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How to create the simplest skincare routine that works for you

We hear this so often! “Why are there so many things to use? I don’t have the time for five different bottles in the morning! Do I really need all these products?”

Well, there surely is a basic skincare routine everyone needs and it is pretty simple:

Clean + Moisturize + Protect from the sunlight

It looks like you could get away with just two products: a cleanser and a moisturizer with SPF, right? Absolutely! A young skin that doesn’t have any particular issues won’t really need anything else. Things get complicated when we add makeup to the mix, various skin issues (acne, rosacea, pigmentation) or we age and our skin is no longer as effective in shedding old cells and replenishing its collagen levels.

Here are the steps to identify your simple routine:

  1. Understand which ingredients you absolutely need
  2. Figure out which ones are compatible and can exist in the same product without counteracting
  3. Find the products that meet your needs
  4. Understand the sequence of use (afternoon only; spacing between products or rotation rules).
  5. Voila!

Let’s take a look at how this works


32 years old. Currently cleanses and uses a toner, moisturizer, and a lightweight makeup. Not sure whether she needs anything else.

Issues: noticeable pores and blackheads due to the oily skin. Doesn’t have any visible signs of aging yet, but is eager to start preventative measures.

Skincare routine approach:

What ingredients does Regina absolutely need? Looks like vitamins could be a good addition to her age-defying skincare routine. However, it doesn’t seem like she needs more aggressive anti-aging approach just yet. She also needs good moisturization which should include humectants, natural moisturizing factors and emollients. To help her fight blackheads and minimize pores we’d recommend to include oil-based cleansing and clay masks.

What can be merged? We inspected Regina’s moisturizer and it already has Glycerin, Sodium PCA as humectants, Urea as a natural moisturizing factor, Shea Butter, Ethylhexyl Palmitate and Petrolatum as emollients. Unfortunately, it has a barely traceable level of Vitamin E. In order to add vitamins C and B to her routine she could either find a different moisturizer that has both or add them as a serum for a more targeted action. Her toner also had a little bit of Glycerin and Aloe Vera extract, but ultimately didn’t add any value on top of what moisturizer already provided. Regina’s makeup foundation includes SPF 30 and she uses additional SPF protection when plans to spend time outdoors. Her current cleanser is a simple mild surfactant and we suggested to add or replace it with an oil-based cleanser to better dissolve the makeup and oil in the blackheads. As an alternative, she could find a cleansing balm that includes clay and feed the two birds with one cone!

Products purchased: Regina decided that her current moisturizer is actually a little too heavy to use under the makeup, and therefore she decided to buy a new one with Vitamin C to use under the makeup and boost her skin’s UV resistance. She also added a serum with niacinamide (Vitamin B) to use in the evening prior to applying her current moisturizer. Regina couldn’t find the cleansing balm she liked and decided to give a try to the oil-based cleanser as well as introduce clay masks in her routine.

Sequencing: Since Regina hasn’t tried niacinamide before and heard it might cause a flush effect, she thought it’d be safer to introduce it at first as an overnight treatment. Due to her oily skin she also felt that an oil-based cleanser would leave too much oil on her skin and she needs additional cleansing. However, she plans to use clay masks twice a week instead of her surfactant-based cleanser.

Old routine:

Morning: cleanser -> toner -> moisturizer -> makeup/SPF

Evening: cleanser -> toner -> moisturizer

New routine:

Morning: oil based cleanser -> regular cleanser -> Vitamin C moisturizer -> makeup/SPF

Evening: oil based cleanser -> regular cleanser/clay mask -> Niacinamide serum -> emollient moisturizer

After a few weeks of trying out her new routine, Regina found out that she really doesn’t need the regular cleanser. Despite the oily skin, her oil-based cleanser had enough surfactant to leave only a small amount of oil that was beneficial, while an additional one made it squeaky clean and triggered more oil production. She also found out that her new Niacinamide serum has enough humectants and emollients to not really require an additional moisturizer unless the air was too dry. Now she uses it only under her eyes.

It took me about a month to start noticing that my pores are consistently less visible and my skin is less oily in the morning. It feels like I have more products to joggle now, but really my routine quickly became an autopilot.

Regina, California

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