Ah, skincare…a buzzword, a trend across social media, a necessity, according to all the major fashion and lifestyle bloggers…But the question remains: how can we actually get started in skincare? Sure, I want to have glowing, flawless skin, but the world of skincare is extremely daunting to someone who doesn’t know the difference between a serum and a mask. Oils, moisturizers, peels, oh my! What does it all mean? While a simple personalized checklist may not exist, the overwhelm regarding skincare certainly does. That’s why I created this guide: I am certainly not an expert (and everyone’s skin is different), but I did do the research, so you don’t have to, with the hopes of simplifying the idea of a routine and making it easier to start. Because I figure, why wouldn’t we all be participating in skincare if it meant a healthy, vibrant complexion for years to come? The answer: it’s too complicated. Well (hopefully) not anymore.
Why Is Skincare So Important?
Just like exercising regularly or eating (sort of) healthy, skincare is important because it takes care of your body and your largest organ (part of your integumentary system! Thanks high school anatomy class). Here are some more quick reasons for why you should start a routine stat:
- Prevention is much better than trying to fix a problem down the line! By taking care of your skin now while you’re young, you can be proactive in fighting against skin ailments like dark spots, sun exposure, and wrinkles, and even help prevent against serious problems like skin cancer.
- Your skin protects you from the harsh outside world, so the least you can do is protect it a little in return.
- A skincare routine now can help fight signs of aging before they even begin, which will keep you looking fresh and healthy for years to come.
- You can reduce problems like redness, dryness, and acne by using the right products, resulting in your most confident self! Who doesn’t want that?!
- Your skin cells are constantly dying and regenerating, and according to the wellness website Self, this turnover begins to slow by age 25…which can leave your skin looking dull. A skincare routine can help put your best layer of skin forward and make sure your complexion is always glowing to match your personality.
With all these amazing benefits, it seems shocking that not everyone would have some sort of routine. The biggest barrier, as I mentioned, is the difficulty of getting started. But the second biggest barrier? Cost. Unfortunately, skincare is really expensive…and there’s just no way around it. It stinks and makes it hard to try out different products, but think of it this way: you’re making an investment. By putting down the money up front to take care of your skin now, you can avoid much costlier procedures and products down the line.
The Importance of Removing Your Makeup First
I don’t wear makeup on a regular basis, but I still know that it’s SO important to remove your makeup every night before you go to sleep…no matter how tired you are. Sleeping with makeup on can clog your pores, lead to premature wrinkling, increase acne, and result in many other negative side effects. Make sure you remove all of your products before starting your skincare at night. I found from many sources that you should first use a makeup removing wipe or micellar water (an alcohol-free product that attracts dirt/makeup and breaks it down) to remove your makeup, and then follow it up with a traditional cleanser. Double duty means higher chances that your skin is makeup-free, which makes it more likely that you’ll wake up with a healthy, glowing complexion! You can read more about the importance of removing your makeup in this article.
Skin Types Explained
When reading up on skincare, they always mention 4 main skin types. But what use is that if you have no idea what they mean? Below, I briefly summarize the significance of each type, using Bio Clarity and Eucerin as sources.
- Normal Skin Type: Characterized by rare patches of oiliness and dryness (if at all) that are easy to heal. There is an even skin tone with small, unnoticeable pores and few (if any) blemishes. Normal skin is not synonymous with perfect skin, but it is a rather good place to be.
- Dry Skin Type: Characterized by tightness, flaking, or irritation, and is a result of a lack of sebum, a natural oil your skin produces. People with dry skin should use cream moisturizers to help balance sebum production and should avoid harsh cleansers, which dry the skin out even more.
- Oily Skin Type: Characterized by visible pores and an excess of sebum, which can clog the skin and cause pimples/acne. People with oily skin shouldn’t try to dry it out but rather apply a face oil product (it seems counterintuitive, but by adding oil, your skin doesn’t feel the need to overproduce).
- Combination Skin Type: Characterized by a mix of oily and dry skin. This is the most common skin type and often involves the infamous “T-zone” which is an oily region consisting of your chin, nose, and forehead, forming the shape of a capital T. Cheeks are usually the dry or normal skin type.
Only the Essential Products
Now we’re getting into the good stuff…In a skincare world of a million brands, types of products, and bloggers swearing that their bottles of goo and their routine are the absolute best, skincare gets real complicated, real fast. I feel overwhelmed just researching the basics! However, my goal for this post is not to sell you on the products I use. Rather, I just want to explain the types of products you should use to start on a very basic skincare routine. When it boils down to it, a beginner’s regimen really only requires three items: a cleanser, a moisturizer, and some sort of SPF. It really can be as simple as that! In my little routine, I use five main products (and not every one is used every night) so I keep it very manageable and timely. Below I dissect these five simple, easy-to-use product types to get you started on your very first regimen.
