Dermatologists reveal their choices for the best products for your skin, with recommendations for all budgets, from drugstore to prescription.

[Editor’s note: This article was originally hosted on, our sister site.
It’s now featured here as part of our new general-health section.]


It’s a vast, boxy sea of facial creams, that skin-care aisle. You can cure your acne, poof wrinkles away and buff your skin like a diamond in the rough. It’s a wonder we aren’t all as smooth as a baby’s butt.

But, strangely, we aren’t.

So we asked three dermatologists, what’s the real scoop? What are the best products? What’ll give us at least a smidgen of results? Here are their insider picks.


The Best Fine-Line Reducers

Dermatologists’ choices


Quick Skin-Care Tip

“The skin is on a 35- to 57-day cycle. This means that any product that you start today will take around four to eight weeks to even begin working and likely 12 weeks until you see a visible result.” —Kirby

How to Treat Deep Wrinkles

As far as creams for deep wrinkles go, there’s “not much here that will do any good. True wrinkles are deeper and require procedures for correction.” —Jackson

Look for products with the antioxidant retinol. All the doctors agree: This vitamin-A derivative is your best bet. It does all sorts of things, including helping prevent wrinkles and stimulating new cell growth and collagen production. (“Collagen is the main fiber in the skin,” explains Dr. Van Dyke. “Increased collagen gives firmer skin.”)

Dr. Kirby recommends Neutrogena Dermatologics Retinol NX Serum. Dr. Van Dyke likes RoC Retinol Correxion Deep Wrinkle Night Cream.

Just be cautious, warns Dr. Jackson. “They can be drying and make you more sun-sensitive.” Start slowly and use a pea-sized amount, she suggests.

In addition to retinol products, Dr. Van Dyke recommends Olay Regenerist Deep Hydration Regenerating Cream. It has “great hydration, antioxidants and even a peptide,” she says. Hydration helps plump out lines. And peptides are amino acids that may stimulate collagen production.


One of Dr. Van Dyke’s favorite products of all is the peptide-containing SkinMedica TNS Recovery Complex. “Don’t let the red-color gel and funky smell turn you off; they dissipate within minutes.”


The classic prescription retinoid Retin-A has lost out in Dr. Jackson’s and Dr. Kirby’s eyes. It’s more irritating than some competitors, says Dr. Jackson. She prefers Renova, calling it “Retin-A in a more moisturizing base.”renova

Retin-A is “a good second choice,” says Dr. Kirby. But Renova and Tazorac are his first picks.





aquaphorThe Best Facial Cleansers and Moisturizers

Dermatologists’ choices


  • For cleansing: CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser
    “Great for all skin types. Gentle and hydrating.” —Jackson
Do Facial Scrubs Work?

For the most part, I dislike scrubs. Your cleanser should be very mild. Scrubs and harsh washes can be very unpredictable with regard to removing dead surface skin cells and ultimately cause unnecessary irritation and redness.” —Kirby

  • For cleansing dry skin: Eucerin Calming Body Wash
    “I use this all winter.” —Jackson
  • For moisturizing: Vaseline Intensive Rescue Clinical Therapy Lotion
    “Contains dimethicone, which seals in moisture to dry skin.” —Jackson
  • For moisturizing: Aquaphor Healing Ointment
    “Great for anything that needs moisture. I use this on my toes before running to prevent blisters and to prevent chafing.” —Jackson



  • For deep cleaning: Clarisonic Sonic Skin Cleaning Systems (pictured right)
    clarisonic“The Clarisonic brush is not microdermabrasion, but I love it for its ultrasonic technology—like the Sonicare toothbrush—that deep-cleanses pores with vibration, not a rotation.” There are three versions: Only doctors and spas sell the Pro; you can find the Classic and Mia at upscale retailers like department stores. “All are great. The Pro has a body brush; the Mia is a smaller version designed for travel and for teens.” —Van Dyke


