Starting a Basic Skincare Routine

If you’re anything like me, or the majority of people on this planet, you have probably been ailed at one point or another with some sort of insecurity or discomfort related to your skin health. I’m sure many of you reading this, also like myself, are dealing with this in the present. 

Coming into 2020, there is gargantuan amounts of information on skincare and skin health. On one hand this is a wonderful thing because it means there is an open discussion happening between both experts and consumers on what is good for each individual’s skin and what isn’t. I like that so many great companies are rising up and becoming more transparent about their products and ingredient lists, and that consumers are becoming more aware of what we’re putting on our skin. On the other hand, all of this information can be very confusing and overwhelming. With all the ever-growing types of products out there, it’s hard to know where to start, what works for your skin, and what companies and products are trustworthy.

I have learned many things on my journey to clear, balanced skin, but only one thing has remained true and unchanged throughout it all: simple is better. I learned this the hard way by damaging my skin barrier more times than I can count. Trying out so many new ”it” products at once hoping for a cure-all miracle product only to be left with irritated skin. So if that’s you, then it might be time to go back to the basics to let your skin do some healing. Conversely, if you’re someone who has yet to delve into the land of skincare, this is a good place to start. I also find that taking this time every morning and night to have to yourself, for yourself, is a really great act of self care, even if it’s only a few minutes. 

There are three steps I believe are most important in a basic skincare routine: cleanser, moisturizer, and sunscreen. Once you’re happy with the basics you can start building from there, adding things like serum, exfoliation, mists, toners, etc. to treat more specific skin concerns, but having the foundation of a basic routine will ensure that any products or treatments you do add in will be most effective. I have also put some product recommendations at the bottom of the page for each step at different price points. These are all products I’ve either tried myself or have been highly recommended by other consumers and skincare enthusiasts.

Morning Routine

Sunscreen: This is the most important step in your morning routine. Sunscreen protects you from UVA rays (penetrate deep layers of your skin and can penetrate through clouds and windows; that’s why it is so important to apply sunscreen even on cloudy, rainy days) and UVB rays (damage the outer layers of skin). UVA and UVB rays contribute to tanning, sunburns, premature aging, hyperpigmentation, and skin cancers.

Physical (mineral) sunscreens with active ingredients, like zinc and titanium dioxide, work by blocking and reflecting UV rays from penetrating your skin. Chemical sunscreens with active ingredients, like avobenzone and octinoxate, work by absorbing the UV rays in your skin and releasing them as heat before they cause damage to your skin. Whether you use a physical or chemical sunscreen is up to you. A lot of people find chemical sunscreen ingredients to be irritating and some chemical filters have been found to be damaging to coral reefs. The downside to mineral sunscreens is that they can leave a chalky white cast on your skin, especially on darker skin tones. Thankfully there are a lot of great mineral sunscreen formulations out there that do a great job at minimizing or getting rid of that white cast. There is also a new category of UV filters that are common in Korean sunscreens that have filter ingredients like tinosorb s and octyl triazone. These ingredients haven’t been approved by the FDA to be sold in the states as sunscreen, but there are promising studies that show these filters might be more photostable and less irritating than the chemical filters here in the US. Here are some sunscreen tips:

  • Apply enough sunscreen to cover exposed skin (don’t forget your neck and the backs of your hands), about a ½ teaspoon of product for your face and neck. 
  • Your sunscreen should be at least an SPF 30. Studies have shown that SPF less than 30 doesn’t quite give you the best protection and anything more than SPF 30 doesn’t actually provide much more protection than what the 30 gives you. So you don’t necessarily have to go for SPF 100 to get the most coverage. The most important thing is making sure you are applying enough and reapplying throughout the day. 
  • Reapply sunscreen every 2-3 hours, even on cloudy days or when sitting by windows. 
  • Makeup products that have an SPF aren’t usually enough to provide sun protection because you use a much smaller amount needed to actually get the SPF. 

(Remember, UVA rays can penetrate through glass and you don’t feel the effects of UVA rays right away. They are busy at work causing damage deeply within your skin, so just because you can’t feel it, like when you are sunburned, doesn’t mean it’s not causing problems).

Check out my All About Sunscreen post for a more in depth look into sun protection.

Nighttime Routine 

  1. Cleanse: I prefer the popular double cleanse method. It’s what it sounds like, you cleanse your skin twice. The first cleanse is to remove makeup, sunscreen, general dirt and grime from the day and is traditionally some type of oil or balm cleanser, although some people prefer using micellar water on cotton pads for more convenience. 
  • If using a cleansing balm or oil, massage onto dry skin, aim for 20-60 seconds, then add a little water to emulsify the cleanser, this should turn the cleanser into a milky color and texture. Rinse with lukewarm water or very gently remove with a washcloth. If using a micellar water, soak a cotton pad with the product and very gently wipe over dry face and eye area to remove makeup and sunscreen. It is best not to leave micellar water on the skin and should be rinsed off and/or followed with a second cleanser.
  •  The second cleanse is to remove any residue left from the first cleanse and also to actually clean your skin. Your second cleanser is traditionally some type of gel, cream, or foaming cleanser. Massage onto damp skin, try to aim for 20-60 seconds, then rinse with lukewarm water or very gently remove with a washcloth. Gently pat your skin dry with a clean towel, leave your skin a little damp for the moisturizing step.

2. Moisturize

  • Apply your moisturizer onto slightly damp skin immediately after cleansing to seal in moisture and prevent transepidermal water loss, which basically means that you are preventing your skin from becoming dehydrated or dry due to evaporation of water from your skin. This helps protect and heal your skin barrier.
  • Make sure to press or very gently wipe moisturizer onto your skin, try not to tug or rub as it can cause further irritation if your skin barrier is already damaged. 


  • If you feel like your skin barrier is damaged or if you have particularly reactive skin, I encourage patch testing the products you’re going to use. I usually do a patch test in a few places: the inside of my wrist, my neck, and sometimes a small patch on my cheek. Apply the product and wait 24 hours, if you do get a reaction at least it is just a small patch of skin, not your whole face.
  • Be patient. I recommend adding in only one new product at a time to see how your skin reacts to it. I know it can be hard not to slather your face with new products, but if you add too many new things at once, it can be confusing to figure out which product is helping or hurting your skin. Also, don’t be discouraged if you don’t see any noticeable improvements overnight, it takes time for your skin barrier to heal and to see results from a new product.
  • When healing your skin barrier or starting a skincare routine for the first time, I don’t think it’s necessary to cleanse or use many products in the morning. However, if you do prefer cleansing in the morning or if you need to cleanse after working out, I recommend splashing your face with water (or thermal water spray) or using a gentle cleansing gel (the same cleanser you’d use for your second cleanse at night). Always make sure to moisturize after cleansing.
  • If you feel like your sunscreen isn’t moisturizing enough, make sure to put your moisturizer on before your sunscreen. Sunscreen should be the last step in your morning routine (before makeup) to maximize its effectiveness and prevent it from being diluted by other products.
  • Take all of your products (including your cleanser) down your neck. The skin on your neck is very delicate and can be more sensitive and age faster than your face, so give your neck some love too. And the backs of your hands!


First Cleanse:

Oils and balms

Micellar Waters 

Second Cleanse:



*DISCLAIMER: if you have any specific skin concerns/conditions please see a dermatologist as they are qualified to diagnose and treat skin conditions.

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