As we head into a new year, we encourage readers to take actionable steps toward better skin in 2015 with the specific resolutions. Let’s be honest, many of us mean well when we set new resolutions, but life gets busy and these goals for the year are easily forgotten. If you want better skin, and you mean business, set calendar reminders in your phone for the simple steps below to better skin.

1. Moisturize immediately after shower

Though sun exposure it still the main cause of skin damage and wrinkles, keeping your skin moisturized on a daily basis will help reduce the ashy appearance of skin and prevent skin irritation often caused by dry skin (especially during the winter season). The only thing that can really moisturizer our skin is water. So, we need to moisturize after we turn the water off in the shower but BEFORE you towel off. That’s when we apply our Lubriderm, Curel, Aveeno, etc, and towel off after. Be careful, it can get slippery moisturizing this way. Then another time of the day, after we’re moisturized somewhat, we can use AmLactin a mild AHA lotion to strip off dry skin. If we use this after the shower, it’ll sting though. Also, we may need to back off AHA, retinoids or retinol as well as acne products like benzoyl peroxide and use them less frequently in the winter months. Regimens that work for our skin in the summer may be too drying in the winter. Conversely, we can tolerate stronger products in the spring and summer as opposed to the dry winter months.

2. Clean make-up brushes monthly

Dirt, old makeup, oils, bacteria, and even dead skin cells can and will build up in your cosmetic brushes over time. A dirty brush will transmit these to your skin and not only can this create breakouts and contaminate your makeup, but you also risk the chance of developing a more serious infection. Dermatologists recommended at least weekly brush cleanings, don’t let your busy schedule interfere with cleaning your brushes.

3. Keep your hands off your face

It’s not an easy habit to break, but it is an important one to rid. Your hands are full of blemish-causing germs and oil and you don’t want to transfer those onto your face. In addition, picking can lead to permanent scarring. Darker skinned people will get pigmentation following an acne bump or bug bite, these are rarely scars (meaning they are not permanent), but can take months to resolve. AHAs or retinoids (Retin-A and it’s relatives like Differin or Tazaroc) can help fade this pigmentation more quickly.

4. Clean your cell and work phone

You’d be shocked to discover how many germs are on your cell or work phone. Have a touch screen phone? You most likely have more of those germs and bacteria. Wipe down your electronic devices you use on a daily basis with a cotton pad moistened with rubbing alcohol. Be careful not get any inside the speaker or headphone holes. Don’t forget to wipe down your phone at work, too!

5. Exfoliating and toners

Many people swear by scrubs that exfoliate and the use of toners. I believe in more gentle exfoliation by using AHAs like glycolic acid or retinoids, not by physical exfoliation which can be irritating. Exfoliating with topical products as opposed to abrasive washes forms a better skin barrier that is more resistant to outside insults. Some people with oily skin swear by toners. I think if you’re using the right cleanser for your skin, they are not necessary in general and can dry your skin.

6. Sunscreen each and EVERY day

We can’t say this one enough. The sun will damage your skin, especially when you are not wearing protection. The sun is the strongest at 10 AM to 4 PM. If you are outside (or anytime for that matter) always wear at least an 30 SPF! And no, sun screen in your makeup does not count-people almost never apply enough to get the SPF on the bottle. If you’re in the surf, working out and sweating outside-a waterproof “sport” sunscreen product is the way to go. Coppertone Sport in the blue bottle dries with a ‘no slip grip’ that actually helps you hold onto your racket, football, golf club, whatever. The Coppertone Kids’ Sport smells nice and also stays where you put it. I’ve also had good luck with Banana Boat Sport SPF. For daily wear, sport sunscreens may be too heavy, that’s why you will also need a daily wear SPF product. Try LaseResults® AM Repair & Protect Lotion SPF 30 – it will not only protect your skin from harmful UV rays, it will also help fight off premature aging and improve the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and enlarged pores. One thing people don’t often know is that most people get the majority of sun-exposure while driving in our cars. Sadly, we spend WAY more time driving ourselves and others around than we do at the beach (if this doesn’t apply to you…I am very jealous). Car windows let in 70% of UVA, while blocking the burning UVB rays. The warmth of the sun is not what I’m talking about-UVA is invisible and we really can’t feel it either. Totally CLEAR window film (Llumar film or 3M) can block 99% of the UV rays, and you really can’t tell it’s there. There is no need for dark film to block the UV rays.

7. Stick to a skin care regimen

Be consistent. Dr. Eric Bernstein says, “I cannot stress enough the important of the consistency in a daily skin care regimen. The best way to develop a perfect routine is by asking your dermatologist what topical products are best for your skin type.” After years of being asked for his recommended skin care products and having no product line that offered everything he wanted, Dr. Bernstein set out to customize the ideal skin care system for his patients. Now, users are raving about its results, stating “they don’t leave home without it.”

8. Wash your pillowcase weekly

It may be too time consuming to wash your entire bedding each week, but it’s time you make your pillow case a priority… washing at least once a week. Your pillow and pillow case can hold bacteria that can cause your skin to break out. So remember to toss in your pillow cases during your next load of laundry and watch your skin improve.

9. Balanced diet for optimal skin care

Eating healthy not only makes you look good, but feel good as well. Your energy levels will get a boost when you are eating foods rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and efficient sources of energy. Healthy food also helps build your strength and your body’s muscles and bones. Generally speaking, a good diet helps the skin – what’s good for the body is good for the whole body, including the skin. However, it’s tough to eat enough of anything to measure a large amount in the skin. In fact, one great thing about the skin is that it’s easily accessible for us to apply cream, lotions, gels, ointments, etc. In addition, lasers are enhancing penetration of topical products making them even more effective. Too much of any one substance isn’t a good thing either. Think “balanced.”

10. Quit smoking

Smoking cuts off the flow of oxygen in your body and that will leave your skin looking dull. Cigarette smoke gets absorbed directly into the skin around the mouth, aging it in a way similar to sun-damage. Wrinkles come from both the sun and smoking, as do enlarged pores. The act of pursing your lips is not what causes the lines around the mouth-it’s the free-radical damage to the skin around the mouth that allows the muscle attachments to show. The same thing happens from the sun on our foreheads-the sun damage allows the muscle attachments to show, but little kids move their heads all day long and we don’t see lines on them-that’s because their skin isn’t damaged yet by the sun or by smoking. Quitting is super, super tough, but if skin damage can get folks to quit-more power to them. Laser treatments and other cosmetic procedures heal better and achieve better results in non-smokers.

11. Get more sleep

Unfortunately, as we age, lack of sleep affects us more deeply and shows more prominently on our faces. Lackluster complexions, dark circles, and a sallow complexion can result when we don’t sleep enough. Your body needs to re-charge, and sleep does just that. Progressive loss of cellular water may be one reason sleepless nights affect our skin more visibly as we age. Water retention is crucial to keep skin moisturized and supple, which can result in fewer lines and a smoother complexion. The ideal amount ranges from 6-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep. This is easier said than done of course, but focusing on getting enough sleep will change your whole life.