What Is the Best Simple Skin Care Routine?

With the beauty aisles overflowing with supposed "must-haves," deciphering a skincare routine is more complicated than ever. Packed shelves and too-good-to-be-true claims often make beauty and skin shopping more confusing than helpful. I mean, how many must-haves does one person need?

We all know caring for your skin is necessary for both your overall health and diminishing signs of aging, but with so many new products and wild beauty trends popping up everywhere, finding a simple skin skincare routine, let alone sticking to it, seems near impossible.

But even if you're committed to keeping your skincare routine as simple as possible, there are still a few rules to follow. To get to the bottom of the skincare puzzle, we spoke to a few skincare experts to figure out precisely what you need to do—at the very least—to take care of your skin.

Basic Skin Care Routine

Here's everything you need to know on the skincare basics so your skin will be cleansed, feel refreshed and prepared for each morning, and cared for each night.

Step 1: Cleanse

Make cleansing step one of a simple skincare routine.

Make cleansing step one of a simple skincare routine. Should you wash your face in the morning and evening? Yes. Even if a few short minutes is all, you have, freshly cleansed skin twice a day is an excellent place to start your routine. A great cleanser will rid your skin of dirt and impurities (and makeup, too!) without leaving your skin feeling taut and dry. It'll prep your skin for your next skincare steps, meaning products like your moisturizer will work better.

Missed your alarm? Skip your regular morning skincare routine and speed things up by trying a facial cleansing wipe as your morning cleanser while you brew your morning joe. Rocked a bold red lip today? A facial cleansing oil will melt away makeup remains without drying out your skin.

Step 2: Tone

Try a toner to prep skin for moisturizer

To tone or not to tone? It's a personal preference, but we like to sweep a soaked cotton pad across the skin to help remove excess oils and dead skin cells (and keep our skin feeling happy!). It's great to help pep up and refresh skin, mainly if yours includes ingredients like Witch Hazel (to help tighten pores) and calming Chamomile. Running short on time? Save this step for the evening to remove any last traces of makeup at the end of the day.

Check out these top benefits of Witch Hazel!

If you have the time and inclination, here are some hero ingredients to look for: 

Step 3: Serum & Booster

Add serum or booster when you've more minutes to spare

Does your skin need a little something extra? We're talking boosters and serums! These little skincare saviors are targeted products that contain active ingredients to boost your skin and give it more of what it needs. When to apply a booster? We say after cleansing (and toning) but before moisturizing.

If your skins feeling dehydrated and lacking in radiance (hello, glow, where are you?), try a product, which includes PENTAVITIN®, a plant extract, which instantly quenches thirsty skin for up to 48 hours. Need to get out the door like, now? Add a dash to your moisturizer and apply in one step to save those precious minutes.

Step 4: Moisturize

Moisturising is the super-important finisher in any daily skincare routine.

A moisturizer—you guessed it—will help protect your skin from losing moisture (keeping it feeling supple and plump!). A not-so-great moisturizer? It Will probably leave skin still feeling tight and dry, and breakouts can happen as your skin tries to adjust. Look out for ingredients like Vitamin E, Glycerin, Pro-Vitamin B5 and Borage Seed Oil, which are all great moisturizers for your skin. We like to warm up our moisturizer between our palms before applying—it smooths on like a charm!

women applying volcano ash cream

Step 5: Mask & Exfoliate

The extras: tips to try in a spare moment

OK, we know, not quite part of a daily skincare routine, but these few steps are significant if you have more time—your skin will love you for it! A deep cleansing clay mask is ideal if your skin is a bit oily—plus, it'll help shrink the look of pores and absorb impurities and dead skin cells. An exfoliator? A scrub that uses tiny particles (like rice powder) to help gently buff away dead skin cells from your skin, revealing brighter skin underneath (remember to do a patch test before you start!).

When exfoliating, we like to give our hairline some attention—especially around our neck and ears—as sometimes, skincare products and makeup can build up here. The trick? Keep these skincare steps to once or twice a week and start slowly, so you don't irritate your skin. It'll help keep skin feeling calm (and soft and smooth, too!).

