October 9, 2019

A Step-by-Step Guide to a Great Skincare Routine

 

A Step-by-Step Guide to a Great Skincare RoutineSkincare can be intimidating, especially if it’s something you’re new to. If you’re someone who wants to incorporate a good regimen, but not entirely sure where to start, this post is for you! Let’s call it a ‘Beginner’s Guide to a Great Skincare Routine…’

Okay, maybe it’s not as straight forward as that, but I’m here to break it down, step-by-step, as far as what I think makes for a really thorough morning and night routine. However, for the sake of not completely overwhelming, I did not include any masks or at-home treatments. I’ll save that for another day.

MORNING ROUTINE:

Light Cleanse:

I’ve heard some experts say that cleansing your face in the morning is not necessary but personally, I feel sort of icky if I don’t. I do an extremely light cleanse with whatever gel or milky cleanser I’m using at the moment. Currently, I am rotating between this one from Elemis and this one from Indie Lee. You may have heard me talk a lot about balm or oil cleansers, but those I only use at night as part of my first cleanse (more on that in my night routine.)

Tone: 

After cleansing, I’ll tone my face. This not only helps balance out your skin, but it’s also a nice way to prep it for the products you’re going to follow up with.  I recently started using this one from Indie Lee and I really like how nice and gentle it is for a morning routine.

Vitamin C:

Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that helps shield your skin from free radicals. In English: it helps protect your skin from pollution, UVA & UVB Rays and aids as a barrier against the powerful sun, especially when paired with SPF. I know that some people will use Vitamin C at night, but I’ve always been taught that it’s a product best suited for a morning routine. Ask any expert and they will all agree: if you were to incorporate two anti-aging ingredients into your routine, it should be Vitamin C and retinol (more on retinol in my night routine.) After I tone, I apply my Vitamin C, wait a few minutes while I do other things (so it really soaks in) and then proceed with the below steps.

My favorite is this one from Skinceuticals but for one that is easier on the wallet, I really like this one from Ole Henriksen and this one from TATCHA. I also heard incredible things about this one from Obagi, so that’s next on my list to try since.

Eye Cream: 

Next, I apply an eye cream. For my morning routine, I look for one that feels moisturizing, absorbs nicely and gives me a smooth surface, without feeling too thick. On most days, even if I don’t wear foundation, I will wear under eye concealer, so having a hydrated (but not too oily) surface is key.

I’ve been really liking this one from Ole Henriksen and this one from Elemis.

Hyaluronic Acid: 

I was debating on whether I should add this step because it’s not completely necessary. I didn’t want to overwhelm you all, being that it is supposed to be a simplified routine. On the other hand, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t LOVE adding a HA product into my routine and that I didn’t feel a noticeable difference when using one. The simplest way to put it is that HA is like a drink of water for your skin. It hydrates & plumps while making my complexion look bouncier. I feel a difference when I don’t use one in the morning so for me, it’s a must; especially as we approach the colder months. I apply it after Vitamin C and wait 2-3 minutes before continuing on with my routine.

My favorites: this one from Skinceuticals, this one from PCA and one that’s way easier on the wallet, this one from Jordan Samuel Skin.

Moisturizer:

Now I will say that on many occasions I go straight to my tinted SPF without applying a underneath moisturizer. In the warmer months (or if your skin is particularly oily) I find that, with the addition of Hyaluronic Acid, the SPF is moisturizing enough. On the other hand, if your skin is dry, if it’s the dead of winter or if you’re wearing heavier face makeup after, you can certainly apply something before your SPF. It’s really about listening to your skin and figuring out what it needs. I can assure you can get to a point where you’ll be able to tell!

On days I use a moisturizer underneath, my favorites are rather simple: Ultra Repair Cream and  Drunk Elephant Lala Retro Whipped.

