skin care routine

How to Design a Skin Care Routine – A Brief Guide

skin care routine

For someone who struggles to take off my makeup and wash my face at night, I sure am obsessed with skincare. I spend a lot of time researching tips, advice,  and new products I can’t even begin to comprehend affording in my current unemployed state.

I’m also definitely not a trained esthetician or dermatologist.  I have picked up some great advice from estheticians I’ve had treatments from and been friends with. With research, I think I have at long last gotten a handle on how to put together a basic skincare routine.

It’s important to note that if you have a skin condition, you will need to see a dermatologist to design a skincare routine. Also, if you’ve never had a professional facial, schedule one in soon! You can learn tons from an esthetician, and having a facial once or twice a year (at the least) is relaxing, soothing for your skin, and a wonderful treat for yourself.

Here’s some guidelines for putting together your skincare toolkit, based on my experiences. I’ve included the products I use as examples here, and would definitely recommend the lines I use!

*Note: I have included links to the products I use as a resource, because I truly love them. This post is not anyway sponsored by any company mentioned in this post.

The Basics

First, you’ll need an idea of what your skin type is. The Beautypedia offers a great guide on this. If you’re going to see a dermatologist or treating yourself to a facial, the professionals can also give you some good advice for understanding your skin.

For a lot of people (men and women alike!), simple is better. At the least, you’ll want a cleanser, exfoliant, and moisturizer. You’ll use these products in that order.


  • Cleanser | If you’re going for simplicity, you can typically use the same cleanser day and night. Your choice of cleanser will vary based on your skin type. If you’re dry, you may want one with added moisture; if you deal with oily skin, you may want one that assists with lessening shine. A few things I’ve learned about cleansers: 1) Your skin should never feel “squeaky clean” after using it. When I was younger, I was obsessed with achieving that feeling – but that feeling is a sign that your skin has been stripped of its barrier. It took me awhile to get used to the feeling of my skin being clean, but not stripped. My skin has been so much softer since switching to a more gentle cleanser. 2)Simple is best with cleansers. Some people only wash their face at night, rather than twice a day. You can even wash your face with oils! You want to make sure it has simple ingredients and can take off your makeup as well as clean your face. If you don’t have a separate makeup remover, this may mean washing your face twice at night.
  • Exfoliant | Exfoliants are major source of confusion for a lot of us. I was one of those who religiously used St. Ives Apricot Scrub (if you use this, PLEASE stop right now) before learning more about exfoliation. There are definitely scrubs that you can use to exfoliate, but it’s important to avoid ones with large abrasive ingredients that can damage the skin. You may also want to use a chemical/peel exfoliant instead, which is what I do now. It sounded scary to me at first, but chemical exfoliants (AHAs and BHAs) can be more gentle than scrubs. These are less concentrated versions of a chemical peel that you would have done with an esthetician. A lot of chemical exfoliants can even be used daily. For a comprehensive guide to exfoliating properly and choosing one, check out the Beautypedia’s guide.
    • What I use | Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Gel. I use a BHA as opposed to an AHA because I have blackheads and combination skin. After this bottle is empty, though, I will be switching to the liquid version of this – the gel takes longer to dry.
  • Moisturizer | Finding your moisturizer is a lot like finding your cleanser – simple is usually better,  you can use the same one day and night, and you can even moisturize with oils! Your moisturizer will depend heavily on your skin type; you probably already have a good idea if you feel like you’re always craving a nice, heavy lotion or if the idea of a thick covering makes you shudder. The number one thing you need in a moisturizer you wear during the day is SPF. You need protection from the sun every day! You can use a different moisturizer for night. These are usually thicker and may include some kind of treatment.

Advanced Options

skin care routine

  • Additional Cleansing | If you wear makeup, it is important that you make sure you’re removing all of it at the end of the day. You may want to use an additional makeup removal product before cleansing.
  • Toner | Toners are a source of debate in the skincare world. Before we had the cleansers we do today, toners were required to restore the pH balance of your skin. That’s not really the case anymore, and one side of the debate states that toners aren’t really needed. However, the other side notes that a well-formulated toner can add a boost of nutrients to skin. I find that my toner adds softness and extra moisture to my skin, and gets the last bits of any grime I missed when washing my face. The key is to choose a toner that is water based, not alcohol based.  Like your cleanser, toner should never make your face feel stripped and dry after use. You can use a toner once or twice a day, right after you cleanse.
  • Treatments | A discussion of treatments for your skin could take up multiple blog posts on its own. This is usually where your dermatologist and esthetician come in. You can find specific treatments and serums for any skin condition. One of the current trends is retinol in products to help prevent aging. You can also find lip scrubs and treatments, and a wide variety of masks to use weekly or monthly. Treatments come after your exfoliant in your routine.
  • Supplements | Beauty supplements have  exploded in popularity. I guarantee you know someone who swears by biotin, fish oil, or prenatal vitamins. There’s collagen and keratin powders, chews, drinks, etc. While I don’t think these are a necessity, they can be a nice addition. If you’ve done the research to ensure the supplement won’t react with any medications you’re taking, you know what levels of the product could cause toxicity, and you’ve checked with a doctor if you have any special conditions, you should be fine. Feel free to experiment with a few and remember to tune up your diet as well.
    • What I use | NeoCell’s Beauty Bursts. After getting a free sample of NeoCell’s Biotin Bursts, I took a look at their other products and discovered their Beauty Bursts. Within in 3 DAYS of starting these, there was a noticeable difference in my skin tone and texture. As I’ve continued them, I’ve also noticed my nails growing much faster and a scar I’ve had for years on my knee has faded.

Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your Products

  • Your products don’t all have to be from the same product line to get the best results. A product line can have both your holy grail and your skin’s worst enemy.
  • When changing your routine, be sure to add in products one at a time to watch for reactions.
  • You don’t have to fork over hundreds of dollars to get the best results. However, paying 3 dollars at Walmart sometimes gets you 3 dollars of quality. I like The Body Shop and Paula’s Choice because their products are in a better price range. They’re not Walmart cheap, but I only have to buy refills every 3-6 months depending the product. A little goes a long way.
  • To start your own research,  take a look at the Beautypedia I’ve mentioned here, as well as the Skincare Addiction Subreddit.

What’s your current routine like? What products can you not live without?

intrusions of beauty

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