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The Easiest Skincare Routine For Beginners

by
Caroline Moss

How do I start a skincare routine? A quick Google search results in dozens of varying answers and each brand seems to also have their own suggestion. You’ll find conflicting information because there are different schools of thought and you can always find confirmation of anything you are doing or not doing if you look for it.

While there are very few one size fits all rules for a routine, there are quite a few guidelines that everyone can use to make a routine that’s right for them. We have put together a comprehensive guide to make it easy for skincare beginners to figure out where to start, what to buy, and how to make it work for you.

At the core of your routine, you need to do the following:

Cleanse (wash your face)
Moisturize (hydrate your skin)
Protect (wear sunscreen everyday)

Notes on cleanser: Washing your face removes dirt, oil, sweat, makeup and spf. Not all cleansers are the same; some are gentle and meant to cleanse your skin and nothing more. Others are formulated to treat certain conditions and can help achieve skin goals like preventing acne, blackheads, redness etc. You want a cleanser for everyday that is suited to your skin type and also one to use as needed for certain skin conditions.  

Caroline Hirons, a skincare legend and one of my personal heroes, maintains that cleansing is the most important part of your routine. (Check out her bestselling book, Skincare, if you want to learn everything you need to know about starting a routine. There is an entire chapter and then some.)

Here is a very helpful cleansing guide that breaks down (no pun intended) the difference between “simple” and “active” and how those words translate into cleansers.

I cleanse once in the morning and always double cleanse at night. My first cleanse at night is always with an oil or balm cleanser. Otherwise, the cleansers I use depend on how my skin is feeling.

Many brands have cleanser options for different skin types. Now that you know your skin type, you can also do a Google: “best cleanser for xxx type” or “cleansers for active breakouts” etc. I’ve noted my personal favorites/preferences, but look at the range and pick the best for your skin type/goals.


CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser (normal to dry skin)

La Roche-Posay Purifying Foaming Cleanser (normal to oily skin)

Avene Extremely Gentle Cleanser Lotion (sensitive skin)

Neutrogena Hydroboost Cleansing Gel (dry/combo skin)

Jordan Samuel Skin The After Show (sensitive skin version available too)

Tatcha The Rice Wash (normal/dry skin)

Tatcha Camellia Cleansing Oil (all skin types for first cleanse in PM)

Renee Rouleau Rapid Response Detox Cleanser (use the second you feel a breakout)

Notes on moisturizer: Pick your moisturizer based on your skin type. All skin types, even oily, need moisturization. The type of moisturizer you use might change depending on the season. You might use something lighter during the day than at night.

For oily skin, look for gels (lighter texture) and for dry skin look for creams (thicker texture). For combination or normal skin, look for a hybrid or something in between! Words like “lotion” or “light cream” are good to seek out.

Apply moisturizer on damp skin. Tap water is fine, but you can use a mist if you like to feel fancy. (Misting throughout the day is something that has greatly helped my dehydrated skin.)

Same as cleansers above, brands often have a range and be sure to pick based on your skin type, but here are some recs:

Cosrx Balancium Comfort Ceramide Cream (dry, dehydrated, irritated skin)

Cerave Skin Renewing Night Cream (thick!)

Cerave Moisturizing Lotion PM (lighter than above)

Neutrogena Hydroboost Water Gel (oily/combo skin)

OLAY Regenerist (normal skin)

La Roche-Posay Toleraine Ultra Soothing Repair Moisturizer (dry/sensitive skin)

Tatcha Dewy Skin Cream (dry skin or normal if want a thicker cream)

BeautyStat Universal Pro-Bio Moisture Boost Cream (all skin types including sensitive, lightweight)

TULA 24-7 Moisture Hydrating Day & Night Cream (all skin types, lightweight)

Notes on sunscreen: Wear it everyday. It is the last step in your skincare routine before any makeup. I don’t care if it is chemical or physical. SPF 30+. I promise to dedicate a whole issue to SPF one day, but for now: find one you like for your skin type and use it.

If you are doing all three of these things and you are fine with how your skin looks and feels, you're in good shape!