SPF:

Unless I know I’m 100% not leaving the house, I wear my facial SPF daily – even on cloudy days. I prefer a tinted one, as I find that it replaces a tinted moisturizer and makes my skin look a little peppier. I don’t wear foundation on most days so this works perfectly for me, but you can certainly layer whatever makeup you use on top. As I mentioned above, if you’re wearing foundation with a bit of coverage, you may need a bit of moisturizer underneath your SPF. Listen to your skin! If the foundation looks like it’s settling, rather than gliding, into your skin, the SPF alone is probably not moisturizing enough.

Friendly reminder: If your chest is exposed, don’t forget your chest and your hands!

My favorites facial SPFS are: PCA Sheer TintElta MD Tinted 


NIGHT ROUTINE: 

Cleansing:

My night routine always starts out with a double cleanse. Yes, even if I’m not wearing makeup and yes, even if I don’t leave my house. Your first cleanse should always be with a balm or oil cleanser applied to dry skin. This is your opportunity to take a minute or two to really melt away your makeup, SPF or to just get the blood flowing. Afterward, I take a muslin (facial) cloth that I ran under warm water and wipe everything away. If you’re wearing makeup, then it is extremely gratifying seeing the cloth wipe everything away. Think about it: there’s no way a simple swipe of water and cleanser will properly remove what the cloth is removing. This is why this step is so important and why many people who experience bad breakouts will see a noticeable difference once this step is incorporated.

A question I get asked often pertains to the cloths. Yes, I use a clean cloth every single time I do the first step. I then throw in a little hamper that I keep in my bathroom and wash those with my towels, once or twice or a week. I have a ton of cloths! My favorite ones are on the thicker side, but the ones I’ve shared before are also a good option. They’re a lot thinner, but work well enough if you don’t have a lot of makeup on.

My favorite balm and oil cleansers are: Elemis Pro-Collagen Cleansing Balm, Bobbi Brown Soothing Cleansing Oil and the Plantastic Cleansing Balm from Beauty Pie.

After the first cleanse, I do a light second cleanse. I don’t use a cloth and I’m less thoughtful about it unless I have a ton of makeup on. If I’m coming home from an event or a wedding and the makeup is heavy, I may even use a 2nd cloth with this cleanse; but typically, it is a quick one. I usually use a gel cleanser and will apply to my skin for 15 seconds and wash away with water. I then pat dry with a towel and I’m ready for my next step. The gel cleanser that I use for my second cleanse is typically the same one I will use as my morning cleanse. At the moment, I rotate between this one and this one, as mentioned above.

Toning: 

After I cleanse, I always use a toner. Toning will get off any bits your cleansers may have missed and will properly prep your skin for the next steps.

A couple of days a week, I will use Biologique P50, which I’ve spoken about so many times. It’s a holy grail product for me. On other days, I like to alternate with Pixi Glow. The toners I use at night are typically a bit stronger than the one I use in the morning. You certainly do not need all of the ones I’m mentioning so if you’re new to using a toner, Pixi Glow is a great place to start. I always have a bottle on hand and if you just own this one, that’s totally fine. P50 is an investment product, but it’s holy grail status for me. You can read more about it here if you’re up for it. If this is too much information already, skip it and save it for another time.

On days I use P50, I typically will follow with a good moisturizing combination (more on that below.) On days I don’t use it, I usually follow with a treatment like a retinol (3x a week.)

Eye Cream:

Unlike my day eye cream, I prefer one that’s rich and decadent at night. My favorite is probably Shiseido Benefiance. I also really like Kiehl’s Avocado Eye Cream and I’ve had it in my rotation for years. I don’t think it performs miracles (then again, I don’t think any eye cream really does) but it’s incredibly rich, hydrating and just makes my eye area feel great. Also, when I asked on IG what everyones favorite nighttime eye cream was, many recommend this one from Neocutis, saying it’s one of the best in the market. I have yet to try, but you better believe, I ordered it! I’ll post an update after a few weeks of using.

