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How to Build a Basic Skincare Routine

June 15, 2020 10 min read

How to Build a Basic Skincare Routine

At a glance

Implementing a basic skincare routine can help to keep your skin clear, smooth and young. Start by determining your skin type, so that you can look for products that are specifically designed to target it. Skin types are generally divided into four categories: Oily, dry, combination (some oily areas and some dry areas) and sensitive.

A basic skincare routine starts with cleansing in order to remove dirt, oils, pollutants, dust and bacteria that have built up throughout the day. The next step is to balance and detoxify the skin with toner.

After toning, it’s time to hydrate and soften the skin with moisturizer. Finally, it’s critical to use sunscreen with a rating of at least SPF 30, all year round, in order to avoid damage to the skin from UV exposure.

A basic skincare routine can be customized and enhanced with the use of a weekly exfoliator (in order to remove dead skin cells), face masks, eye creams (for fine lines or puffiness), collagen peptidespowder orsupplements (to support firmer, brighter and younger-looking skin) and serums that address your areas of concern.

For the best results, optimize your lifestyle for healthier skin by sticking to a routine, drinking eight glasses of water daily, eating clean, whole foods and avoiding touching your face.

How to build a basic skincare routine

Building a basic skincare routine is important for everyone, regardless of age or skin type. But with the sheer number of products that are available in stores and online these days, it can be hard to know where to start.

A simple and sustainable skincare routine will help to keep your skin smooth, clear, young and healthy, while repairing past damage and helping to prevent future issues. It can also be a grounding and enjoyable ritual that invites a littlebit of self-care into your day.

When it comes to skincare, more is not always better. An effective skincare routine is simple to follow, and emphasizes quality of products over quantity.

Most basic skincare routines start with four key products.

  • First, you’ll use acleanser to wash your face.
  • Next, you’ll balance and detoxify the skin with atoner.
  • Finally, you’ll hydrate and soften the skin with amoisturizer.
  • The fourth essential product issunscreen, which experts agree is non-negotiable for healthy, youthful skin.

Keep in mind that once you have a handle on the basics, you can always add or modify products or steps that support your individual skincare needs.

How to identify your skin type

When it comes to building your ideal basic skincare routine, the first step is to determine your skin type. Everyone’s skin is a little bit different, and this is influenced by a number of factors from DNA to diet.

To make things simple, experts have identified four general skin types. When choosing products, you want to look for those that are recommended for the type that most closely reflects your own skin.

Some people know right away what their skin type is, while others may be less sure. If your skin type isn’t immediately obvious, try observing your skin more closely for a few days or weeks and taking notice of any issues that come up, like breakouts, redness, or a shiny appearance. If there are no obvious concerns, you might want to opt for products recommended for combination or “normal” skin.

  • Oily:As the name suggests, this skin type is associated with shiny or greasy looking skin, caused by a surplus of oil production. Individuals with oily skin often have large pores and are prone to acne and blemishes.
  • Dry:Dry skin may feel flaky, dry or rough. This type of skin often feels tight after being washed. Individuals with dry skin are prone to redness as well as fine lines and wrinkles.
  • Combination:Not everyone falls neatly into an oily or dry category: Many people are a combination of the two. Some areas like the cheeks may be dry or flaky, while others, like the “T-zone” area (the forehead and nose) or the chin might be more oily. Those with generally balanced and clear skin should also use products designed for combination or normal skin.
  • Sensitive:Those with sensitive skin may be prone to redness, stinging or burning, itchiness and even pain after applying products or coming in contact with foreign substances. This type of skin is delicate and easily irritated, generally with fine pores.

1. Cleansing

The foundation of any basic skincare routine is cleansing the face. Every day, our skin is exposed to dirt, dust, environmental pollutants, oils and bacteria. Cleansing helps to remove these foreign substances in order to reduce the likelihood of breakouts and clogged pores, and improve the overall look, feel and health of your skin.

Cleansing is also important as a first step, because when your skin is clear of dirt and pollutants, it will be able to absorb other skincare products more effectively.

