Building Your Skin Care Routine

Basics first, then build on it.
The basics of taking care of skin are not all that different from taking care of a plant. Wash it, water it, feed it, protect it. Your favorite plant probably gets dusted off now and then, spritzed, watered, given a little plant food, scooted into the shade if it’s about shrivel up from too much sun. Why not give your skin at least as much TLC? Visualize what goes in to the care and keeping of any living thing, and the basics of good skin care start making a lot of sense.

Phase 1: Cleanse – Moisturize – Sunscreen
Most of what I am about to say may be obvious, but every time I go to the dentist he still repeats the brush and floss mantra, right? The cornerstore here is washing your face – morning and night – and topping it off with a little lotion. For mornings, add sunscreen. Let me repeat: cleanse-moistuize-sunscreen is the basic basic (oily or dry, 20 or 80, acne or wrinkles).

I think we all get that the purpose of washing your face is to clean it. You wash your clothes, your car, your dishes and you dog. You gotta wash your face too. The moisturizer is doing more than you might realize, though. It is nutrition, hydration and protection rolled into one.

Consistency is key. The cleanser or moisturizer you choose may change depending on your skin type, but the basic process stays the same. Once you’ve got the wash-moisturize-sunscreen thing down, you can add to it. Makeup-wearers can shoot for that next-level clean by using a makeup remover before the basic wash (don't let the double cleanse label scare you).  Insider Tip: no matter how many steps you add to your routine, cleansing is always 1st and moisturizing/sunscreen always last. These are your bookends.

Phase 2: Exfoliate
Exfoliate. Strange sounding word so I looked it up. It comes from from Latin meaning stripped of leaves. This is like an extra deep clean that gets off baked-on dead skin cells. Makes skin smoother. We like what is known as chemical exfoliation – getting the job done with acids (think lactic, glycolic, salicylic). If your skin is sensitive, you can try a non-chemical, non-abrasive option like jojoba beads to buff away dead skin. Start by using an exfoliant 1-2x a week and move up to daily use if your skin likes it. Use on clean skin right after you wash your face. Exfoliants come in lots of different forms – gel, liquid, lotion, mask. Most are best to use at night since some can make skin more sensitive to sun. Recap: exfoliate after cleansing, before moisturizer, a few times a week, at night.

Phase 3: The Extras
Once you’re as comfortable with wash–moisturize–sunscreen–exfoliate as you are with texting while you ride your bike, you’re ready for The Extras. For combination, normal and oily skin, top picks are Vitamin C in the morning and retinol at night. Dry or sensitive skin? Look for Vitamin B, consider a night cream. Extras in the form of toners or serums go on after washing, before your moisturizer. I could say a lot more about layering, but I’ll save it for another day.

— Margot