Treatment-like Retinol: 

About 2-3x a week, I use a retinol (when I am not pregnant or nursing) after using a milder toner like Pixi Glow. Sunday Riley A+ makes a great one as does Jordan Samuel Skin (milder and at such a great price point.) Also, if you’re a member (or considering) of Beauty Pie, they make some great retinols.  You could also get a prescription from your derm; those will typically be stronger, so keep that in mind. If you go that route, talk to your derm on how to properly use and how often. Retinols do not work overnight but overtime, they are proven to be the #1 way to slow down the signs of aging. The studies have been endless. On the days I’m using a retinol, I like to wait a few minutes and then follow up with moisture, which I share below.

Something to note: if you’re using another type of treatment, it’s either that or the retinol. Do not use both. During my pregnancy, I’ve avoided retinol but I’ve been using Sunday Riley Good Genes which is a gentle, lactic acid treatment.

Treatment Serums:

On non-retinol days, after toning I typically use a serum. Serums are nutrient-dense and loaded with all types of goodness, so it’s best to keep them as close to the skin as possible. They are left on overnight so they can really work their magic.

The main difference between a serum and a face oil is that serums are meant to target specific concerns, whereas oils are intended to moisturize. Serums are typically intended to be layered under a moisturizer. Oils are typically intended to seal everything in.

Vintner’s Daughter is my favorite (went into detail about it here) but it has a very hefty price-tag. If I use VD, I like to apply it in the beginning of the night and let it soak in before I apply anything else. Another option is Midnight Recovery from Kiehl’s. I also really love Farmacy Honeymoon Glow. It’s on the stronger side, so don’t use it more than 1-2x a week. Again, you do not need all three, but I wanted to give you guys options.

Moisturizer:  

Much like my eye cream, I prefer a thicker moisturizer at night. Between that and a face oil, I like to look like you could fry an egg on my face (and eventually, my skin will soak it up.) This one from First Aid Beauty is super simple & right to the point, but a great product. I also really the Protini Cream from Drunk Elephant.

*Something to note: For the sake of not confusing anyone, the above breakdown does not account for Augustinus Bader Rich Cream. If this is already too much information, skip this note. However, if you’re interested in how I use Bader: On my Bader nights, I will double cleanse, tone, use eye cream and then apply the cream. I don’t use anything else before or after as it’s meant to be applied on bare skin. Some will even say to skip the toner, but I don’t. I usually use it with P50 and it’s what works best for me. I love it so much and out of all the products out on the market, my skin looks significantly happier when it is part of my routine. Again, hefty price tag but in my opinion, very worth it. Especially if you’re in your mid-thirties or older. 

Face Oils:

After my moisturizer (not including Augustinus Bader), I like to seal it in with a face oil. Again, this step isn’t exactly necessary, but it’s luxurious and I really find that it helps with keeping my face looking and feeling hydrated. There are also several great face oils out there that do not have to break the bank. Recently, I’ve found out about this one from Face Hero and I’ve really been loving it. Other favorites include this one from Jordan Samuel and this one from Indie Lee – both at such great price points.

And there you have it! Please let me know if you have any questions in the comment section and I’ll try to answer them all. Again, this routine does this account for masks or treatment products. Hopefully you found this helpful!

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55 comments

  • Maddie

    Love it! Thank you for being so detailed.
    Question – do you do anything for your lips in particular? Any scrubs, balms or masks morning or night?

    • Helena

      HI Maddie,
      Sara Happ makes a great lip scrub + balm that I love! Also love Laniege lip mask.

    • Susan Dunlop

      Thank you so much for this. I’ve been following your skin care advice for about a year and my looks so much better. I use to be a lot less disciplined about it but now enjoy the time spent at night. The details you’ve added a very helpful. I’ll also say that as a woman who is 50+, this is even more helpful!

  • Janine

    Oh I absolutely agree with the using a cleanser in the morning thing – I tried it a few days to just cleanse with water in the morning, but it just does not work for me… Also, how interesting how you are applying Vitamin C serum in the morning! I always thought it was more of a nighttime product, however, I will now absolutely try it out and apply it in the morning as well 🙂
    Thanks for sharing, this was really helpful!
    xx Janine
    https://walkinmysneaks.blogspot.com

  • Helia

    Hi Helena,
    Thank you for your detailed blog post. You’ve said above that on the nights that you use the Augustinus Bader Rich Cream, you dont wear any serums or retinol.
    Can you tell me out of the 7 nights of the week, how many nights you use retinol + moisturizer + oil, and how many nights you use serum + moisturizer + oil, and then how many nights you just use the Bader Rich Cream?

