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Skincare Basics

We've all seen it- the perfect skin, glowing with health and radiating confidence. True, perfect skin isn't common but achieving healthy, glowing skin doesn't have to be rocket science. Working on getting beautiful skin begins with personalizing your skincare routine. Skincare is much more than just cleansing and moisturizing; it's taking the time to learn which ingredients and products work best for your unique skin type and problems and then constructing the perfect skincare routine to suit these needs. It also includes avoiding potential skin irritants, understanding the ingredients in your products, and making sure to not neglect what your skin needs most- from adequate hydration to pore-purifying exfoliation.

The first step to creating a routine is understanding your skin type. The most common skin types are oily, dry, combination, normal, dehydrated, sensitive, and acne-prone. Oily skin is the result of your sebaceous glands producing too much sebum, leading to a feeling of oiliness, enlarged pores, and acne. Dry skin is caused by a lack of sebum or oil, which leaves the skin feeling tight and flaky. Combination skin means that your skin can be both oily and dry, usually in different places on the face. Normal skin is in the middle when it comes to oil production and is generally well-balanced and smooth. Dehydrated skin is often an issue for people with any skin type and is stimulated by environmental factors, such as not drinking enough water. Sensitive skin can be caused by various factors, from changes in hormones to allergies. Lastly, acne-prone skin is extremely common and is usually an indicator of an unhealthy skin barrier, meaning the skin can't protect itself from bacteria.

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Your skincare routine should be tailored to your individual skincare concerns. Common issues include acne, wrinkles, blackheads, dullness, and pigmentation. Low humidity, pollution, and sun exposure can all contribute to skin damage so it's important to pay attention to the environment when taking care of your skin. Additionally, lifestyle factors such as smoking, lack of sleep, and stress can degrade skin health, leading to premature aging.

Once you understand your skin type and concerns, it's time to create a personalized routine. Depending on your needs, you may need to incorporate both daily and weekly steps to take, such as cleansing, exfoliating, toning, hydrating, and protecting.

Cleansing is the most important part of any skincare routine. Cleansing helps to remove dirt, makeup, and sweat and unclogs your pores. It's important to find a gentle, non-stripping cleanser that isn't too harsh for your skin type. If you need extra exfoliation, you can incorporate a granular exfoliating cleanser into your routine.

Exfoliation is the process of mechanically or chemically sloughing away dead skin cells. This can improve your skin's texture and appearance, reduce the appearance of pores, or help with cell turnover in the case of acne and blackheads. You can either use a physical exfoliating scrub or an acid, such as an AHA, BHA, or PHA, to chemically exfoliate. Only exfoliate one to two times per week, depending on your skin type and sensitivity.

Toning is the act of using an acidic solution (such as an acid toner, micellar water, or witch hazel) to balance the skin's pH and help restore skin's natural protective barriers. This can help reduce the appearance of pores, minimize excess oil, and even out the skin tone. Toners can also double as hydrators, depending on the ingredients in the formulas.

The next step in your routine is to hydrate your skin. Whether you choose a serum, oil, moisturizer, or all three, this step is vital for healthy skin. Look for ingredients like hyaluronic acid, ceramides, and squalene to keep your skin feeling hydrated and replenished both in the long and short term.

The final step is protecting your skin from environmental damage, such as UV exposure. Invest in a high SPF sunscreen and wear it daily, regardless of the weather. It's also important to avoid using irritating and pore-clogging skincare and makeup products, such as sulfates, drying alcohols, and mineral oil.

Once you've figured out the core components of your routine, it's time to assemble your skincare kit. Start with the basics, such as a cleanser, toner, and moisturizer. Then, depending on your skincare concerns, consider adding a scrub, eye cream, spot treatment, and facial oil. Finally, don't forget about masks, serums, and vitamins- each of these can help you target specific skin concerns, such as hyperpigmentation or hydration.

With the multitude of skincare products available, it can be hard to figure out which ones are right for you. Start by understanding your skin type and what products work best for it- for instance, those with oily skin should try oil-free cleansers and serums, while those with dry skin may need a more intensely moisturizing routine. Then, pay close attention to the ingredients list of the product you are buying- beware of stripping ingredients such as perfumes, parabens, sulfates, and alcohols. Instead, look for humectants and emollients, such as hyaluronic acid, ceramides, and squalane, along with antioxidant and vitamins such as vitamin C or E.

Choosing the right ingredients for your skincare routine can be like learning a new language. Here is a breakdown of some of the most popular skincare ingredients:

  • Hyaluronic Acid- A powerful humectant, meaning it attracts and binds to moisture. It is highly hydrating but still lightweight enough for daily use.
  • Vitamin C- Vitamin C can help protect the skin from free radical damage as well as brightening the skin and reducing pigmentation.
  • Retinol- Retinol, sometimes known as the gold standard of anti-aging, boosts natural collagen production, minimizes fine lines and wrinkles, and helps with skin cell turnover.
  • Glycolic Acid- An AHA (alpha hydroxy acid) that can help exfoliate the skin, minimizing the appearance of pores and helping to reduce discoloration.

Now that you understand some of the major skincare ingredients, here are some of our favorite products to meet your skin goals:

  • The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% B5- This lightweight serum helps keep your skin hydrated and plump.
  • Ren Glycol Lactic Radiance Renewal Mask- A luxurious mask with both lactic and glycolic acids to slough away dead skin cells and plump the skin.
  • Osea Malibu Hyaluronic Sea Serum- A vegan serum formulated with hyaluronic acid and alien-length seaweed to hydrate and protect the skin.

  • Cerave Vitamin C Serum- This drugstore serum is lightweight and packed with vitamin C to reduce dullness and brighten the skin.
  • REN Clean Skincareese Radiant Glow Face Mask- A resurfacing mask that can help improve the skin's texture and radiance without stripping the skin.
  • The Ordinary Caffeine Solution 5% EGCG- An antioxidant serum with both caffeine and green tea extract to help reduce inflammation and improve radiance.

  • CeraVe SA Smoothing Cream- A lightweight cream with both salicylic acid and niacinamides to reduce redness, help clear up existing blemishes, and prevent new ones from forming.
  • Olehenriksen pH balances Cleanser- A gentle cleanser that balances the skin's pH and includes salicylic acid to gently exfoliate and reduce blemishes.
  • Paula's Choice Clear Regular Strength Control Gel- A lightweight gel formulated with both salicylic and glycolic acids to reduce the appearance of blemishes.

DIY skincare can be a good option, especially for those on a budget. There are plenty of easy, affordable recipes online, but be sure to pay attention to the ingredients' safety before incorporating it into your routine. Some DIY ingredients, such as essential oils and citrus juices, can be too harsh for some skin types and may actually cause more damage than help.

Commercial products can often cost more than homemade skincare but they typically use more gentle, higher quality ingredients that work specifically for your skin type. These products are also designed with safety in mind and are typically less likely to irritate the skin than DIY recipes. However, it's important to read reviews before purchasing any new products, as not all products are created equal.

Creating a personalized skincare routine can be daunting but it doesn't have to be. Start by understanding your skin type and concerns, and then building a regular routine around these factors. Incorporate products that will help address your specific skin goals, such as hydrating, brightening, or exfoliating. Lastly, don't forget to read reviews and ingredients lists before buying commercial products, and always do a patch test before using any new ingredient, whether it's homemade or store-bought.