Tiptoeing Into Skincare
A former novice’s guide on where to start
So you watch one of those Glamour or Vogue celebrity “Get Ready With Me” Youtube videos in which a beautiful celebrity has a 26 step morning face routine, and it is overwhelming. How much and what products should you use? How expensive is buying them all going to be?
You’ve heard skincare is important, but following beauty-YouTubers’ precedent seems impossible.
I empathize. I empathize as a person who started with an embarrassingly bare minimum skincare routine. As a person who didn’t know what toner was. As a person who had to navigate into the process step by baby step. I am not a doctor, dermatologist, or beautician, so do your due diligence but here is a laywoman’s perspective on what she learned along the way.
Tiptoe into skincare
My first piece of advice is that you should “tiptoe” into skincare. Make baby steps by slowly adding products and/or steps into your skincare routine. You should do this for two reasons.
The first reason is habit building. Going from no skincare or just sparse skincare to an elaborate, multi-step routine can be overwhelming. You may do it for a couple of days, but then get burned out from it, skipping it one night or morning when you are too tired or busy, and otherwise falling off the train afterward. It is easier to add one or two steps at a time and build them into a habit before adding more.
The second reason is that you want to be careful with your skin. Ideally, you should do a patch test before using a product hardcore to see its reaction to your skin. After the patch test, you want to see how effective a product is for you in extended use.
If you add four new products to your face and you break out, you don’t know which product is causing you to break out. If you add one and you break out… well, the culprit is obvious. In the opposite situation, if a product is having a noticeably positive effect on your skin, it’s nice to know which products are effective for you.
After all, each of us has different skin and skin needs. A product one person swears by could be a nightmare to someone else and vice versa. Part of tiptoeing into a skincare routine is to find the products that are complementary to your skin.
Skin routines often come in two parts. What we do in the morning before going out for the day and before putting on makeup if you wear cosmetics; what we do in the evening with cleaning our faces and putting on products to help our skin overnight.
Some general principles… Cleansing your face is the most important part of the skincare process. We are cleaning cosmetics, dirt, population, dry/dead skin, sweat, and oils from our faces. The second is moisturizing. After you cleanse, you need to moisturize to protect your skin and replace healthy moisture. The third principle is the order of products… generally, you will go from “thinnest” product to “thickest.”
At the very basic level of skincare, you need three things: a cleanser, a moisturizer, and sunscreen. Luckily you can get a moisturizer with SPF so that can bring you down to two products and two steps.
Cleanser. As for a cleanser, it’s a fancy name for face wash. And face wash is not the same as regular soap or body wash. Here is a list of different types of cleansers; you need to find one that fits your skin and skin needs, including if you are removing makeup.
Moisturizer. You need to moisturize your skin. I (and other people I knew) with skin types that were oily or regularly acne-ridden grew up with the misconception that we needed to dry that skin out to keep acne under control. Moisture was the enemy. Naw, you need to moisturize, even if you have oily skin. Moisturizer helps protect and heal your skin and replaces healthy moisture after you cleanse your face.
SPF. Again, I don’t care if you think you don’t sunburn or you have a darker complexion. Sunscreen isn’t just about sunburn. It’s about protecting your skin from UV rays and their many negative effects: skin cancer, sun damage, premature aging and wrinkles.
At the intermediate level, you are adding some more moisturizers. A day moisturizer with SPF, a night cream, and an under eye cream, as well as toner.
Day Moisturizer/SPF. Goes on in the morning under makeup (if you use makeup), or just on in the morning and before going outside.
Night cream/moisturizer. Obviously, you do not need SPF in the dark of the night when you are lying in bed. Thus that is a good time to put a different moisturizer or night cream that can focus on different skin needs. Some common moisturizer add-ins (like retinol) are better not used under sunlight.
Under-eye cream. The under-eye skin is delicate and is a common culprit of dark circles and wrinkles. Under-eye creams are made especially for this part of the face. Always apply with the pad of your ring fingers. Why? Our ring fingers are the least strong of our fingers and thus allow us to be the most gentle on this delicate part of our face.
Serums. Honestly, serums are still fairly new to me and my routine, and I don’t have a lot of insight yet. I save them for morning routines only, one of the earliest steps after cleaning.
Exfoliation. There are two types of exfoliants: Physical and Chemical. Physical exfoliants have abrasive bits that clean off dead skin. They should be used every day as that is too rough on the skin. They should only be used a few times a week at most.
Chemical exfoliants that clean off dead skin with, duh, chemicals. Some are peels/masks and some are leave-on products. The name ‘chemical’ is scarier in name than it is in reality. I mean, everything is a chemical. Water is a chemical If you have ever used an acne treatment, you have used active ingredients like Salicylic Acid on your face. Chemical exfoliants can be used every day (if they are the right fit for your skin.)
Toner. Alcohol-free. Always alcohol-free. Toner helps with an additional level of clean as well as tightening pores. Can be used after cleansing and before putting any moisturizer on.
For the sake of examples, here are my typical morning and night routines.
Morning: Step 1. Cleanser/toner. Step 2. Serum. Step 3. Moisturizer SPF combo. Step 4. Under-eye cream. Step 5. Makeup.
Evening: Step 1. Cleanser/toner. Step 2. Chemical exfoliant. Step 3. Night moisturizer. Step 4. Under-eye cream.
Wrapping it up
Your skincare journey might vary from mine. In fact, my own varied from the novice, intermediate, and advanced levels I’ve listed here, but I rearranged by really thinking about priorities. If I am terribly wrong about something, feel free to correct me in the comments. I’m always willing to learn more in my skincare journey.