    • Helena

      Hi Helia,
      It really depends – I don’t have a strategic plan, but usually retinol is 3x a week and then I follow up with a moisturizer + oil. Now that I’m pregnant, I’m not using retinol, so it’s a bit different. I use Augustinus Bader more often..

      • Gokila

        Thank you for this post. I always worry about applying too many different skincare products all at once so will usually keep it simple with cleanser & moisturizer and spf (morning only). When I am using any treatments like good Gene’s or retinol I try to just use that after cleanser in the night. After reading this very curious to give the combinations a try and see how that works. One question: How long have you been using both P50 & ABader cream? Asking since you say they are your holy grail skincare.

  • Mireia

    SPF is so important! We shouldn’t forget!

    Mireia from TGL
    https://thegoldlipstick.com/

  • Maneet

    Thanks! Such great info! No retinol before the AB rich cream?

    • Helena

      I mean, you certainly can! I’m sure the benefits would be great, but Bader recommends that to get the most effective results from their product, to apply on clean skin so there’s no barrier. Some might even apply without toning first, but I always like to and still consider that “fresh” skin.

  • Lauren

    This is so helpful! I find half the battle is knowing when and how to apply the product… the one question I have is how do showers fit in (might be silly), but I would apply my face cleanser and then jump in the shower to wash it off, getting the second cleanser is tricky when face is already wet…

    • Helena

      Hi! If I’m showering at night, I’ll usually start with applying the first cleanser before I get into the shower. Rub and melt it into my skin and then use the cloth in the shower to wipe it off. I’ll then proceed with the second cleanse in the shower. Face is wet, but I’ve found that it’s usually fine. if I’m showering and washing my face in the AM, I’ll apply the cleanser to dry skin and then wash off in the shower.

      Hope that makes sense!

  • Jess

    I know you said you didn’t want to overwhelm butttt… LOL. Jeez Louise this is a lot to take in.

    • Helena

      haha. I know! It’s a lot to take in. I recommend reading it and then revisiting it and reading again.

      • Ioana

        Hi Helena,

        Thank you for breaking down the various steps, it’s so helpful to have then written down and be able to reference them as needed 🙂

        And since we’re talking skincare, any chance you can share about your body care routine? Favorite products (body gel, lotions, oils)? Also, what do you do for heel care?

        Thanks much!

        • Tam_tamara

          Hi Helena, I would also love to know about your body care. Thanks again!

        • JuLes

          This may seem like a silly question, but do you use anything special to take your eye makeup off first or you only use the double cleanse method to remove all eye makeup? Thanks!!

  • Tam_Tamara

    Very much anticipated blog post! Thank you for sharing ⭐️

  • Maria

    Hi! This is SUPER helpful. Thank you! What products can you use on your eyes? For example, the Vit Ç and HA, are those applied around the eye? Or is the eye cream the only product that goes around the eye?

    • Helena

      Good question! Usually just my HA and always SPF. Occasionally I’ll apply retinol around my eye area, but I’ll always dilute it by applying HA first so it’s not overly aggressive. And then I always follow up with some eye cream.

  • Noelle

    Finally! I’ve been dying for you to write up this post, so many goodies here.

    A few things I wonder is, do you have a different routine if you’re in a hurry in the mornings to be somewhere? Idk if I have time to have all of those products to absorb before doing my makeup :/ Also one of the things I struggle with is that some of the creams/acid leave stains on my pillowcases. How does everyone else handle this? Am I the only one here? 😫

    Thanks again!! Can’t wait to try some of these.