Many products specify which skin type(s) they’re best suited for, but when searching for your ideal cleanser, there are a few general guidelines to keep in mind.

  • For Oily Skin:Look for foaming cleansers that help to break down dirt and remove excess oils and bacteria that can clog pores.
  • For Dry Skin:Choose creams, lotions or other hydrating cleansers that are designed to both gently cleanse and help to repair the skin’s moisture barrier. Avoid ingredients like alcohol and fragrances that can increase dryness.
  • For Sensitive Skin:Although it may seem counterintuitive to wash your face with oil, lightweight cleansing oils are often recommended for those with sensitive skin. Try to stay away from potentially irritating ingredients like alcohol, soap and fragrances, and choose products with soothing ingredients like aloe or oats.
  • For Everyone:All skin types can benefit from a gentle cleanser that washes away dirt and debris without stripping the skin of its natural oils. A general rule of thumb, even if your skin is not particularly sensitive, is that the fewer ingredients in your cleanser (and in your skincare products in general) the better. It’s also best to look for ingredients that you recognize, and stay away from products with long lists of ingredients and chemicals that you’re unfamiliar with.

You can also look for the term “non-comedogenic,” which essentially means that the product is less likely to trigger breakouts or clog your pores. Keep an eye on how your skin responds within the first few weeks. If you notice new or worsening dryness or an oily appearance, it may be best to try a different cleanser.

How to properly cleanse the skin

More than 50 percent of American adults say that they often skip facial cleansing before bedtime, with 60 percent reporting that they feel uninformed about how to properly cleanse their skin(1). A few simple tips can help with this.

When cleansing your face, make sure to wash your hands first so that you’re not introducing any new dirt or bacteria onto your skin. After cleansing, rinse with water that is warm but not hot, as hot water can strip healthy, essential oils from your face. Pat your skin dry gently, and avoid any harsh rubbing(2).

Some people use a cleanser twice a day, while others use one only once. Excessive cleansing can dry out the skin, so if your skin is on the drier side, you may want to stick to one daily use.

2. Balancing with toner

Toner, which is designed to balance the skin and help with detoxification, is thought of by many experts as optional. However, if you do choose to include this step, it should always be done after cleansing and before moisturizing.

Toners are thin liquids that help with the absorption of other products that may be applied afterwards, like serums and moisturizer. They also help to remove any lingering dirt and debris that may have remained on the skin after cleansing.

Many toners are designed for specific purposes including reducing redness, balancing your complexion and reducing signs of aging. Choosing a toner that has been formulated to help with your unique skincare goals is a great way to give your routine a personalized boost.

Look for calming ingredients like rosewater for sensitive, irritated skin; antioxidants and vitamins C and E to reduce the effects of aging; or hyaluronic acid for an extra dose of hydration.

3. Moisturizing

Dermatologists and skincare experts agree that moisturizer is an essential component of any basic skincare routine. We all lose some of our natural ability to retain moisture with age, but daily habits and exposures can cause a loss of hydration at any age (3). Moisturizing daily helps to hydrate the skin, keeping it soft, smooth and youthful.

Some people assume that if their skin is oily, they don’t need or shouldn’t use moisturizer. This is actually not the case, as a lack of adequate hydration can send a signal to your skin that it needs to produce even more oil.

We all need a good daily moisturizer, but different skin types may benefit from different kinds. Generally, those with oily or acne-prone skin do best with lightweight gels, while those with dry skin are better off using heavier creams. Balms are good for sensitive skin, and those with normal or combination skin can generally stick with the more classic moisturizing lotions.

Some moisturizers are specifically designed to help protect the skin from environmental exposures that come up during the day, while others are meant to be used at night to repair damage and replenish moisture overnight.

When choosing whether to use a daytime or nighttime moisturizer (or both), keep in mind that the skin is more permeable at night, and therefore absorbs more of the products you use. The skin also loses a great deal of moisture overnight, so this is the best time to use heavier or stronger products(4).

