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Your Complete Guide to Results-Oriented Skincare

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Everyone knows their skincare routine needs to include a face wash, sunscreen, and moisturizer. Those are just the basics. But things get a bit more complicated after that, and most everyone seems to be overwhelmed and confused by the growing number of options for anti-aging skincare products.

2019 seems to have been the year where skincare routines went insane – jumping from maybe 3 steps up to 8, 12, and even 20-step systems meant to create “glass skin” so perfect that you never need to wear foundation. But if you’re feeling confused about the differences between an essence, a toner, and a serum, you’re not alone.

Reflections Center is making it easy and breaking down the 4 anti-aging ingredients everyone’s skincare routine should include, as well as the best ingredients to look for when it comes to maintaining healthy and youthful skin for years to come. Follow this simple routine (morning and night) to prevent aging and improve minor imperfections like dark spots, sun damage, minor breakouts, fine lines, and more.

Morning Routine

Your morning routine should be about setting your skin up for success throughout the day, as well as protecting it against sun damage.

Step 1 – Cleanse: Generally, a gentle wash that doesn’t strip your face is best. If you’re using a more powerful cleanser that also treats or exfoliates the skin, you may consider saving that for the evening and using something gentler. Cetaphil and Neutrogena make well-respected gentle cleansers that can be found at the drug store. Make sure you’re removing all residue of products from the night before. If you use chemical exfoliants at night, you can sometimes magnify their power by exposing them to UV light, so make sure you’re not accidentally wearing them out into the sun the next day.

Step 2 – Moisturize: Moisturizers range in thickness and type (how they moisturize). Most people respond best to an oil-free, lotion-based moisturizer. If you’re prone to breaking out, try for a lighter, less occlusive moisturizer. If your skin feels tight or itchy, move towards a thicker or oil-based moisturizer. It can also be helpful to adjust your moisturizer based on the seasons – i.e. thicker formulations in winter and thinner formulations in summer.

Step 3 – Protect with SPF: Consistently and effectively preventing sun damage is the most impactful anti-aging choice you can make for yourself. Sun damage accounts for 80% of visible aging (wrinkles, dark spots, you name it!) The problem here is that most people hate the feeling of sunscreen on their skin, and the ones that feel okay have lower SPF (15-30), so you’ll need to reapply those throughout the day – which is impractical for most people. Luckily, a lot has changed with sunscreen in the past 2 years.

Here are some of our most recommended sunscreens:

  • Neova’s DNA Damage goes on silky, not oily. This waterproof one is surprisingly good at lasting through a long run or swim and still isn’t greasy. It contains some antioxidants, too, which is a good idea to include in the morning. That’s because most antioxidants are only active for about 8-12 hours, meaning the ones you put on last night are washed off and not effective anymore.
  • Super Goop’s Makeup Setting Spray with SPF will not only set your makeup with an SPF of 50 but is easy to refresh throughout the day, even with a full face of makeup.
  • EltaMD’s Sensitive Skin Classic SPF has rightfully earned itself a cult following of people with the most sensitive skin, like rosacea and cystic acne sufferers. If sunscreen has ever made your skin feel like it was burning, this is one to try.

Evening Routine

It should be noted your nighttime routine doesn’t have to be the last thing you do before you go to bed – it just needs to be completed after you’re done being outdoors and exposed to UV light for the day. That could easily be after your workout and before dinner.

Step 1 – Cleanse: If you’re wearing makeup, consider a double-cleanse with makeup remover followed by face wash. If you’re going to use a double-duty product that both cleanses and exfoliates, like the AHA/BHA cleanser from SkinMedica, we suggest you use that at night.

Step 2 – Exfoliate: We prefer retinol as your exfoliant because these are the only products that have ever been shown to turn back the age of skin on a cellular level. If not retinol, you can use another chemical exfoliant, like glycolic acid or the AHA/BHA cleanser we mentioned above. Some patients will use retinol on some nights and exfoliants on others. You likely don’t want to do both on the same night. More on retinol below – this is one of the 4 ingredients we recommend you invest in and add to any anti-aging skincare routine.

