If you’re new to the skincare game or want to switch up your routine to address specific issues, we first say congratulations.
Any step towards bettering your health is a good one, but with an industry worth more than $100 billion globally, it’s easy to become overwhelmed with hundreds of product options.
One trip to the skincare aisle can have your head spinning by just looking at all the cleansers, toners, serums, and creams available.
With so many options, it’s easy to see how anyone can feel overwhelmed. The truth is, a skincare routine doesn’t need to be complicated to be effective.
What do you mean when you say “skincare”?
We mean the primary care and keeping of your largest organ—your skin!
It plays an essential role in protecting you from outside pathogens and, you know, holds all your internal organs in place.
And in the same way that you regularly brush your teeth, your skin requires at least some attention to keep it functioning correctly.
It also requires protection—from skin cancer, primarily.
Skincare, we’re talking about science-backed ways to improve both the look and function of your skin to address and manage both cosmetic and medical concerns.
This guide is for anyone curious about what it means or what it takes to have a skincare routine but doesn’t know where to start.
Why should I care about skincare?
Yes, caring about skincare might be pretty trendy these days, but no matter what, giving your skin some love has both cosmetic and medical benefits.
For instance, although you can’t slow down the passage of time, with a finely tuned skincare regimen, you can reduce the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, dark spots, and sun damage.
You can also quite effectively manage some more minor skin concerns, such as dryness or oiliness.
For those with specific skin conditions such as psoriasis, eczema, rosacea, and acne, skincare isn’t always optional and requires a bit more thought.
For one, treating a specific skin condition often means you need to employ a particular skincare regimen.
For another, your situation may make your skin more sensitive to ingredients and products in general.
Finding a skincare routine that works can offer a vital way for someone to manage and treat their condition.
There’s also the fact that many people find their skincare routines to have some mental health benefits—having that routine may help you realise just how easy it can be to do nice things for your body and build healthy habits.
We also know that practising skincare can provide benefits not entirely related to your skin. Many people find that sticking to a skincare regimen gives them a routine and sense of control.
Others find that going through their way or even applying the occasional mask relaxes them and helps them focus their attention on themselves, maybe for the only time in their day.
That said, some skincare companies make a lot of big claims about what their products can do without necessarily having the evidence to back them up.
The aim is to help you make the most informed decision before buying or trying a product and to guide you toward the treatment options we know the most about.
What do I need to know before I begin?
Before figuring out what to include in your skincare routine, it’s essential to know your skin type and any significant concerns you want to address.
It’s also good to remember that everyone’s regimen is individual—what works for your friends or family or randos online may not be best for you.
To figure out your skin type, think about how your skin acts without any makeup or products on it a few hours after taking a shower.
If it gets a little greasy or shiny, you probably have oily skin. If it feels dry or flaky, you have dry skin.
If you have dry skin in some places and oily skin in others (usually on the T-zone), you have combination skin.
If you have none of those things, you’re considered to have “normal” skin. Knowing your skin type will help steer you toward products that will manage dryness and oiliness while effectively taking care of any other skin concerns you have.
If your skin tends to get irritated when you use certain products, if you’ve ever had an allergic reaction to a product or certain skin conditions on your face (eczema, psoriasis, rosacea, et cetera), you may have sensitive skin.
People with sensitive skin can have oily, dry, combination, or normal skin too. Still, they may need to take extra care in selecting products that don’t cause irritation or exacerbate skin conditions.
You don’t necessarily need to see a dermatologist before starting a skincare routine.
But if you have sensitive skin (or aren’t sure if your skin qualifies as sensitive), if you have a skin condition, or if you’re trying to address any significant concerns (such as stubborn or severe acne or hyperpigmentation), it’s essential to check in with a board-certified dermatologist who can guide you through the process.
Before Starting A New Skincare Routine
When building a house, it’s essential to establish a proper foundation and lay the groundwork before worrying about the roof and what colour walls to use.
Otherwise, you’re on shaky ground and will soon be disappointed in your new home.
The same is true of skincare. If you don’t have a proper foundation, you’re making everything 100x harder for yourself.
