In a span of one week, four of my friends told me they didn’t have a skin care routine and asked for advice on how to start one. When I asked why they didn’t already have a beauty regimen in place, the only two reasons I heard were “I don’t know where to start” and “I don’t have time – it seems complicated!” Friends, I get it. There’s so much information available to us, with so many different ways to do things, and all kinds of products to choose from, it’s ridiculously overwhelming! But everyone needs a routine: not only does your skin need to be taken care of, but you deserve to take time out to pamper yourself.
In this post, I’m going to break down a basic routine into five easy steps, and explain the why’s behind each one. We’re going to wade through the confusion together, and you’re going to create a routine personalized to your own needs, using products you like and products that work. Before you know it, you will be the expert in your circle of friends!
How To Start A Skin Care Routine:
5 Basic Steps In A Proper Beauty Routine
5 Basic Steps In A Proper Beauty Routine
Set Yourself Up For Success
Before we begin, I want to encourage you to read the list of steps below and consider what will and won’t work for you time-wise. There’s no point in trying all five steps and giving up on all of them because you don’t have the time. One step is better than no steps, I say.
Also, if you’re an absolute beginner with no skin care products to speak of, the last thing I want is for you to go out and buy a bunch of stuff that doesn’t work for you. Don’t end up with useless products sitting on your vanity – what a waste of money! Go slowly and incorporate steps (and products) into your routine one at a time. There are a couple reasons why going slow is good:
- Slowly adding steps allows you to easily see if your skin likes a certain product or not. If you buy five new products, and something breaks you out, how will you know which one messed up your skin? One new product at a time will help you isolate anything that doesn’t work for you.
- It’s a lot easier on your wallet! Using one thing at a time keeps you from wasting money – you can immediately return what doesn’t work, and spend your cash on something that WILL.
Adding New Steps
Once you’ve chosen which steps you’re willing to commit to, do those steps for a time, and see how things go. Are you actually washing your face regularly? Do you like how your skin looks and feels with just the steps you’re doing? If you can answer “yes” to both questions, then go ahead and add another step. Continue to add steps until you’ve found your ideal routine.
Since I’m breaking down the skin care process, I wanted to include products that have worked for me, in case you needed some recommendations. You can check out my Resources page to see my skin type, skin concerns, and products that are currently on rotation. You’ll get a better understanding of why I’m using what I’m using, and can better gauge whether my recommendation will work for you.
And always remember: it’s your face and your routine, so do what works for you!
STEP 1: CLEAN YOUR FACE
Think of washing your face at night like taking a shower: you need to clean the day off your skin! Pollutants, pollen, germs, sebum, makeup that’s slipping and sliding – all of that is sitting on your skin at the end of the day. Don’t go to bed with it still on your face. You’ll just end up smushing it into your pillow and your pores. Washing your face before you go to bed ensures that your skin has a fighting chance to rest and recuperate while you sleep. Don’t make it sad by keeping it dirty!
There are only two things you need from a good cleanser: it washes off dirt and makeup really well and it doesn’t dry your skin in the process. Facial cleansers don’t need to be fancy or expensive, they just need to thoroughly cleanse your skin without stripping it of its natural oils.
About Washing Your Face In The Morning
There are opposing schools of thought regarding morning face washing. Some people believe that washing your face in the morning is overkill, while others swear by washing their faces twice a day. I do both. On the occasional lazy weekend morning, I rinse my face with just water. Most days, though, I am committed to doing a full face routine. In my opinion, listening to your skin is key. If you wake up and you’re crusty and need to wash it, then wash it! If you don’t wash your face in the mornings, yet have the skin of an angel fresh from Heaven, then, by all means, keep doing what you’re doing. I want to drive home the fact that a skin routine is only as good as your skin looks, so do what’s best for you.
