Dr. Irwin, a board certified dermatologist and guest expert on the Oprah show, shares her own skin care regimen!

Dr. Irwin’s Skin Care Regimen

Products can be a major source of frustration to many of us.  It’s hard to tell what to buy since the marketplace is flooded with clever marketing – most of it without merit.

Occasionally a company’s research and development division really does come up with something good and new ……. but then how do you find that one among the thousands of others that aren’t worth the money?

Most women have a large drawer of unused products.  Most skin care companies do not put their products through any actual testing on skin.  So just because something shows a great antioxidant effect in a petri dish, does that mean it will work well on actual skin?  Usually not.

Are your expectations for products too high???  Products, in general, cannot repair moderately or severely sun damaged skin.  You will need lasers and other things if you have a lot of sun damage.  Products are best for preventing further damage, preserving the improvements you’ve made, and repairing mild sun damage.

Women ask me all the time, what products do you use?  So, I thought I would tell you about my own product regimen. I have that over 40 somewhat dry skin, but still some oil in the T-zone, with not much sun damage (thank you sunscreen!).  And I live in a rainy, 4 season climate with sun mostly in the summer.  But, I do a lot of stuff outdoors…. hiking, biking, walking, running, swimming in a lake (summer only), and skiing.  I need great sun/light protection when I am out.

And, I use slightly different products summer and winter.  I also double or triple sunscreen when I’m outside because I have mild melasma (pregnancies).  This regimen is also expensive. But remember that your skin is for life and it’s the first thing people see!  So it might be worth it to have the best products that money can buy as an investment in your skin and save money on those shoes, that make up (you won’t need as much anyway), or trips.

I have no financial ties to any of the companies that make these products.  IF A PRODUCT IRRITATES YOU, STOP USING IT AND CALL YOUR DOCTOR!

Spring & Summer Skin Care Regimen

In general when in the sun increase your antioxidants and sunscreen and decrease or stop temporarily your retinoids (Renova, Retin-A, retinol, etc)


  1. Cleanser: Eminence Lemon Cleanser (Organic – very gentle)
  2. Repair: SkinCeuticals Phloretin CF Gel (The best one in their already long line of great antioxidants – travel friendly)
  3. Moisturizer: SkinCeuticals Emollience or Eminince Tropical Vanilla SunCream SPF 32 (If I want to double layer my sunscreen – Zinc 5%)
  4. Sunscreen: SkinCeuticals Physical Fusion UV Defense SPF 50 (Not for oily skin but almost everyone else loves this) or
  5. Eyelids: SkinCeuticals Eye Balm (Try the A.G.E Eye Complex also – has added anti-glycation agent)
  6. Neck Only: Eminence Tropical Vanilla SunCream SPF 32 (very moisturizing and doesn’t stain clothing – no oil glands on the neck)
  7. Lip Treatment: Jack Black Intense Therapy Lip Balm SPF 25


  1. Cleanser: Eminence Lemon Cleanser (Organic – very gentle)
  2. Moisturize: Eminence Blueberry Soy Night Recovery Cream (For dry skin)
  3. Repair: Renova 0.02% (Cut this down to 2-3 times a week in the summer and stop it completely a week before sunny vacations or if you are outside a lot in the summer)
  4. Repair: Alternate your Renova with TNS Essential Serum with Cell Growth Factor/Peptides & Antioxidants or use the TNS Recovery (less expensive but has the main ingredient – the growth factors)
  5. Eye Treatment: NeoCutis Lumiere Bio-restorative Eye Cream or if you want a richer eye cream, try the NeoCutis Lumiere Riche Eye Cream
  6. Neck and Chest:  SkinCeuticals Neck Chest & Hand Repair

Fall & Winter Skin Care Regimen

Here is my fall and winter skin care product regimen:


  1. Cleanser: Eminence Lemon Cleanser (Organic – very gentle)
  2. Antioxidant: SkinCeuticals Phloretin CF Gel (New – don’t buy the serum – the gel has the new pump dispenser – not glass)
  3. Moisturizer: Eminence Blueberry Soy Night Recovery Cream (Yes- fine for am) or Vivite Replenish Hydrating Cream
  4. Sunscreen: SkinCeuticals Physical Fusion UV Defense SPF 50 (Universal tint)
  5. Eyelids: SkinCeuticals A.G.E Eye Complex (antiglycation) or if too oily for you try AOX Eye Gel by the same company.  Eyelids means both upper and lower lids.
  6. Neck & Chest: Eminence Tropical Vanilla Sunscreen (Very hydrating – no oil glands on neck & chest – doesn’t discolor clothes)