Here are four things you need to know or do before starting your routine to make life easier:
Determine your skin type
One of the first steps on the road to building a skincare routine is determining your skin type.
Different skin types have varying needs that need to be met by skincare products.
Oily skin types may be more concerned with mattifying ingredients than dry skin types that need thick and rich moisturisers.
One easy way to determine your skin type is to observe your skin throughout the day. Is your skin shiny and oily by lunchtime or dry and flakey in the morning? Whatever the case, these characteristics are indicative of your skin type.
As dermatologists, we classify skin into four main types:
- Oily skin: Skin that looks shiny due to an overproduction of oil.
- Dry skin: Skin with dry and flakey areas that may feel tight.
- Sensitive skin: Skin with red and irritated areas that are typically painful to the touch.
- Combination skin: Skin that has a combination of oily and flakey areas.
Adding New Products Into Your Routine
While putting together a routine, you will likely experiment with a few different products before settling on one as you discover how your skin reacts to other skincare ingredients.
The most important thing you can do here is to introduce new products into your routine ONE at a time. That means if you decide you need a new cleanser, you won’t also start using a new moisturiser without giving the cleaner a test run for a couple of weeks.
Two weeks is a long enough time to test whether a skincare product plays nicely with your skin.
You can also do something called a patch test, which applies a small amount of product to a secluded area of your skin (say behind the ear) to check for any allergic reactions or inflammation. This can give you a rough idea of whether you can tolerate it but note that some people take days or even weeks before noticing any adverse reactions, so this isn’t foolproof.
Eating A Skin Healthy Diet
Proper nutrition and a healthy diet is the foundation of every excellent skincare routine!
We believe not even the best skincare products in the world will be able to make up for a shoddy diet ultimately.
Feeding your body the nutrients and vitamins it needs to build that perfect skin you’re looking for is a prerequisite before you start worrying about what products to use.
In some cases, you’ll find that by just changing your diet, your skin problems either improve or go away altogether.
Understanding Product Branding
Skincare is a multi-billion dollar industry. Many people out there want to take your money in exchange for their products, which may or may not work as intended. It’s a good idea to get educated on how these products are branded.
Realise that there is no significant difference between skincare products marketed towards men and women (except for the fragrances they use and the way they are advertised).
The differences between a women’s and men’s skin are minor enough to be negligible—the most significant being a slight pH difference. As long as the product is below a 6 on the pH scale, both genders should be good. Only in commercials are they blown out of proportion.
Another thing to realise is that the buzzwords placed on the products themselves aren’t always trustworthy. Terms like “organic”, “natural”, and “non-comedogenic” are guidelines at best. They shouldn’t be trusted as much as what the ingredient list says in the back.
The basic skincare routine essentials
The beauty of a skincare routine is there are staple must-haves and several options. It’s the options where most people get intimidated or confused. But if you want to cut through the fluff, ensure you have these three essential steps:
If you have a skin condition that requires topical prescription treatments, add that after cleanse and before moisturising.
STEP 1: CLEANSE
Cleansing can be done once or twice a day in the morning and before bed. Double cleansing is for those who wear more makeup or use more sunscreen during the day and want to get every little bit of product off.
Double cleansing usually requires using an oil-based cleanser first to remove as much makeup or product as possible, followed by a water-based or micellar cleanser to remove any excess.
Double cleansing is an optional step.
How to choose the right cleanser for your skin type:
If you have oily skin, gels and gentle foaming cleansers work well to help balance your body’s natural oils.
Be sure to look for products free of sulphates as you don’t want the cleaner to strip too much of your natural oils.
This could lead to your skin overproducing oil to make up for it, resulting in an endless cycle.
For those with dry or sensitive skin, creamier cleansers are the best choice. Many cleansers feature crystals or beads that usually offer some exfoliation.
These cleansers work for multiple skin types but depend on what you want to achieve for your skin.
Sometimes, this physical exfoliation may be too harsh for sensitive skin, so always check the ingredients and what problems they target.