- Burt’s Bees Radiance Cleanser
- Philosophy Purity Made Simple
STEP 2: PREP AND BALANCE YOUR SKIN’S PH WITH TONER
You might be asking, “Jennifer, why can’t I just slap some moisturizer on now? Isn’t that enough? Why toner?” Well, here’s the gist of it: Skin likes to be pH balanced. If you don’t restore it back to its natural pH level with toner, your skin can become susceptible to irritation, pimples, and dryness, with a weakened ability to protect itself from bacteria or germs!
Our skin likes to be slightly acidic at a pH level of 5.5. At this level, our skin is well hydrated, calm, and in good health. When we wash our face, however, the levels get out of whack (cleansers are usually alkaline – the total opposite of where skin wants to be). And that’s why we tone: it helps our skin’s pH rebalance, calm down, and restores hydration. Toning after cleansing will prep your skin to allow the other products you apply to work to their best.
When searching for a toner:
- Keep your skin type in mind and read labels, as some toners contain ingredients that help combat very specific issues
- Avoid products that contain SD alcohol, denatured alcohol, menthol, or witch hazel that contains alcohol. These ingredients will dry out your skin!
- Toner is not the same as ‘astringent’. It may have been the case decades ago (ever heard of Sea Breeze?), but not anymore. Before, toners were used to tighten the skin by removing excess oil, leaving it tight and dry – ouch! Nowadays, even oily skin types should be careful about astringent use. It can strip the skin dry, causing it to overproduce oil. Opt for toners: today they are very gentle and hydrating.
- If you swipe a toner-soaked cotton pad over your face and see dirt or makeup on it, you need a better cleanser. Or you should
try double cleansing!
- Pixi Glycolic Toner
- Heritage Store Rose Petals Rosewater
- Raw Apple Cider Vinegar
- DeVita Cool Cucumber Toner
STEP 3: THE WORK
Now that your skin has been prepped, it’s time to do some work! This is the step where you’d apply all the special products that address your concerns like fine lines, acne, and discoloration. This step is where “actives” and serums come in!
Actives and Serums
“Actives” is short for “active ingredients”. They’re the ingredients that have been scientifically tested and proven to change your skin and are technically considered over the counter drugs. You can see these ingredients specially labeled on the back of skin care packaging. Chemical exfoliants like AHAs and BHAs, antioxidants like Vitamin C, and retinoids are all considered actives.
Using these ingredients is how the skin magic happens. They can actually help you reverse the signs of aging, help control acne, improve your skin’s texture, and even address hyperpigmentation issues! If you want to see your skin really improve, then these are the products you need to use. But please remember, these are still acids! These products help by exfoliating the skin, and if you aren’t careful, you could very well OVERexfoliate and cause damage to your skin. So do your research, consult a dermatologist if you need to, and use one acid product at a time – be careful and go slowly (there’s that word again!). If you don’t feel it’s necessary to use actives, you don’t have to!
Serums contain a high concentration of ingredients that also target specific skin concerns. The difference between serums and actives, though, is that serum ingredients work on skin’s internal structure versus actives that work on the skin’s outside appearance. Serums do not generally contain ingredients that require special labeling like actives and are usually where you’ll see more “exotic” or unusual ingredients like snail mucous (on one end of the spectrum) or plant stem cells.
- DeVita-C Serum
- One Love Organics Vitamin C Brightening Facial Serum
- Estee Lauder Advanced Night Repair Serum
- Missha Borabit Ampoule
STEP 4: MOISTURIZE YOUR SKIN
Finally, moisturizer! Moisturizing your skin is an important step in your beauty regimen. For one, it helps keep all those actives and serums in place, and two, it adds moisture to your skin. Since keeping your skin moisturized is essential to keeping it soft and pliable, it is imperative that you find a moisturizer you like so you actually use it. And no, regular old body lotion won’t cut it. *cringe*
If you want, this would also be the time you’d apply eye cream. I don’t currently have an eye cream in my routine because my undereye skin easily develops milia (white bumps/whiteheads), but I would like to use one eventually and have been looking into gel eye creams. I’m praying I find one that works!
