6 Pro Skin-Care Routines That Won’t Break The Bank

ILLUSTRATED BY PAOLA DELUCCA.

We know the gold standard dermatologists swear by (it rhymes with shmetinol), and thefull cosmetic routines of makeup artists. But what about the chemists who not only formulate those products, but actually develop the active ingredients, too? You want to know the best kept secrets in skin care? Hello, white lab coats.

We talked to top cosmetic chemists about their skin and the products lining their bathroom cabinets at home — including some serious drugstore gems and even custom concoctions they cook up in their labs (seriously, how can we get our hands on those?). Check them out, ahead.

Dobos has been a chemist for 13 years, specializing in skin care and color-cosmetic formulation. She kicked off her career at Bonne Bell, making its iconic Lip Smackers.

“With all my education and experience in the industry, I know that skin care doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive,” says Dobos. “It just has to work.” 

Her morning routine begins with Neutrogena Fresh Foaming Cleanser. “I love it. The gentle blend of surfactants removes eye makeup, and the second ingredient, glycerin, means it’s not drying,” says Dobos.

Fresh Foaming Cleanser, $4.99, available at Target.

She exfoliates a few times a week with Bliss Micro Magic Dermabrasion, which contains a fine-grade pumice to remove dry skin. 

Micro Magic Sea-Powered Microdermabrasion Treatment, $48, available at Ulta.

Next, she smooths on her favorite moisturizer, Murad Oil-Control Mattifier with SPF 15/PA++. “My skin is a little oily and it was a challenge to find a moisturizer with a broad-spectrum sunscreen and a matte finish,“ she says.

Oil-Control Mattifier SPF 15/PA++, $39.50, available at Murad.

At night, Dobos starts with eye-makeup remover: Clinique Take the Day Off. “It’s the best — the old chemistry principle of ‘like dissolves like’ applies here,” she says. “The oily phase helps solubilize the waxes in mascara.” She then cleanses with the Neutrogena wash again.

Take the Day Off Makeup Remover, $19, available at Sephora.

Then, comes an anti-aging moisturizer. "Retinol and alpha-hydroxy acids are still the gold standards in anti-aging,” says Dobos. She alternates between Alpha Hydrox Retinol ResQ and Alpha Hydrox Enhanced Lotion with 10% Glycolic Acid. “The packaging isn’t fancy, but these are really effective products,” she says.

Retinol ResQ, $12.49, available at Drugstore.com.

For a treat, Dobos smooths on a spa-like facial mask once a week. Right now, she’s loving DERMAdoctor Kakadu C Amethyst Clay Detox Mask. “The purple color makes it especially decadent and fun,” she says.

Kakadu C Amethyst Clay Detox Mask, $58, available at Sephora.

Ward has been formulating cosmetics for 20 years, including products for Estée Lauder, MAC, Bath & Body Works, Meaningful Beauty, and Jurlique — among others. She is also the founder of

Cosmetic Science Innovations

, for which she formulates high-performance lines including 37 Extreme Actives.

“I have oily skin, so washing my face in the morning is a must for me,” says Ward. She cleanses with 37 Extreme Actives High Performance Anti-Aging Cleansing Treatment and follows with 37 Extreme Actives High Performance Anti-Aging Cream.

“I formulated these products, so I know they actually contain a lot of ingredients at active levels, which means there’s enough in there to work,” says Ward. She admits that when you’re a chemist, it’s hard not to stick with formulas you’ve brewed in the lab yourself. “It’s a bit like when you dine out. There are plenty of great options out there, but ultimately, home-cooking is best because you know exactly what’s in the meal and you made it,” she says.

High Performance Anti-Aging Cream, $195, available at Dr. Macrene.

On some days, she uses Neutrogena Naturals Purifying Facial Cleanser with willow-bark extract, which is a natural source of salicylic acid. “It’s one of the few cleansers on the market that will not dry out or irritate my skin,” says Ward.

She recently added a face oil to her morning routine, which goes under moisturizer. “Sounds counterintuitive, but even though I have oily skin, I get dry patches in the winter. This way, I’m flake-free all day,“ she says. Unfortunately, you can’t get your hands on the oil she uses — Ward formulates it herself: “They’re all light oils that are clinically proven to improve skin cell turnover, moisturize, reduce wrinkles, fight inflammation and environmental pollutants, and brighten the skin,” she says. (Feel free to pass some our way!)

Naturals Purifying Facial Cleanser, $7.99, available at Ulta.

For her body, Ward alternates between Olay Ultra Moisture Body Wash and Dove Deep Moisture Body Wash with Nutrium Moisture. “The emollients in these products really help to keep my skin from being tight and itchy all day,” she says.

Deep Moisture Nourishing Body Wash, $7.73, available at Drugstore.com.

For the rest of these beauty-buffs picks, visit Refinery29.

By: Brooke le Poer Trench

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