The Perfect 9-Step Skincare Routine

Whether you have a three- or nine-step routine, there's one thing anyone can do to improve their skincare, which is to apply products in the proper order. No matter your skin concerns, you'll want to start with a clean, toned base, then use concentrated, active ingredients, and finish by sealing in moisture—and, of course, SPF in the daytime. Here are the steps for a good skin care regimen:

Wash your face. 

Morning and night, rinse your face water and rub a small amount of gentle cleanser between clean palms. Massage face washes all over your face using gentle pressure. Rinse your hands and massage your face with water to rinse your face until you've removed the cleanser and grime. Gently pat your face dry with a soft towel. If you wear makeup, you may need to cleanse twice at night. First, remove your makeup with cleansing oil or micellar water. Try leaving dedicated eye makeup removers on for a couple of minutes to allow the makeup to come off more quickly and avoid rubbing your eyes. Follow up with a full-face gentle cleanse.

Apply toner.

If you use toner, apply after cleansing your face and before everything else. Pour a few drops of toner into your palms or a cotton pad and gently wipe onto your face. If your toner is exfoliating—meaning that it removes dead skin cells with ingredients like glycolic acid—use it only at night. Hydrating formulas can be used twice a day. Do not use exfoliating toner and retinoids or other exfoliators at the same time.

Apply serum. 

Morning is a great time to use a serum with antioxidants—like a brightening vitamin C serum—because they protect your skin from free radicals, you'll encounter throughout the day. Nighttime is an excellent time to use a moisturizing serum with hyaluronic acid, which keeps your skin from drying out at night, especially if you're using anti-aging or acne treatments that can irritate and dry out the skin. Serums can also contain exfoliants such as alpha-hydroxy acids (AHA) or lactic acid. Whatever you're using, always remember: Water-based serums should go underneath moisturizer; oil-based serums should be applied after moisturizer.

Apply eye cream. 

You can apply regular moisturizer to your under-eye area. Still, if you decide to use a specialized eye cream, you'll typically want to layer it underneath moisturizer since eye creams tend to be thinner than face moisturizers. Try using an eye cream with a metal roller-ball applicator and storing it in the fridge to counteract puffiness in the morning. Using a hydrating eye cream at night can cause fluid retention that makes eyes look puffy in the morning.

Use spot treatment. 

It's a good idea to use acne spot treatments at night when your body is in repair mode. Be wary of layering acne-fighting ingredients like benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acids with retinol, which can irritate. Instead, make sure you're doing the most to keep your skin calm and hydrated.

Moisturize. 

Moisturizer both hydrates skin and locks in all the other layers of product you've applied. Look for a lightweight lotion for the morning, ideally with SPF 30 or higher. In the evening, you can use a thicker night cream. Those with dry skin may want to use a cream morning and night.

Apply retinoid. 

Retinoids (vitamin A derivatives including retinol) can reduce dark spots, breakouts, and fine lines by increasing skin-cell turnover, but they can also be irritating, especially for sensitive skin. If you use retinoids, know that they break down in the sun, so they should only be used at night. They also make your skin extra sensitive to the sun, so sunscreen is a must.

Apply face oil. 

If you use face oil, make sure to apply it to your other skincare products since nothing else will penetrate the oil.

Apply sunscreen. 

It may be the last step, but nearly any dermatologist will tell you that sun protection is an essential part of any skincare regimen. Protecting your skin from UV rays can prevent skin cancer and signs of aging. If your moisturizer doesn't contain SPF, you still need to wear sunscreen. For chemical sunscreens, wait 20 minutes before going outside for the sunscreen to be effective. Look for broad-spectrum SPF, meaning that your sunscreen protects from both UVA and UVB radiation.

simple skin care morning routine

The Routines for Different Skin Types

Now that we've discussed the basics, here are our 3-step suggestions for every skin type:

Normal

Lucky you! Your skin can work with almost any product. To keep your ~flawless~ complexion in pristine condition, show some care by cleansing it every day and use brightening and nourishing products to retain its natural glow.

Ingredients to look for: Fruit and floral extracts; niacinamide, licorice, vitamin C, vitamin E glycerin, nut oils

Oily

Your pores over-produce sebum, leading to a greasy and shiny look. This skin type often goes hand-in-hand with acne, but sometimes that's not the case. The key is to use the right combination of products.