More Favorite Products From Dermatologists



  • To improve texture: products with glycolic acid
    “By reducing some of the roughness associated with the aging process, a patient’s complexion will appear smoother, softer and younger. Weekly use of 10-percent glycolic acid is a good start, and my favorite way to apply it is via a pad. Some patients may be able to tolerate 20 percent of it over time.” —Kirby
Second Opinion on Steroid Creams

Very short-term use of Tri-Luma may be acceptable in some cases … but I actually don’t recommend it. I really don’t like the idea of steroid use on the face. It can create steroid dependency and patients may incorrectly use it on thin eyelid skin. Steroid use on the face is a slippery slope.” —Kirby

  • For blotchiness: products with kojic acid
    “Kojic acid can act as an excellent lightening agent to blend brown blotches.” —Van Dyke



  • For blotchiness: products with kojic acid (which can be stronger at the doctor’s office than the drugstore)
    These have “a lightening effect without the blotchiness, which can be caused by hydroquinone fading cream products.” —Jackson



  • For blotchiness: Tri-Luma
    “Don’t forget the sunscreen. Sun will darken the skin faster than even the best lighteners can lighten.” —Van Dyke

Are Department Store Skin Products Worth the Money?

“You can spend a lot of money on a good product or a small amount of money on a good product. If you are a shopper and like the department-store experience then by all means feel free to shop there; they carry excellent products. By the same token, the same quality of products are available at any drugstore and are a much better value.” —Kirby



T/Gel from Neutrogena is a first line of defense against dandruff,” says Dr. Kirby. “It seems that no one properly treats dandruff. Most patients wash their hair and immediately rinse out the product. I recommend that they instead try lathering up the product on the scalp; leave it in for 30 minutes and then rinse it out.”

For acne, “you still can’t beat good old benzoyl peroxide,” says Dr. Van Dyke. “Start with 2.5 percent and go higher, as tolerated. Remember that irritation is not necessary for results … but patience is. It can take up to a month to work.”

And for keratosis pilaris, those tiny red bumps often found on legs and arms,

AmLactin lotion is a good place to start,” says Dr. Jackson.

“There are prescription-strength products which can help if this doesn’t work, understanding that the condition is ongoing and will never be completely gone.”



Where to Buy the Recommended Products

The drugstore and prescription products are widely available. Here’s where to look for retailers for the doctors’ office ones. (These are not affiliate links. We get no money from them. This article is for informational purposes only.)

Sonic Skin Cleaning Systems: $149–$225 (also from spas, department stores)
(888) 525-2747

SkinMedica TNS
Recovery Complex: about $150
(866) 577-3072


Dermatologist Bios

Brooke A. Jackson, M.D., board-certified dermatologist and medical director, Skin Wellness Center
of Chicago

olay-regeneristeucerinretinolWill Kirby, D.O., FAOCD, board-certified dermatologist, Kirby Dermatology, Beverly Hills, Calif.; featured physician on the television shows Dr. 90210 and The Doctors; owner, skin-care line Kirby Dermaceuticals

Susan Van Dyke, M.D., board-certified dermatologist specializing in cosmetic dermatology, Van Dyke Laser & Skin, Paradise Valley, Ariz.

Note: Dr. Van Dyke is on the speakers bureaus for Obagi, Allergan, RevaleSkin and Valeant. We did not feature her recommendations in the main article for products from those companies. But for your information, here are a few she likes: Revaléskin Day Cream (wrinkle prevention), MD Forte Facial Cleanser III (as a cleanser or paired with the Clarisonic brush for keratosis pilaris), Latisse (eyelash enhancement) Obagi CLENZIderm M.D. Systems (acne). Latisse is available by prescription. The others are from doctors’ offices.

tazoraccreamArticle originally appeared in September/October 2009 issue of My Family Doctor magazine. [Editor’s note: We receive no compensation from mentioning these products. This article is for informational purposes; we do not vouch for these products.]