4 Must-Haves for a Flawless Complexion


4 Must-Haves_Main

As a dermatologist, I am obsessed with finding the absolute best products and procedures to keep my skin young and healthy looking, and especially, to prevent skin cancer. I’ve been a perfectionist about my complexion all my life. On this mission, as a teen and young adult, I tried hundreds (maybe even thousands) of products, but was often disappointed in the results. Now that I am a full-fledged medical and cosmetic dermatologist, I have finally found (and know) what works! And guess what? I’m going to spare you some of the guesswork by sharing what I have learned for a flawless complexion!

1. Zinc-containing Sunscreen

Citrix Sunscreen SPF 40

Citrix Sunscreen SPF 40

If you make an appointment at Advanced Skin Care, you will inevitably hear Dr. Bailey’s spiel about mineral zinc oxide sunscreen being THE product you need to use 365 days a year. I want you to read that again, because, believe me, this is the most important thing you can do to prevent wrinkles, unsightly brown spots and also prevent skin cancer. We preach this mantra because it’s the truth!

Sunscreens are broken up into two categories: physical blockers and chemical sunscreens.

  • Physical sunscreen blockers contain either zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. These work to physically bounce UV rays off of the skin like a mirror and are the most effective sunscreens. We prefer zinc oxide as this tends to have antimicicrobial and soothing properties, is non-comedogenic (does not clog pores), and also provides broader UV spectrum protection than titanium dioxide. Of course, back in the day, zinc oxide was that unattractive white paint lifeguards would wear on their noses. Today, zinc sunscreens have a come a long way as products come in MUCH more elegant formulations, thanks to skin care science. There is a zinc SPF product for every skin type, which is one of the many reasons I love these sunscreens so much! In my case, my skin doesn’t look fully hydrated and calm until my sunscreen is applied over my other products. Zinc oxide is this powerful for me, and I never go a day without putting it on!
  • Chemical sunscreen blockers are less effective sunscreen agents in that they work like a sponge to absorb UV rays and chemically degrade them. Not only is this not as effective in protecting your skin, the chemicals can also lead to a variety of negative reactions such as breakouts, rashes, excess heat and skin irritation. I don’t like them, and I don’t personally wear these products.

2. Retinoids


Retinol Intensive Anti-Wrinkle Night Cream

This is probably the second most important skin care product one should use. Retinoids are most commonly used for acne. They work to increase cell turnover so cells don’t build up and clog pores, which is the first step in forming a pimple.

But, that’s not all! We also know that retinoids boost collagen to improve the appearance of wrinkles, affect gene expression and improve discoloration such as sun spots. This is a way to combat aging that everyone should take advantage of! There are many retinol products on the market, but we swear by our Retinol Intensive Anti-Wrinkle Night Cream.

This and other retinoid-containing products are formulated with ingredients that hydrate and soothe the skin to combat the irritation that many people have when starting to use these products. Keep in mind that you still may experience some mild irritation from using even the most mild of retinoids. It’s important to ease into using them and back off if you have too much flaking and irritation.

For those who can tolerate higher strength retinoids, ask our dermatologists at Advanced Skin Care if a prescription strength retinoid is right for you.

3. Antioxidants

Green Tea Antioxidant Skin Therapy - Replenix Power of Three Cream

Green Tea Antioxidant Skin Therapy – Replenix Power of 3 Cream

Antioxidants protect our skin from damage by fighting off free radicals. They are just as important to apply to your skin as they are to eat! (Dr. Bailey explains more about why antioxidants are valuable to eat in her free e-book called Eating Your Way to Beauty and Health.) They help make your skin look brighter and more youthful, while also helping your skin cool down the irritating impact of products like the aforementioned retinoids. Here are my two favorite antioxidants:

