I will be turning 30 next year and I felt like I should have a solid skin routine down before that time. And when I say I knew nothing about skincare, I really didn’t (and still have a lot to learn). So I asked my friends on social media to hear their favorite products and boy did they deliver!
This blog post is an accumulated collection of all the products, ideas, routines, and more that I learned during the process. I have tried to give my friends credit for their contributions where I could since a lot of these products I have not tried myself. I tried to organize it well for you to find what you need since it’s a pretty lengthy post so take a look at the Table of Contents below to skip to an area you’re interested in. I also tried to make it very descriptive and include the price for each product to help you determine what you are missing in your routine and which are an investment.
Hopefully you don’t get too overwhelmed by the length, you can always just Google something that is confusing because that is definitely what I did about a dozen times ;). I’ve now watched hours of YouTube videos, asked dozens of friends questions, and although that definitely does not make me a pro, I now feel like figuring out a skincare routine is not as much of an enigma or as intimidating as it was before. I hope this guide is as helpful to you as it was for me!
*UPDATE: After just 2 months of a consistent skincare routine, my skin made an amazing transformation! Scroll to the bottom of the post to see the photos and the products I am currently using.
Having a curated, purposeful skincare routine will not only do great things for your skin, but you will feel great having a nightly, luxurious routine!Veronica
Tips & Tricks
Instead of giving you the tips and tricks I received from friends at the end of the post, I want to start with them right away since these are important to keep in mind as you are researching the best products for yourself and your personal individual skincare routine. Here are a few tips I received from Veronica, Bekah, Alexis, and Hammadah:
- First and foremost, create skincare goals. Do you want to fix your acne, get brighter skin, smooth the texture in your skin, or focus on hyperpigmentation? Once you have goals, you can target that and figure out the skincare products to use.
- Consistency is KEY. Many people say that good consistent skincare with drugstore products will work better than one that is not used consistently. So that’s the trick: pick products, and then give them a fair shot. You won’t know if something is working for you right away (unless it’s something like the cleansing oil), so give it at least a month. Especially products that you want to help with brightness, texture, etc.
- That leads me to my next point – do not try on everything at the same time. Pick the products you want to use and then slowly introduce them one by one. This for two reasons. One, you want to make sure you don’t have a reaction to any of them. If you have a reaction, it will be much easier to pinpoint if you’re slowly introducing them. And two, you want to be able to see what works and what doesn’t so you don’t have an unnecessary product in your routine. I know it’s painful but try to take your time!
- If you ever get confused in which order to put on, just think of the consistency of each product. Go from lightest to heaviest (except for the cleansing oil). Cleanser, serum, oil, and moisturizer to lock everything in.
- If you get products that don’t have a pump, either wash your hands right before using them or get a little scoop so you don’t introduce bacteria and contamination. You should be washing your hands before your skincare routine regardless!
- Stay away from fragrance if you can, it can be an irritant to the skin.
- I would also try to stay away from open and transparent containers — especially when there is an active ingredient like an acid or Vitamin C — because the exposure to air and sunlight makes them go bad earlier. So if you can, stick to plastic opaque bottles.
- Splurge on serums. Use drugstore on moisturizers and cleansers. One good serum is worth the splurge but be intentional about what you want in it.
- Over-the-counter retinol is not as potent as prescription retinol. Get the prescription retinol. I will preach it ’til I die.
- When it comes to exfoliating, using a physical exfoliating scrub and another product with salicylic acid is not recommended to be used at the same time, especially with sensitive skin.
- Have a designated face towel for pat drying (as in, don’t use the same towel to dry your face as you do your body or your hands) so you avoid transferring dirt and germs from the towel to your face.
- Do not use makeup wipes. I repeat do not! They are way too harsh on the skin because people usually have to scrub their face and eye area with them. They also have a lot of alcohol in them which can really dry out the skin.
- Don’t use toners. Historically, these were to strip lye soap scum from the face. There is no need to strip after you cleanse and definitely don’t use any with alcohol in it.
- Always double cleanse!
Skincare Words I Learned
I kept notes of skincare words I didn’t know (or pronounce!) and wrote what the benefits are for each to give you an idea if it’s something you would like to look for. I tried to use these words when they are in the product so use Ctrl or Command + F and search the term to quickly find those products! For those of you on your phones, it’s up to your thumbs to find it.
Actives and their Benefits
- Vitamin C — Helps protect and strengthen your skin, promotes collagen production. It has an anti-inflammatory response and can prevent redness and inflammation.