    • Helena

      Hi Noelle,

      If I’m in a hurry, I’ll usually just do a quick wash, tone, and then apply my SPF. If my skin is dry, I’ll do an HA or moisturizer underneath my SPF.

      Hmmm.. I haven’t had any experience with staining!

  • ALlIe

    Hi! You mentioned that you only use the Farmacy honeymoon glow etc 1-2 times per week because it’s strong. If not using retinol and only using this 1-2 times per week, what other serum do you use or do you just go straight to your night moisturizer? Also, can you use a cleansing balm without the re-usable cloths you mentioned? Thanks!!

    • Helena

      Hi Allie,
      If I’m not using retinol, I’d prob use a product like Farmacy honeymoon glow or Drunk Elephant Babyfacial 2x a week and on the other days, I may use a more gentle acid like Sunday Riley Good Genes. It’s a lactic acid which is gentle but very effective. For Serums, Vintner’s Daughter or the other ones I’ve suggested also do wonderful things for the skin in the most gentle way.

      And no, I would not use a cleansing balm or oil without a cloth. It’s 50% of the first cleanse and ensures everything is properly wiped off and removed.

  • Erin Marshall

    Thank you for this!! I am looking forward to the treatment / mask post and am so curious about your thoughts on the GOOP exfoliating treatment and if it’s worth incorporating into the rotation or whether Babyfacial is better etc. Thanks again!

    • Megan

      Great question! Personally, I use both products as well as the GOOP peel, and I simply choose one per week to use. So I weeks I use Babyfacial, I don’t use others, and so forth. However, I often wonder then when OK to use retinol?

      • Helena

        Yep! Basically same as Megan. Because I do rotate and test my fair share of products, I’ll choose which one to use. I love Babyfacial and GOOP, so just depends on which one I want to reach for.

        When using retinol religiously (which I am not using at all at the moment), I’ll just listen and watch my skin. Mine can handle a lot, so I may use Babyfacial once a week and retinol 2-3x week, on the other days. I also like to dilute my retinol by applying an HA first so it’s less harsh on the skin and there’s a moisturizing barrier.

        Hope that makes sense!

  • Megan

    Amazing! Thank you so much! So trust your skincare advice. Any experience with at-home derma rolling? I follow a nearly identical skincare routine to yours, and curious when/how you incorporate, if at all.

    • Helena

      I’m a fan and probably should be doing it more often, but it’s been awhile. I know that many derms and estheticians swear by it. Helps products seep in better!

  • Annie

    Hi. I said u honeymoon glow 1-2 times a week. I don’t use retinol. So I use it daily for chemical exfoliation. I hope that’s ok. One more question I thought any aha’s are good chemical exfoliants. So during pregnancy do u used good genes and honey moon glow?

    • Helena

      Hi Annie,
      Using honeymoon glow 1-2x a week is totally fine if your skin handles it well! Don’t see it being a problem, especially since the directions say to use it several x a week and especially bc you don’t use retinol.

      I’ve been given the okay to use both Good Genes and Honeymoon glow during pregnancy, so have incorporated both, but more Good Genes since it’s a bit more gentle.

  • Janae

    Face Hero is an oil by the Australian brand Go-To 🙂

  • Daniela

    Hi Helena, thank you for this post ,may I ask where is this cute tray from? Thank you

    • Helena

      Hi!
      I feel like I say this with so much, but a great HomeGoods find for me!

  • Rach

    This post was so helpful and thank you for breaking down serum versus oils. I always get confused if I wear facial oils beneath moisturizers or on top of it.

    http://www.rdsobsessions.com

  • Jessica Igielnik

    Thank you so much for this post! I’m newish to skincare – after my second baby my almost perfect skin went nuts. I’ve been doing a ton of research and this breakdown was sooo helpful!

    Have you used C.E.O. Glow Vitamin C and Turmeric Face Oil ( I apologize if everyone asks you about one off products). I have super sensitive skin and lots of straight vitamin C hurts my skin but I still want to reap the benefits of it especially if I’m 34.

    Thanks in advance!

