Last updated: Dec 15, 2015
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Imagine making just a few little tweaks to your skin-care regimen and reaping major complexion benefits. Possible! These game-changing products and strategies—all vetted by top dermatologists—will deliver magic for your face, with hardly any effort on your part.


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Hot skin superfood: kale
Everyone's favorite salad superhero is the new It ingredient in serums, masks and cleansers. "The antioxidants in kale that contribute to heart health can be great for your skin when applied topically," says Mona Gohara, MD, associate clinical professor of dermatology at the Yale School of Medicine. Rich in vitamins A, E, and K, kale-based skin-care products help promote collagen production, reduce inflammation, and strengthen skin, adds Joshua Zeichner, MD, assistant professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. After all, vitamin A is the nutrient from which retinoic acid—the anti-aging power player—is derived. Studies show that kale extract can also promote nail growth and strength; its high concentration of antioxidants help stimulate the production of keratin (the protein nails are made of).

Your fix: (1) Eminence Citrus and Kale Potent C+E Serum ($110; amazon.com), which combines kale with vitamin C to speed up cell turnover and boost radiance; (2) Nails Inc NailKale Superfood Base Coat ($15; sephora.com), a nourishing base that hydrates, protects, and strengthens weak nails; (3) Dr. Alkaitis Organic Universal Mask ($60; amazon.com), containing a dose of soothing oat along with a virtual salad bowl of vegetable extracts.

Hot technique: the double cleanse
To get skin uberclean, many dermatologists are now advising patients to wash twice—first with an oil-based cleanser, then with their regular wash. This is particularly good for those of us living in urban areas, with lots of pollution, and anyone who wears a full face of makeup every day. "Lots of pollutants and makeup are only oil-soluble, meaning they won't dissolve with a regular face wash and water," explains Ava Shamban, MD, assistant clinical professor of dermatology at the UCLA-Geffen School of Medicine. By cleansing with oil first, you break down those nasties and give your traditional cleanser the opportunity to do its job even better. Apply the oil-based cleanser to dry skin, massage in, and add a few drops of water to create a soft foam. Rinse, then wash as usual with your normal cleanser. "I like to turn that second wash into an exfoliating session by using a skin-care brush or washcloth," Dr. Shamban says. No worries if your skin is oily; since oil attracts oil, it can actually de-grease your face better than a plain old face wash.

Your fix: (4) DHC Deep Cleansing Oil ($26; amazon.com), which uses rosemary-leaf oil to dissolve impurities.

Hot OTC treatment: wrinkle zapper in a bottle
Needlephobes, rejoice—over-the-counter creams and serums now mimic the line-smoothing effects of botulinum toxin injections, thanks to peptides. Once absorbed, these compounds send cells the signal to slow things down, which helps prevent the lines etched in by repetitive facial expressions, explains Boston dermatologist Ranella Hirsch, MD. They've also been shown to promote collagen production and reduce wrinkles over time. Often, peptides are combined with hyaluronic acid to attract water and give an immediate plumping effect, says Renee Rouleau, a celebrity aesthetician in Dallas and owner of Renee Rouleau skin spas. Applied daily, these smoothing breakthroughs can help diminish fine lines as well as keep new ones from forming.

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Your fix: (5) StriVectin Labs Anti-Wrinkle Hydra-Gel Treatment ($69; amazon.com), patches that adhere to skin to temporarily plump crow's-feet, laugh lines and frown lines, followed by a peptide-packed hydrating balm; (6) Dr. Brandt Needles No More ($89; sephora.com), an instant smoothing serum that contains a potent blend of wrinkle relaxers.



Hot potion: beauty elixirs
Knocking back shots for great skin seems like a bad idea, but wait until you hear what's in them. Instead of booze, these face-friendly elixirs pack antioxidants like vitamins A, C and E, along with other immunity-boosting phytonutrients, such as natural acids and enzymes. "Antioxidants are one of the few things proven to halt skin aging," Dr. Gohara says. "Skin is a major target of oxidative stress, and antioxidants are the secret weapon for combating the free radical damage responsible for all that wear and tear." These concentrated drinks can be a quick remedy on days when you're not getting enough greens. As Dr. Gohara says, "Downing a shot is a lot easier than eating a whole bowl of broccoli." Have one in the morning to jump-start your glow or before bed to detox while you sleep.

Your fix: (7) Juice Generation Pure Earth and Le Détox Beauty Bombs ($4 for 1 oz. each; juicegeneration.com), which have clay to remove toxins and reduce inflammation for a clearer, more luminous complexion; (8) Love Grace Beauty Elixir ($7 for 4.5 oz.; lovegracefoods.com), packed with herbs including purifying schizandra, depuffing nettle, and soothing aloe.

Hot ingredient: charcoal
The same brickets used for barbecues have emerged as an effective way to get a clearer complexion with less visible pores. You can find highly absorbent charcoal in masks, along with face cleansers and pore strips. "Charcoal works like a magnet to pull out pollution particles, dirt, oil and makeup," Dr. Gohara says, and it's particularly helpful for people with acne-prone skin. Charcoal has actually been used in emergency rooms to soak up badness for years. "If a patient has ingested something poisonous," Dr. Gohara says, "doctors will use charcoal to absorb it when they pump the stomach."

Your fix: (9) Boscia Konjac Cleansing Sponge with Bamboo Charcoal ($15; sephora.com), a gentle exfoliator that deep-cleans and boosts circulation; (10) Bioré Deep Pore Charcoal Cleanser ($7; amazon.com), which turns from a black liquid to a white foam as you wash.

Hot derm procedure: microneedling
Also known as collagen induction therapy, this in-office technique uses skin's natural recovery process to boost collagen and elastin. During the treatment, a derm uses a device with a pin-tipped wand to poke tiny holes into your skin, creating controlled micro-injuries (thank goodness for numbing cream). A reason to endure it: "During the healing process, damaged tissue is replaced with newer collagen," Dr. Hirsch explains. That collagen strengthens the skin's support network from underneath and can smooth wrinkles, fade acne scars and improve skin texture; it may even reduce the appearance of stretch marks. "Think of it as resetting your skin's clock a bit," Dr. Hirsch says.

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Your fix: A few derm-approved options include the Dermapen, Skinpen and Eclipse MicroPen; expect to pay around $200 a session for each. You'll notice a more radiant complexion after one treatment, but, alas, three to six sessions are usually required.

3 Whacked-Out Fads to Skip

Bird-Poop Facials: An aesthetician smears nightingale droppings, typically mixed with rice bran, all over your face—because it contains exfoliating enzymes to refine skin texture. Just, ew.

Diamond-Infused Skin Care: These fancy creams are loaded with the finely crushed gemstone to add radiance, but products that contain it will cost you a pretty penny (upwards of $300); you can get similar effects for a whole lot less.

Facial Exercises: Sure, you can strengthen facial muscles by contorting, poking and stretching your face. But since the skin on top of those muscles is what wrinkles, due to making expressions, you're likely wasting your time.