Step 3 – Treat: Although not necessary for everyone, eye and neck creams can be a great addition to an evening routine. The under eyes and neck are areas that tend to show aging before anywhere else, and targeted treatments for these areas are a great preventive step. For the under eyes, brightening ingredients like vitamin C or moisturizers like hyaluronic acid are great options. And for the neck, ingredients like retinol or peptides are great ways to keep the skin firm and prevent sagging.

Step 4 – Nourish: After you’ve exfoliated the dead skin away, and after the retinol begins encouraging skin cells to turn over, the next step is providing your skin with some nutrients to help it build new cells. The skin is most open and receptive to any additional treatments at this time. So, without getting into the nitty-gritty (because that’s what you’ll find below), we recommend everyone make use of serums like antioxidants, peptides, and growth factors. Fortunately, the TNS Essentials Serum contains all of those, in a stable and effective solution.

Step 5 – Moisturize: Lock it all in with moisturizer. Again – thicker formulations are best if you’re experiencing dryness. Consider a night cream to work on repairing damage and seal in moisture overnight while you sleep.

Makeup and Skincare: What to Know

If you wear makeup daily, then skincare is only one step of your morning routine. The makeup you choose can make or break your skincare regimen, so it’s important to seek out the right products that will work with your results, not against them. Here are some of our top tips for makeup for healthier skin.

Gentle and Non-Comedogenic

Selecting products that won’t cause breakouts is essential if your skin is prone to congestion. Look for non-comedogenic labels or those designed for acne-prone skin. Additionally, find a good oil-based makeup remover that will more thoroughly remove makeup without stripping the skin.

Lightweight and Natural

Even though you may love your full-coverage foundation, it can be hard on your skin. Lightweight or even powder formulations can avoid congestion and create a more natural-looking finish (showing off your incredible skincare results). Consider also opting for natural or botanical ingredients which can be ideal for sensitive or easily-irritated skin.

Oil Control

If you have oily skin, it can seem like an endless battle combating shine throughout the day. When looking for makeup products, make sure to pick mineral- or water-based products. These tend to work best with oily skin types and can prevent any unintended glow.

Sun Protection

It’s always a plus to pick makeup that contains SPF for an extra boost against sun damage. Most makeup products that contain SPF will have active ingredients such as titanium dioxide or zinc oxide. These are the same ingredients found in mineral-based sunscreen and can give your skin a little extra protection.

The 4 Ingredients That Are Worth Investing in for Anti-Aging

The following four ingredients are our top recommended options for anti-aging. TNS Essentials Serum contains all these ingredients but retinol, making it one of our most recommended products. It’s the first time we’ve seen a product contain all three of these in a way that’s shelf-stable and effective. They use a special two-compartment container to separate out the parts of this product that would normally neutralize one another. If you’re looking to buy one product for anti-aging benefits, this one is it.

Keep reading to learn more about these top ingredients and what they mean for your regimen.


Retinol is vitamin A and a retinoid. Many people use the terms interchangeably, but your best bet is to consult a cosmetic physician to help you find the right product. There are also prescription-grade retinols. Retin-A is the brand name for a prescription-strength version of Retinol, but it’s not your only option. There are many prescription-strength retinoids, including:

  • Tretinoin (available as a generic Rx but also known by brand names Retin-A, Renova)
  • Tazarotene (Tazorac)
  • Adapalene
  • Isotretinoin (aka Accutane)

Most patients should start with an over-the-counter retinol product and then slowly work their way up to prescription strength as they age. If you’re just starting with Retinols, we recommend you try either a 0.25 or 0.50 retinol. The 1.0 strength of retinol is the strongest non-prescription-strength retinol available, so we recommend working your way up to and out of that strength before seeking a prescription That’s so you’re not wasting your money, as prescription retinols are generally much more expensive and not often covered by insurance.