  • Vitamin C – This ingredient is one of the more important collagen boosters. We know that deficiency in vitamin C causes a disease called scurvy. In this disease, which results from a dietary deficiency of vitamin C, blood vessels and collagen are very fragile. It shows you the extreme importance of vitamin C to your skin. Even if you don’t have a dietary deficiency of vitamin C, you can boost your skin’s level of it beyond the norm by applying a professional product to your skin – and you get enhanced results! Yes, topical vitamin C helps promote collagen production, fights free radicals and contributes to protecting the skin from sun damage. We all want that, which is why I recommend using a stable professional product like Dr. Bailey’s Vitamin C Anti-Wrinkle Professional Treatment Serum each morning as part of your routine just like I do.
  • Green Tea – Polyphenols in green tea are called catechins. These are potent antioxidants. Studies show that green tea has anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties. Personally, my skin can’t handle using irritating retinoids without a green tea containing moisturizer. My favorites that I use every day are either Replenix CF or the Green Tea Antioxidant Skin Therapy Cream. I use Replenix when my skin needs less hydration and the Power of 3 when my skin feels more dry.

4. Broadband Light (BBL)

This procedure, which is also known as Intense Pulse Light, is an incredible way to rejuvenate the skin. I don’t know anyone who has ever been outdoors who doesn’t have some evidence of sun damage and environmental damage; blotchy redness, broken capillaries, freckles and sun spots can all be treated with BBL.

My teen lifeguarding days left me with freckles and blotchy redness that vanished with BBL. The more sun damage you have, the more treatments you will probably need. There are also scientific studies showing that younger looking skin genes are turned on by BBL, and genes that stimulate collagen production may also be activated. In other words, not only does this treatment reverse abnormal pigmentation, it also improves skin health. We see the results every day in our practice because BBL is a very popular procedure here. This treatment really is the best way to slow the clock on aging or even turn it backward! Schedule an appointment with me to let me check out your skin and help you decide if our BBL treatment series will help stop the clock on your skin aging. More often than not, my response will be a resounding, “Yes, you should do it!” I’ll customize a rejuvenating skin care routine for you too. I’m a perfectionist, and I’m determined to get your skin looking great!

What do you do to keep your skin looking beautiful or flawless? Do you have a favorite product or a DIY solution? We’d love to hear from you in the comments!

Dr. HayesDr. Hayes – Board Certified Dermatologist




The information in the Dr. Bailey Skin Care web site, and related links, articles, newsletters and blogs, is provided for general information and educational purposes only. It is the opinion of Dr. Cynthia Bailey, or other indicated authors. Consult your physician or health care provider for any specific medical conditions or concerns you may have. (This also applies to patients in her medical practice; the information here is not a substitute for, or an extension of, the medical care she provides for you.) Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking it because of something you have read here. Use the information and products on this site at your own risk. Use of this site indicates your agreement with these statements and the Terms and Conditions of DrBaileySkinCare.com. If you do not agree to all of these Terms and Conditions of use, please do not use this site!



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28 Responses to “4 Must-Haves for a Flawless Complexion”

  1. Ginger February 8, 2016 at 10:01 am #

    Hello Dr. Hayes & Dr. Bailey,
    I use glycolic acid 25% cream and Retin-A Micro .1% daily, along with a glycolic acid 50% facial peel at the first of every month. I would like to start incorporating vitamin C into my regimen, but I am not sure when, and if I put it on top my glycolic acid or tretinoin, would that decrease the efficacy of either?
    Also, I plan to start the Obagi Nu-Derm System with hydroquinone in a few weeks. Will I be able to continue with my glycolic acid, Retin-A and vitamin C throughout the Obagi treatment?

    Thank you,

  2. Mandy February 9, 2016 at 8:30 am #

    Dr. Bailey, I love your blog. Wondering if IPL/BBL is suitable for darker skin? I have a lot of pigmentation problems and don’t want to aggravate it. I am of Indian origin and have a Fitzpatrick IV type skin.

  3. Linda Schoeman February 9, 2016 at 4:35 pm #

    Dr. Bailey,

    Why do you say chemical sunscreens are not good when the Citrix sunscreen you highly recommend is mostly a chemical sunscreen Octinoxate?

