Skincare can be intimidating, especially if it’s something you’re new to. If you’re someone who wants to incorporate a good regimen, but not entirely sure where to start, this post is for you! Let’s call it a ‘Beginner’s Guide to a Great Skincare Routine…’
Okay, maybe it’s not as straight forward as that, but I’m here to break it down, step-by-step, as far as what I think makes for a really thorough morning and night routine. However, for the sake of not completely overwhelming, I did not include any masks or at-home treatments. I’ll save that for another day.
I’ve heard some experts say that cleansing your face in the morning is not necessary but personally, I feel sort of icky if I don’t. I do an extremely light cleanse with whatever gel or milky cleanser I’m using at the moment. Currently, I am rotating between this one from Elemis and this one from Indie Lee. You may have heard me talk a lot about balm or oil cleansers, but those I only use at night as part of my first cleanse (more on that in my night routine.)
After cleansing, I’ll tone my face. This not only helps balance out your skin, but it’s also a nice way to prep it for the products you’re going to follow up with. I recently started using this one from Indie Lee and I really like how nice and gentle it is for a morning routine.
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that helps shield your skin from free radicals. In English: it helps protect your skin from pollution, UVA & UVB Rays and aids as a barrier against the powerful sun, especially when paired with SPF. I know that some people will use Vitamin C at night, but I’ve always been taught that it’s a product best suited for a morning routine. Ask any expert and they will all agree: if you were to incorporate two anti-aging ingredients into your routine, it should be Vitamin C and retinol (more on retinol in my night routine.) After I tone, I apply my Vitamin C, wait a few minutes while I do other things (so it really soaks in) and then proceed with the below steps.
My favorite is this one from Skinceuticals but for one that is easier on the wallet, I really like this one from Ole Henriksen and this one from TATCHA. I also heard incredible things about this one from Obagi, so that’s next on my list to try since.
Next, I apply an eye cream. For my morning routine, I look for one that feels moisturizing, absorbs nicely and gives me a smooth surface, without feeling too thick. On most days, even if I don’t wear foundation, I will wear under eye concealer, so having a hydrated (but not too oily) surface is key.
I’ve been really liking this one from Ole Henriksen and this one from Elemis.
I was debating on whether I should add this step because it’s not completely necessary. I didn’t want to overwhelm you all, being that it is supposed to be a simplified routine. On the other hand, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t LOVE adding a HA product into my routine and that I didn’t feel a noticeable difference when using one. The simplest way to put it is that HA is like a drink of water for your skin. It hydrates & plumps while making my complexion look bouncier. I feel a difference when I don’t use one in the morning so for me, it’s a must; especially as we approach the colder months. I apply it after Vitamin C and wait 2-3 minutes before continuing on with my routine.
My favorites: this one from Skinceuticals, this one from PCA and one that’s way easier on the wallet, this one from Jordan Samuel Skin.
Now I will say that on many occasions I go straight to my tinted SPF without applying a underneath moisturizer. In the warmer months (or if your skin is particularly oily) I find that, with the addition of Hyaluronic Acid, the SPF is moisturizing enough. On the other hand, if your skin is dry, if it’s the dead of winter or if you’re wearing heavier face makeup after, you can certainly apply something before your SPF. It’s really about listening to your skin and figuring out what it needs. I can assure you can get to a point where you’ll be able to tell!
On days I use a moisturizer underneath, my favorites are rather simple: Ultra Repair Cream and Drunk Elephant Lala Retro Whipped.
Unless I know I’m 100% not leaving the house, I wear my facial SPF daily – even on cloudy days. I prefer a tinted one, as I find that it replaces a tinted moisturizer and makes my skin look a little peppier. I don’t wear foundation on most days so this works perfectly for me, but you can certainly layer whatever makeup you use on top. As I mentioned above, if you’re wearing foundation with a bit of coverage, you may need a bit of moisturizer underneath your SPF. Listen to your skin! If the foundation looks like it’s settling, rather than gliding, into your skin, the SPF alone is probably not moisturizing enough.
Friendly reminder: If your chest is exposed, don’t forget your chest and your hands!
My favorites facial SPFS are: PCA Sheer Tint & Elta MD Tinted
My night routine always starts out with a double cleanse. Yes, even if I’m not wearing makeup and yes, even if I don’t leave my house. Your first cleanse should always be with a balm or oil cleanser applied to dry skin. This is your opportunity to take a minute or two to really melt away your makeup, SPF or to just get the blood flowing. Afterward, I take a muslin (facial) cloth that I ran under warm water and wipe everything away. If you’re wearing makeup, then it is extremely gratifying seeing the cloth wipe everything away. Think about it: there’s no way a simple swipe of water and cleanser will properly remove what the cloth is removing. This is why this step is so important and why many people who experience bad breakouts will see a noticeable difference once this step is incorporated.
A question I get asked often pertains to the cloths. Yes, I use a clean cloth every single time I do the first step. I then throw in a little hamper that I keep in my bathroom and wash those with my towels, once or twice or a week. I have a ton of cloths! My favorite ones are on the thicker side, but the ones I’ve shared before are also a good option. They’re a lot thinner, but work well enough if you don’t have a lot of makeup on.
