Disclaimer: These are not the opinions of an expert. Skin types vary, and what works best for me may not work best for you. Consult your dermatologist before making drastic changes to your skincare routine.
Does anyone else feel like a real, successful grown-up when they have their skincare routine on point? There’s something luxurious and responsible about rubbing a few creams on your skin on a regular basis. But it can also get kind of exhausting. Like, how many different moisturizing steps does one person really need to take?
Well, as a skincare enthusiast, I’m going to break it down for you and tell you which skincare steps I personally think you can skip, and which I consider non-negotiable.
Skippable skincare steps:
1. Eye Cream
I have a controversial stance on eye cream. Hot take: it’s just more expensive moisturizer. Seriously! The skincare conglomerates have scammed us all into spending $50 on the tiniest bottle of cream they could manufacture. When you could just use your regular moisturizer — get this — under your eyes. I firmly believe no one needs to be spending time, energy, and money on eye creams.
Now here’s where things start getting a little fancier. Have you heard of witch hazel? Other than the coolest combination of two words I’ve ever heard, it’s also a product for skincare. It’s an astringent, lightweight hybrid between cleanser and water that’s meant to gently return your skin to the proper ph-level. This is bullshit. It only takes a matter of minutes for the facial skin to return to its proper PH on its own, no products necessary. I’ve found that toner is another unnecessary step that skincare companies have us thinking that we need, when a cleanser followed up by a moisturizer would be just fine.
3. Face Masks
And finally, we’ve reached the most unnecessary skincare product of them all: the face mask. Did you want to spend $10-$50 on a 15-minute experience? Well, now you can! Did you want the most wasteful possible way to hydrate or treat your skin? That’s a face mask, baby! Face masks are literally just serums or exfoliators on a nice sheet of cloth to hold awkwardly on your face for 15-30 minutes. If you open one up and don’t use every last bit of liquid inside, you’re wasting your money. You can usually get 3-4 uses out of one package if you don’t mind getting your hands a little dirty. But almost always, they’re just diluted serums, and you could get the same results without having to sit perfectly still for half an hour.
Non-negotiable skincare steps:
Come on, what did you expect? Of course, sunscreen is non-negotiable, and the number of people who I see skip it is ridiculous. Unless you’re waiting to get skin cancer before you start wearing it, you absolutely need to start wearing SPF right now. And the tiny bit of SPF in your foundation doesn’t count. Yes, I know you don’t spend enough time outside. Yes, I know you live in a not-so-sunny place. Yes, I know you go straight from your car to work. Yes, I know it sometimes leaves a white cast to your skin. You still have to wear it. Seriously.
Let’s keep it real simple here. You should be moisturizing your skin. And, although this article is mostly based around the face, you should be moisturizing other parts of your body, too. At a minimum, face, lips, neck, and hands should get some sort of cream on them daily. These are the parts of the body that show aging fastest and the parts most exposed to sunlight. So put something moisturizing on your body at least once a day, whether that’s with coconut oil, an expensive cream, or a generic lotion you got from CVS. Whatever works for you and your wallet.
Don’t be the 19-year-old frat boy who has exactly one bottle in his shower that acts as a shampoo, body wash, and cleanser. Just don’t. Go out and buy yourself a nice, gentle cleanser to use after you’ve removed your makeup to finish cleaning your skin. You should be doing this right before moisturizer, and I find that once at night is really all you need (though it will depend on your specific skin type). Dermatologists disagree on whether or not a splash of water in the morning is enough if you’re sleeping on clean pillowcases. So please, see what works best for you, and make your own call on that!
So, there are a lot of different types of exfoliation. You’ve got physical exfoliation, which uses microbeads (which are often banned for environmental reasons), shells, salt, or sugar to physically remove any loose or dead skin. You’ve got chemical exfoliation products, which come in AHA, BHA, and a few other forms which, as the name suggests, uses chemicals such as glycolic or lactic acid to promote skin cell turnover and tackle fine lines, wrinkles, and hyperpigmentation. I would recommend exfoliating your face anywhere between once a day and once a week with an exfoliator of your choice (don’t choose St. Ive’s Apricot Scrub, it’s far too aggressive for delicate facial skin) depending on your skin type and personal dermatological recommendations, and exfoliating your body at least once a week to get all the gross dirt and dead skin cells off the surface of your body. [Editor’s note: I use a Baiden mitten every few weeks on my body, and it was honestly life-changing. – Holly]
Somewhere in between
1. Spot Treatments
This is really a use-as-needed type of product. Most spot treatments are highly concentrated versions of chemical exfoliators, meant to turn over the skin cells in one specific spot much faster. That results in acne having a shorter lifespan and your skin clearing up much faster. I would experiment with the two most common spot treatments: Benzoyl Peroxide and Salicylic Acid. It’s likely one of those two will work for you and you don’t have to spend more than drugstore prices for them.
Here’s where things really get buck wild. So, say you’ve followed along with this article and you now have a cleanser, moisturizer, sunscreen, and exfoliator of your choosing. Congratulations! You’ve got a basic skincare routine. From this point on, you’ll be customizing it to your specific needs. That’s what serums are for. Whether you want to remove pigmentation, refresh skin quality, increase elasticity, or deeply moisturizer, there’s a serum for that. I personally recommend The Ordinary, an incredibly budget-friendly, beginner-friendly skincare company that has serums for all kinds of needs.
And there we have it! In summary, in my opinion, you absolutely cannot skip sunscreen, moisturizer, cleanser, and some form of exfoliation. But you don’t necessarily need toners, face masks, spot treatments, or serums. Sure, if you’ve got the extra cash, you’re more than welcome to treat yourself, but don’t let Big Skincare make you think you need to spend hundreds of dollars a month on your face.
Mandy Pura is a 22-year-old who holds two Bachelors in the Arts and has no idea what to do with them. She’s a health-conscious coffee-drinker by day, and a stripper by night. She likes to spend her time doing circus acrobatics, practicing mindfulness, and eating delicious vegan foods.
Image via Unsplash