A Step-by-Step Guide to Good Skincare

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Spring 2024

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Long gone are the days when skincare meant just soap and water. Nowadays, skincare is a booming industry that has expanded its product offerings to things like oils, serums, acids, creams, gels, and more. The emergence of innovative Korean skincare products in the last decade and the rise of 10-step skincare regimens has made a huge impact on the market. To those new to the updated varieties of skincare products, those packed drugstore and specialty store shelves can seem overwhelming. In order to keep things simple, know that most of the various tubs, bottles, and sprays can be placed into five categories of products: cleansers, toners, treatments, moisturizers, and sun protection. Below are the five essential steps to building a skincare regimen that can be tailored to different skin types and concerns.

Cleansers

The first step in skincare is to gently remove makeup, dirt, and oils from the skin. Most formulations will be oil-based (best for removing stubborn makeup) or water-based, and either creamy or foaming. Those with normal to dry skin may prefer more hydrating washes while those with oily or combination skin may prefer more clarifying formulas. If this is already too many options, keep it simple and pick one that is within your price point and doesn’t irritate your skin. For those who want cleansers that do a little more, there are cleansers out there that offer other benefits, like fighting acne or exfoliating with the inclusion of chemical or physical scrubbers.

Double cleansing is also an option for those who don’t mind taking a little more time to get their skin squeaky clean. It involves using two types of cleansers, the first of which targets stubborn makeup. This initial step usually takes the form of a cleansing oil, gentle balm, or neutral micellar water which breaks down foundation, lip colour, and eye colour but often leaves a film of product on the skin. The second step, which cleans a bit deeper into the pores, involves a more traditional lather of soap and water to remove residue. Double cleansing can be an involved process, but it can also be great for when you want to slow down and take a moment of self-care.

Toners

After cleaning, skin needs to be prepped to receive treatments and moisturisers, and although toners are sometimes seen as an optional step, they make a major difference in how skin absorbs products further on in one’s routine. Previous generations of toners were harsh, alcohol-based products that stripped the skin of its natural oils. Thankfully, toners today are mainly hydrating and calming. Some also have pore-clearing and acne-fighting ingredients like AHA (alpha hydroxy acid—great for dry skin) and BHA (beta hydroxy acid—great for oily skin). Spritz some on the skin directly or apply with cotton pads to gently prep the surface for treatments and moisturizers.

Treatments

Serums, masks, and spot treatments target specific skin concerns. They are usually concentrated applications of hydration, vitamins, antioxidants, and other good-for-you nutrients. Typically, lighter formulations should be applied first before moving on to heavier ones. Among the lighter products are watery essences, potent ampoules, and slick serums, which all do very similar things by offering skin-friendly nutrients. Sheet masks, although not necessarily a product that someone might use daily, can be implemented at this stage too for extra pampering. Finally, blemish treatments, anti-aging creams, and spot brighteners can be dabbed onto the target areas of the face with clean applicators or fingertips. Make sure you let each layer of product dry for a few minutes before applying the next one to get the full benefits of each treatment.

Moisturizers

A crucial step in skincare is hydration. Moisturizers are important to protect the skin and to lock in all the good stuff from the previous treatment step. Light lotions and gel-textured products are great for sweaty summers, while heavier creams are perfect for dry winters. A couple of great ingredients to keep an eye out for are hyaluronic acid and squalene, both of which are naturally produced by the body and work well to help hydrating products sink into the skin instead of sitting on top of it.

Beyond face creams, dedicated eye creams are a must at any age. In the morning, products with depuffing ingredients (like caffeine) or cooling applicators (steel-tip roller balls) are great for reducing undereye bags. In the evening, some light hydration is all you need for the delicate area around the eyes. Anti-wrinkle options, of course, are also worth considering, especially for middle-aged skin.

Sun Protection

For morning routines, always end with sunblock. Wait for all the other products to have time to sink in and then cover up with a minimum of 30 SPF. Some creams in previous steps may have SPF already, but it’s best to have full protection. If you are worried about throwing off the delicate balance of applied products with a heavy, greasy layer of sunscreen, know that there are many new formulations available, including spray-on, solid, and invisible gels. Find one that feels good and avoid sun damage, which leads to skin discolouration, early wrinkles, and risk of skin cancer.

Build Your Own Regimen

After reading this handy guide to skincare, it should be easier to build a tailored regimen by selecting products for each of the five basic steps. Add or remove steps according to preference. A hot tip: don’t be afraid to ask store employees for advice when shopping for products—they know what is popular, effective, and worth shelling out money for. When unsure about two similar-sounding cleanser or creams, ask for samples to try at home. Examine the effects on your skin over time and avoid anything that causes redness or breakouts. Enjoy building a routine that suits your skin and lifestyle! //

Rose Ho | Contributing Writer

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