How to Build a Skincare Routine
Many circumstances impact how your skin looks; some you can control, and some you have limited or no control over. Your genes, exposure to different environmental factors and your lifestyle are three big ones, but establishing a daily skincare routine at home that you consistently follow, is one of the best things that you can do to help your skin.
Most say that beginning a skincare routine in your twenties, and then adjusting it throughout the years is very important to keep your skin looking as good as possible. By the time you are in your 30's, you should be using products meant to correct and protect (like day and night moisturizers, serums, eye creams and masks) that can help to stave off the effects of aging. But even if you didn’t start early enough, or you are just beginning (no matter your age) it is never too late to start taking care of your skin to improve its appearance and health.
There is a lot of skincare routine advice out there, and it can get confusing. We’ve broken down the basics to help cut through the clutter:
How to Think About Skincare
Your skincare products should be designed to help after you have implemented the lifestyle habits of good skin. This means you eat well (lots of fruits and veggies), you drink lots of water and if you smoke – STOP! Smoking has an enormous negative impact on your skin. After that, skincare products are there to help you:
- Tune up and troubleshoot
If your skin is clean, treated and protected, it can function well and look its best. After all, it is the largest organ of your body!
Skincare Basic Steps
You’ve most likely heard this before, but the steps of a good skin routine include:
Some cultures and more advanced skincare practices (like Korean skincare routines) have added steps (upwards of 15+!) but for this article, we are sticking to the basics of a good solid routine.
Cleanse – This is the one that everybody does (at least we hope they do!), wash your face on a regular basis. It is important to do this at least twice a day (morning and night). During the day, your skin encounters many pollutants, dirt, bacteria and other things that need to be removed. Cleansing is even more important if you wear makeup. Cleansing at night helps to keep pores clear and clean and stave off breakouts. Nowadays, products for washing your face come in many forms, and choosing what is right for you depends on your skin type, age and lifestyle. For more on the types of cleansers by skin type, see our article 101: Cleansers Defined.
Tone – It’s not the 1970’s any longer…so those old astringents can go by the wayside. Most of those were alcohol-based and used to remove oil and any remaining makeup from the skin. Today, toners have evolved to a whole new level. Toners now come with added active ingredients and in many new textures. They are used to further cleanse the skin, prepare the skin to better receive the next products and to deliver specialized ingredients. Still, many experts consider toners as “optional”. If you do decide to add a toner, look for one that offers skin preparation benefits or delivers extra ingredients to your routine that your other products do not have.
Treat – This step is your best friend - especially if you are somewhere between 40 and 100. Treatments are typically serums, but we note other types below. They have specialized “actives” (either natural or scientific) that deliver specific benefits to correct or prevent certain skin concerns (like wrinkles, dark spots, uneven tone, dull skin, etc.). As you get older, this is a step that should increase and change over time.
Serums - You may find you need one serum to treat your skin overall, or multiple serums to treat different areas with different concerns. Most serums can be applied to the entire face and neck, on specific spots or layered, depending on the product you use and your needs. Look for serums that list actives to correct specific issues which you are concerned with; and always follow the instructions to get the application right.
Eye Creams – Eye creams are used mostly if you have a concern around the eye area, such as dark circles, puffiness under the eye or wrinkles around the eye area. It is OK to choose not to add a separate cream just for the eyes, but it is important to use a product created for the eyes, as this area can be sensitive to active ingredients.
Weekly (or By-weekly) Treatments – Such as masks or specialized exfoliants. Masks are all the rage now, and have many forms and specialized benefits; they are usually recommended as a once-weekly treatment, or if you are troubleshooting a specific concern. Exfoliating is an important part of a skin routine (helps to brighten up that dull skin), but not recommended for daily use (usually 1 to 3 times a week). For more on how to exfoliate for 40+ skin see our article Exfoliation for 40+ Skin.
Moisturize – Like cleansing, this is an important step that almost everyone follows. Its main goal is to hydrate the skin but offers added benefits by creating softer, plumper skin (read fewer wrinkles) and a better overall complexion. As you age, skin typically gets drier, making this step even more important. You should use a moisturizer day and night, but you will find that there are formulas with added benefits for day vs night. Such as defense against pollution or SPF protection for the day, and added anti-aging replenishment benefits for the night.
Protect – You guessed it, we mean from UV rays. While there is a lot of on-going debate about what level of sunscreen is best, there is NO debate that year-round use is important; even when you are just heading to the office. Damage from UV rays is a huge concern that you can protect against. Many experts agree an SPF of at least 30 should be used daily. It is often hard to find day or night moisturizers that have an SPF 30 included, so this can mean layering an SPF over your moisturizer. For more information on how to protect your skin from UV rays and the correct way to use sunscreen, see our article Sunscreen Refresher: Best Practices.
Skincare to Cleanse, Tune Up, Trouble Shoot and Protect
If you have a skincare routine, it may be time to rethink, change out or add new products based on your current skin concerns. Take the time each week to closely review your skin – look for any changes or new trouble areas. This regular review can help you decide if it is time to add a new step or product. For more information on how your skin changes and how to adjust your routine, see our article Skin Deep for Every Age: 40’s, 50’s 60’s.
If you haven’t really committed to a skincare routine, it’s never too late! While you can’t “turn back the clock” you can improve where you are. Just starting a regular routine will give you amazing results.
Either way, as you select products, remember "active skincare products" meant to correct and protect need time to work, so be patient. Follow the instructions and be consistent – over a few weeks, you should start to see results.