It started out pretty simple. A new cleanser that’s supposed to cure acne … a cult-favorite “fountain of youth” moisturizer that’s supposed to keep me young forever …
And just like that, my skincare collection multiplied, and things got complicated.
I found myself juggling serums and potions and eye creams and hydration boosters and scar-faders and balancing toners; gels, creams, leave-ons, wash-offs and spot-treats.
Every product can’t get the coveted “clean, dry skin” real estate, so how do I prioritize?
The Big Question:
Where do I start, what goes on next and do all of these steps even make a difference?
The Simple Answer:
Apply products according to texture. Start with the most fluid consistency and progress to the thickest.
Think about it — will a delicate (and $$$) serum be able to do its job if it can’t get passed a layer of luxuriously emollient “seal in the moisture” night cream? Probably not.
So here’s the breakdown. Remember, just because it’s listed here does not necessarily mean you need to, or should be, using it.
The Steps (before “the steps”)
Must-Do for all. Twice a day, every day, everyone. The texture and benefits of your cleanser will vary depending on your skin type, but the number of times you should be doing it should stay the same.
Not Necessary. This step is debatable. I like to use toner because I can see residue come off on a cotton ball, even after I’ve washed my face. It’s kind of like the feeling you get when you dump out your vacuum canister after a major day of cleaning (usually follows a major few weeks of NOT cleaning).
If it’s a mattifying toner, it might kindly deposit invisible micro silica to absorb excess oil throughout the day. If it’s an anti-acne toner, there may be a bit of salicylic acid in it to clear pores. Balancing toners will hydrate and condition your skin.
Primarily, toners are meant to prepare your skin for superior absorption of the goopy goodness that follows:
The Confusing Skincare Steps, Unconfused:
EYE CREAM - PROTECT
It’s a good idea. Here’s why it goes first: the stuff you’re about to use next probably contains a lot of active ingredients that are too harsh for the delicate eye area. I like to use my eye cream as a protectant so that it seals the area from crepey-eye-causing ingredients.
Not necessary, but for 30s and up, it’ll make you feel like you’re being proactive and investing in your skin.
When it comes to skincare, lightweight serums are the heavy-hitters. They contain skin-penetrating micronutrients and active ingredients that have important beneath-the-surface jobs to do like collagen-boosting and promoting cell turnover. They are also fast-absorbing so you can move on to step #3 in a jiffy.
You know if you need it. This stuff can be pretty harsh. If possible, use it sparingly, and on the areas of your face that require it.
Usually gel-like in texture, topical acne meds are lightweight and dissolve pretty quickly.
A MUST for all. Your moisturizer, whether it’s the oil-free hydration kind or the rich, emollient kind — will work to add moisture, seal in the goodness you applied before it, and hopefully repel evil environmental free radicals. Oily, dry and combination skin types need hydration. No skimping on moisturizer! Just find the right one for you.
Doctor’s orders, so yeah … a must. Sunscreen should be the very last skincare product you put on your face. Its sole purpose is to use reflective minerals to act as a barrier between your skin and the sun’s relentless UVA/UVB rays (aka. the rays that make you look old, fast). Those same rays also cause one of the deadliest forms of cancer — so it’s no joke.
Personally, I don’t trust “chemical sunscreens” — the kind that require a soaking time. I don’t much like the texture and oily look of physical sunscreens either (the kind I mentioned above), but for what it’s worth, I think it’s the more natural way to go since we have to use them.
So now that you understand the science behind your skincare steps, you can customize a skincare routine that works for you. Good luck and happy schmearing!