Find the Right Moisturizer for You
top of page
image (2).webp

Dr. Alpana Mohta Ranka, MD, DNB, IFAAD, is a dual-board-certified dermatologist with over 90 research publications in peer-reviewed scientific journals.


Skincare Hacks I Wish I Knew in My 20s: Tips From a Dermatologist

Updated: Apr 28

As a dermatologist now, I look back at my skincare journey in my 20s with both fondness and frustration. Like many of us in our tweens, I went through a bunch of skin struggles—trying out endless products and routines that just didn't cut it. But everything changed when I got into dermatology. That’s when I finally started to understand why certain things work (or don’t).

It took me five years to learn these hacks, but I will spill them to you in just five minutes. So, get ready for some no-nonsense, straight-to-the-point revelations!

If you don't like reading and are interested in a video summarizing the points, scroll to the bottom of the article.

A 20 something woman looking at herself in the mirror

Hack #1: Sulfur Cleanser for Clean Pores

Instead of sticking to all-things-salicylic acid for clean pores, a sulfur cleanser can elevate your pore-cleansing routine. Sulfur has been studied for its efficacy in treating acne due to its antibacterial and keratolytic properties. As a keratolytic, sulfur breaks down the layers of dead skin cells that clog pores. Results? Your pores stay clear of gunk, oil, and debris.


I advise you to pair your sulfur cleanser with a salicylic acid serum or gel to maximize the benefits of these actives.

My personal favorite is the EradiKate™ 3% Sulfur Daily Foaming Cleanser, followed by 'The Ordinary Salicylic Acid 2% Solution'.

Hack #2: Glycolic Acid for Soft Lips

Applying a low concentration of 1-6% glycolic acid under a layer of Vaseline overnight can transform chapped lips into soft, supple ones. Glycolic acid is a gentle exfoliator that removes dead skin cells and boosts cell turnover. Covering it with Vaseline helps lock in the acid and moisture.


I recommend using Sesderma Acglicolic Liposomal Serum with 6% glycolic acid under Vaseline Original Petroleum Jelly for best results.

For those new to glycolic acid, a gentler option like the L'Oreal Paris Glycolic Bright Skin Brightening Serum at 1% concentration is a good starting point.

Hack #3: Benzoyl Peroxide Cleanser in the Shower

Believe it or not, sweat itself doesn’t actually smell. It’s what happens when sweat meets the bacteria on our skin that things start to get a bit stinky.

Specifically, when the sweat from apocrine glands—found mainly in the armpits, groin, and under breasts—is broken down by the bacteria living on the surface of our skin, the interaction causes that all-too-familiar body odor. That’s where benzoyl peroxide comes in. It’s an antibacterial that kills the body odor-causing bacteria without the risk of developing bacterial resistance.


A quick one-minute cleanse with a 4% benzoyl peroxide cleanser in the shower can keep body odor at bay all day. I like PanOxyl Acne Foaming Wash for its strength and quick action.

Hack #4: Moisturizer under Saran Wrap for Plump Under Eyes

Before you spend on eye masks, try this: your favorite moisturizer under cling film for 10 minutes. It traps heat and moisture, making your moisturizer work overtime to mimic expensive eye masks. This hack is a neat trick from dermatology to enhance percutaneous absorption through occlusion.


My pick? CeraVe Moisturizing Cream under Saran wrap for a hydrating and lifting effect that lasts for a good 4-6 hours.

Hack #5: Ketoconazole Shampoo for Hair Regrowth

Dihydrotestosterone (DHT) is a hormone notoriously known for causing patterned hair loss. It shrinks hair follicles, which leads to thinner hair and baldness.

Clinical research has highlighted that our beloved medicated shampoo, ketoconazole, works a double shift here: It both fights dandruff-causing Malasezzia fungus and blocks DHT, aiding in hair regrowth.


Nizoral A-D Anti-Dandruff Shampoo works wonders. Apply it to your scalp for 10 minutes before rinsing, 2-3 times a week. Pair it with 1 ml 5% Rogaine (Minoxidil) twice daily for men and once for women.

You got it! Women can definitely use 5% Rogaine, even though they're often pushed towards the 2% version at a higher price tag. Several trials show that applying 5% minoxidil once a day works just as effectively as using 2% twice daily for women.

Hack #6: Butt Paste for Eczema Rashes

Butt Paste or, more modestly put, diaper rash creams might not seem like your typical go-to for eczema rashes, but hear me out—they work wonders overnight. How? They are loaded with zinc oxide, which can help soothe inflammation and create a protective barrier for patients with eczema.


Boudreaux's Butt Paste is a 16% zinc oxide-based cream that works really well for broken skin barrier. It's perfect for those with dry, inflamed, and sensitive skin, including patients with eczema, atopic dermatitis, or rosacea.

Hack #7: Non-Foaming Cleanser for Hand Eczema

For those suffering from hand eczema, switching to a non-foaming facial cleanser specifically designed for sensitive skin can prevent further irritation and help maintain moisture.


For the cleanser to do the trick, it's gotta have at least one of these ingredients: ceramide, cholesterol, lipids, glycerine, niacinamide, and cetearyl alcohol – the more, the merrier! Personally, I swear by CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleanser; it ticks all the right boxes for me.

Hack #8: Mattifying Sunscreens as Makeup Primer

Mattifying sunscreens can double as makeup primers, offering sun protection while smoothing out skin texture for makeup application.


The Dermalogica Porescreen Mineral Face Sunscreen SPF 40 is my staple sunscreen for a flawless base under makeup.

Hack #9: AHA and BHA Peel for Pedicures

We all love the idea of pampering our feet, but have you ever considered what goes down during a typical salon pedi? Researchers have found that nail care tools in salons are breeding grounds for the bacteria Staphylococcus, Bacillus, and Streptococcus. Add the risk of nicks and cuts during the process, and you have a potential recipe for a serious skin or nail infection. Solution? Chemical exfoliants!


I suggest using a 20-30% alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) with 1-2% beta hydroxy acid (BHA) peel solution. I use The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution for weekly pedicures to keep my feet smooth and free from dead skin buildup.

Hack #10: Salicylic Acid Under Masks to Prevent Maskne

Let me tell you about the bane of every mask-wearer's existence: maskne. As a doctor, I practically live in masks—since COVID happened. At first, my skin rebelled with a new pimple every frigging day, like it was staging a protest.

But now, I slather on salicylic acid right after moisturizer under my mask, and voila! No more unwanted visitors pop up on my skin. Just remember to always follow up with sunscreen to keep your skin protected from the sun's rays.


Paula's Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant is excellent for daily use under masks.

There you have it—ten low-cost, derm-approved hacks to improve your skincare routine. Better late than never, right? Try them out and see the results for yourself!

And as promised, here's the article I talked about in the beginning of the article.

I am always on the lookout for products that would give you an extra bang for your buck. So, if you want to learn more about such ingenious hacks, become a member of and automatically receive a notification whenever I publish a new article.


bottom of page