After the first cleanse, I do a light second cleanse. I don’t use a cloth and I’m less thoughtful about it unless I have a ton of makeup on. If I’m coming home from an event or a wedding and the makeup is heavy, I may even use a 2nd cloth with this cleanse; but typically, it is a quick one. I usually use a gel cleanser and will apply to my skin for 15 seconds and wash away with water. I then pat dry with a towel and I’m ready for my next step. The gel cleanser that I use for my second cleanse is typically the same one I will use as my morning cleanse. At the moment, I rotate between this one and this one, as mentioned above.
After I cleanse, I always use a toner. Toning will get off any bits your cleansers may have missed and will properly prep your skin for the next steps.
A couple of days a week, I will use Biologique P50, which I’ve spoken about so many times. It’s a holy grail product for me. On other days, I like to alternate with Pixi Glow. The toners I use at night are typically a bit stronger than the one I use in the morning. You certainly do not need all of the ones I’m mentioning so if you’re new to using a toner, Pixi Glow is a great place to start. I always have a bottle on hand and if you just own this one, that’s totally fine. P50 is an investment product, but it’s holy grail status for me. You can read more about it here if you’re up for it. If this is too much information already, skip it and save it for another time.
On days I use P50, I typically will follow with a good moisturizing combination (more on that below.) On days I don’t use it, I usually follow with a treatment like a retinol (3x a week.)
Unlike my day eye cream, I prefer one that’s rich and decadent at night. My favorite is probably Shiseido Benefiance. I also really like Kiehl’s Avocado Eye Cream and I’ve had it in my rotation for years. I don’t think it performs miracles (then again, I don’t think any eye cream really does) but it’s incredibly rich, hydrating and just makes my eye area feel great. Also, when I asked on IG what everyones favorite nighttime eye cream was, many recommend this one from Neocutis, saying it’s one of the best in the market. I have yet to try, but you better believe, I ordered it! I’ll post an update after a few weeks of using.
About 2-3x a week, I use a retinol (when I am not pregnant or nursing) after using a milder toner like Pixi Glow. Sunday Riley A+ makes a great one as does Jordan Samuel Skin (milder and at such a great price point.) Also, if you’re a member (or considering) of Beauty Pie, they make some great retinols. You could also get a prescription from your derm; those will typically be stronger, so keep that in mind. If you go that route, talk to your derm on how to properly use and how often. Retinols do not work overnight but overtime, they are proven to be the #1 way to slow down the signs of aging. The studies have been endless. On the days I’m using a retinol, I like to wait a few minutes and then follow up with moisture, which I share below.
Something to note: if you’re using another type of treatment, it’s either that or the retinol. Do not use both. During my pregnancy, I’ve avoided retinol but I’ve been using Sunday Riley Good Genes which is a gentle, lactic acid treatment.
On non-retinol days, after toning I typically use a serum. Serums are nutrient-dense and loaded with all types of goodness, so it’s best to keep them as close to the skin as possible. They are left on overnight so they can really work their magic.
The main difference between a serum and a face oil is that serums are meant to target specific concerns, whereas oils are intended to moisturize. Serums are typically intended to be layered under a moisturizer. Oils are typically intended to seal everything in.
Vintner’s Daughter is my favorite (went into detail about it here) but it has a very hefty price-tag. If I use VD, I like to apply it in the beginning of the night and let it soak in before I apply anything else. Another option is Midnight Recovery from Kiehl’s. I also really love Farmacy Honeymoon Glow. It’s on the stronger side, so don’t use it more than 1-2x a week. Again, you do not need all three, but I wanted to give you guys options.
Much like my eye cream, I prefer a thicker moisturizer at night. Between that and a face oil, I like to look like you could fry an egg on my face (and eventually, my skin will soak it up.) This one from First Aid Beauty is super simple & right to the point, but a great product. I also really the Protini Cream from Drunk Elephant.
*Something to note: For the sake of not confusing anyone, the above breakdown does not account for Augustinus Bader Rich Cream. If this is already too much information, skip this note. However, if you’re interested in how I use Bader: On my Bader nights, I will double cleanse, tone, use eye cream and then apply the cream. I don’t use anything else before or after as it’s meant to be applied on bare skin. Some will even say to skip the toner, but I don’t. I usually use it with P50 and it’s what works best for me. I love it so much and out of all the products out on the market, my skin looks significantly happier when it is part of my routine. Again, hefty price tag but in my opinion, very worth it. Especially if you’re in your mid-thirties or older.
After my moisturizer (not including Augustinus Bader), I like to seal it in with a face oil. Again, this step isn’t exactly necessary, but it’s luxurious and I really find that it helps with keeping my face looking and feeling hydrated. There are also several great face oils out there that do not have to break the bank. Recently, I’ve found out about this one from Face Hero and I’ve really been loving it. Other favorites include this one from Jordan Samuel and this one from Indie Lee – both at such great price points.
And there you have it! Please let me know if you have any questions in the comment section and I’ll try to answer them all. Again, this routine does this account for masks or treatment products. Hopefully you found this helpful!