How To Build A New Skincare Routine
Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels
We’re totally on board with upping your skincare game, but it’s rarely as simple as buying the latest Instagram beauty hit and hoping for the best. It takes time, patience and a little side of know-how. Here are our golden rules for getting it right, every time.
Rule #1: Understand Your Skin
You may think you know your skin type, but when was the last time you took a few moments to study and feel your skin? Three months ago? Last year? Well, let us ask you this: does your skin act, look and feel the same as it did a couple of months ago? Probably not.
All manner of external and internal factors change the way your skin behaves. Yes, it might be a little shiny and oily during the summer, but then it could feel dry and tight in the winter. Similarly, that super lightweight lotion might have been perfectly adequate for moisturizing your skin in your teens, but now you’re older, chances are your skin needs much more help in the hydration department.
So, what’s the solution? The best way to know what your skin is doing right now is to cleanse it, leave it totally free of product for a couple of hours, then look at it in the mirror and feel it – with clean hands, of course. If it already looks shiny and feels greasy, you probably have oily skin, whereas if there are patches of dryness or flakiness, it’s erring towards being dry and/or dehydrated. Maybe it’s a mixture of the two: then you have combination skin. And if it feels absolutely perfect, then lucky you, you have normal skin. Simple.
Next, study areas of concern such as around the eyes or along your cheekbones. Do you see lines that weren’t there last time you checked? Dark circles around your eyes? Or maybe there’s a little pigmentation across your cheeks? All this detective work will help you pinpoint not only your skin type, but the areas you want to address with your skincare routine.
Rule #2: Always Do A Patch Test
Skincare ingredients don't have to be tested or approved by the FDA (US Food and Drug Administration) so, while there’s plenty of research and data on how effective and safe most products and their ingredients are, it’s always sensible to test out anything new before putting it all over your face. Yes, we know that desperate feeling of wanting to immediately slather your face in your spanking new Vitamin C serum, but do a patch test, wait just 24 hours and your skin will thank you for it.
Patch tests are very simple. All you need to do is apply a little of the product to a discreet patch of your skin (behind your ears, inside your elbow, on the side of your neck, even on your hand), then leave it for 24 hours to check for a reaction. Nothing? Then you should be good to apply it to your face. If, however, you experience any kind of redness, swelling, itching or irritation, something in that product clearly doesn’t agree with your skin, so you should return it and either try something else, or go back to a product you know works.
Photo by Linda Prebreza from Pexels
If you know your skin is consistently super sensitive and reactive to any new brand or product, please be extra careful when trying something new. In fact, your best bet is to book an appointment with a board-certified dermatologist before switching up your skincare routine. Chances are, you’re allergic to a certain ingredient which a skin specialist can diagnose, then you can avoid.
Rule #3: Slowly Does It
The primary goal of a great skincare routine is to consistently improve and maintain a healthy complexion. So, while it might be tempting to go nuts with retinols, AHAs and antioxidant serums all at once, this is really not wise if your skin is not used to such active ingredients. In fact, it’s the opposite of wise – especially if you have sensitive skin.
A better idea is to start your skin off with one new product at a time, giving yourself one or two weeks before introducing another. Then, if you have any kind of negative reaction, you’ll be able to pinpoint the exact product that caused it.
Rule #4: Learn How To Layer
Nailed the right balance of products but not sure in which order to apply them? After cleansing and toning, the general rule of thumb is to apply the thinnest product first and the thickest, most dense product (usually sunscreen or night cream) last. This means your serum (maybe it’s an antioxidant, perhaps it’s an acne treatment) comes after toning, followed by your moisturizer to seal in all the goodness. If you like to apply a face oil for extra hydration or radiance, this can be applied after moisturizer because oil has the ability to penetrate cream, but not the other way round. And if your moisturizer doesn't contain sunscreen? Apply this as your final step. Most sunscreen sits on your skin rather than penetrating the top layers, so if you put this on before anything else it'll act like a barrier and prevent your products from doing their jobs. That’s what we call money down the drain.
Another thing to remember is not to rush as you layer your products. Slap them on too quickly and you’ll run the risk of pilling. Instead, apply your serum, then stick the coffee on or brush your teeth before moving on to moisturizer and finally sunscreen.
Rule #5: Remember, Breakouts Aren’t Always Bad
Granted, breakouts are often a response to something in your skincare routine. Over-rich moisturizer containing mineral oils, petroleum and petrolatum for example, can suffocate your pores, increase sebum production and exacerbate pimples, so avoid these if you’re prone to acne.
Also, if you clash certain ingredients in your beauty regimen – hydroquinone and benzoyl peroxide, for example, are a notoriously bad combo – your skin will not thank you for it. We know this can be confusing, so try readily prepared combinations from trusted skincare brands or stick with one main, active ingredient in your morning regimen and another one in the evening.
But as the title of this section notes, breakouts are not always a bad thing.
Say hello to the skin purge...
Skin purging is when your skin reacts to certain active ingredients like retinol, AHAs and BHAs which work to accelerate the exfoliation process, thus promoting cell turnover. While these ingredients sound great in practice – and they are in the long run – they can temporarily bring blockages to the surface, causing redness, irritation and unwanted pimples.
Our best advice for avoiding these annoying flare-ups? First, slowly introduce active ingredients into your routine (see #3 above) to allow your skin to adjust – even if this means using a certain product just once or twice a week to begin with. You can always up your usage as your skin becomes more tolerant.
Also, be patient as your skin adapts to new, powerful ingredients – pimples, blackheads and bumps due to skin purging are temporary and should soon pass. If they don’t go away within a few weeks, however, or if they get worse, always visit a board-certified dermatologist or skin expert for advice.
About Georgia Gould
Georgia is an award-winning beauty writer who has been in the business for over 20 years. British-born, she began her career as a magazine beauty editor in London before moving to San Francisco, CA in 2012 where she now continues her love as a freelance writer and editor. As well as her editorial work, Georgia has created content for many high-profile beauty brands, including Clarins, L’Oréal, Procter & Gamble, Simple and TRESemmé. Her passions include retinol (obviously), golfing, skiing and walking her beloved Schnauzer, Dave.