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How To Build A Skincare Routine

Like anything that gets built, a strong foundation is vital. If you’re creating a skincare routine from scratch, securing a solid routine as a basis (whether you add to it or not) is priority number one – no matter your skin goal. Active ingredients are powerful and effective, but they won’t work as intended if you don’t give them a fighting chance. 

Today, we’re looking at how you can build a routine that’s right for your skin type and goals. From cleansers and moisturisers, to actives and sunscreens, we’re breaking down the basics and serving up expert advice from our Dermatology Team.

How To Build A Skincare Routine

For starters, Consultant Dermatologist, Dr Malvina Cunningham tells us “a skincare routine doesn’t have to be elaborate or expensive. Understanding what your skin needs and what you would like to achieve and then finding the right ingredients to do this is key.”

The Basics

A good skincare routine consists of a morning and an evening routine. Dr Malvina tells us, “Always start by cleansing your face. Choose a cleanser that is specific to your skin type or concern, and make sure the cleanser doesn’t leave your skin dry or irritated.”

In the morning:

“Follow your cleanse with a hydrating sunscreen. It should be broad-spectrum, with a filter of at least SPF 30, worn all year round.”

In the evening:

“After cleansing, use a skin type or skin concern-specific moisturiser. Then add products to this routine that target specific skin issues.”

“Sunscreen is a must-have for anyone who would like to maintain healthy skin, tackle skin ageing and treat any medical skin conditions such as acne or rosacea.”

dr malvina cunningham

Step One: Cleanse

Cleansing is arguably the most important step in your routine. Not only does it remove makeup, sunscreen and other dirt and oil buildup, but it also prepares your skin for the rest of your routine. Remember too, a morning cleanse removes any leftover active ingredients, meaning you give your skin a fresh start every day. 

“Cleansing twice daily is essential to keep unwanted breakouts at bay. This also allows your evening skincare to penetrate your skin [for best results].”

Dr jason thomson

A good cleanser shouldn’t leave your skin feeling tight once you pat your skin dry. It should create a soft and smooth surface for your next steps, and leave you feeling refreshed. Ingredients such as glycerin – a humectant – work to keep your skin hydrated. 

You’ll also find certain actives in cleansers, such as salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide, but these are usually targeted to certain skin issues, such as acne. Dr Jason adds, “Cleansers with a mild acid such as PHA (polyhydroxy acid – gentler than its cousins AHA/BHAs) will add mild exfoliation to help brighten dull-looking skin without compromising barrier function.”

You’ll want to look for a skin-type specific cleanser, particularly if you’re on the drier or oilier sides. An oil-based cleanser or cleansing balm is great for dry skin, while an oil-free, foaming cleanser will benefit oily skin, and mitigate the risk of further breakouts. For the winter months, switch to a gentler version to minimise any dryness or irritation that comes with colder weather.

Step Two: Treat

Active ingredients are the bee’s knees. A vast array of scientifically proven topicals are available to us, but finding the right ones for your routine can be a real challenge. Skin + Me makes it easy, by offering a combination of actives that evolve over time, and that’s personalised to your skin. 

Tretinoin targets acne, skin-ageing and pigmentation. It’s often paired with anti-inflammatory hero azelaic acid. Niacinamide keeps oil production in check, while metronidazole puts out the flames of rosacea and hydroquinone manages melasma.

Dr Malvina Cunningham explains: “If you want the benefits of a number of different ingredients, I would always recommend a well-formulated product that contains all the required actives in one. 

“This way [with blended skincare], you can ensure the ingredients work well together and are formulated for optimal function and absorption.”

dr malvina cunningham

You might also pick and choose actives based on your skin goals. Vitamin C if you need a little support with your dark spots and pigmentation, hyaluronic acid if you’re looking for bang-for-your-buck hydration, or a gentle AHA or BHA to help smooth out rough texture. Regardless of your skin goal or type, there’s an active out there for you. 

When it comes to layering these actives though, be mindful of pilling – where your skincare rolls into little balls and slides off your skin. Apply your skincare gently and in order of weight or density – i.e. lighter, water-based products first, heavier, thicker and oilier creams last. If you’re applying makeup in the mornings, it’s best to keep your routine minimal to avoid physically overloading your skin. 

