A funny thing happens when you start shouting about your new obsession with skincare on social media…
Friends, family and acquaintances of all stripes come out of the woodwork to ask for help. And most of their messages sound exactly like I did a year or so ago.
They go something like this: “Help! I need to do something about my skin but I have no idea where to begin. All I use are [insert crappy cleanser] and [insert crappy moisturizer] but that’s it.”
There’s zero judgement though because my routine for years was deplorable and I had no idea what I was doing. So, I’m happy to help my friends get on the right track and address the skin issues that bother them. A lot of these conversations tend to go the same way though, so I figured I’d put all of my advice, tips and product recommendations for beginners in one place. Here goes!
1. Double Cleansing is Life
First thing’s first, cleansing. If you’re like a great deal of ladies out there, you use some form of makeup remover followed by a super foamy cleanser that you spread around and then rinse off by splashing your face over a sink. Stop doing this.
Instead, get at least 2 cleansers for a proper double cleanse. I know it sounds like a lot, but it’s easy and feels so good that you’ll actually look forward to doing this every night.
Start by using an oil-based cleanser like Hylamide High Efficiency Cleanser or The Face Shop Cleansing Oil, both of which are under $20. Put some oil in your hands and spread it around on your dry face, taking your time to break down your eye makeup and really massaging well into any places where you have congested pores, blackheads, etc.
Then, run a washcloth under hot water, wring it out and hold it over your face for 30 seconds. Finally, gently rub the cloth around your whole face, paying particular attention to those clogged areas. Yes, you can and should do this even if you have oily skin. More on that later.
Next, follow up with a second gentle cleanser that does NOT foam (with a few exceptions). The problem with soapy, foamy cleansers is that they totally strip your skin of the natural oils it needs, resulting in tight, dry skin, which isn’t a good look on anyone. When you do this regularly, your skin may even overproduce oils to compensate, which can make you believe you have oily skin when what you actually have is dehydrated skin. Gasp! I know, major stuff.
Gentle cleansers I’d recommend: Cerave Hydrating Cleanser, CosRx Morning Cleanser, La Roche Posay Toleraine Hydrating Gentle Cleanser and Glossier Milky Jelly Cleanser. There are a ton of other good ones out there, but those are the ones I’ve used, liked and know are good for your skin. You’d be surprised how many fancy and drugstore cleansers have yucky ingredients like alcohols and perfumes.
2. As TLC Said, NO SCRUBS!
Ok, if you’re old enough to get that TLC reference, then you’re defo in the right place.
It’s time to admit the sins of my past: I was a facial scrub addict and I’m now in recovery. Please raise your hand if, at any time in your life, you were a St. Ives Apricot Scrub user. Don’t worry, we all were. But the fact is, this stuff suuuucks for your face. Most facial scrubs do. They have these mean, littel abrasive particles in there that are super harsh on your skin and can even create little tears. Yikes, right?
The weird thing is that I don’t even know why I thought I *needed* facial scrubs so hard. I mean it’s not like they were doing my skin any favors. I was always red, blotchy and bumpy. Yet, for whatever reason, I thought I needed them.
The proper way to exfoliate your skin is with acids. I know that sounds scary, but it’s not. What these acids do is break down the “glue” that makes the top layer of dead skin cells stick together, which is to say they exfoliate to reveal new, healthier skin. There are plenty of acids available that are very gentle, so there’s really nothing to fear. Just remember to start with a low strength only a couple nights a week to let your skin get accustomed. And, since acids can make your skin more sensitive to the sun, be sure to use SPF EVERY, SINGLE DAY!
Gentle acids I’d recommend: Glycolic Acid Toner, Lactic Acid 5%, Mandelic Acid – all from The Ordinary and all great for acid beginners.
3. Hydrate Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself
Yes, the 90s song references continue.