  4. Jeanne Dinker February 10, 2016 at 6:30 am #

    Dear Doctors,

    So enjoy the information you provide and have passed on to friends/family. My question: I use Resveratrol at night and I’m wondering if you have a product that is comparable to this. I’m not even sure what it’s supposed to do!, but our local boutique skin care store recommended it to me. I am mid-60’s. Thank you!

  5. Cynthia Bailey, M.D. February 10, 2016 at 10:13 am #

    Hello Linda,
    The zinc oxide in Citrix is perfectly balanced for a sweet spot with the octinoxate. Years ago that combination was found to work particularly well and had very nice texture and invisibility on the skin. It is the only chemical combination I recommend. Newer zinc oxide technology has come a long way and now we have zinc oxide sunscreens that can give that same elegance when used as the lone active agent in a product. That technology is not inexpensive however. Sunscreen formulation and technology is very complex. It is not a simple recipe of mixing ingredients based on general principles to get a predictable outcome. Remember how zinc oxide is really a thick white substance? We are lucky that skin chemistry technology has made important advances and it is possible to now use zinc oxide alone for protection. That said, I still love Citrix. It gives excellent protection, is water resistant and has a good price point for such an elegant product. I also recommend other zinc/chemical filter products with their unique attributes as noted on my sunscreen comparison chart. I want everyone to find the perfect zinc product for their complexion and budget. I am grateful to the skin chemist at Topix who gave us one of the first elegant zinc oxide sunscreens years ago. It is still a great product and to this day, I use Citrix myself along with other products. Citrix has stood the test of time in my opinion.

  6. Cynthia Bailey, M.D. February 10, 2016 at 10:23 am #

    Resveratrol is one of the many antioxidants that benefit skin when applied topically. I like it best in combination with green tea polyphenol antioxidants. That combination is present in the Green Tea Antioxidant Therapy Skin Cream that we have used for years here in our practice.

  7. Prerna February 12, 2016 at 2:39 am #

    I totally believe in using zinc based sunscreen and doing this for years. My skin has been too problematic but since I started using zinc sunscreen, my skin looks almost flawless.

  8. Lilliana Neves February 19, 2016 at 5:37 pm #

    Hi, Love the blog!!

    I use all the products of Luminesce made with the revolutionary stem cell technology. What do you think about those products?

    They are working pretty good for me, what do you think about it?

  9. Lilliana Neves February 19, 2016 at 5:44 pm #

    Oh I forgot Resveratrol is also very good!! Yes I love it also very good for acne treatment… I have tried some sort of gel package that you can drink called Reserve. Reserve equals 186 bottles of wine, without the alcohol of course :D. So it works from the inside out. Really good stuff and I saw many people with great results :)

  10. Cynthia Bailey, M.D. February 22, 2016 at 9:23 am #

    I am glad these products are working for you. I can’t comment on the quality of any other products. I can say that, in my opinion, the science supporting clinical efficacy of stem cells for skin care is still in process.

  11. Drew March 2, 2016 at 4:17 am #

    Great article Dr Bailey! Once again you have proven your knowledge with an in-depth guide to staying young. Just wanted to say keep up the great work, and keep applying that sun screen!

  12. vivian March 7, 2016 at 11:05 am #

    hi. I got graphs from NOAA, that show from there mentoring that UVA rays are not same intensity throughout the day. they are much weaker in early morning and late afternoon than mid day just like UVB rays. they are just present for more hours than UVB throughout the day and less effected by season. NOAA told me there is misinformation out there that UVA is constant

  13. Cynthia Bailey, M.D. March 7, 2016 at 5:12 pm #

    Vivian this is very interesting. The general understanding among authorities in UV science and medicine is that the intensity of UVA is relatively constant throughout the day, the year and around the planet. Dr. Hayes and I just did an extensive search of the literature to see if something in UVA understanding has changed and we could find nothing. That said, I looked at NOAA and an Indian Dermatology Journal article that might suggest otherwise but the information was not clear. I would say it is much safer to assume any variation is clinically insignificant and to stay sunprotected. Here is a source at the Skin Cancer Foundation http://www.skincancer.org/prevention/uva-and-uvb/understanding-uva-and-uvb Thank you for your provocative comment!

