morning to get your routine off to a good start.

Sold by Amazon and Ulta Beauty

Elta MD Daily UV Broad Spectrum SPF 40 Tinted Moisturizing Facial Sunscreen

A moisturizer, SPF 40 and tint in one, this is all you need to accomplish several tasks for great-looking skin. It also contains hyaluronic acid that has a plumping effect. The mineral-based formula feels lightweight and looks natural.

Sold by Amazon

Cetaphil Intensive Healing Lotion with Ceramides

It's common to have dry, flaky and irritated skin in the winter, but this lotion can help. The ceramide-infused formula provides up to 24 hours of moisture and is made of quality ingredients, without parabens or fragrance.

Sold by Amazon

The Ordinary Azelaic Acid Suspension 10%

The Ordinary is known for its quality products and low prices, so they make sense for a simplified skin care routine. The brand's skin-brightening azelaic acid that's free of oil and alcohol is one of the BestReviews skin care expert's favorites.

Sold by Sephora and Ulta Beauty


In addition to Zufall's recommendation, the BestReviews team offers some of our favorite simple skin care products.

Revision Skincare Intellishade Original Tinted Moisturizer

In addition to ingredients that moisturize and brighten skin,  this versatile moisturizer provides broad-spectrum SPF 45. It's formulated with peptides that help plump the skin and improve the look of fine lines.

Sold by Amazon

Olay Total Effects 7-in-One Moisturizer Plus Touch of Foundation

This product will simplify your routine, as it delivers seven important skin benefits plus sheer coverage thanks to a hint of foundation. It's made by a popular brand that's affordable and has been a top seller for generations.

Sold by Amazon

Elta MD UV Sport Broad Spectrum SPF 50

Formulated without oil, this sunscreen is great for active people and those prone to acne and oily skin. With SPF 50, you can expect as much as 80 minutes of water-resistant protection from the sun's rays.

Sold by Amazon

NatureWell Clinical Retinol Advanced Moisture Cream

You can moisturize your skin and fight fine lines and wrinkles with this retinol-rich cream. It goes on smoothly, absorbs fast and doesn't leave behind a residue.

Sold by Amazon

Kiehl's Ultra Facial Cleanser

Regardless of the type of skin you have, this cleanser will keep it clean and moisturized. The combination of skin-loving, plant-based ingredients ensures that it cleanses without causing dryness.

Sold by AmazonSephora and Ulta Beauty


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Jennifer Manfrin writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.

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