It doesn’t get better than this to be very honest
So, you have decided to start a skincare routine. You’ve probably gone off to google to find an helpful guide on how to start a skincare routine and now you’re somewhat stuck because bruhhh there sure is a ton of information out there. Don’t panic! I’ve got your back. I know how overwhelming it can be to figure out these things, I was once in your shoes too.
I’ve taken the liberty to put together this really simple and easy to understand guide on how to start a skincare routine and the basic products you will need.
Let’s dive into it shall we?
Before you decide to fix something you first have to identify what exactly the problem is right? Hence, the very first thing you need to do BEFORE buying skincare products is to identify your skin type. Very very key!
There are about five skin types ranging from Oily, Dry, Sensitive, Combination and Normal. It is important to note that one person can have multiple skin types. Also depending on your age, hormones, environment and other lifestyle changes your skin type can change.
How can one identify their skin type?
There are a number of ways to do this but the easiest means to determine your skin type is to see how it performs from morning to evening on a typical day.
- Does your face feel oily and look shiny at the end of the day? If yes you have Oily Skin
- Is your T-zone shimmering, but the rest of your face is mostly matte? That’s Combination Skin
- Do you have minimal oil, flakiness, or redness, or none at all? Lucky you you’ve got Normal Skin
- Is your skin flaky or tight? Sorry you’ve got Dry Skin
- Is your skin itchy, red, or inflamed? Ouch that’s Sensitive Skin baby!
There are other methods you can use to accurately determine your skin type. Check them out here.
Once, you’ve figured out your skin type the next step is to identify your skin issues. This might require expert help (read as a dermatologist) however here are some common skin issues and conditions many experience.
- Acne (Bacterial and Fungal)
- Hyperpigmentation (Dark spots/Uneven skintone)
- Dry flaky skin
- Excess oil production
- Redness and sensitivity
While some of these issues can be dealt with using over the counter (OTC) skincare products please take note that some require treatment and prescriptions from a skincare expert.
Now that we have identified our skin type and skin issues let’s move on to the products we need to fix or manage these issues.
The very first and one of the most important products you need in your skincare routine is a gentle non-stripping face cleanser or face wash. You can’t have healthy clear skin if your pores are constantly clogged with dirt and free radicals. Your skin needs to be cleansed regularly to reveal that glow you truly deserve and no washing your face with bar soap or cleansing with face wipes is a NO-NO!
What type of cleanser should I choose?
When it comes to choosing products for your skin the same rule of knowing your skin type and skin issues come to play. This is because, some skincare products are specifically formulated for some skin types and skin issues although IMO it’s all capitalist BS.
The general rule of thumb is to choose a cleanser that is PH friendly, gentle and non-stripping. It’s also great to look out for cleansers that have active ingredients that can provide your skin with extra benefits besides cleansing it.
For instance many cleansers contain chemical exfoliants like Salicylic acid; a beta hydroxy acid that helps to treat acne and gently exfoliates the skin. Other cleansers also have hydrating ingredients like Glycerin and Hyaluronic Acid; an humectant that attracts moisture from the atmosphere to the surface of the skin.
Cleansers come in different forms and consistencies. Common cleanser types include;
- Gel cleansers – Best for Oily and Combination skin
- Oil-based cleansers – Great for all skin types. Usually used as a first cleanser to take off makeup and sunscreen. I will talk more about double cleansing in a separate post.
- Micellar cleansing water – Excellent for Dry and sensitive skin
- Foaming Cleansers – Best for Oily and combination skin
- Cream cleansers – Ideal for Dry and sensitive skin
- Bar cleansers (not to be confused with your antibacterial and medicated bar soap) – Good for Oily and combination skin
- Powder Cleansers – Best for Oily and sensitive skin
Please take note that some of these cleanser types can be used by all skin types. The key thing to look out for are the ingredients. If you have sensitive skin you might want to avoid cleansers that have fragrances and surfactants like Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, not to be confused with Sodium Laureth Sulfate.
The next product you need in your skincare stash is an exfoliant. Surprised huh? Yes I know, you were probably expecting me to say a toner, however while toners are great to have in your skincare routine they are not as essential as exfoliants.
In the past toners were used to restore and balance the skin’s PH levels after cleansing. This is because many cleansers used harsh surfactants that stripped the skin off it’s essential oils. However, fast forward to the present day, cleansers have now been formulated with gentle pH friendly ingredients making toners not very necessary.
You will also be glad to know that some toners actually double as exfoliants. Yes! Some skincare products have multiple functions.
So what is an exfoliant and which type do I need?
Like every living organism with skin, the human skin cells renew themselves every two-four weeks. Exfoliation helps speed up that process and this can be achieved by physical or chemical means.
Physical exfoliants are designed to slough away dead skin cells using physical particles or mechanical methods. Common types of physical exfoliants include: facial scrubs, facial brushes, loofahs, wash cloths, konjac sponges e.tc.
Physical exfoliants are sometimes harsh on the skin and can cause more damage than good especially for dark-skin types. It is best to avoid scrubs especially for facial skin. A konjac sponge or soft wash cloth is more acceptable if you choose to use a physical exfoliant.
Chemical exfoliants on the other hand work to dissolve dead skin cells and any dirt and oil that binds those cells to your skin. The most common types of chemical exfoliants are Alpha Hydroxy Acids & Beta Hydroxy Acids (AHAs and BHAs.) These are derived from natural substances like milk (Lactic Acid), sugarcane (Glycolic acid), willow bark (Salicylic acid), citrus fruits (Citric and Tartaric acid)e.tc.
