how to develop a basic skincare routine
Having a basic skincare routine is just part of getting into the habit of taking care of yourself. But how do you get started? It can feel overwhelming, but we’re here to help with guidance and strategies. There are endless recommendations floating around on the internet, and no matter what you pick, you are going to have to do a bit of experimentation to find what works best for you. If the routine you select isn’t working, it’s important to modify and adapt rather than abandoning the routine altogether.
Like snowflakes, every face is different. So rather than shoehorning you into a specific routine that you might have to tweak anyway, here are some suggestions for what to pay attention to as you develop your own skincare strategy.
According to behavior scientists like BJ Fogg and self-improvement gurus like James Clear, the best way to acquire a new habit is to shrink it down to the tiniest possible component, like setting daily reading goals at the paragraph level. If you could pick one thing to do for your skin, what would it be? Start with something that will provide a particular observable result. Maybe you are tired of people always asking you if you’re tired, so you decide to tackle those dark circles with an under eye gel.
That’s not too difficult to add to the rotation. It doesn’t take too long to squeeze out a dime-sized amount of gel and massage it gently around those puffy patches beneath the eyes, and it’s not the worst way to ease into a greater degree of wakefulness. If you can remember to do it, you can do it – so maybe position it at an obvious checkpoint in your morning routine by leaning it up against a toothbrush holder.
WORK WITH WHAT YOU’VE GOT
Or maybe you can upgrade part of your existing morning routine into something a little more effective. Have you always been diligent about washing your face, but just not very picky about what you used? The final sliver of a bar of soap? That uncapped bottle of your roommate’s shampoo that you just realized was the only thing in the shower? Leave behind those haphazard soaps and just add some charcoal face wash into the mix. And whenever you get to the part of your shower when you would ordinarily mash that last bit of the soap bar against your face, sub in the face wash. Boom. That’s a two-part skin routine right there.
Are you intimidated by the very idea of a two-part skin routine? Don’t be. It can admittedly be a little disorienting for some guys to seek out specialization. After all, isn’t technology supposed to be moving along the Swiss Army knife model, one thing that does everything? We’ve got a phone that’s also a camera and a flashlight. You just bought a shampoo that’s also conditioner and shaving cream. Let’s not get it twisted: The smartphone flashlight does make life just a little bit better, even if it is mildly awkward when you leave the light on after you slip your phone back into the pocket of your pants. Sometimes you just need a legitimate light, though. If you just wiggled into a crawl space and you hear movement beneath the other end of the house, you need to know exactly what you’re dealing with. You want a beam of light with sufficient reach, and the phone flashlight is not going to cut it.
Speaking of which, when was the last time you used the scissors of a Swiss Army knife? Unquestionably better than nothing and they can definitely cut a hole in the vinyl seats of a mid-’90s station wagon. But if you’re out on an Alaskan crab fishing expedition and you need to shear a line, those scissors are not going to get the job done. So keep that all-in-one shower bottle in reserve and grab something that is designed specifically for your face.
MAKE AN EDUCATED DECISION
Maybe you aren’t worried about remembering to use a product, but you are worried about choosing a product that isn’t right for you. One of the big divides in skincare is the separation of products for oily skin and those that are for dry skin, even if both products are intended to be moisturizers. There are definitely helpful internet guides to those questions — like this one — but the most basic test is this: If your skin feels tight, it’s probably dry, and if your cheeks have a sheen to them, then you probably fall into the oily camp so you should probably use a gel moisturizer for oily skin.
The good news is that skin is incredibly resilient and it does a good job of letting you know when it’s being irritated (though you might not always appreciate how it delivers the message). You don’t want to put that resiliency to the test with some of the half-baked, homegrown remedies that risk inflaming a small breakout into a full-blown infection. You can, however, continue to adapt your routine to your skin’s particular needs by observing how your skin handles well-vetted products. Just make sure you follow any instructions on the label and respect any directives from your dermatologist.
DEVELOP A WEEKLY ROUTINE
Maybe you’ve got a daily routine down to a precise science. That app that tracks everything in your life (how many steps you take, how many glasses of water you drink, how many times you call your ex, etc.) shows a perfect record in the clean face department. Honestly, if that facewash and eye gel weren’t so refreshing, you could slap them on in your sleep. You like where you’re at with your skin, but every now and then it feels like you could use a bit extra. You’re ready to move things up to the next level.