Step Three: Hydrate

Is there a better feeling than applying a cooling moisturiser at the end of your evening routine? You cap off a long day with that final step of soothing hydration, and you can actually feel your skin soften to the touch – priceless. A good moisturiser will do just that – soften and soothe your skin, leaving you ready to take on the day (or hit the hay).

“A good moisturiser will contain barrier-friendly ingredients such as glycerin, shea butter, niacinamide and ceramides. These are great at repairing our barrier and protecting it.”

dr jason thomson

Humectants, such as betaine, hyaluronic acid and glycerin attract and retain moisture – great for those with oily skin. For drier skin, look out for emollients that trap moisture to the skin and occlusives to prevent further moisture loss.

A good moisturiser is key when using actives. As powerful as they are, they might give way to side effects, particularly in the first few weeks. Consultant Dermatologist, Dr Ben Esdaile, reminds us that “using the right moisturiser will help you tolerate actives”. By repairing, replenishing and restoring the skin’s barrier, you stand a better chance of coping with side effects such as dryness, flaky skin and irritation. 

Step Four: Protect

Last, but certainly not least – sunscreen. Dr Malvina tells us that “a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a filter of at least SPF 30 should be worn all year round.”

“Sunscreen is a must-have for anyone who would like to maintain healthy skin, tackle skin ageing and treat any medical skin conditions such as acne or rosacea.”

dr malvina cunninham

The sun’s UV rays are the main cause of skin cancer and premature ageing, and sunscreen is a key tool in our armoury for protecting our skin. We know that sunscreen protection is vital for happy and healthy skin, so how do you find the right one for your face?

First, choose between a mineral or chemical formulation. Dr Jason explains “Chemical sunscreen filters absorb UV light and convert it into heat using ingredients such as octinoxate and avobenzone. Mineral sunscreen filters use compounds, such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, that reflect and scatter UV light.”

Chemical sunscreens are generally more popular, as they have a lighter texture and tend to dry down clear. Meanwhile, mineral sunscreens are usually thicker and prone to leaving a white cast, mainly due to the large size of the mineral filter compounds which sit on the skin. Both work effectively, and both protect your skin from the sun – case closed. 

Second, find a formulation that suits your skin type. If you have oily skin, find an oil-free sunscreen, as they’re less likely to aggravate your sebaceous glands or lead to breakouts. For those on the dry side, look for a hydrating formulation to support your skin, especially if you’re using actives. By all means, pick a foundation or moisturiser with an SPF included, but remember, these tend to be less effective than sunscreen on their own. Layer them with sunscreen for guaranteed protection.

Finally, always make sure that sunscreen is the last layer you apply before your makeup, and allow it to dry down before you do so. Dr Jason recommends applying “six teaspoons of sunscreen, for an average-sized adult.” An easier method is to use two fingers worth – drape the sunscreen across the length of your index and middle fingers and apply it all over your face and neck.

Your thoughts

A simple, solid routine is all you need to achieve happy and healthy skin, so why overcomplicate things? With a routine of your personalised Daily Doser, plus a Purify + Prep Cleanser and Soothe + Smooth Moisturiser suited to your skin type and a superstar sunscreen, you’re sure to get your best skin yet. Don’t believe us? Take it from a few of our Skin + Me subscribers:

“Keep it simple, if it’s over-complicated you won’t stick to it – I know I won’t! There’s a lot of actives in cumulative lotions and potions if you pile them on. That means you can accidentally damage your skin and go backwards.”

George (@geo.cleans)

I’m always for simple skincare, straight-forward products and a straight-forward routine. Having a multitasking product is bliss! For me, a three-step evening routine always wins – Cleanse, treat, moisturise.”

Cipriana (@skin_by_cipriana

“The Purify + Prep Hydrating Cleanser makes my skin feel hydrated but never greasy. It breaks down my mascara so I don’t have to use a different cleanser for my eye makeup. The Soothe + Smooth Light Moisturiser is lovely – skin drinks it instantly.”

Liza (@arbiandme)

“I don’t like having loads of products in my skincare routine, so the Daily Doser really simplified things and saved me time. With all the ingredients working together I know my skin is so much better off!” 

Stephy (@selflovewithstephy)

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