How You Should Set Up A Skincare Routine
Part 1: Daytime Routine
There’s been a lot of buzz around clean skincare, Korean beauty products, topical actives and so on and so forth, so it’s safe to say the new wave of skincare is here to stay. Although there is a lot of useful online content on the topic, there is also confusion on this topic. Which is why, I’d like to start by answering the most obvious question: Why do we even need a daily skincare routine?
Skin is our largest organ. We are covered in approximately 2 square feet of skin which weighs around 3-4 kilos alone. Every centimeter of our skin confines millions of cells. Moreover, our skin gets firsthand exposure to everything that’s going on daily: sunlight, dust, pollution, make-up, fragrance, stress, sweat and tears…
So, in turn, our skin acts like a shield against negative external factors, protecting us from infection, radiation, free radicals and more. But, keeping this barrier in balance implies a complex cellular regeneration process, through which our skin goes every day. A simple and effective routine is the least we can do to help our skin fight against the above, while also keeping it healthy and beautiful.
If you had to wear one single clothing item for the rest of your life, how much care would you put into keeping it good-looking? Your skin is the best outfit you’ll ever wear and you want it to stay that way.
It is important to understand that cell turnover slows down with age, our natural collagen production will not be as bountiful in our thirties as it is in our twenties, our skin will not keep its plump and glow as time goes, and that’s okay. All of it is part of our lifecycle and a good skincare routine will keep you well, as much as a healthy diet and exercise will.
Embrace it and look your best. Consistent care for your skin will speak for you as much as a healthy diet and proper exercise will.
Once you’ve committed to the idea of a skincare regimen, you’ll need to understand your skin’s needs in order to choose the right products. There is consensus on four main skin types: normal, dry, oily, and combination. And as you may already know, each skin comes with special characteristics that are outside of the four templates, or in between them, like sensitivity, acne tendencies, dry patches, allergic responses to certain cosmetic ingredients, etc.
Your skin may go through changes, mild or major, depending on your life experiences. Pregnancy, long periods of stress/burnout, relocating to a country with a drastically different climate, anything and everything can impact the look and feel of your skin.
What this means is that your face might never fit perfectly in one of the four templates. For instance, dry skin doesn’t have to be sensitive, while acne-prone, oily skin may. And oily skin is not necessarily acne-prone. If you have oily skin, but no blemishes, there is no point in using acne treatments, but rather focus on ways to control your sebum production (which we will talk about in a future post).
Let’s get to the routine! If it is your first time compiling a skincare routine, the best thing you can do is start simple and stick to the essential steps. Once you feel comfortable with your base routine, you can start adding new stuff.
Your morning routine should be focused on gentle cleansing and sun protection, whereas your night routine should be more about make-up removal and cleansing (stile gentle!), along with treating and/or applying your anti-aging products.
It is highly recommended to use sunscreen, a minimum of SPF 30, all year round, especially if your routine includes chemical exfoliators, vitamin C and other topical actives. Most of these topical actives are highly photosensitive and, without sun protection, you may get the exact opposite of what you’re expecting. More about that soon. Just… use the sunscreen!
Step 1: Gentle Cleanser
Morning cleansing should be all about gently removing excess sebum and overnight sweat or dust from your sheets/hair (given that you’ve thoroughly removed your make-up the night before).
This goes for all skin types. With cleansers, the smaller the ingredient list, the better. What you want is effective, yet gentle cleansing, so as to not tamper with your natural skin barrier. Keep an eye out for fragrance (you don’t need that in your cleanser) and you may want to avoid denatured alcohol (alcohol denat).
Here are a couple of generically suitable gentle cleansers for you to explore
Step 2: Toning (Optional)
Toning is historically known as that „extra-cleaning step”, usually associated with an alcohol-infused magic water that „shrinks” your pores and mattifies your skin. You don’t want that, what you may want, instead, is a hydrating toner. In Korea, toners go by the name of „second skin”, their purpose being setting up a hydrating base after cleansing, for all the steps to come.
Toning is entirely up to you, however you might see it as a game changer if you find yourself in one of the situations below:
- You have very dry skin and your daily moisturizer is not enough.
- You have dehydrated skin (you feel your skin extra tight, just like you used to feel it after using an alcohol-based toner).
- You have acne-prone and sensitive skin (you experience redness, stinging, dehydration and flakiness).
- You have oily skin and need a lightweight hydrator, especially during summer time.
Pro Tip: Hydrating toners are best applied on damp skin.
Step 3: Chemical Exfoliation (Morning OR Night)
We’ve mentioned earlier cell turnover – here is where chemical exfoliators come in. What they do is penetrate the pores and help the skin in eliminating dead cells, excess sebum and dirt. The two major players in chemical exfoliation are the AHAs (alpha hydroxy acids) and the BHAs (beta hydroxy acids).
There are many acids pertaining to the AHA family, some of the more popular ones being the lactic, glycolic, and mandelic acids. AHA acids provide a gentle exfoliation, so they are suitable for dry and/or sensitive skin types.
The BHA class is represented by salicylic acid, and this exfoliation option works better for oily and/or acne-prone skin types.
Why use a chemical exfoliator? Long term use of AHAs and/or BHAs have shown great results in improving skin tone, helping with hyperpigmentation, melasma and enlarged pores, while BHA-based products have worked great on acne-prone skin.
Chemical exfoliators need to be gradually inserted in your routine. Start by using it two times a week and then work your way up, as you feel comfortable.
AHA Exfoliating Solutions
Step 4: Moisturizing
Moisturizing is important for all skin types. If you have acne-prone skin and you deprive yourself from any moisturizing, your acne will only act worse. There is a moisturizing product out there for every type of skin. There are deep moisturizers for dry/dehydrated skin, there are light moisturizes, essences and serums for oily/acne-prone skin. There’s simply no skincare routine without this step.
For daytime moisturizing, you might be enough with what your SPF cream provides. Pay attention to how your skin feels throughout the day and choose to use this step or go straight to sunscreen application.
Like with any other product from your routine, it is best to avoid fragrance and denatured alcohol in your face cream.
Moisturizers For Normal and/or Dry Skin
Moisturizers for Oily and/or Combination Skin
Step 5: Sunscreen
The best anti-aging product available to everyone is sunscreen. That being said, you may want to look for a product that complies with the following:
It offers broad spectrum protection, meaning both UVA and UVB. UVB is associated with skin burning, while UVA with skin aging. Both types are harmful. Most drugstore sunscreens are broad spectrum nowadays, but it’s good to be extra careful.
It is SPF 30 or higher. No sunscreen provides 100% sun protection, however higher SPF products will protect you better and for longer. The higher the SPF, the less times a day you need to reapply your sunscreen
It does not contain ingredients you know your skin reacts to. This may include fragrance, alcohol, essential oils. You’ll be using this product daily, so make sure you don’t feel any discomfort from it.
Sunscreen application is as important as choosing the right products!
For optimal protection, you need about 1,25 ml for your face (a pea-sized amount for each part of your face), so think well before purchasing an expensive, overhyped sunscreen, and end up using a smaller amount of product. There are plenty of good and affordable choices on the market.
Keep in mind that your skin is unique and, just like with the other product recommendations, some may work, while some may not work for you. The important thing is to keep an eye out for anything that may cause irritation or any type of discomfort, and in time you will learn to give your skin what it needs.
SPF for Normal and/or Dry Skin
SPF for Oily and/or Combination Skin
SPF for Sensitive/Very White Skin
In the second part of ‘How You Should Set Up A Skincare Routine‘, we will share a super easy, super smart nighttime routine.
Shine bright and wear sunscreen!