Antioxidant Serum: No matter your skin type, you should use an antioxidant product at least once a day, because it's one of the first lines of defense the body uses to fight free radicals caused by environmental assaults, like ultraviolet (UV) rays and pollution, says Hale. (It's the damage from sun and smog that can cause fine lines and sun spots.) "Regardless of your skin type, in order to ensure that you're getting an antioxidant formula that is both stable and effective, you need to pay a bit more," says Tina West, M.D., the director of the West Institute, in Chevy Chase, Maryland. One formula that is doctor-vetted and won't clog pores: SkinCeuticals Serum 20 AOX+ ($119, dermstore.com). You should put it on in the morning, because the daytime is when you need the most protection. But if you have very oily skin, morning application of some products may make you feel too tacky. In that case, find an antioxidant that comes in gel form to avoid that feeling.
Retinoid: Not only are retinoids great anti-agers "but there's also no better treatment for acne than a retinoid," says Rogers. As with the antioxidant serum, many dermatologists say it's worthwhile to pay a bit more for a proven (non-drugstore) formula when you're battling both acne and aging, especially since that's the only nighttime treatment you need. A prescription-strength formula would probably be the most effective. "The closest you can get to that in an over-the-counter product is SkinCeuticals Retinol 1.0 ($70, dermstore.com). Because it's the strongest product available over the counter, that necessitates starting slowly to avoid irritation," says Rogers. Apply to dry skin after washing or over your antioxidant serum, if you choose to use a serum before bed. Rogers points out that you need to use only a pea-size drop of most retinoid creams. The amount is so small, most tubes will last almost a year, so even a $120 tube translates to about $10 a month. (Pay attention to the expiration date. Even though the product may still work, it may be weaker.)