  14. vivian stone March 8, 2016 at 11:31 am #

    thank you! yes of course stay protected all day!! I was just curious if time of day had any effect or exactly same intensity no matter what. I emailed you NOAA graphs if you saw them. one hour before sunset and one hour after sunrise, there is dramatic decrease in UVA. and UVA peaks midday just like UVB… I also saw the indian journal; article and graphs and show slight variations too…. I was looking into this cause I wasn’t sure if it was exactly same no matter the time. so it is true UVA is present sunrise to sunset

    now I don’t know lets sat sunset time is list at 630, then you have twilight stages before night I would assume the amount of UVA at that point as graphs show would be negligible even though these is still some visible light.

    Dr. Henry Lim, expert on this , he said closing horizontal window blinds at home or work will block UVA rays significantly and adding aftermarket auto tint like llumar brand will also block significant amount of UVA rays.

    one question I couldn’t find a study on, is if you let the blinds open and UVA in, how many feet away from window can UVA hit you and do damage before its energy dies off.. I read article he said and he just mentions a few feet of direct sun at window with open blinds.

  15. Cynthia Bailey, M.D. March 9, 2016 at 9:04 am #

    Very brilliant study you are doing on the subject! Henry Lim is the expert, you have done excellent work. He worked with Irma Gigli, the head of the UCSD derm department when I trained. I actually inherited a UVA/porphyrin/mast cell research project of theirs while I was at UCSD.
    You may want to get a UV photometer. I don’t know where or how much they cost but that would answer the question. Perhaps there is a place to rent them. We used to have one in the lab. Let me know what you find.

  16. nicole March 9, 2016 at 12:05 pm #

    Dr. Bailey, I am curious why the AAD and Cancer organizations don’t lobby against day light savings time. (spring forward) leaving longer days of uvb/uva exposure to do damage, versus fall back. just a thought

  17. Cynthia Bailey, M.D. March 9, 2016 at 5:34 pm #

    It’s a great idea! I personally loath the day light “savings” time. This is a great idea to start spreading around. I will see if I can get any chatter going in the derm world – brilliant angle!!

  18. nicole March 10, 2016 at 8:06 am #

    Thank you:) I cant stand that the sun will be out to 8pm soon, who wants uva rays in evening. ugh.

  19. jack waller March 10, 2016 at 12:05 pm #

    Dr. Bailey,

    I am 39 year old man still acne prone. no matter the spf I use, few days later I break out.
    I have my car windows tinted and I keep the blinds at work and home drawn, to minimize uva rays transmitting through window. I work 9-5 and im in office all day, so uvb no issue for me. I use topical l ascorbic acid , green tea serum and aczone daily. and mandelic acid serum twice a week.

    I even tried elta 46 and cervae am lotion, cetaphil spf 15. with no luck. I don’t know if I should just use spf when I will actually spend time out doors which is intermittently. I don’t know anything else I could use that wont break me out, spf 15 would be best since less percent to cause breakouts. any suggestions would be great. thanks

  20. Cynthia Bailey, M.D. March 12, 2016 at 7:24 am #

    The favorite sunscreens of acne prone skin in my practice are the Elta Clear, which you tried, MD Solar Sciences and Sheer Strength Pure Physical Sunscreen. Purely mineral products in oil free bases are the best for acne prone skin in my experience. That said, everyone’s skin is unique and acne is capricious. There is a trial and error element to finding products that a complexion tolerates. Sun protection is important for so many reasons. Best of luck with finding that perfect sunscreen.

  21. Vivian March 12, 2016 at 2:37 pm #

    Dr .Bailey

    How much l ascorbic acid and green tea serum are you suppose to apply on face . I’m worried I’m putting too much . Can vitamin c in surface leave skin with yellow tint ?

