The no-bs guide to building your skincare routine

Author: Jenny Wu
Hi there!
Comments/Questions


  • Lynda

    thanks for this article! i’m just starting out in this multi-step regimen and it’s really helpful. what’s the order of retinol and bha? i have a bha i use every other day but i want to add retinol. i’m not sure which to put first, or if it’s better to rotate retinol and bha.

    PS: i didn’t know you can return tried-but-failed products to sephora. thanks for the info!

    • Jenny

      You’re welcome Lynda! For Retinol and BHA, you may not want to use them in the same routine because 1) it may be too harsh on your skin 2) they require your skin to be at different pH levels to be effective. BHA requires a slightly acidic level while Retinol is best used when your skin is at its normal pH (5.5-6).

      I would recommend either using the BHA and Retinol on alternating days, or even using BHA in the morning and Retinol at night. If your skin can handle both in the same routine, use BHA first, wait 15-20 minutes for your skins ph level to return to normal, then apply Retinol. Hope this helps!

      • Lynda

        thank you! that’s super helpful!

  • Liv

    Ahhh this is such a great post!!! I’ve been trying to incorporate more skincare steps because my skin needs a lot of healing from years of being told I don’t need to “do that much to my looks”. Right now my routine actually looks very similar to yours but I need a better refinement to it!

    I need a good cleanser. Right now in the morning I use a Korean brand that I’m not sure cleans my face that well and at night I use a daily exfoliant. I also use cleansing oil at night before that. After washing my face I tone but I don’t use serum yet – I sometimes use a bit of eye serum though because the skin around my eyes get dried a lot more easily than the rest of my face. I have a light moisturizer that I do use, but sometimes I’ve been skipping. Same with sunscreen. The CC cream I use (rather than foundation) includes both those things but I don’t really trust it right now. I may try to use less CC cream and a thinner layer of moisturizer to not let my face load too much.

    PS. I tagged you in my most recent post #OneLinerTestimony, I’d love for you to give it a read! :)

    • Jenny

      So glad you liked this Liv! My skin is in a similar situation from years of not using (enough) sunscreen! >_< Which Korean cleanser are you using? I noticed that some cleansers, especially those formulated for dry skin, can leave a sort of film on your skin if you don't wash it off thoroughly, so I always lean towards gentle foaming cleansers unless my skin is feeling super dry. Definitely don't skip sunscreen, even if you have SPF in your CC cream. 1/4 tsp is a lot of CC cream to put on your face, but any less than that and you risk not using enough SPF to get the protection on the label. This is something I definitely learned the heard way - years of wearing sunscreen in high school and college (in pea sized amounts), and I still got the dreaded dark spots. :(

  • Tara

    This is a good introduction post :) I’m still constantly trying out new things with my skin to find out what works and what doesn’t, but I think I’ve got the so-called ten-step routine down pat now, haha!

    • Jenny

      Thanks Tara! Trying out new products is definitely one of the fun parts in skincare (at least for me, haha). It’s always such a great feeling when you find a new product that works great on your skin!

  • Lily

    Hello, I am did some research on how to build a skin care routine but I am stuck on this one question.
    Its better poised as a story example. Lets say I am oily and have one skin concern, acne. This is easy, you get products made for oily skin that will help with preventing and healing your acne. But many people should have more than one skin concern or desire. So lets add, pore size. Should all 3 products have tightening, cleaning, and controlling oil ingredients in them? Or should the cleanser have tightening, the serum have controlling and tightening, and moisturiser tightens? Pore size is related to acne to some extent which makes it easier but lets try a different one, like anti-aging. Oh is it the ‘less is more’ rule? As long as one of your product has a ingredient for you skin concern, you’re good to go? Its like there are a few primary skin concerns&desires but endless ingredients/ products that address them thus causing my confusion.
    I hope you’re getting the gist of what I am trying to figure out here. How to build a skin routine for 2 or more skin concerns/desires or start with one skin concern routine. #overwhelmed. Thanks, Happy New Year!

    • Jenny

      Hmm, that’s an interesting question and a very relevant one! I don’t think there is any one way that you need to tackle this, as what works for someone else might not work for you. So this is just my example of how I would approach it:
      1) Focus on ingredients for my serum. Retinol is a great one that will address acne, pore sizes, and anti-aging, so I would definitely make sure to have a retinol serum/treatment as the main focus of my routine. BHA like salicylic acid is another good one that will help with acne prone skin and keeping your pores clean (thus reducing their appearances), and is a good one to have in your serum or toner. However both salicylic acid and retinol can be irritating if you’ve never used them before, so I would use BHA in the morning and retinol in the evening at first, or even using retinol every other day. Vitamin C is also a good one to include if you want something to help heal acne scarring.
      2) For moisturizers, I’d pick something for my skin type to make sure it properly moisturizes my skin without clogging it up. So a lightweight gel moisturizers might be a good fit for you, and from there you can look for ones that are anti-aging, but I wouldn’t stress too much about it. Your serum/bha toner should be the stars of your routine, and your moisturizer’s main goal is to make sure your skin stays moisturized.
      3) For cleansers I’d go with something gentle, low pH, and again, suitable for your skin type. Gentle and low-pH are really important, especially if you’re using strong actives like retinol.

      In my opinion, less is definitely more as you’re starting out. While brands are always featuring new fancy ingredients, I’d stick to ones that are well-researched for best results. Also regardless of skin type or concerns, I’d make sure you include a hydrating serum/toner in your routine as well. Dehydrated skin can lead to an assortment of issues, including fine lines and increased sebum production. Hope this helps!

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