Table of Contents

There are few people I trust more than Hadley King, MD, a 46-year-old New York City-based dermatologist. She’s a straight shooter, she seriously knows her sh*t, and she’s not going to sell me (or you!) on anything you don’t need. With a medical degree from Columbia and a face made of porcelain, I trust her with my life—and my epidermis—completely.

With that in mind, I had to ask: What ingredients does use on her own skin every day? Unsurprisingly, her daily picks are clinically-backed, ultra-powerful staples you’re definitely already familiar with: SPF, vitamin C, and retinol. For women in their 40s, like Dr. King, these ingredients should be non-negotiable. Together, they work to protect skin from future damage while also helping to repair any damage that’s already occurred, which means they fight signs of aging on two fronts.

Below, Dr. King explains why these three ingredients are truly the ones she can’t live without, and why they should hold the same type of “non-negotiable” status in your routine, too.

SPF

EltaMD UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46

EltaMD UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46 — $37.00

Dr. King’s absolute must-have, above all else, is sunscreen. “I use zinc oxide [a key ingredient in SPF] for sun protection every single day,” she says. There are so many dermatologist-approved sunblocks to choose from, so finding the best one for you comes down to your skin type. But this much is clear: have a solid SPF in your routine, every day, without fail. It’s clinically proven to prevent skin cancer and signs of aging, making it well worth the 10 seconds it takes to apply every a.m.

Vitamin C

Hyper Skin Dark Spot Vitamin C Serum — $36.00

Long considered the ‘little black dress’ of your skincare cabinet, Dr. King uses a vitamin C serum on her skin every single morning. “Vitamin C (and other antioxidants) helps to protect my skin from free radicals,” she says. Free radicals are known to cause oxidative stress, which leads to signs of aging, and vitamin C effectively gobbles them up before they can do any damage. Plus, beyond these health benefits, it can also help brighten your complexion.

Retinol

Avène Retrinal 0.1 Intensive Cream — $70.00

As for evening non-negotiables, a solid retinol is key. “I use retinoids at bedtime to increase collagen production, decrease discoloration, and decrease acne,” says Dr. King. Retinol has absolutely exploded in popularity in the past few years, triggering some facial FOMO for those who have yet to experience its glory. But the derms have spoken: it’s cell-turnover-stimulating prowess is legit, and they love it for treating all sorts of different skin issues. If it’s good enough for Dr. King, it’s good enough for me.

Oh hi! You look like someone who loves free workouts, discounts for cutting-edge wellness brands, and exclusive Well+Good content. Sign up for Well+, our online community of wellness insiders, and unlock your rewards instantly.

Our editors independently select these products. Making a purchase through our links may earn Well+Good a commission.