    What do you think of heliocare pills ? I know one pill only works for 3 hours . Is it necessary to take commuting to work if windows tinted ?

  22. jack waller March 14, 2016 at 9:08 am #

    im about to order from you , just couple quick follow ups:) short answers

    1, does zinc oxide clog pores or cause breakouts since sits on skin, occluding pores?

    2. how much l ascorbic acid are you suppose to apply at once and can it make skin yellow tint if some is not absorbed and oxidizes on skin if dead skin cells block it or put too much on at once?

    3. same with green tea serum, how much apply, sometimes I wonder if I am putting more than needed.

    4. can l ascorbic acid be applied first and then green tea serum on top?

  23. vivian March 14, 2016 at 11:54 am #

    uva monitoring tables at these two links


    this link shows in hong kong, the seasonal variation of UVA rays. there is a slight drop off of intensity in fall and winter compared spring and summer.


    this next link shows, UVA rays for today sunrise to sunset in hong kong. the first hour after sunrise and one hour before sunset appears to be lowest intensity, and best time if you have to be outside to do yard work etc to get lowest uva dose and peaking mid day. so slight variations, just not as much as uvb.

  24. Cynthia Bailey, M.D. March 15, 2016 at 9:56 am #

    Jack, here is the paper on comedogenicity and follicular irritancy of ingredients. You can always reference it when you have questions about the comedogenicity of ingredients http://journal.scconline.org/pdf/cc1989/cc040n06/p00321-p00333.pdf Ascorbic acid will brown/yellow as it oxidizes so it can turn yellow. Are you asking specifically about my product? As you will see in my writings, I recommend the green tea serum first then the vitamin c for my products.

  25. Cynthia Bailey, M.D. March 15, 2016 at 9:59 am #

    Thank you Vivian, This is interesting. All the scholarly sources for photobiology in dermatology pretty much summarize UVA as being equally intense all day all year all across the planet. I think perhaps for practical purposes it is best to assume so but you demonstrate that there is variation. Broad spectrum sunscreen and good sun protection practices are the best we have if we are to go outdoors while the sun is up at all. Very interesting, I appreciate your detailed research and that you shared this with me. Thank you!

  26. Cynthia Bailey, M.D. March 15, 2016 at 10:03 am #

    Hello again Vivian, put on just enough to cover the skin. I recommend people apply the green tea first then let it dry then the vita C, let it dry. Vita C will yellow as it oxidizes. Have you seen that with my product or is this another product? Heliocare seems to work. There is not really a lot of long term data on it and I can’t really say if it is “necessary”.

  27. deanne March 29, 2016 at 8:33 am #

    hi Dr. bailey, how often should one exfoliate when using leave on acids, should that be combined with a physical ? I assume acids in wash doesn’t count. thank you

  28. Cynthia Bailey, M.D. March 29, 2016 at 8:43 am #

    Hello Deanne,
    That very much depends on one’s complexion. Rosacea prone skin, for example, may almost never be able to exfoliate with anything. Tough, oily acne prone skin may benefit from it every day. I never had tough or oily skin but in my 20s to 40s I used a Facial Buf Puf every morning with Glytone Mild Gel Wash and applied Glytone Lotion #3 during the day over Replenix CF and under Citrix Sunscreen. At night I washed with Aquanil and applied the Day Cream for Normal to Oily skin then used Retin A. Those were the cave man days when we did not have the Clarisonic or the Green Tea and some of the new sunscreens and creams and when I was young and my complexion was acne prone. Over those years this treatment reversed a lot of sun damage done in my teens. I have used this on many of my patients in the same age bracket and with the same excellent results. Now I make some modern tweaks depending on the person’s skin and budget. Also, back in the cave days, I did a glycolic peel on myself at least once a month with 50% glycolic acid. It was ALOT of exfoliation and it all paid off and I have no adverse consequences of it. Fun to tell you my story this morning with my cup of tea! Cheers