June 07, 2022

How to Choose the Skincare Products Best Suited for Your Skin, According to Dermatologists

By alBahaar Bazaar

Know your skin type

According to cosmetic dermatologist Michele Green, MD, skin type is the most important factor in determining what skincare products will work best for you. "There are no bad products necessarily, but sometimes people with different skin types use the wrong product for their type of skin," Dr. Green says.

You might have guessed it already, but those with acne-prone and sensitive skin need to be the most cautious with different ingredients in their skincare products. To all the oily skin types out there, you're actually the winners here: Oily skin can handle a wider range of ingredients that can sometimes trigger breakouts or irritation to other skin types.

These are the ingredients Dr. Green suggests for different skin types:

For oily skin: Look for products containing alpha hydroxy acids (glycolic acid or salicylic acid), benzoyl peroxide, and hyaluronic acid. "These ingredients are effective at controlling excess sebum production while hyaluronic acid will produce hydration only in areas needed," Dr. Green says.

For dry skin: Look for products containing shea butter and lactic acid. "These ingredients provide hydration and mild exfoliation to keep dry skin looking radiant," Dr. Green says.

For sensitive skin: Look for products containing aloe vera, oatmeal, and shea butter. "They're good moisturizers and they usually don't break anyone out," Dr. Green says.

If you're not 100 percent sure what skin type you have, it's worth a trip to the dermatologist to confirm. Once you understand your skin type, you can start selecting your products with a little more precision.


Don't buy into the hype

"Packaging and popularity are sometimes easy traps that we fall into and shouldn't hold too much weight or value into what we select for what's good for our skin," Dr. David says. If you're going to buy a product based off a friend or influencer's recommendation, you shouldn't just pay attention to how good their skin looks now, but instead what type of skin they were dealing with to start out. That will give you a more reliable indicator for how well the product will work for you.

In the past few years, cult-favorites like the St. Ives Apricot Scrub and multiple Mario Badescu creams have faced lawsuits from consumers who experienced some pretty serious adverse reactions. No need to panic if some of these products are sitting in your cosmetics drawer at home—this doesn't mean they're bad for everyone. But the backlash around some of these popular skincare brands and products can serve as a reminder that just because something gets the popularity vote doesn't mean that it's popular for the right reasons, or that it's the right product for you.

Checking the ingredients list is still the best way to go, no matter how many positive reviews or stars the product has online


Ingredients to seek out


Dr. David calls this ingredient the backbone of moisturizing products.

Ceramides and hyaluronic acid

Both ingredients are important moisturizing agents that are naturally found in the skin. Dr. David says she prefers hyaluronic acid in the serum form, while she looks for glycerins and ceramides in lotions and creams.

L-Ascorbic acid (Vitamin C)

Vitamin C, specifically the l-ascorbic acid form, is an antioxidant that works to reverse damage from UV radiation and stimulate collagen production.

Tocopherol (Vitamin E)

Vitamin E offers similar properties as Vitamin C and works best when the two are combined as a skincare power duo.


Retinol is a key ingredient to seek out in products for your nighttime routine. It works to turnover skin cells and stimulate collagen.

Niacinamide (Vitamin B3)

This ingredient is great for controlling oil while also hydrating the skin and evening out skin tone.


Ingredients to avoid


Added fragrances have a high prevalence of causing skin allergies and irritation, and it's especially important to avoid them if you have sensitive skin.


Sulfates are cleansing agents often found in body washes and shampoo. They strip the hair and skin of its natural oil and can, in turn, cause irritation.


Parabens are commonly placed in products as a chemical preservative to prevent bacterial growth. They're known to be what Dr. David and other industry experts call estrogen mimickers, and they can have a harmful effect over time by throwing off hormonal balance. Dr. David and Dr. Green both caution that this can be especially problematic for young children and those at risk of breast cancer.

Formaldehyde and formaldehyde releasers

It's rare to see formaldehyde in an ingredient list anymore since it's classified as a known carcinogen. But Dr. David explains that it's often replaced with differently named chemicals (quanterium-15, DMDM hydantoin, diazolinge urea, imidazolidinge urea) that release formaldehyde over time to act as preservatives. Dr. David says it's not confirmed whether or not these ingredients are harmful in this capacity, but it's worth looking out for them as potential allergens.

Pay attention to the order of ingredients

Once you know what primary ingredients you're looking to avoid or go after, you'll want to pay attention to where they fall on the ingredients list. As a good rule of thumb, Dr. David recommends looking at the first five ingredients, since that will often account for about 80 percent of the product's makeup.

Ingredients will be listed in order of highest to lowest concentration, so if there's a problematic or potentially irritating ingredient among the first five listed, you'll want to steer clear of that product. Similarly, if you're seeking out a product for specific ingredients, but those ingredients are listed at the end, then that product isn't worth your money. With such a small percentage in the overall product, you won't experience the benefits of the ingredients at the end of the list.


Use your resources

You don't have to be a walking dictionary in order to pick out skincare products with the right ingredients. Make things a little easier on yourself by taking advantage of online resources. Dr. David suggests two online databases for ingredient and product research: EWG's Skin Deep database and CosDNA.

The EWG Skin Deep database is just one sector of their online services. The Environmental Working Group is a nonprofit organization geared toward research and education surrounding environmental and human health issues. In the Skin Deep database, skincare products are rated and scored by a number of factors, from manufacturing practices to potential health hazards.

CosDNA is more of a no-frills database, but it dives even deeper into the ingredients in a product, detailing their individual functions and safety score.


Always do a patch test

A patch test is smart practice in your process of product elimination. (Plus, it's a great excuse to make a trip to Ulta or Sephora without spending a bunch of money.) Time to take advantage of those tester products

A patch test can help determine if certain products or ingredients will cause allergic reactions, irritate your skin, or clog your pores. "I think the take-home message is: If it's making your skin worse or irritating your skin in any way, stop using it, it's not the right product for you," Dr. Green says

Testing all your ingredients before committing to them takes a little more time at first, but it can save you a whole lot of money and grief in the end.