It's best to start with a facial cleanser with antibacterial properties that lifts all deep-seated dirt in the pores. Then, follow it up with a balancing toner to refine your complexion and seal everything in with a gel moisturizer loaded with anti-zit powers.

And yes, oily skin still *needs* moisturizer to keep the grease production low-key and balanced. Go for lightly textured ones that come in gel or oil-free creams.

Ingredients to look for: Witch hazel extract, tea tree oil, aloe vera, rosehip, salicylic acid, alguronic acid, glycolic acid

Dry

Your pores don't produce sebum at all, which is also a bad thing. This leads to a flaky complexion, and sometimes, it accelerates the appearance of fine lines, sagging, and wrinkles! To counter this, use rich, cream- or oil-based products. 

Ingredients to look for: Hyaluronic acid, glycolic acid, rosehip oil, marula oil, argan oil, aloe vera, glycerin

Combination

If you have dry cheeks and an oily T-zone, you've got a combo complexion! While it may seem challenging to cater to two skin types at once, we recommend searching for ingredients/products that can treat both oily and dry skin types! 

Take note, though. It's best to steer clear of heavy + rich moisturizers and sleeping masks as these can block the pores in your forehead, nose, and chin.

Ingredients to look for: Green tea extract, niacinamide, willow bark extract, salicylic acid, horse oil, Tsubaki oil

Anti-aging

When you aim for everything to be firm and supple, you have to use products that nourish your skin from start to finish. Micellar water is an excellent alternative for facial wash, as this provides gentle toning + hydration while getting rid of makeup and dirt. Then, a potent serum partnered with a powerful moisturizer will help lift and plump up your complexion.

Ingredients to look for: Vitamin C, peptides, collagen, algae extract, aloe vera, rosehip, marula oil, retinol

What if I want to do more?

You may be surprised at how, after a few weeks of getting down these basic steps, your other skin concerns calm down. But if they don't, your next steps will depend on your skin's specific needs.

If you have acne, you may want to swap in a cleanser with salicylic acid, a gentle chemical exfoliator, or the occasional spot treatment with benzoyl peroxide. For wrinkles, fine lines, or sun damage, you may want to add an over-the-counter retinoid to start with (and maybe a prescription version later). Interested in managing hyperpigmentation? Brightening agents like hydroquinone or vitamin C may do the trick.

woman skin care routine

But be sure to add just one product at a time and give it at least two weeks before adding something else. If you add multiple things at once and have a bad reaction to something, it will be impossible to know which product was responsible without patch testing. Or if you do see positive results, you won't know which product was responsible for the change.

It's also essential to avoid adding too many products that do the same thing. If you already have one retinoid or exfoliating acid in your lineup, you may find that adding another one doesn't help and is just more irritating.

Whatever you do, be patient. Aside from using too many products, newbies make one of the biggest mistakes to give up too quickly. Everybody thinks that you put on your acne cream, and the next day, all of your acne will be gone. Both over-the-counter and prescription treatments take weeks or months to result in noticeable changes. It's essential to adjust your expectations and be prepared to give a new product two to three months before getting discouraged and giving upon them.

When should you see a dermatologist?

If you're trying to find gentle everyday products and can't seem to land on one that works with your skin, it's time to talk to a dermatologist. Alternatively, suppose you're trying to address a specific skin concern (like acne or hyperpigmentation) and do not see any improvements. In that case, a dermatologist can help figure out the issue and possibly prescribe a more vital medication that may be more effective.

And of course, if you're finding that your skin reacts badly to products and you're not sure why to talk to a dermatologist. They can help you sort through what might be causing that irritation and give you guidelines for avoiding it in the future.

That said, know that finding what works for you will probably take some trial and error. And it will ultimately come down to your individual skin needs and your personal preferences. So the first step is to get out there and try stuff!

It's not enough to have good skincare products: For your products to be most effective, you also need to apply them in the correct order. Your routine will depend on your skin type, the ingredients and formulations of your products, and the time of day. A good rule of thumb is to apply in order of texture, from thinnest to thickest, since light products won't penetrate thicker ones.

Our Volcanic Ash Facial Mask is perfect for those who are tired of their oily or stressed out skin. This powerful raw detoxifier & cleanser will help eliminate built-up impurities and reduce large-sized pores leaving you feeling energetic, vibrant, and whole again.