STEP 2: MOISTURIZE
Moisturising should be done every single day.
Moisturizing boosts skin hydration and ensures the stratum corneum, the outer layer of our skin, is working correctly.
When the stratum corneum is hydrated, it protects the other layers of skin from irritation and inflammation, helping the deeper layers of skin stay hydrated.
How to find the right moisturiser for your skin type:
No matter your skin type (hey, oily skin gals, we’re talking to you), moisturising is a step in your skincare routine you shouldn’t skip.
If your skin is not well-moisturised, it can lead to irritation, breakouts, and even acne – the opposite of glowing, healthy, hydrated skin goals.
This little tip goes for those with dry scalp, too. The key is to find a moisturiser with the ingredients that work with your skin type.
Almost all moisturisers contain humectant ingredients and occlusives. Humectants soak up and retain water from the air, and occlusives hold water in.
If you have dry skin, look for moisturisers with ingredients such as hyaluronic acid, which is a potent humectant.
Thicker moisturisers or creams also work better for those with dry skin.
For oily or acne-prone skin, be on the lookout for oil-free moisturisers and lotion formulas that are lighter. Gel moisturisers also work well for oily skin.
How to apply moisturiser:
As moisturiser is a crucial step to every skincare routine, you should know how and when to apply it. After you rinse off your cleanser, apply your moisturiser while the skin is still damp.
The skin absorbs humectant ingredients better while still a little wet, and this will help soak up the product, sinking deep into the skin.
If you’re starting to build your skincare routine or are looking to try a new product, test it out first.
Like you’d swatch a new lipstick or eyeliner, test the moisturiser. This can be done two ways; the first, test a small amount on the inside of your arm.
This area of the body has a thin layer of skin and is similar to the face. Watch for any reactions or irritations.
The second way is to test a small amount of product on the base of your jawline. It’s in a discreet place should any irritation occur.
Try a product out with your regular skincare routine for about a week.
STEP 3: PROTECTION
Finally, protection. This means an SPF product to protect your skin from UV rays – crucial in warmer, summer months, but also essential in fall and winter. While we have your attention, it’s vital to protect your hair from harmful UV rays.
Several moisturisers now do double duty and come with SPF but make sure it’s enough. Dermatologists recommend an SPF of at least 30 for the face. Sunscreen not only protects from the obvious problems such as sunburn but goes back to strengthening the first layer of skin, the stratum corneum.
Protecting your face from UV rays will help prevent further problems such as dryness, irritation, hyperpigmentation and, yes, wrinkles.
We asked whether tanning makes a person look better and if it’s worth your time, but regardless, sunscreen is an essential component of any skincare routine, whether you plan on getting a tan or not.
Did you exfoliate today and use an AHA like glycolic or lactic acid? How about retinoids or benzoyl peroxide?
If so, you need to use sunscreen.
Sunscreen will protect your skin from premature wrinkles, fine lines, and sunspots.
All three harm your appearance and make your skin looks worse. Hyperpigmentation marks left behind from acne also worsen and become darker with sun exposure.
Realise that this thing can happen without you ever burning.
No sunburn ≠ , no skin damage.
Often moisturisers also come with SPF protection so that you can combine the previous step with this one.
If yours doesn’t, you’ll want to apply a thin layer of sunscreen over your face as the last step in your routine, especially if you’re going to be spending time outdoors.
SPF 15 is alright for regular everyday use, but SPF 30+ is better. Make sure you’re using something substantial if it’s going to be sunny out or if you have lighter skin. Darker skin can get away with using a weaker sunscreen, and it may even be ideal. Make sure your skin is producing enough Vitamin D!
Don’t be afraid of going outside and getting some rays but use sunscreen while you’re at it.
Your mission to acquire clear, healthy skin begins with a solid skincare routine.
We’ve put together this super easy to follow guide outlining what a basic routine looks like for those attempting to improve the quality of their skin and need help putting together a way that works.
We’ve simplified this skincare regimen to few steps depending on your individual needs. This makes it very easy to begin without worrying about hundreds of different products and unspoken rules.