  1. Cleanser: Eminence Lemon Cleanser (Organic – very gentle)
  2. Repair: TNS Essential Serum (Double pump delivery see below……you can sub the TNS Recovery Complex – less expensive/just growth factors) – wait 5 min, then Renova
  3. Moisturizer: Eminence Blueberry Soy Night Recovery Cream (Only if needed and over the TNS but can use under the Renova)
  4. Eyelids: NeoCutis Lumiere Bio-restorative Eye Cream. Or if you want the richer eye cream, try the NeoCutis Lumiere Riche Eye Cream.
  5. Neck & Chest: Vivite Vibrance Decollete Therapy or just moisturizer

It’s  important to adjust your regimen to the climate you’ll be in and your activities.  Do you live in a climate that sunny all the time or rainy Seattle?  If you have an office job it’s very different than if you work as a landscape designer. Also consider your leisure time.  Do you ski, walk outside, garden, golf, climb mountains, run, swim outdoors, take frequent vacations to sunny climates. You see my point – please think about how to protect your skin based on all these factors.

Also, it’s interesting to pay attention to the marketing for skin care.  For example the use of the term “reduces the appearance of fine lines.”  Notice how they don’t say “reduces fine lines.”  Any moisturizer temporarily reduces the appearance of fine lines.  We are all looking for the products that have a longer lasting effect.

Companies can’t claim a lasting effect (FDA rules) because the product doesn’t have any real effect on fine lines. Also notice that, on the rare occasion, when a company does test a product they never test it against tretinoin (the generic name for Renova, Retin-A, etc) because tretinoin is still the gold standard with it’s permanent improvement (proven X 20 years) of sun damage, fine lines, acne, and reduction of precancerous spots.  It’s buyer beware.

So I use a regimen of products for which I can actually find some proof of effectiveness.  What a concept! And not just in studies, many of these products are used by myself, my patients, my staff and world wide.  Having said that, remember that you are an individual and you MUST tailor your products to your special skin.  No one regimen works for everyone.

Some General Points

  • When layering, powders go on last and serums or gels usually go on first, then creams, then powders
  • Save your money on cleansers and moisturizers if you want – Cetaphil,Cerave, Vanicream, etc are all inexpensive drugstore brands that are great.  Forget toners.
  • Use organic when you can without sacrificing results.
  • Eyelids means both upper and lower eyelids
  • Renova is a prescription Vitamin A cream you can get from your dermatolgist
  • You can read more detail on the science behind these products in other articles on the site
  • If you buy one extra thing, buy that Colorscience SunForgettable Powder Sunscreen with the self-contained brush.  It’s light – goes in a backpack or bike jersey.  Great for golfers who don’t want to get hands greasy, bald heads (MEN), layers over all the cream sunscreen, kids love it.
  • TNS – what’s the deal – I think of this like fertilizer for my skin. And that’s kind of what it is. There is some data behind this product. It contains cell growth factors from young fibroblasts, which are the cells that make collagen. The TNS Essential Serum (more expensive) has antioxidants and peptides with it. TNS Recovery Complex is just the growth factors but if you’re saving money just order this one.
  • The Blueberry Soy Cream may have some slightly estrogenic effects (soy) which are nice for post menopausal skin
  • Sunscreens –  look for 5-15% zinc or titanium or 3% Mexoryl.  Better yet layer your sunscreens for extra protection.  The ZinClear SPF 30 by Dermaquest is also nice.
  • Sunscreens –  save the expensive stuff for your face, neck, chest and backs of hands.  Use the cheaper drugstore stuff on your body and put the ColoreScience Powder over the high risk areas or cover up  – even better and don’t forget your hat!
  • Sunscreen eyelids – try Dermalogica Total Eye Care SPF 15
  • If the Vitamin C antioxidants irritate you, try the Replenix 90% Polyphenol/Green Tea Serum or Cream or the Dermaquest Alpha Lipoic/Vit C Serum – both less irritating.

Do you have sensitive skin? Learn more in Dr. Irwin’s article on Sensitive Skin – What Can You Do?

See Dr. Irwin’s expert answers to other reader’s questions on her skincare regime:
How Can I Get the Most Out of My Products
In What Order Should I Use these Products- It’s So Confusing!
If I’m 22- what would be the best skincare products for me?
Which products am I using this Winter?
How do I know if my products are right for me?
How can I put together an optimal product regimen?