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“Less is more” is often touted as the best beauty advice you can follow. But fuck it. Your skincare routine doesn’t need a cap, but it does should include certain types of products—the essential ones, if you will. Sure, if you’re interested in an elaborate ten-step skincare routine as an act of self-care (or just because), we get it too.
Whether you’re a beginner looking to start (and stick to) a daily skincare routine, or you just want to cut down and get back to basics to save extra time and money, we’re breaking down the products everyone is getting into should have in its range – regardless of your skin type or your personal skin problems.
You probably already know that any solid skincare routine should include a gentle facial cleanser, moisturizer, and some decent sunscreen (please please please don’t skip this step, y’all), but when it comes to the in-between steps (eg e.g. serums, toners, essences, etc.) you may need a little more guidance. Scroll below to see the six must-have products every skincare routine needs.
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The obvious first step: A good cleanser sets the stage for your entire routine. Ultimately, your cleanser should be gentle, water soluble, and able to remove your makeup. Avoid anything that contains soap – the pH of soap is too alkaline and will dry out your skin. This gentle cleanser was developed for sensitive skin, but is also suitable for most skin types. And if you use the code “SCHOOL20” by August 28th, you can snag it—and all other regular-priced items on the Walgreens website—for 20% off plus same-day delivery or pickup.
Toners are often dismissed as overkill, but as part of an overall skincare regimen, toner is actually a pretty important step. It not only removes any residue of oil or makeup, but also prepares your cleansed skin for whatever treatments you apply next. Think of it like a pre-serum or pre-moisturizer. We love this rose-infused toner from Herbovirus because it’s gentle yet effective.
Packed with active ingredients, serums to brighten, repair, hydrate, anti-aging – the works. Some have multiple purposes and some are unique in how they work. You can layer these bad guys or choose one that focuses on your biggest skin concern. We love this vegan anti-aging serum from d’Alba because it’s packed with skin-loving ingredients like hyaluronic acid and nourishing olive and avocado oils.
This is a crucial, though definitely not a daily, step in your skincare routine. The best way to exfoliate your face is to either use a cleanser that has chemical peels in it, or use a special physical peel. Anyhow, try to use this product about twice a week.
Chemical peels are best for sensitive skin, and physical ones (with gritty bits) work well for occasional use if your skin tends to be dry and flaky. Try Kate Sommerville’s cult-favorite exfolicate formula – you won’t regret it.
5. Targeted Treatments
These are the big guns, generally for treating blemishes, dark spots, and clogged pores. Targeted treatments usually have potent ingredients that should be used sparingly and (usually) at night to avoid damage from sun sensitivity, but they really work. Retinols and hyperpigmentation treatments fall into this category. There’s a reason why GLAMGLOW’s targeted pore refinement formulas are bestsellers.
The last step in your skincare routine is just as important as the first. No matter what condition your skin is in, it needs to stay hydrated. Luckily, moisturizers are made for all types of complexions, either oil-free or fortified with skincare products like antioxidants and vitamins. You can also use a facial oil as a moisturizer, regardless of your skin type. Different types of oils have different benefits, but in general skin likes it because it matches its own sebum structure.
Korres Nourishing 3-in-1 Olive Oil is designed to penetrate deep into your skin and restore antioxidants, vitamins and omega fatty acids, leaving your face feeling not only externally hydrated but healthy deep down is. All you have to do is apply a few drops of it on your face and you are good to go. There’s no better time to incorporate this fan favorite into your routine as Greece’s annual Oiva harvest occurs every October and Korres uses these harvested olives in its coveted line of Greek olives.
A version of this article was originally published in June 2015.