It's quite evident how the media and general public define "beauty. Perfect skin is one of these characteristics. As much as I try to defy these ideals, they continue to loom over heads, and sometimes send us out the door looking like a lion; when will I learn that my hair will never be voluminous. But, luckily, achieving a nice complexion is manageable. And, as it turns out, every person now has a skincare routine, in search of the Holy Grail--a smooth, baby-like complexion. Two years ago, I was one of those people. But there are many things I wish people had told me when I started out with skincare.
Before I turn to numbering the constituents, I wanted to hand over a few tips. First, keep it simple and consistent. If you chock and change your products around everyday, your skin is going to go mad; miracles don't happen overnight. And sticking to a minimal routine will not only save you money, but also time as you ache over your horrible skin--I'm guilty. Second, learn the map of your skin. I don't only mean Face Mapping (Rebecca and Suzie both did amazing posts on the topic), but also learn your skin's blueprint. Mine is combination, leaning on the slightly oily side with a touch of dehydration. Truly grabbing the ropes will come as you experiment, but choose your products with intention, not just because someone else says it's "good." And, last, figure out what you're actually putting on your skin. Either learn how to read ingredients list (A Consumer's Dictionary of Cosmetic Ingredients and No More Dirty Looks are both stellar sources) or take the natural or organic route. Either way, it can be difficult, so I've helped you out with a comprehensive list of staples for creating a skincare stash.
Cleanser: They come in varying textures. Stereotypically, dryer skins go for balms and milks, while oilier complexions opt for gels, while both work well with oils. Either way, make sure you invest in a gentle cleanser--even if your skin is an acneic mess, as using a harsh product will only make it worse. Always double cleanse, especially if you're wearing makeup; you can use a separate cleanser for this, but you don't have to.
Budget: Herbivore Botanicals Clay Soaps (all skin types), coconut oil (for dry skin or eye makeup removal)
Higher end: Liz Earle Cleanse and Polish (normal to dry), REN ClearCalm 3 Clarifying Clay Cleanser (acneic, either oily or dry)
Exfoliator: Exfoliation is key, especially if you're a lover of glow like me. You can achieve this with either a manual exfoliator--normally in the form of beads or grains--or chemical, using acids (if you choose this method, select which acid---AHA's or BHA's--work best for your skin type with a little research). Of course, there also also combination of both. Depending on your skin, determine how often you should exfoliate. Twice weekly is a good place to start, and then you can increase or decrease from there.
Suggestions: Aveda Botanical Kinetics Exfoliant, Joanna Vargas Exfoliating Mask, REN Glycol Lactic Radiance Renewal Mask, Clarins Gentle Exfoliating Brightening Toner, Alpha H Liquid Gold (intense), REN Micro Polish Cleanser
Serum and oils: Like shots of high-potency ingredients, serums and oils can target your main skin concern and prep your skin for the rest of your routine. Often, they make your moisturizer more hydrating and your skin better on the whole. Dry and oily skins alike can opt for either, it's just worth a play.
Budget: Aura Cacia Skincare Oils (I've tried the rosehip and it's really good), Indeed Labs Pepta-Bright
High end: Pai Rosehip Bioregenerate Fruit and Seed Oil Blend (like a souped up, über packed version of the Aura Cacia one), Estée Lauder Advanced Night Repair (not just for aging complexions)
Moisturizer: For some reason, everyone seems to screw up moisturizer, whether it's my Sahara Desert complexion-ed friend who uses mineral oil or my oily-skinned acquaintance who doesn't even use a drop. No matter what type of skin you have, you must moisturize. You can use separate moisturizers for day and night, or the same one. And stay away from mineral oil unless it's really working for you because it restricts penetration of other ingredients.
Suggestions: Kiehl's Skin Rescuer (sensitive, dehydrated, normal, combination, or dry), Origins Vitazing (normal to oily), The Organic Pharmacy Manuka Face Cream (oily and acne prone), Origins High Potency Night-A-Mins (made in an oil-free and regular version)
SPF: Magazine editors gush that sunscreen is the secret to anti-aging. Well, I hope that's the case, because it's far cheaper than any anti-aging cream. Slap some on in the morning after your moisturizer (apprehend from buying a cream with SPF in it; then you can't use the cream day and night and there are plenty of good budget SPFs, but not many good budget moisturizers).
Suggestions: Neutrogena Ultra-Sheer Dry Touch Sunblock, MyChelle Dermaceuticals Sun Shield SPF 28
Masks: Masks, like serums or oils, give you an extra boost, but can act in ways the other categories can't. Clay masks are perfect for drying out spots or alleving congestion, as are exfoliating formulas (see the "Exfoliator" category). They can also add another dose of moisture when needed--always a necessity come winter.
Budget: Aztec Clay (was too drying on my skin, but it's worth a try)
Expensive: Aesop Parsley Seed Deep Cleansing Mask, Antipodes Aura Manuka Honey Mask, Origins Clear Improvements Active Charcoal Mask (oily), Origins Drink Up Intensive Overnight Mask (normal to dry, dehydrated)
See "Exfoliator" category for scrubbing options.
It's a good thing it's Sunday; I think I know where you'll be the rest of the day.