The importance of sunscreen

No skincare routine is complete without protection from the sun. UV exposure can lead to wrinkles, dark spots, blemishes and other effects of photoaging, as well as an increased risk of some skin cancers, regardless of how many other skincare products you’re using(5).

Sunscreen should be used every day, all year, regardless of the weather. Look for products that specify broad-spectrum SPF of 30 or higher. Many daily moisturizers also contain SPF.

How to enhance your basic skincare routine

Now that you’ve built a foundation, you can give your skincare routine a boost with some or all of these helpful products.

  • Exfoliators:Not everyone is aware of this, but we actually lose millions of skin cells every single day (6). These dead skin cells linger on the face and can clog pores and essentially keep the skin from being able to breathe. Using an exfoliating product once a week can help to scrub away these dead skin cells and keep the skin glowing. Exfoliators shouldn’t be used more often than once a week, as this can be hard on the skin.
  • Face Masks:Face masks are hot items in the skincare world, and while they may not be essential to include in a basic skincare routine, they can give your skin an extra boost and provide a fun, relaxing ritual to enjoy at home. If you do want to use a face mask from time to time, use it after cleansing, toning, and applying any serums, but before using your moisturizer.
  • Eye Creams:If you have noticed fine lines or wrinkles around your eyes, or puffiness in the morning, you may want to use a gentle eye cream to give that area a bit of extra attention.
  • Collagen Powder:Collagen is the most abundant protein in our bodies, and it is sometimes described as the “glue” of the human body because of its essential role in the strength and structure of our joints, muscles, hair, nails and skin. Our natural supply of collagen dwindles when we age, which is why many people choose to supplement withhydrolyzed collagen peptides for firmer, brighter, younger-looking skin.Collagen powder can be blended into smoothies, water or other beverages to help reduce cellulite and wrinkles and promote elasticity(7).
  • Collagen Capsules:Collagen can also be taken incapsules for an easy boost to your daily ritual. Make sure to look for high-quality collagen peptide products that have been formulated for enhanced absorption and specifically target the skin.
  • Serums:Serums are liquids or gels that contain concentrated doses of ingredients designed to help with skin concerns from dullness to dark spots. As with other skincare products, look for those with nourishing, recognizable ingredients that have been chosen for your skin type.

Tips for success

  • Stick to a routine. Make sure your skincare ritual fits into your daily lifestyle, and is simple enough that you’ll stick to it, and hopefully even look forward to it.
  • Be patient. You may not notice changes right away, but the key is to be consistent. At the cellular level, the skin renews itself regularly, and changes may not be noticeable until a cycle has been completed. Skin cell turnover generally takes between 28 and 40 days, and up to 60 days for older adults (8).
  • Drink plenty of water. Increasing water intake by approximately 8.5 cups per day has been linked to increased skin hydration (9). Although there is some uncertainty about exactly how water impacts the skin, drinking water offers many overall health benefits, and is one of the easiest things you can do for healthy, hydrated skin.
  • Monitor what touches your face. Try not to touch your face with your hands, as this will introduce new dirt and bacteria from everything else your fingers have come in contact with. Change pillowcases and sheets regularly, and use a separate towel for your face.
  • Get plenty of sleep. The skin recovers and regenerates much more efficiently at night, and relies on afull night’s rest to get the job done.
  • Eat clean. Your diet has a huge impact on your skin. As much as possible, stick to fresh, whole foods to nourish the body and the skin.

In summary

Building a basic skincare routine is important for individuals of all ages, and can help to improve the look, feel and overall health of your skin.

There are all kinds of different skincare products on the market, but a basic routine consists of cleansing, balancing with toner, moisturizing and protecting the skin from sun exposure. Once you have determined your skin type, you can select the best products, and develop your own at-home skincare ritual.

To enhance your skincare routine and give yourself an extra boost, try adding a weekly exfoliator or supplementing withcollagen peptides.

Ellie Ellias -Contributing Writer, Physician’s Choice