When it comes to our skincare routine, it’s easy to believe that more is more. If all the ingredients in our cleansers, creams and serums are good for our skin, why not use them? That’s what led us to buy into the 10-step Korean beauty routine. But there are two very good reasons to scale back on all that layering: 1) Who has the time for it? and 2) layering on so many products can lead to irritation, inflammation and breakouts — the very opposite of our goals.
Even if all the products you’re using are the cleanest of clean beauty products, the ingredients may interact badly with each other (two acids might irritate; others might cancel each other out). All this is why the latest Korean beauty trend is the Skincare Diet, a reversal of its predecessor. To cut back on your natural skincare routine while also getting the most out of it, read on.
The Best Skincare Products for Your Morning Routine
I don’t know who’s able to fit double cleansing and toners and multiple lotions (plus makeup!) into their mornings, but the good news is most of that is probably unnecessary. Dermatologists recommend cleansing twice a day (more if you exercise or sweat excessively). A gentle cleanser such as Dr. Loretta’s Gentle Hydrating Cleanser or Pai Skincare’s Camellia & Rose Gentle Hydrating Cleanser works for most skin types. People with super-sensitive skin can also just use water.
Your primary goal before you face the day is to protect your skin. What all moisturizers do is support the skin’s natural barrier to prevent water from evaporating. Even if you have oily, acne-prone skin, you should use a light moisturizer that will keep your skin from drying out and becoming irritated. If you don’t want to bother with serums before work, choose a moisturizer that includes ingredients like vitamins and antioxidants. We like Alder New York’s Everyday Face Moisturizer, which is super lightweight and contains antioxidants, hyaluronic acid and vitamin C.
The step you absolutely cannot skip is sun protection. While the medical community hasn’t actually condemned chemical sunscreens like oxybenzone, those of us who are concerned with its potential bad effects on the body (it’s absorbed easily and has been shown to mess with the hormones of rats) or the environment can opt for a physical, mineral-based sunscreen. Look for products with titanium dioxide or zinc oxide that will sit atop the skin and block UVA and UVB waves from ravaging your skin cells. Suntegrity makes a really great tinted face sunscreen that can double as foundation.
The Best Skincare Products for Your Nighttime Routine
The evening is usually when we have more time to mess with our skin (and stare too closely at every pore and emerging wrinkle). But also, sleep is an essential element of good skin care, so let’s hurry this process along, shall we?
1. Makeup removal: You definitely want to remove your makeup. An oil-based cleanser can take care of that (especially if you wear waterproof makeup) by bonding with other oil molecules and lifting them off the skin.
If you’re concerned about adding oil to your oily skin, buy a makeup remover that includes water and oil (you have to shake it first) or a micellar water cleanser — the micelle molecules have both hydrophobic ends that stick to oil and dirt and hydrophilic ends that cling to water molecules.
2a. Cleanse: We used to think that working up a good lather was necessary, but that might be exactly what you want to avoid when washing your face. Chemicals that give soap its foaminess, like sodium lauryl sulfate, also mess with your skin barrier (thus drying out the skin).
Choose something gentle, like an oil cleanser, if you have normal to dry skin. If you want to avoid mineral oil, jojoba is a good alternative that won’t clog pores. Province Apothecary’s Moisturizing Cleanser + Makeup Remover is an easy way to combine this with step one.
Have oily skin? Go with a mild foaming cleanser (Ursa Major makes a great one). You can also look for products that use white willow bark for a naturally derived alternative to acne-fighting salicylic acid cleansers
2b. Exfoliate: How often you exfoliate depends on your skin type (e.g., more often for oilier skin), and you have to find what works best for you. That could be once a week or every day.
What you’re trying to do is remove dead skin cells, which will make your skin look brighter, increase the penetration of other products and possibly promote collagen production. What you’re trying to avoid is irritation and inflammation.
You can go with a chemical exfoliation by using a product that contains alpha hydroxy acids (like Flower and Spice’s Instant Glow Calming Exfoliator) or the mechanical kind (either with an exfoliating cloth or brush or a gentle botanical product such as rice bran).
3. Toners, Serums, Essences, Masks: These are completely optional steps, so move along if you like. Gentle, alcohol-free toners (such as witch hazel or this one from Province Apothecary) are useful if you think your cleanser didn’t remove all your makeup. Some also believe a good toner can help return your skin to its naturally acidic pH level, since cleansing and rinsing may make it too alkaline. (The right pH is key to maintaining your skin’s barrier and its healthy bacteria.)
Serums, masks and essences are also great ways to apply any extra ingredients you feel your skin needs in a more concentrated form than you’d get with a lotion. But you also don’t need any of these things and can get by with just your moisturizer.
4. Moisturizer: Keep those eyes open for one more minute as you apply this last essential. You’ve likely stripped off some of your skin’s natural barrier while washing your face, so this is the time to replace it.
A good moisturizer or night cream will help prevent further evaporation from the skin, protect skin cells with antioxidants and help the barrier repair itself. It’s nice to know that while you sleep (which is also when your growth hormones are released), all that hard work is going on in your face.