Why do you absolutely have to have a cleanser? Cleansers work as a soap to clean your skin every morning and night. It helps unclog pores and lift all the dirt and nasty stuff from your skin that can, if left untreated, lead to pimples and other no bueno blemishes. Even though it’s tempting, you shouldn’t be using cleansers with small beads in them or ones that make your face “tingle.” As the esthetician who does my facials told me, those little beads that feel so satisfying on your skin are actually irritating it and scrubbing away the hydrated layer that protects against irritants. And that tingling feeling that makes you feel sparkly clean? It’s doing the same thing—stripping your skin of its natural defense. Instead, if you want that feeling of removing dead skin, you can use an exfoliator, but it should only be used once or twice a week!
Dry Skin: For people with dry, red, or eczema-prone skin, a cream cleanser is the way to go, according to this NY Times article. Cream cleansers work to hydrate your skin and reduce the appearance of impurities, balancing them back to a healthy state.
Oily or Acne-Prone Skin: People with this skin type should use a foaming liquid cleanser. The foam bubbles to break down dirt and remove excess sebum from pores. My skin has had a lot of acne the past few months, so I recently switched to a foaming cleanser and love it. I use this Citrus Herbal Cleanser from Epicuren. It smells so good and leaves my skin feeling vibrant and fresh. I prefer the bubbly cleansers over cream ones just because of how it feels when I wash, but you should use whatever type of product matches your skin type.
Sensitive Skin: For people who have sensitive skin, an oil-based cleanser will be soothing and moisturizing to help ease an otherwise-irritated complexion.
So How Exactly Do You Cleanse?
Using your cleanser should be the first step in your skincare routine both in the morning when you wake up and at night before you go to bed (but after you remove your makeup). Before touching your face or beginning any skin-related regimen, you should always wash your hands. Make sure to read the directions on your cleanser because it usually says how much you need. For my cleanser, I use just a pea-sized drop after wetting my face. I then rub my hands together to activate the bubbles and start to GENTLY run the bubbles all across my face. The key word is gently. I know it’s tempting to scrub because you feel like you’re removing all the dead skin and yuckiness, but as I said before, that can actually do more harm than good. Gently massage the bubbles all around your face before rinsing them off in lukewarm water. Hot water can be drying, strip your skin of natural oils, and cause premature wrinkles, so try to avoid the temptation! Unfortunately, splashing your face with water and having all the suds wash away isn’t as easy as all the Neutrogena commercials make it seem. It is important, however, to make sure you remove all the bubbles, especially along your hair line. Leaving residue can clog your pores and—you guessed it—lead to pimples.
When you dry your face, even the way you use your washcloth can have an effect on your skin. The goal is to pat your face dry—don’t rub or scrub because this can irritate the skin. Again, the key is being gentle. Ideally you should be using a different washcloth every day, but that’s not always possible (as a college student, I know the struggle of doing laundry). Instead, make sure you’re using your washcloth only for your face. You should always use a different towel to dry your hands to prevent the build up of dirt or oils on the fabric.
After I cleanse my face, I follow it up by applying a moisturizer, both in the morning and at night. Moisturizers help restore moisture to your face (duh), which can prevent drying after the use of cleansers or especially during the cold winter months. Moisturizers also prevent flakiness and give your complexion a nice glow due to the hydration, which increases the softness.
Dry Skin: For people with dry skin, using a thicker, cream moisturizer can help lock in water and keep your face from further flaking/drying out.
Oily or Acne-Prone Skin: For those with oily skin, Paula’s Choice recommends that liquid and gel moisturizers work best. They won’t clog pores and will instead lock in extra oil, meaning your skin will produce less of it (so less acne).
Normal or Combination Skin: For this skin type, using lotion moisturizers work best to acclimate to the varying skin consistencies.
I use this Osea Blemish Balm as my moisturizer for my acne-prone skin. Again, it smells amazing (like I just left the spa), but more importantly, it leaves my skin feeling soothed and even. It’s lightweight, and unlike a lot of moisturizers I’ve tried, it doesn’t clog my pores.
To use a moisturizer, squirt a little in the palm of your (clean) hand. A little goes a long way, so you probably only need a pea-sized amount. To apply it properly, you should pat it all over your face until it’s fully absorbed. I, however, am really bad at this and end up rubbing it into the different areas of my face. Rubbing can stretch out your skin though, which will lead to wrinkles in the long run, so try to pat the product instead. Don’t forget to add moisturizer to your neck as well because besides your face, your neck is one of the first places that shows aging. When doing this, be sure to pull it up gently towards your face, not down toward your body. You don’t want to help gravity out by rubbing down!
You guys…do I really need to talk about how important sunscreen is?? I know it’s a hassle and usually greasy, but I can’t stress it enough. Not only will wearing SPF every day help prevent sun spots, wrinkles, and other signs of premature aging, but it will also help reduce the chances of skin cancer, which is so incredibly important. Wearing sunscreen goes beyond just wanting to look and feel good; it really is critical to your overall health.
