For the longest time, I was using a bunch of different products without paying attention to the ingredients or how they worked with my skin type. If the bottle looked pretty or it was in my price range (or both), I was all for it. But now that I have the means to follow a set routine, I’ve become dedicated to whipping my skin into shape.
The time to create a skincare routine tailored to your individual needs and habits is here. A six-step skincare routine is perfect for beginners just getting started with their first regimen.
How to avoid breakouts and irritation with a new skincare routine
To avoid irritating your skin, we recommend applying a small amount of the product to a discreet part of your body, like behind your ear or the inside of your elbow, to ensure it doesn’t irritate your skin. This is known as a patch test.
How to introduce new products into your routine
Once you get comfortable with a routine that works, you can carefully introduce more steps and slowly try new products like face oils, masks, and peels. Once you have your perfect assortment of skincare products, consider storing them in a skincare fridge, which is a surprisingly prudent investment.
Introduce new products one at a time. This way you can track your skin’s progress with each product, and not overwhelm it it causing a breakout. Wait one month before using any other new item.
To avoid wasting your time or money, be sure to educate yourself on your skin type and the ingredients that will help. Bobbi Brown’s Masterclass explains that for products to be effective, they must be applied in the correct order, at appropriate times.
Step 1: Cleanser
The first step is washing your face. It’s important to choose a product that’s fragrance-free and doesn’t leave your skin feeling tight. For mornings, you can keep it simple and cleanse with warm water and pat dry. For nighttime routines, you can throw in a few products at once and try double-cleansing. This method is a staple in Korean beauty routines, which involves first using an oil-based cleanser that’s fantastic at breaking down makeup, followed by a water-based one. No matter what, always wash your face at least twice a day, and NEVER go to sleep with your makeup on!
How much to use? Nickel-sized amount.
Top cleansers by skin type:
- Oily: Ole Henriksen Find Your Balance Oil Control Cleanser
- Dry: Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser
- Acne-prone: Neutrogena Daily Oil-Free Acne Fighting Facial Cleanser
- Combination: Youth to the People Superfood Antioxidant Cleanser
Step 2: Toner
When you think of toner, you may think of something popular in the 80s and 90s that was way too strong and left skin overly dry. These days, the formulas have gotten more sophisticated, and most of them are alcohol-free. Toner minimizes pores’ appearance, balances your skin’s pH levels, and helps purify your skin to absorb serums and creams better. It’s also an extra cleansing step to ensure all makeup and dirt have been washed away. Apply using a cotton pad or pat on with your fingers, and always double-check the instructions to see if it should be applied twice a day or just once. This product is most helpful for people with oily or acne-prone skin.
How much to use? One or two pumps/spritzes.
Top toners by skin type:
- Oily: Paula’s Choice Skin Balancing Pore-Reducing Toner
- Dry: Fresh Rose Deep Hydration Facial Toner
- Acne-prone: Bliss Clear Genius Clarifying Toner and Serum
- Combination: Origins United State Balancing Tonic
Step 3: Serums
There are so many on the market, and they all do different things that it can be a bit confusing. First things first, a serum is light water- or oil-based liquid that contains concentrated amounts of active ingredients meant to target specific skin concerns. Now, it’s tempting to want to rub as much of your new serum all over your face to banish those pesky zits but use caution. Since these ingredients are so powerful, you usually only need a little bit to get the job done. Always read the packaging carefully to see how often you should be using the product, and consult the brand’s website to see if it offers any tips for first-time users.
How much to use? Pea-sized amount.
Top serums by skin type:
- Oily: The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% Oil Control Serum
- Dry: Drunk Elephant B-Hydra Intensive Hydration Serum
- Acne-prone: CeraVe Resurfacing Retinol Serum
- Combination: IT Cosmetics Bye Bye Pores 10% Glycolic Acid Serum
Step 4: Spot Treatments
As with all other products on this list, acne spot treatments aren’t one-size-fits-all. Some are best used overnight, while others can be worn on the face without anyone even noticing you have it on. There are a lot of different types: pimple patches, drying lotion, gels and more. These work best on pustules, which are traditional zits filled with pus. The products are also most helpful if you only see the occasional pimple, so it’s probably not the best idea for folks with frequent breakouts.
How much to use? Consult the product’s instructions for amount and frequency
Top acne spot treatments:
- Mario Badescu Drying Lotion
- Starface Hydro-Stars Pimple Patches
- Origins Super Spot Remover Acne Treatment Gel
Step 5: Moisturizer
I love the feeling of applying moisturizer after a long hot day…or any day, for that matter. Experts say moisturizing enhances your skin’s ability to retain water, maintains its natural barrier, and protects it from environmental pollutants that we’re exposed to on a daily basis. Even if you have ultra-dry skin and want to drench your face in your newest Ulta find, don’t! Using too much moisturizer can damage your skin. While you certainly can use two different moisturizers (one for day and one for night), it’s not necessary as long as you’re applying sunscreen in the morning, which we’ll touch on in a little bit.
How much to use? Quarter-sized amount for your face and neck.
Top moisturizers by skin type:
- Oily: Cetaphil Dermacontrol Oil Absorbing Moisturizer
- Dry: Neutrogena Hydro Boost Gel-Cream
- Acne-prone: Blume Whirl Moisturizer
- Combination: Boscia Green Tea Oil-free Moisturizer
Step 6: Sunscreen
This is a vital part of your daytime routine. I’ll keep shouting this from the rooftops no matter what: WEAR SUNSCREEN EVERY DAY! Yes, every single day, no matter what you’re doing or where you’re going, even if you’re spending most of your time indoors. Cult favorite brand Supergoop! says daily use helps ward off discoloration, fine lines and skin cancer caused by the sun’s rays that affect us even through windows. The American Cancer Society recommends wearing something that contains at least SPF 30 and has broad-spectrum protection. You can layer sunscreen over your moisturizer or opt for a product that already has SPF in it.
How much to use? Nickel-sized amount for your face
Top sunscreens by skin type:
Mentioned in this article:
In addition to the six steps covered in this article, Bobbi Brown’s recommended skincare routine adds an eye cream after serum but before spot treatment, and a retinoid after moisturizer but only at night.