You’ll find retinoids in a variety of strengths. Start slowly with a lower strength only 1-2 times per week. Work your way up to using lower strength every day before you upgrade to a stronger strength. By the time you’re in your 40s, if not earlier, it’s best to use a prescription-strength retinol – and then your dermatologist or cosmetic physician can help you move up in strength as appropriate.

The exception here is anyone who suffers from acne breakouts because retinol can do double duty by helping clear up acne. Those who go this route in treating acne will need to see a physician for prescribing and monitoring and will be given specific instructions on how to use their treatments.


Peptides don’t get as much buzz in skincare as they should. These potent protein helpers can smooth away fine lines, reduce pore size, and increase collagen production. Since we all know building new collagen is the key to younger-looking skin, it makes sense why including peptides in your routine is a key component of our recommendations for anti-aging.

Peptides have difficulty penetrating skin that’s not well-exfoliated, so if you’re not using the 3-in-1 product we mentioned above, we recommend exfoliating before growth factors and antioxidants. Peptides also don’t do well when mixed with glycolic acid. Since glycolic acid is water-based and tends not to penetrate the skin deeply, you can simply rinse with water before using peptides.


Antioxidants are an important part of any skincare routine because we’re exposed to many things that cause free radical damage like the sun, dust, smoke, and other pollutants. These free radicals create damage in the form of:

  • Collagen damage that weakens the skin and eventually leads to wrinkles
  • Dark spots and brown spots
  • Broken capillaries and redness

Antioxidants work by neutralizing free radicals before they can cause damage. So, think of them as proactive protection.

Antioxidants have a short half-life, meaning most lose their potency around 8-12 hours after being applied. So, while applying them once a night in your TNS serum is good, applying them twice a day by including one in your sunscreen step is even better. We’re big fans of products that do double- or even triple-duty because it makes getting all of these steps in easier – and since skincare results are about being consistent, anything that makes it easier to do it every day is a big win.

Growth Factors and/or Stem Cell Activators

Growth factors are the building blocks of healthy, youthful skin. As we age, our bodies naturally make fewer of these, so supplementing them can be helpful. While growth factors are really helpful for almost everyone, there is one type of patient who should not use growth factors on their skin – and that’s patients who have precancerous or cancerous skin cells like actinic keratosis (AK). We recommend seeing a dermatologist yearly for a skin check to determine whether you have precancerous skin cells.

Stem cell activators are brand new to the market, and they work differently. Your brain automatically and regularly sends out signals to your basal stem cells deep within your skin to tell them it’s time for certain cells to be replaced with new ones. Think of this as regular decommissioning and maintenance work. As we age, the intervals between those signals get further and further apart. By introducing more of that chemical signal into the skin, you cause those basal stem cells to decommission and replace your skin cells sooner. That means you’re getting your body to build new cells, and that’s effectively younger skin.

It’s best to supplement with growth factors to build new cells when you’re using a stem cell activator product because if you don’t have the materials to build new cells when killing off old ones, it won’t produce the results you want. But you don’t necessarily need to increase the turnover rate with these stem cell activators just because you’re using growth factors. Remember that by exfoliating, which removes dead cells faster, your body will naturally respond by building some new cells.

Our favorite growth factor product line is by SkinMedica, and it’s the TNS line. Beyond the essentials serum, they offer special formulations for eyes, post-procedure, and other needs. Our favorite stem cell activator line is made by Defanage. This is a new technology, and it’s the only product on the market that has good science behind it – and the studies of this product blew us away. Defanage’s 8-in-1 serum is expensive but well worth it, especially for those in their 50s and beyond. You can purchase this product at our offices or through the link. Dr. Wix-Harris actually made a whole video about this new technology, if you’d like to learn more.

Schedule a Free Skincare Consultation

At Reflections Center, our cosmetic physicians can help you develop the perfect skincare regimen for your needs. Looking to create your ideal skincare routine? Contact us to schedule your free consultation today.