Some moisturizers come with SPF built in, which works if the only time you spend outside is walking from your car to your school/work building. However, it’s best to find an SPF product that stands alone. When you mix products to speed up the process of your routine, it usually diminishes the effectiveness of each product involved. That’s why it’s best to find a sunscreen like these Coola Sun Silk Drops. After applying my moisturizer in the morning, I use this dropper to put a silk “drop” on each section of my face and rub it in gently. I really love this SPF product because unlike traditional sunscreens, it isn’t thick and greasy feeling. I easily apply it and am left feeling non-oily and confident that I’m taking good care of my skin.
Okay, so that concludes the three MUST-HAVE items for the most basic of skincare routines. But what else have I incorporated into my own regimen? Two to three times a week I use a skin peel at night, which acts as a non-abrasive exfoliator for dead skin. I’ve also incorporated a face oil as a first step to anti-aging and creating a glowing complexion. While these two extra steps aren’t necessary as a beginner, they are super easy and non-time-consuming ways to cover all the bases of skincare: cleansing, moisturizing, sun damage control, exfoliation, and anti-aging.
What even is a skin peel? Peels are a type of exfoliator that help to speed up the process of cell turnover, which removes the top layer of your skin. These work better than scrub exfoliators because they aren’t as harsh and abrasive. Peels can help maintain a glowing, even complexion, since its job is to get rid of the dull top layer, and they can speed up the reduction of acne scars and other blemishes.
Because skin peels most often contain some sort of acid, it’s really important that you follow the directions carefully. Only use peels at night and never put on makeup afterwards, which can clog your pores. Also be sure to follow a peel with a good moisturizer.
I use this Epicuren Clear Glycolic Skin Peel, as recommended by my esthetician. I start by cleansing my face like I usual would. Then I add a dime size squirt of the peel (which has a very watery consistency) to one of these cotton pads and start to gently rub the pad along my whole face, starting from the top and working my way down. Don’t forget to also include your neck. After applying the skin peel, I wait a minute for it to dry and then apply my moisturizer like usual. Lots of peels and similar products make your skin especially sensitive to the sun, so be sure to stay diligent about applying your SPF!
Last but not least, face oil. I first heard of this product from one of my favorite fashion bloggers, Jenna at Visions of Vogue. She’s a safe-beauty guru and knows everything there is to know about skincare. Face oil is the product she raves about most, so I finally decided to give it a try.
As I mentioned before, putting oil on your face can seem like a risky move and super counterintuitive. However, by adding oil to your skin, your skin will actually produce less natural oils and therefore not clog your pores/create pimples. Face oil also has anti-aging properties, working to reduce fine lines. The product can plump your skin and give it that perfect natural glow, as well as lock in moisture, brighten, and calm any irritation/redness. You can read more about the uses of face oil in Jenna’s article.
I started using face oil at the beginning of December, and I’ve noticed my skin has been less dry and my pores are visibly smaller. Also, I had one wrinkle forming on my forehead, but now you can barely see it. I’ll be honest, I thought after hearing everyone rave about this miracle product that all my skin issues would go away…which wasn’t the case. I have been struggling with bad acne since November and just started a dermatologist treatment to combat it (which I think is working). But face oil isn’t designed to get rid of acne, so I shouldn’t have expected it to do so! Once I get my skin back to its usual, clear self, I think I’ll be able to see the benefits of face oil much clearer.
I’ve been using a sample bottle of Beauty Counter’s #1 Brightening Face Oil, and I really have noticed a significant difference in the natural glow of my skin since I started using it. To apply face oil, you never want to put it directly on your skin. This is the one exception where you actually want to mix it into your moisturizer and then gently apply. When you first start using oil, only use one drop and only use it at night. A little goes a long way, and if you use too much, you can break out. Mix the oil into your moisturizer in the palm of your hand and then gently press on your face to apply (unlike me in this picture, who is rubbing it around like war paint. I really to need to stop this bad habit). When you’re done you’ll feel a little shiny, but just give it a few seconds to dry before crawling into bed. Face oil in your moisturizer should be the last step of your nightly skincare routine.
So just to recap, the most basic of skincare routines requires a cleanser, a moisturizer, and an SPF product, in that order. If you want to add a skin peel and face oil to that routine, start by cleansing your face, then apply the skin peel, then drop your face oil into your moisturizer and apply that as one. The peel and face oil part of your routine should only be done at night.
Once you start adding more products to your regimen, the order of application can get confusion. A general rule of thumb is to apply the lightest consistency (the most watery products) first and then work your way up to the thick, heavily textured products last (like your moisturizers and creams).
I know that was a ton of information, but hopefully I broke it down enough so you can understand the basic steps and products involved in a beginner’s skincare routine. Do you currently have a skincare regimen? If not, did this post make it seem easier to start one? I’d love to know your thoughts. I put a ton of time and research into this post and learned SO much, so hopefully y’all did too. Let me know if it was helpful and if you enjoy this kind of blog post. Have a fantastic weekend!
Miles of smiles,