    • Helena

      Hi Jessica,

      I hear you! My skin went absolutely nuts after having Nate and I’m honestly scared to see what happens after I deliver this baby. Hormones are one thing that we cannot always control – a good routine or not 🙁

      Unfortunately, I haven’t tried either of those products, so cannot comment on them!

      • AlEx

        Hi! Thanks for this awesome post!!! If I didn’t want to spring for vintners daughter serum would you recommend using Farmacy honeymoon glow a few nights a week and alternating that with Kiehls midnight recovery or is there a better way to do it? I’m not using retinol at this time. Also, does moisturizer go on top of both of these products at night?? Thanks again!!!

  • Kara

    Thank you so much for the helpful post. I wonder if you have any thoughts about these products and routine for someone who has a skin condition like rosacea ?

    • Helena

      Hi Kara,

      That I’m not 100% positive about! I’m sorry. Def better on airing on the side of caution and talking to a professional.

  • Olivia Middleton

    Hi!

    Have you ever used products from The Ordinary?
    They have a bunch of individual products that are very cheap. Like HA, lactic acid, squalane oil, vit C, etc, as well as some combo products.

    Do they work? Because if so, they are super affordable.

    Thanks!

    • Helena

      Hi!

      I actually have never tried anything, but I know many people who are fans!

  • Anna

    Do you have any suggestions for how to follow a good skin-care regimen when traveling? We travel quite a bit, and I feel like I need a separate suitcase for all the skin-care stuff I’d like to bring, and my skin just isn’t the same (especially with the unhealthier eating/more drinking I do when on vacation!) if I don’t bring my favorites.
    I am OBSESSED with Sunday Riley Good Genes, BTW–it has made the biggest difference in my skin of probably anything I’ve ever used.

    • Helena

      Hi! I end up buying travel containers (from Muji or amazon) and just transferring my fav products into them. It all ends up fitting in a little travel pouch and I’m happy I have my favs.
      And yes, Good Genes is amazing!!

  • Andrea

    I’m also pregnant & want to now use good genes. Can you confirm the order is: double cleanse— tone— eye cream— good genes— vitner’s daughter— moisturizer? And you do that 2-3 times a week?

    • Helena

      Hi! I don’t use Vintner’s Daughter and Good Genes on the same night. If I’m using Vintner’s, I usually let that be the hero product along with P50.

      On nights I use Good Genes, I double cleanse, tone, Good Genes and then after a few minutes of leaving it on by itself, I seal it in with a moisturizer and/or oil.

      • Andrea

        Thanks so much for responding!! Do you rotate vitners/p50 & good genes every other night?

  • Claire

    Hi Helena!

    Thank you so much-very helpful and really trust your opinion on skin care. When you use Sunday Riley Good Genes or DE Baby Facial, do you use a treatment serum or do you go straight to moisturizer + oil?

    • Helena

      Hi!
      I’ll usually use Vintner’s Daughter with both since it’s packed with so many (gentle) incredible ingredients, but if I didn’t own VD, I’d finish off my routine with a moisturizer and face oil. Some days I’ll skip the moisturizer and just apply a nice layer of face oil.

  • Lynn

    Hi! I love your post! In your night routine – When you say treatment serum, is vitamin c considered as a treatment serum? On the days that i don’t use retinol, can I use vitamin c? I mean to alternate between retinol and vitamin c in evening routines?

    • Helena

      Hi!
      I’d say that Vitamin C is considered a treatment serum. I use mine during the day, but if you want to use at night, I’d probably alternate with retinol.

  • Mariya Zafirova

    So much detail, thank you!

    Mariya | https://www.brunetteondemand.com/chloe-lauren-sandals-dupes/

  • Mina

    Thanks for this post. Can you share your everyday makeup routine and products you use? ❤️

  • Melissa

    Thanks for the post! Do you refrigerate your vitamin c? In the past I used DE vitamin c and it seemed to oxidize.

  • Kandace

    Thanks for the informative post. Have you tried or heard anything good or bad about beauty counter products?

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