- Niacinamide/Vitamin B3 — Decreases oil production, helps with hyper-pigmentation, improves the skin’s barrier function to maintain skin hydration, and minimizes the appearance of large pores
- Retinoids/Vitamin A /Tretinoin— Flattens top layer of skin (gets rid of texture), helps with acne and scars
- AHA — Stands for Alpha Hydroxy Acid. It is a water-soluble acid that helps peel away the surface of your skin so new, more evenly pigmented skin cells can generate and take their place.
- Glycolic Acid — The simplest and smallest in structure which means it’s easy to penetrate your skin and be super effective
- Lactic Acid — Hydrates and exfoliates at the same time
- BHA — Stands for Beta Hydroxy Acid. Works the same as AHA but can get deeper into the pores to remove dead skin cells and excess sebum
- Salicylic Acid — Removes Oil and helps with blackheads.
- Occlusive — a heavy cream or oil that seals moisture, like plastic wrap for your skin. It prevents evaporation of hydration from your skin to the environment.
- Humectant/HA/Hyaluronic Acid — It draws in water from the environment or the lotion itself to plump, hydrate, and repair the skin barrier
Three Steps to a Good Routine — Cleanse, Treat, Protect
There really are three steps to a good routine. Cleanse, treat and protect. First you cleanse by taking off the makeup, oils, and dirt from the day off your face (and cleanse at in the morning!). Then you will treat any symptoms you would like to individually focus on with active ingredients. And lastly, you will use products to protect your skin from the sun, external environment, or help lock moisture in from your treatment phase.
Every skincare product can be organized into these three categories. You can go really minimalistic and just stick to one product within each step or do a few more. It’s all up to you! I would start simple and then build up as you research more about skincare and what you like.
With cleansers, you don’t need to spend tons of money because cleansers are on the skin for 30 seconds and then down the drain. Just make sure you are not scrubbing your face and creating micro-tears.
It is highly recommended to doing a double cleanse. A double cleanse will allow you to really remove all makeup, dirt, sweat, and pollution. It will also prep the skin for treatments.
The most gentle way to do it is to start with either a balm or cleansing oil. These will really break down the makeup and dirt on the skin but do not make your skin oily. A friend says she cleanses with the oil even if she doesn’t wear makeup that day because she likes how it feels and it still helps the skin a lot.
If you’re doing a double cleansing technique, your second cleanse should be less balmy and a more water-based product to help get rid of any more oily residue. By doing a double cleanse, it will really help with the buildup of oil, dirt, dead skin cells, sunscreen, and makeup that leave your skin looking dull.
This unscented gel cleanser has salicylic acid, lipo hydroxy acid to help target excess oil and acne-prone skin. Veronica says, “I used up this one and I LOVED it! I ran out and I am buying it again. It got rid of a lot of the texture on my skin and never dried it out.”Shop Now — $15
Next is treatment. This is where you can really get specific with how you treat your skin. You can address texture, evenness, brightness, or whatever else you’d like. This is where you want to invest in high-quality products.
However, don’t just buy all these active ingredients or copy someone’s skincare routine exactly. Make sure that they are treating your specific skincare concerns and also that they go well together.
Skincare Concerns & What to Use
- Acne — Retinoids, Salicylic Acid, Benzoyl Peroxide, Niacinamide, Azelaic acid
- Anti-aging — Sunscreen, Retinoids, Vitamin C, Niacinamide, High-strength Exfoliants
- Textured Skin/Uneven/Dull — Exfoliants (Lactic acid, Glycolic acid), Retinoids
- Hyperpigmentation — Sunscreen, Retinoids, Vitamin C, Niacinamide
Vitamin C is one of the most popular and important antioxidants for your skin. More or less, everyone will benefit from having a Vitamin C serum or cream in their skin routine. It’s generally used in the morning and it’s very lightweight so it goes great underneath moisturizer and makeup.
Niacinamide’s benefits include brightening skin tone, treats hyperpigmentation, decreases oil production, fights acne, decreases redness, and moisturizes the skin. Niacinamide is good for people with oily skin. Niacinamide can be used together with Vitamin C.
This was a popular recommendation by many to use: specifically a prescription-strength retinoid. Retinoids will even out your texture, has anti-acne and anti-aging properties, improves hyperpigmentation, and minimizes the appearance of pores. It creates that “dewy” appearance on your skin.
*Don’t expect immediate results and don’t use it every single night. Be patient! It is also not recommended to use while pregnant and nursing. Someone also mentioned that you must wait to apply at least 20 minutes after washing your face to avoid redness and bumps.