*** See how individual skin care is? If you ever find a step or product isn’t working for you, skip it! ***
How To Apply Moisturizer
When you apply moisturizer onto your face, you want to be gentle and avoid tugging as much as possible. The best way to do that is by rubbing the moisturizer in your hands first, then patting and/or pressing it onto your face. Just like you should pat on eye cream around your eyes with a light touch so as not to tug on the delicate eye area, same goes with the rest of the skin on your face. Be gentle!
- The Face Shop Chia Seed Moisture Recharge Cream
- Philosophy Hope in a Jar Daily Moisturizer
- DeVita Perfecting Time Age Defying Moisturizer with Argireline
- Olay Original Active Hydrating Beauty Fluid (I had an episode some years back and could not handle any other moisturizer. This is simple, basic and great for my sensitive skin. It *does* have fragrance, so keep that in mind if you’re sensitive to that!)
STEP 5A (DAYTIME): PROTECT IT
Now that you’ve taken great care of your skin, you have to protect all the hard work you’re putting into it. One of the most important ways to do that is by using an SPF. Sun damage is the greatest culprit in the premature aging of our skin – it can accelerate the development of wrinkles and sagging skin, give us pigmentation issues (like melasma and sun spots), and can create other signs of aging (if all that wasn’t enough!).
If you want to kill two birds with one stone, you can use a daytime moisturizer that contains SPF already in it. Some people don’t believe moisturizers containing SPF are useful (you need to apply a lot of SPF to get good coverage on your skin), but any SPF is better than none! If using an SPF moisturizer will help you wear SPF every day, then by all means, do it! I have no problem using them, I love them!
Important: If you choose to use a separate SPF (versus using a moisturizer that contains SPF), make sure not to mix it with another product (i.e. foundation). Mixing the product will do one of two things: “dilute” the strength of the SPF (an SPF 40 could go down to a 15) or worse, cancel out its effectiveness. When applying several products containing SPF, always layer.
- La Roche-Posay Anthelios 50 Mineral Ultra Light Sunscreen Fluid
- UV PLUS Anti-Pollution Sunscreen Multi-Protection Broad Spectrum SPF 50
STEP 5B (NIGHTTIME): SEAL IT ALL IN
Sleep is when our bodies go into ‘repair mode’, so using good products for your skin type is a great way to give your body a boost of ingredients to draw from while it gets to work. Sealing in all of that product goodness with a sleeping mask or facial oil is a great way to not only add an extra layer of moisture, but it also protects all the layers you’ve just laid down against dry air.
Sleeping masks, or leave-on masks, are used to deeply hydrate your skin overnight. They mostly come in gel-like formulas and are applied to the skin like a moisturizer. You wash them off in the morning.
Facial oils are great for those who want a more natural boost of hydration. Depending on how dry you are, you can use anywhere from one to five drops of oil over your moisturizer. To apply it, the oil should be warmed up by rubbing your hands together and pressing it onto your face.
- Laneige Water Sleeping Mask
- Lancome Énergie de Vie Night Mask – Overnight Recovery Sleeping Mask
- Acure Organics Rosehip Oil
- My homemade blend of coconut oil, jojoba oil, frankincense essential oil
– When you think of skin care products, think of each step as a layer in the “lasagna” of your routine (I bring it back to food whenever I get the chance). Each step is a very necessary layer in creating a delicious masterpiece.
– This routine should be done both in the morning when you wake up, and in the evening before you go to bed, with adjustments for an AM versus PM routine.
And That’s How You Start A Skin Care Routine!
That’s it! Simpler than you thought, right? Just remember one step at a time, one product at a time. Take it slow if you find yourself overwhelmed. If all you do is Step 1 and Step 4, you’re doing great! Practice good skin care habits (check out my post that gives you useful lifestyle tips that aid in having great skin) and enjoy your self-care time – you deserve it! If you have any questions or want more information on the products I’ve mentioned, let me know in the comments below, I’m more than happy to help. Have a great day!