AHAs and BHAs
AHAs are water-soluble acids derived from sugary fruits. They help exfoliate the surface of your skin so that new, more evenly pigmented skin cells may generate and take their place. After use, you’ll likely notice that your skin is smoother to the touch. On the other hand, BHAs are oil-soluble and can penetrate deep inside your skin to unclog the pores. BHAs also have natural skin-calming properties, so it’s gentle enough for skin that’s sensitive or prone to redness or rosacea.Here's A Detailed Guide On How To Create An Effective Skincare Routine. Click To Tweet
Which one should I use?
AHAs can be used by every skin type but if you have very dry or sensitive skin you should build up your tolerance by starting with very low concentrations only once a week. Glycolic and Lactic acid are top two on the AHAs list. Other AHAs include Malic acid, Citric acid, Tartaric acid, Mandelic Acid.
AHAs are primarily used to treat:
- mild hyperpigmentation like age spots, melasma, and acne scars
- enlarged pores
- fine lines and surface wrinkles
- uneven skin tone
BHAs on the other hand, are mainly used for acne and sun damage, this is due to the calming nature attributed to them. They are also most suitable for combination to oily skin because it can penetrate deeper into the pores to unclog oils and acne causing bacteria. If your skin concerns include reducing rosacea redness you will benefit more from using a BHA. Salicylic acid is the most common BHA.
AHAs and BHAs can be found in cleansers, toners, serums and moisturizers. For more information on chemical exfoliants check out this article here. Exfoliating once or twice a week is very vital. Don’t go above twice a week especially as a beginner. Also ensure to use sunscreen when using acids because they can make your skin extra sensitive to the sun.
The third most important product you need in your routine is a moisturizer. A moisturizer helps to lock in moisture into your skin. Contrary to popular opinion, people with oily skin need to moisturize. A moisturizer can actually help keep that oil control in check.
How do I choose a moisturizer?
Just like cleansers and exfoliants, moisturizers are available in different forms. Some skincare products equally have moisturizing properties. e.g Serums and Facial oils. However, they aren’t necessarily moisturizers.Contrary to popular opinion, people with oily skin need to moisturize. Here's how you can find the right one for your skin type. Click To Tweet
Moisturizer is simply a generic term that encompasses an extensive array of topical creams, gels, lotions, emulsions and ointments. All of these products are mixtures of lipids and water. When choosing a moisturizer it is important to look for products that contain Emollients, Occlusives and Humectants. Let’s learn more shall we?
What are Emollients, Occlusives and Humectants?
Humectants are ingredients that attract and bind water from deeper layers of the skin. Humectant ingredients you may find in skincare products include amino acids (urea), sugar alcohols (glycerol and sorbitol), honey, molasses, egg white and yolk, aloe vera gel, ceramides, alpha hydroxy acids (lactic acid), glycerin, hyaluronic acid. Glycerin and hyaluronic acid are two of the more commonly used humectants in skin care.
Emollients are lipids (fats) naturally that help smoothen the skin by lubricating the skin. Emollients come in the form of creams, gels, lotions and ointments, common emollients include lipids and oils, colloidal oatmeal, shea butter and isopropyl palmitate.
Occlusives serve as a physical barrier to help prevent water loss from the skin’s surface, while protecting the skin from external irritants. Common occlusive agents include waxes (carnauba and beeswax), silicone, oils (olive and soybean), dimethicone, lanolin, mineral oil and white petrolatum. Occlusives often boast a thick, heavy consistency when used topically, making them an ideal pick for very dry skin.
So rather than using only an hyaluronic acid serum (humectant), shea butter (emollient) or petroleum jelly (occlusive), you will benefit more by finding one product that combines all three. There are so many moisturizer options available and you do not need to break the bank to find a good one.
Moisturizers are also best applied on damp skin as this helps seal the water into the skin. For your morning routine you can go for a moisturizer with a light weight texture and for your nighttime you can choose one with a thicker texture.
Wrapping this up…
The last yet definitely not the least product you need is a SUNSCREEN!!! Yes, sunscreen! If you actively follow me on social media (follow me if you aren’t) you know how much I preach the gospel of sunscreen. Unnecessary exposure to the sun does more harm than good to your skin. You don’t have to spread yourself in the sun to load up on Vitamin D TRUST ME ON THIS!
Why do I need sun protection?
If you want to fade hyperpigmentation, reduce signs of aging and lower your risk of skin cancer it is very very very important to wear sunscreen daily. Every skin type, tone, color and gender needs sunscreen. Be sure to use a sunscreen that is at least SPF 30 and provides broad spectrum protection (meaning it protects against both UVA and UVB rays) as the last step in your morning routine qnd re-apply every 2-4 hours especially when you are outdoors and after swimming. Take note that you do not need to apply sunscreen at night.Every skin type, tone, color and gender needs sunscreen. Learn more about this effective yet inexpensive anti-aging product. Click To Tweet
Like every product we have talked about, Sunscreen come in different forms and some are specifically formulated for some skin types. Learn more about the different types of sunscreens and how to choose the right one in this article I wrote for Skin Cancer awareness month.
PHEW! That’s it people everything you need to start a simple yet effective skincare routine. Please take note that other products like toners, masks and serums can be added as you progress with your routine. However for a beginner who doesn’t want to commit to a lot all you truly need is;
- A gentle non stripping cleanser (use morning and night)
- An exfoliant (use 1-2 times a week)
- A moisturizer (use morning and night)
- A sunscreen (use in the morning)
Once you have all this you are ready to begin your journey to healthy glowing skin.
Do you have a skincare routine? What products do you use?
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Hoping to hear from you soon.
Sources for this article