RealSelf asked expert dermatologists and more than 1,300 RealSelf users the same question: What’s most important when keeping skin healthy? Their answers? See for yourself.


Don’t smoke — Consumers said it’s No. 1, dermatologists said it’s No. 2

45 percent of consumers ranked “don’t smoke” as the single most important action you can take to preserve skin. Dermatologists agree it’s important, but wearing sunscreen regularly is even more critical; half of surveyed dermatologists picked sunscreen over smoking for the No. 1 spot.


Image: Dermatologists Rated This #2 for Keeping Your Skin Healthy


Wear sunscreen — Consumers said it’s No. 6, dermatologists said it’s No. 1

Speaking of sunscreen, consumers put wearing it regularly squarely in the middle of the pack at No. 6. Doctors, meanwhile, say not only is it important, it’s the most important action you can take for healthy skin. It’s also one of the more popular products they get questions on.

“My favorite [medical myth to debunk] is that ‘my makeup has sunscreen in it so I don’t need more.’ But do you put makeup on your ears? Your neck? Your hands? What about those areas?” says dermatologist Dr. F. Victor Rueckl.

Related: What’s the Best Sunscreen?

Charlotte’s Book expert and New York City dermatologic surgeon Dr. Robert Anolik agrees, “Tinted moisturizers and foundations with SPF are usually not adequate sun protection because people don’t use enough of it. You need to apply a full teaspoon of sunscreen to get the benefits of its SPF number.”


Image: Dermatologists Rated This #1 for Keeping Your Skin Healthy


Drink at least 8 cups of water a day — Consumers said it’s No. 3, dermatologists said it’s No. 10

Drinking water has plenty of health benefits; better skin, however, may not be one of them.

“To keep skin well hydrated, you still need to apply a topical moisturizer,” explains dermatological surgeon Dr. Joel Schlessinger. “The water [you drink] won’t affect the outermost layers of skin that are often in need of the most moisture.”

That’s no common knowledge, according to our survey results. Consumers put drinking at least eight cups of water a day in the Top 3 while dermatologists ranked it dead last.


Image: Dermatologists Rated This Least Important for Keeping Your Skin Healthy


Retinol — Consumers said it’s No. 10, dermatologists said it’s No. 3

Ever heard of retinol? It seems most consumers haven’t. This form of Vitamin A rejuvenates skin, fights acne, and treats wrinkles and made the Top 3 for what dermatologists recommend to keep skin looking healthy.

Charlotte’s Book expert and New York City dermatologist Dr. Joshua Zeichner says, “Your mid-20s is a reasonable time to start using topical retinol. It stimulates collagen and increases skin thickness and elasticity. For a young person, using retinol is like making sure the skin’s foundation is as strong as possible, so it can resist wrinkling as much as possible as you age.”

Related: Which OTC Retinol Products Are Best?

Consumers, however, ranked it last. Only 9% said it was the most important step you can take for younger-looking skin. This may be because many consumers don’t know what it is. On RealSelf, the term has been searched only a quarter as often as better-known wrinkle-fighters like Botox.


Image: Dermatologists Rated This #3 for Keeping Your Skin Healthy


See how the rest of the Top 10, including sleep, diet, and other known factors that influence the health of skin, looked according to consumers and dermatologists.


List: Answers to "What's Most Important to Keep Your Skin Healthy?"


Have questions about skincare? Ask a doctor.