Another part of treatment is exfoliation. Throw out any harsh physical exfoliant, like St.Ives! From now on, your exfoliation should be chemical.
Don’t be scared of the word chemical, it just means it breaks down the layers of dead skin without having to scrub your skin, so it’s more effective and gentle on your face. You can use a physical exfoliant every once in a while, but stick to microbeads since those are a bit softer. A lot of these treatments will help exfoliate the skin while also addressing other issues you have.
For a physical exfoliant, someone mentioned this activated charcoal soap bar that they cut into quarters to make it last longer. She said this is great for keratosis pilaris (the red bumps on her arms).
I split the lists into exfoliants recommended to leave on and those that you rinse off after a few minutes.
Now that you’ve cleansed and treated your skin, it’s time to protect it and lock in the treatment from sun with oils and moisturizers.
When it comes to moisturizers, everyone says cream is better than lotions. You want it to be thick so it locks in that moisture. One person mentioned to dampen your skin first, then moisturize! My favorite time to add moisturizer is right after the shower (which is why I try to shower at night after the kids go to bed so I can take my sweet time).
Others mentioned that you can do something as simple as coconut oil every night while others recommended Cetaphil, Jergen’s or Vanicream lite all over your body. When it comes to your face, you need a moisturizer that is creamy and thick — these products were recommended:
Oils are emollients (meaning the soften and sooth the skin) and they will create a great barrier on your skin to lock in all that hydrating moisturizer your just put on. It’s important to use moisturizer with your oil so your skin doesn’t become reliant on it and being over-producing its own natural oils.
Some people recommend mixing your oil with your cream if you don’t like the feeling of covering your face with a bunch of oil.
This oil hydrates the skin and helps replenish lost moisture, provides an enhanced barrier support, and restores a radiant tone. Apply a few drops to the entire face once daily or as needed. You can even add it to your hair after a shower!Shop Now — $10
It’s pretty clear that sunscreen is good for your skin and should be part of your routine. Here are the few that were recommended by friends:
Other Skincare Products
Here are a few other products people recommended for their skin that I wasn’t quite sure where they fit in with the above categories but seemed like some great recs!
Alyssa recommends this for when your heels and hands get really dry and you need some real TLC. Someone else also recommended Corona Multi-Purpose Ointment that is literally made for horses but would work well for minor cuts, sores, burns, chapping, and dry skin.Shop Now— $4
This razor is great for shaving off the peach fuzz and dead skin off every couple of weeks. Alexis says makeup goes on a lot smoother when she does this. I have also personally used this product and it feels great to get rid of that peach fuzz every now and again for a smooth cheek!Shop Now— $5
Recommended Skincare Companies
This is all very dependent on the person of course but I wanted to mention a couple companies I noticed a trend in popularity when talking about skincare and I asked them why they love those companies so much.
- The Ordinary
- La Roche-Posay
- Paula’s Choice
- Drunk Elephant
Skincare Youtube Channels
Two dermatologists that explain things that could be difficult to understand.
Solely dedicated to skin care, she is a mine of information. And her voice is so soothing!
She has a mix of beauty, hair and skin care but her skin videos are really good. She also highlights a lot of drugstore products which is really nice!
What is your “Can’t Live Without” Product?
60% of people in my Instagram stories said they had a skincare routine. And so I asked them a number of questions, including what they couldn’t live without in terms of their skincare routine. These products are also listed above but I added them in their own category as a good reference to what has been tried and true and loved.
A few “Can’t Live Without” answers I received that weren’t specific products:
- Vitamin C Serum
- All Korean skincare products
- SPF Everyday
Thanks goes to all of you who participated and shared your favorite skincare products with me! I hope this is helpful for you to get an idea of what may be missing in your routine, learn more about the chemicals and vitamins that are good for your skin, and maybe see a few tried and true products from just your normal average Jane.
My goals for my skincare routine is to brighten my skin and under my eyes for a nice dewy glow, and to just add sunscreen in general since I’ve never had that in my routine.
Below are the products I heard multiple times, were raved about insistently, or that I saw missing in my routine. I will be slowly adding to my skincare routine!
**UPDATE: After just 2 months of consistently using these products, my skin was totally glowing and I felt so much more beautiful in my own skin! I thought for sure it is just a placebo effect but I’ve gotten compliments on it! The photos don’t even do it justice, but look at that before and after!
And that’s it! Like I’ve said before, I am no pro so please PLEASE comment below if you have a product you love, if I mention anything incorrectly in this post, or if you have any other recommendations to share!