Why ‘Routine’ Is Your Skin’s Favorite Word

Why ‘Routine’ Is Your Skin’s Favorite Word

You can have all the will (and fancy products!) in the world, but without a consistent skincare routine, you might as well kiss healthy skin goodbye.

‘Routine.’ Granted, it’s not the most glamorous word in the world, but it’s probably one of the most important ones when it comes to the health of your skin. It’s all well and good arming yourself with bazillions of skincare products and all the beauty knowhow you can lay your hands on, but if you’re not consistently nailing the important basics through a carefully thought-out daily routine, then the rest is basically pointless.

Great skin is something we all dream of. It doesn’t need to be perfect, but if we can help it to be, look and feel its absolute best then we’re happy. Great skin doesn’t just happen, however. It requires work and care. It needs to be protected from the grinds of everyday life (yes, we’re talking to you sunshine, pollution, stress and so on), and it needs to be kept clean, hydrated, balanced and moisturized. After all, if you neglect your skin and the damage is already done, it’s almost impossible to reverse it.

According to the Oxford English dictionary, the definition of routine is ‘a sequence of actions regularly followed.’ Sound pretty simple, right? Then let’s have a look at how to build an awesome skincare routine that a) you can stick to and b) is effective…  

The Importance Of WHAT You Put On Your Skin… And HOW!

While we believe the best daily routine includes cleanser, toner, eye cream, serum, moisturizer and sunscreen, ultimately, there are only three steps your skin genuinely ‘needs.’ One is cleanser; two is moisturizer and three is sun protection. Of course, the old skool routine was to cleanse, tone and moisturize but we’ve since realized that skin can probably survive without toner… but it’s much more damaging to go without sunscreen.

Don’t get us wrong, we would never dismiss all those other products that work super hard to amp up your routine and target specific concerns like dark spots, fine lines and dark under eye circles. However, when it comes down to the fundamental basics, cleanser, moisturizer and sunscreen are everything.

1. Cleanser

Cleansing is the start of your routine, and choosing the right formulation is worth its weight in gold. Dermatologists recommend cleansing your skin twice daily (plus after exercising), using gentle formulations that are free of harsh, potent chemicals that can upset your barrier function. Certain alcohols like alcohol denat are best avoided as are sulfates and parabens that can irritate your skin and suck all the important oils from the surface. Instead, stick with gentle, non-abrasive products for daily use – whatever your skin type.

When you cleanse, take a few minutes to massage the product into your skin with your hands. This will help blood flow and lymphatic drainage to really up your glow factor. Oh, and don’t forget that hot water is the enemy. Use lukewarm water only, rinsing well and then gently patting with a clean, cotton towel.

2. Moisturizer

No matter what comes between your cleanser and moisturizer, this important step can make or break your routine. And consequently the state of your skin. Go too bold with thick, heavy ingredients that are too rich and you could break out lightning fast. Similarly, if your moisturizer is too light your skin can end up feeling super dry and dehydrated.

The key is to find a moisturizer that works in complete harmony with your skin type. Moisturizers need to have two main components: humectants which draw in water to hydrate the skin, and emollients or occlusives that lock in hydration and leave a certain smoothness to the skin. Oily or combination skin types should avoid occlusives like cocoa butter and coconut oil as these create a protective layer on the skin’s surface which blocks the pores. But other than that, it’s fair game. Humectants like hyaluronic acid, aloe vera and glycerin? Incredible… and very important for all skin types. Emollients like jojoba oil and vitamin E? Ditto.

To get the most from your moisturizer, smooth it all over your skin in upwards strokes to lift and firm your complexion. You could also apply it when your skin is still a little damp to lock in hydration.

3. Sunscreen

We get bored of hearing ourselves bang on about sunscreen, but until it becomes the norm for everyone to apply it on the reg, we will continue. Why is sunscreen so important? Because it not only protects your skin from the perils of premature aging, but it also reduces your chances of developing skin cancer.

The sun is present all year long, and its harmful UV rays are also around every day, doing the best they can to damage your collagen, ruin your elastin and screw up your DNA. This is why sunscreen is mega important every day (not just on the beach!), and on every area of exposed skin. To ensure you get good protection from both UVA and UVB radiation, look for broad-spectrum formulations that have an SPF of at least 30 – that’s the sweet spot most derms recommend. Apply around a nickel-sized amount to ensure you get the right amount of protection.

The Importance Of WHEN You Apply Your Skincare

A good skincare routine isn’t just about knowing which products to use, you also need to know how and when to apply them.

Sunscreen obviously isn’t required before bed. Because that would be pointless. And certain retinol products, strong actives or exfoliants might only be necessary a couple of times a week. But the rest of your routine should be carried out morning and night, unless otherwise stated on the label.

Then, it’s all about getting your order right. Obviously you should cleanse first, before toning, but then what? Well, if you’re using some kind of treatment serum for acne or pigmentation this should follow your toner. Next, would be an antioxidant serum like vitamin Chyaluronic acid or niacinamide, followed by your eye cream, moisturizer and face oil.

Sunscreen is vital every morning and, without question, always comes last because most formulations (and especially mineral sunscreens) are designed to sit on the surface of your skin. If you apply sunscreen before your serum, for example, it’ll block all those delicious ingredients from penetrating your skin and doing their job. Money. Down. The. Drain.

If this skincare layering order doesn’t stick in your head just remember that your thinnest product should be applied first, with the thickest, most dense product going last.

Finally, The Importance Of Being Patient… & Consistent

Expecting miracles from your skincare routine right from the off is setting yourself up for failure. Most products take time before they’re able to offer you the positive results you’re after. Retinol, for example, can take weeks, if not months before you really start to see the benefits, so be patient and stick with it.

Go to bed ten minutes earlier to give yourself the time to cleanse, treat and moisturize your skin before you turn in. Similarly, set your morning alarm five minutes earlier to ensure you have enough time (and therefore no excuses not!) to apply sunscreen. 

Ensuring your routine becomes a habit is such an easy thing to do. And it's so worth it in the end.

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Georgia Gould

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.