All these scenarios suggest the need for a weekly exfoliation plan. That shouldn’t be a substitute for washing your face every day – there’s no getting out of that. But they do achieve a deeper clean than what’s called for by daily maintenance and you don’t want to put stress on your skin by overindulging. Or maybe you’ve struggled with the daily routine aspect. Even if that bit of gel only represents two seconds out of your day, you feel trapped by that level of commitment. It’s possible that you are just an overzealous cleaner – the kind of person that your dentist has to caution about how hard you are brushing your teeth. Instead of gently massaging that charcoal face wash into your skin, you are ferociously working out some unresolved business. It’s good that you resisted the temptation to call your ex back, but your skin is looking worse for the wear.
There are typically two types of exfoliation deployed to remove dead cells from the topmost layer of the skin. The scrub is the preferred tool of physical exfoliation, which uses the small friction of gritty organic particles to rid the face of its grime. You can use a scrub two to three times a week. A peel is the traditional method of chemical exfoliation, in which a gel mask is spread over the face to dissolve debris and lift it away from the skin. It shouldn’t be used more than once a week.
DON’T NEGLECT THE REST OF YOUR BODY
Even if it seems to get all the attention, your face isn’t the only part of your body covered in skin. Nor is acne exclusively a face issue. Acne can occur wherever there are hair follicles, which is pretty much everywhere. Consider investing in an acne body wash.
Take care of your hands as well. The palms of the hands are actually one of the few places that don’t have hair follicles, but they still need plenty of attention. They touch restroom doorknobs and plunge into the frigid water of that drainage ditch where you always drop your keys. And they touch your face plenty, too, in case that is the only thing you care about. You need to be washing your hands frequently and thoroughly. It’s unfair, but all that washing can dry your hands out, which can lead to cracked skin, which can lead to infections from that ditchwater you were just paddling about. So don’t be afraid to treat your hands to the allotment of lotion they deserve.
A basic skincare routine isn’t just a bunch of products lined up on your bathroom sink. It’s also the decisions you make throughout the day.
Are you remembering to wear sunscreen? The skin is an incredibly effective shield for your body, but the sun’s harmful UV rays compromise that layer of protection.
Are you drinking plenty of water? It might not be the one-stop cure-all that celebrities claim it to be, but if you don’t drink enough water, it impairs your body’s ability to eliminate toxins and maintain cellular health, which eventually results in shrunken skin (among many, many other awful side effects).
Have you taken a look at your diet recently? It can be hard to wade through all the dire warnings and grandiose promises of fad diets. It can be equally difficult to isolate particular foods to eliminate or emphasize, especially since there is such a wide range in people’s food sensitivities. Some spicy foods can contribute to oilier skin, as that extra zing sets extra sweat in motion. And in general, foods that don’t sit well inside you aren’t friends to your exterior either. Reducing your intake of processed foods and refined sugars is the kind of move that both your stomach and your skin can sign off on.
Shaving gives you that clean look, as well as a handy bit of exfoliation when the razor scrapes away some of that dead skin. But shaving can leave a trail of ingrown hairs behind. You can never rule out the possibility of these irritating razor bumps as long as you are using a razor, but you can decrease their likelihood by making sure you aren’t using a dull, dirty blade and you are following up each shave with a razor cream.
Speaking of shaving cream, look around your bathroom to see what else you are putting on your skin besides designated skin products. Examine your deodorant, shampoo and your washcloth. If you make a habit of deliberately pressing something into your skin, know how your skin reacts to it.
That policy extends beyond the bathroom, come to think of it. Your phone and your pillowcase – when was the last time they were washed? Your skin protects you 24 hours a day, so it’s only polite to run an extra load of laundry or read the label of the thing you are planning to smear all over your face.
We understand the urge to fiddle with blackheads and zits, but for the love of good skin, don't. Not only does excessive fiddling generally embolden whatever blemish you're attacking, each time you bring your hands to your face, you're probably adding on bacteria that will just hold you back in the long run.
This isn’t being high maintenance. It’s just learning that the best way to be comfortable in your own skin is to take care of it.