Beauty 101 – Foundation Products For a Skincare Routine

**Quick disclaimer: None of the links in this post are affiliate. They’re just for your convenience.**

This post is going to assume that you, like me and so many others, have fallen down the Skincare Rabbit Hole of whence there is no return.

Welcome to the dark side, friend. We have snail slime.

photoshopped sparkler light swirls
Shhh…just let it happen. It’s more fun down here anyways.

Now that you’re here, it’s probably VERY tempting to go wild and buy an entire new 10-step routine based on rave reviews from other people.

Let me stop you right there.

IT’S A TRAP.

An expensive, frustrating trap. Don’t do it!

Hear me out on this one and let me save you some time, money and irritation.

Diving in Head First is a Bad Idea

It’s so easy to get caught up in shopping for new pretties. It still happens to me sometimes. The difference between now and when I started my skincare journey is I know what works for my skin. Back then, I was throwing things on my face at random and hoping something helped.

Spoiler alert: Basically none of the random cult favorites I spent way too much money on actually worked for my skin type.

It’s important to know the answers to a few foundational skin questions before you start shopping for basics:

  • What’s your skin type? (You can read more here if you’re not sure)
  • What are your skin goals? (Brighter skin, hydration, clearing up acne, etc. – you can have more than one!)
  • Do you have allergies or sensitivities?
  • How much time will you realistically commit to skincare?
  • What’s your budget? (this one is SUPER important!)

Be honest with yourself. If you’re a low maintenance person, 10 steps and a sheet mask every night probably isn’t reasonable, and that’s totally okay. If you have a tight budget, you need to know where to splurge and where you can cut corners.

Personally, I recommend that everyone starts with these three things:

  1. Cleanser
  2. Sunscreen
  3. Moisturizer

First Things First – Wash Your Face

Ultimately, if you don’t have a face wash that works for your skin, you’re not going to reach your goals. Before you can start piling on the fun stuff, you need to get into the habit of washing your face nightly with a gentle, preferably low-pH cleanser.

cat licking its paw
I can’t cosign licking your face clean, but do what works I guess.

I know tons of people who swear by foaming cleansers, but even the low-pH ones tend to leave my skin feeling dry or tight (which is a sign that you’re using the wrong one!). Personally, I prefer non-foaming gel or cream cleansers, and I always aim for a pH around 5.5, which is close to your skin’s natural pH.

If you’re not a makeup wearer or you need a quick morning cleanse, I highly recommend using micellar water. It’s gentle, effective and perfect for lazy or rushed skincare days.

A Few of My Favorites:

Next Step – Sunscreen Up!

I harp on this incessantly, sorry not sorry. If you’ve spent any time on my blog, you know I mention SPF almost every time I post.

Sunscreen is life. Can’t stop; won’t stop.

cartoon sun graphic
Hide yo kids. Hide yo wife. This dude is NOT your friend.

Once you have a cleanser that works for you, the next step is finding a sunscreen. There’s some debate about whether you should find an SPF or a cleanser first, but I think it’s better to have a good cleanser first so that you know you’re able to get all of the sunscreen off at the end of the day. This helps with breakouts and clogged pores.

Japanese and Korean sunscreens are, by far, the best I’ve ever used. They’re ultra high protection and cosmetically elegant and you will have to pry them from my cold, dead hands to keep me away from them.

Some are a bit expensive, but it’s absolutely possible to find a sunscreen for your face-neck-chest areas that costs less than $10-15.

Pro tip: If you’re oily, spring for a sun milk. If you’re combo, try a gel. If you’re dry-skinned, try a cushion or cream.

I’m always looking for a luminous, matte finish in my sunscreens, but I’ll include a few that aren’t mattifying in my list!

A Few of My Favorites

Behind Every Great Face is a Great Moisturizer

For most people, light layers of product are more effective in the long run than a single moisturizer. However, when you’re just starting out, it’s best to stick with one product at first and build up to experimenting with layers after you know a little more about how your skin reacts.

leg with white lotion in the shape of a heart
#YesAllSkin…needs moisture.

This part usually takes some trial and error to get right, but here are a couple of tips:

  • Oily skin needs moisture, too. You usually can’t go wrong with a simple, gel moisturizer to start out.
  • Whenever you can, go for products with nourishing ingredients like ceramides.
  • Decants and samples are your best friend. For Asian beauty brands, there are a few reputable and lovely ladies on r/AsianBeautyExchange that can send you decants to try before you buy. It’s a great money saver!
  • If something doesn’t work for your face, use it up on your body. Body skin is usually more resilient and thicker than face skin, so there’s a good chance that product won’t have to go to waste.

A Few of My Favorites

Let’s Recap

I’ve thrown a lot at you today, so let’s hit the highlights one more time:

  1. Don’t fall into the trap of overbuying when you’re first starting a routine! Slower might be more annoying, but it will save you time, money and SO much irritation in the long run.
  2. Every routine needs three foundational products: cleanser, sunscreen and moisturizer.
  3. Before you start shopping, make sure you’ve set realistic goals and expectations for yourself and your beauty routine.
  4. Trial and error is a normal part of the process! If you’re tight on funds, look for samples and decants before you splurge on full-sized products.

Do you have more questions? Did I leave out something important? Let me know in the comments below!

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