This article was created in partnership with HUM Nutrition.
When every label promises a clear, youthful, glowing face, it’s pretty hard to determine which skin-care products are the real deal. Alas, no one product is the holy grail of forever-young skin. That's why, with the help of HUM Nutrition, we turned to several experts whose glowing skin is no mere coincidence. Through research and a lot of trial and error, they landed on these secrets that apply almost to everyone.
1. Use an old-school toner.
When Igee Okafor was a teenager, his acne was so bad his dermatologist put him on medication. Now he's a lifestyle blogger whose enviable skin has brands clamoring for his Instagram endorsement. Surprisingly, one of his go-to products is inexpensive and about as ancient as they come: witch hazel.
"I like to cleanse with witch hazel just to clear all the dirt in the morning and at night before I go to bed," Okafor says. "I found that it actually works for me. I break out less."
The plant extract is high in antioxidants, and studies have shown it has anti-inflammatory effects, which might explain why it's helped Okafor.
2. Remember it's what's inside that counts.
You can apply all the products you want to the surface of your skin, but they won’t do much if you're not paying attention to the rest of your body, says dermatologist Adarsh Vijay Mugdil.
"The skin is composed of cells, just like the rest of your body," he says. "So it's really your overall general health and well-being that you see on your skin."
Take a look at your routine—are you eating well? Drinking water? Exercising? Getting enough sleep? We know it's hard to earn an A+ in all categories, but finding creative solutions, like going to bed an hour earlier or supplementing a healthy diet with vitamins, can help you successfully check all the boxes.
HUM Nutrition, for example, has more than 30 innovative, gluten-free, soy-free, and non-GMO vitamin formulations designed to help you look and feel your best—such as Daily Cleanse for clearer skin and Glow Sweet Glow for a hydration boost. Developed by registered dietitians and backed by clinical results, HUM is one small but mighty way to take better care of your skin from the inside out.
Just as you get your day going with a cup of coffee or tea, you can wake up your skin too. Angela Kim, founder of organic, Korean-inspired beauty line Savor Beauty, soaks two cotton balls in green tea she brewed and refrigerated overnight and places them over her eyes for five to 10 minutes.
"Green tea has tannins and anti-inflammatory antioxidants, which help reduce puffiness and dark circles around the eyes," she says. "The [tea] will refresh your eyes, so you are ready to take on the day. Then dot [eye cream] under the eyes and play the piano lightly around the eyes to allow the cream to melt onto skin without wrinkling it."
4. Not to nag, but pleeease wear sunscreen.
Of course every expert says this every time we ask, and yet some of you out there are still neglecting that SPF.
"No matter where I’m going or how much or little time I have to get ready, I always apply SPF protection to my entire face and neck area," says Bella Schneider, CEO and founder of LaBelle Day Spas and Bella Schneider Beauty. "Mineral-based with an SPF of 30 or more is essential for women of all ages and skin types. Moisture Lift SPF 30 is my go-to."
So just do it, K? And while you're slathering it on, don't skip the backs of your hands.
"Someone will have like a perfectly sunspot-free face, with a lot of sunspots on the back of their hands," Mugdil says. He likes to use a sunscreen with titanium or zinc every day, "even in the dead of winter."
5. Trust your gut.
You've probably heard your gut impacts way more than just your digestion. But did you know it may also affect your skin? Though more research is needed, some studies suggest there's a connection between the bacteria in your gut and acne, flakiness, eczema, and other skin issues.
Sarah Greenfield, R.D., CSSD, says eating a diverse diet and including probiotic-rich foods like kimchi, pickled vegetables, and yogurt is a good way to help your gut—and skin—thrive.
You can also try supplementing your diet with a probiotic like Gut Instinct, which contains 10 strains of probiotics and 25 billion organisms (and also happens to be free of GMOs and common allergens).
6. Milk it.
You know that scene where Charlize Theron bathes in milk in Snow White and the Huntsman? That evil Queen Ravenna had the right idea—even if she did go a little overboard. Dermatologist and RealSelf contributor Michele Green, M.D., applies room-temperature whole milk with a washcloth to rehydrate her skin. (While there aren’t many studies out there on milk baths, lactic acid has been shown to improve skin texture due to its exfoliating properties.)
"If patients have eczema, a bad rash, irritation, or even bad rosacea ... it really calms the skin down," she says. "They don't even have to wash it off. They just have to put some moisturizer on afterward."
7. Keep it simple.
Count makeup artist-turned-skin-care entrepreneur Aneela Zaman among those who really don't have time for a 10-step Korean routine every night.
"I’m all about fuss-free, less-is-more products," she says. "With my busy schedule, I don’t have time to get complicated, and if you have the right product, it truly can be functional and not intimidating."
To achieve great-looking skin, Zaman relies on a single product every evening: her own Sleeping Beauty Illuminating serum, which contains anti-inflammatory black cumin seed and antioxidant vitamin C.
8. Moisturize with a classic.
While not everyone can afford Okafor's night cream of choice (La Mer), his go-to lip moisturizer is surprisingly accessible: "[Use] regular Chapstick. It works, and it's good—keeps the entire thing hydrated," Okafor says.
9. Use retinoids.
After sunscreen, this topical vitamin A is the ingredient experts recommend to us the most. Both Mugdil and Schneider have it on their must list, while also warning that it can be irritating at first, and it makes skin extra sensitive to the sun (so, again—sunscreen!).
"[With retinoids] you get microexfoliation of your skin, which is important because it gets all the dead cells off and allows for fresh, new healthy skin to develop," Mugdil says. "It also stimulates superficial collagen production, which is how it prevents fine lines."
The more you know. Now go forth and give your skin some love.
From our partner: Still not sure what you need to look and feel your best? Take HUM Nutrition's quick quiz to get personalized recommendations from a registered dietitian. Greatist readers also get 20 percent off their first order with code GREATIST.
The experts quoted in this piece are not affiliated with HUM Nutrition.