Building A Dermatologist-Approved Skincare Routine On Your Own

When I was younger, I was blessed with clear skin. I don’t know how, but I managed to escape the pre-teen acne that comes with puberty. I thought I was out of the clear, dubbed “God’s favorite” by myself for not having to use Proactive when that was the thing to do…

I was so, disgustingly wrong. Now, at age 25, I have developed persistent hormonal acne despite being experimental with skincare and dedicated to using moisturizer. Yes, the stress of living and being a woman has finally caught up with me. I’m no longer the fountain of youth brimming with clear, glowing skin and promise.

And while this has been the source of my quarter life crisis that comes alongside a weekly therapist visit and chronic back pain, I am determined to at least fix my skin. So I decided to do the inevitable: spend the money and go to the dermatologist.

I no longer could scroll through TikTok after TikTok, where brand deals run rampant and disguise the truth. I’m running out of ways to switch up my routine on my own, and I’m tired of seeing no results.

Seriously, if you’re tired of your skin having issues…just go to the doctor. Don’t waste precious time and money on asking the TikTok Gods what skincare routine is for you when they can’t even see your skin.

However, I get that the dermatologist is something we may not all have time for…which is why I asked mine tons of questions that can help you fix your issues! I quizzed her on brands she likes, routines, and even specific targets for different skin problems.

You’ll be glowing by summer if you start now, so here’s how to build a dermatologist-approved skincare routine without going to the doctor!

Less is More

Paula's Choice

I used to throw four different serums and essences and toners on my face post-cleansing…until I visited my dermatologist and she gave me a serum for the day and instructed retinol at night.

Using too many products can become expensive and will make it harder to isolate what your problem is. If a product makes you break out, you’ll have to shred through your entire lengthy routine to find out the culprit.

Use A Retinol


Retinol helps your skin shed and regenerate new cells to accomplish clear, smaller pores, fighting acne, and getting rid of fine lines and wrinkles. It’s an all-encompassing product that is trending not only on the internet but also in dermatologist’s offices.

For sensitive skin, start with a lower-grade retinol three times a week at night until your skin adjusts. My derm recommends cocokind’s 0.1% as a great, gentle starter retinol. When you’re ready, Naturium’s 0.5% Retinol and Paula’s Choice 1% Retinol will give you a glow.

Additionally, incorporate Dermaquest Nourishing Peptide Rich into your skincare routine. Marketed as an anti-aging skincare treatment, it is meant to rebuild the skin from the inside out. This lavish formula offers deep conditioning to keep skin healthy, strong, and youthful.

If you don’t see acne clearing up at the end of six weeks, you may want a prescription-grade retinol, Tretinoin. Be wary, this may cause your skin to purge, but the results by summer are worth it.

Always follow your retinol with moisturizer and use SPF in the morning, because the new skin cells are sensitive.

For Redness: Azelaic Acid

Paula's Choice

For redness, scarring, and discoloration, my dermatologist loves a good Azelaic Acid. If you’re someone who deals with pesky rosacea or has picked at their acne one too many times, this product is your best friend.

While your dermatologist may prescribe you a higher dosage (15% or higher), you can use plenty of effective 10% Azelaic Acid serums for hyperpigmentation. The Ordinary, Paula’s Choice, and Peach Slices all have great options.

For Acne: Benzoyl Peroxides + Spot Treatments


Madison Beer’s favorite cleanser for acne-prone skin is the drugstore Panoxyl wash with Benzoyl Peroxide. While it can be very drying, this is also a good daily mask for your acne patches. It’s a dermatologist-recommended brand and a fan favorite.

Spot treatments on your acne can help dry out and clear out your clogged pores. Stop oil where it starts and fight early signs of pimples. My derm says SkinFix Acne+ BHA and Azelaic Acid Treatment will help fight acne and scarring all in one spot treatment.

A Good Cleanser


Don’t get extravagant here. Most dermatologists are going to say popular drugstore brands like CeraVe and Vanicream are perfect gentle, unscented cleansers that will remove makeup, dirt, and excess oil all in one, affordable bottle.

However, if you want to be On Trend, my dermatologist loves anything Youth To The People. It’s the cleanser I use now and it truly tightens your pores with every wash.

A Better Moisturizer

Youth To The People

Everyone has their favorite go-to moisturizer…but how do you decide what is actually worth the money? Is La Mer really that good or is it just the price tag that tricks you? Is the Charlotte Tilbury Moisturizer worth the $100? (According to my derm, no)

Again, drugstore brands like CeraVe have amazing moisturizers for better prices. However, I understand the need for aesthetic, so turn towards Youth to the People Superfood Air-Whip Moisture Cream and Superberry Hydrate + Glow Dream Mask.

SPF, Always

Vacation Sunscreen

Paris Hilton thanked her mom, Kathy, for teaching her to always stay out of the sun. The sun is your enemy even though your tan is your best friend- causing rapid aging, destroying your skin barrier, and mitigating your progress…so always have your face sunscreen on…80 year old you will be grateful.

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