Thanks to my skincare buddy Rachael’s obsession with hydration, I’ve learned that dehydration is actually the root of much skin evil. In many cases, people who think they have all sorts of skin issues just have one problem: dehydration. Once they get their skin properly hydrated and healthy, those other problems often disappear or improve.
That said, please make sure that hydrating toners and serums are at the core of your routine before you worry about adding lots of other targeted serums that address specific skin issues you may have. After a couple months of treating your skin like a fussy, thirsty baby, you’ll be able to see what it really looks like when it’s healthy.
At that point, you can better assess what your problems are and what you need. Think of it this way: trying to treat acne, wrinkles, redness, etc. before getting your skin hydrated is like treating a headache and ignoring a brain tumor. Dramatic I know, but you get it.
Hydrating toners & serums I recommend: Secret Key Aloe Toner, Pyunkang Yul Essence Toner, Hyaluronic Acid serum from any of Deciem’s brands, The Ordinary Buffet serum, and Hylamide SubQ Anti-Age.
4. Moisturize or Perish
We’re almost done folks, so bear with me. Your final step is to seal in all that skincare goodness with a facial oil and/or moisturizer. If you ask me, there’s really no such thing as too much moisture, so I do both. When I have time, I use a few drops of oil followed by moisturizer. But if you’re crunched for time, just mix a few drops of oil into your moisturizer.
And again, yes your skin still needs oils and moisturizer if you have oily skin. There’s not one type of skin out there that thrives with dryness. And this is even more true as we get older. Your skin doesn’t have the same youthful, glowy plumpness that it once had but oils can help with that.
Oils and moisturizers I recommend: All the oils from The Ordinary are fantastic and cheap, but I love the rosehip seed oil, squalane and marula oil. And I adore the simple beauty (and price) of their Natural Moisturizing Factors moisturizer.
5. You Have to Wear Sunscreen Every Day
I know, it really sucks but you do. I’ve even started wearing sunscreen indoors because windows! Ask any dermatologist and they’ll tell you their best tip for skincare is simply wearing sunscreen every day.
Put it on over your moisturizer and before your makeup, making sure to give it a couple minutes to sink in before you apply anything else. You need about a full 1/2 teaspoon just on your face to make it effective. And you only need to reapply if you’ll be out in the sun for more than 2 hours. Otherwise you’re fine with a once-daily application.
Facial sunscreens I recommend: Etude House Sunprise, Bare Minerals Prep Step, Biore Watery Essence, La Roche Posay Anthelios. There are tons and tons out there that are good, especially from Asian brands.
Easy Starter Routines
- Hydrating toner
- Hyaluronic Acid
- Oil cleanse
- Second cleanse
- Acid (only every other night or every 2 nights)
- Hydrating toner
- Hyaluronic Acid
My advice would be to stick to this simple routine for at least 2-3 months before incorporating other products. After that time, your skin will undoubtedly be much healthier and happier than it was at the start, which should deliver visible improvement. During that time, pay attention to the way your skin is responding to the products and make adjustments if need be.
When you’re ready to move to the next level and start using products that specifically target other issues you have, then it’s time for you to fly little birdy! Take the time to learn about various ingredients that are good for the issues you have and then work on incorporating them slowly into your routine.
The best place for you to learn is where I learned nearly everything I know: The Ordinary & Deciem Chatroom on Facebook that I’m also lucky enough to moderate – it’s a lovely community of nearly 44K members from all over the world who are the best ever at teaching and supporting as we all learn about skincare and celebrate each other’s successes.
Also be sure to follow me on Instagram for a look at some of my favorite products and the results of my own skincare journey.
My fellow group moderators of the chatroom are super smart about skincare, so definitely follow these beauties too:
I know that this seems like a LOT to do, but trust me when I say that it will totally change your skin for the better. Don’t believe me? Check out more about my own experience & the before/after pics here.
More than likely, you’ll find that you look forward to doing your routine. It’s a nice, relaxing way to get a little self-care time each day. And when you start to see the results, that will be all the motivation you need to keep it up!
Good luck! 🙂