We have been on the hunt for the Fountain of Youth since the 1500s, but we have not quite managed to find the magic formula yet. Until then, we will have to make do with human-made products! Not only have we compiled a skincare regimen to keep your youthful glow, but we have also included some helpful tips on what you may be doing wrong and what you should be doing instead.
We all know how important it is to wash our face – it has been drilled into us from childhood. We need to wash up when we wake up because our skin secretes all kinds of oils while we sleep as part of our healing and rejuvenation process, but we do not need those same oils when we are awake. The best thing to do first is to wash up with a gentle foam cleanser. These should be suitable for all skin types and will not strip your skin of the hard work it did overnight! Avoid soaps with high concentrations of alcohol or fragrance. Paula’s choice has many great options in that field.
After a long day, your skin is ready for a refresher again – whether you have been running marathons or marathoning Game of Thrones. Make sure your cleanser is safe for daily use. We recommend having two cleansers – an AM and a PM one that suits your skin type (oily, dry, normal, or combination). Never use regular soap bars!
Another critical issue when it comes to cleansing is an application. Loofahs are far too abrasive and breed insane amounts of bacteria, so keep them far away from your face! Konjac sponges are great for facial cleansing. Make sure to replace your sponge every few months, however. For your body, a better alternative to a synthetic loofah is soap with natural loofahs formed. They are great for gentle scrubbing without the major germ infestation.
If you still feel like you need a refresher during the day, instead of washing up, try a facial mist or toner. Witch hazel is great for clarifying the skin, while rose water toner is highly reviewed for its long-lasting scent and hydrating effects. Another favorite is micellar water (we love Marcelle’s Micellar water). Just dab some onto a cotton ball and swipe it onto your face – it picks up dirt you didn’t even know was there! There are so many facial mists and toners on the market, so whether you just want something cooling or something more medicinal like a retinol tonic, it is out there for you!
Exfoliants are great to get rid of dead skin, but make sure you are not over-exfoliating; you could create micro-tears in your skin and cause more damage than good, which defeats the entire purpose. Exfoliate after you cleanse to avoid pushing any dirt into your pores – that could backfire and create more blackheads or whiteheads.
Exfoliants can be divided into two groups: physical exfoliants and chemical exfoliants. Physical exfoliants are usually the larger, more abrasive exfoliants designed to slough off dead skin immediately. They come in the form of scrubs or pads. Chemical exfoliants use chemicals (obviously) like acids to remove dead skin cells, and they come in creams, gels, or micro-scrubs with various active ingredients.
Okay, stay with me. There are two types of chemical exfoliants: AHAs and BHAs.
AHAs stands for Alpha Hydroxy Acids: water-soluble acids. These acids exfoliate the surface of our skin and keep our skin hydrated in the process. They come in various forms: lactic acid and glycolic acid are probably the most familiar sounding ones. If you’re just starting with chemical exfoliating or you have sensitive skin, start with lactic acid and apply it every three nights on clean skin. Normal skin can handle glycolic acid, which is a bit stronger.
BHAs stands for Beta Hydroxy Acids: oil-soluble acids. This acronym means they break down oil clogged pores, which is perfect for acne-prone or acne-ridden skin. The main BHA you need to know about is salicylic acid, and it’s a standard spot treatment. If your skin is used to harsher treatments, it can handle a routine switch between BHA and AHAs, but that can lead to irritation and dryness otherwise. It is best if you stick to one chemical exfoliant, especially at first, when you are just introducing your skin to it.
Oily skin can handle more frequent exfoliating, but make sure you do not experience any irritation. If you do, back away from the exfoliant! Acne-prone skin does better with cream-based exfoliants, but it is always best to speak to a dermatologist.
Whatever you do, do not exfoliate twice in one day – your skin will already be overexposed and will need TLC, not guerilla warfare. It is best to exfoliate in the evening, so your skin has time to heal quickly while you sleep. You will notice that most chemical exfoliants are PM applications by design, anyway. Then you get to wash them off in the morning and repeat the cleansing cycle all over again!
We probably all imagine different things when we hear the words “face mask,” which makes sense, considering there are many types of masks out there. Sheet masks, clay masks (mud masks), cream masks, peel off masks, gel or jelly masks, and sleep masks, oh my!
Sheet masks are known far and wide. They’re incredibly versatile, as they can target pretty much any skincare need like brightening, hydrating, or even rejuvenating. They can be made for the face, the neck, the lips, and also the derriere! They are made to suit all skin types, so you will have no difficulty finding one that works for you in any price range.
Clay masks (also known as mud masks) are hugely popular and are the stereotypical green-faced masks you think of in the movies when the lead actress has a girl’s night in. These masks absorb toxins and are great for acne-prone skin, but they can be incredibly drying, so make sure to moisturize properly. They may not be best for people with dry skin.
Cream masks are great for dry skin because of their hydrating effects. They are especially great for spot treatment and mature skin as they combat wrinkles. Peel-off masks can be great for skin with larger pores, which usually leads to oilier skin and more acne. These masks can exfoliate slightly because they are peeling off dead skin, so be careful with them. If you use blackhead peel masks, only apply them to your nose! Though the trend on social media has people applying them all over their face, that is an incorrect application and can severely damage your skin.
Gel and jelly masks are very mild and tend to have a cooling sensation. They are great for dry or dehydrated skin, but make sure there is no irritation or irritating factors by doing a test spot first, especially if you have sensitive skin. Jelly masks are just like sheet masks but made from bio-cellulose – definitely give these a try. Our favorite is the 10:00 PM mask from When.
Charcoal masks are less about the type of mask and more about the ingredient in them: they all contain activated charcoal to detoxify the skin. This type of cover is especially great for oily and acne-prone skin. Sleep masks are ideal for any time you may be feeling like you want to pamper your skin overnight. You may opt for an overnight exfoliant instead, but that is not an option for every night. On the nights that you are not exfoliating, try hydrating your skin instead!
Now that we have run through the kinds of masks let’s look at the different benefits you may want to reap from them.
Anti-aging: This is why you are reading this article, isn’t it? Look for AHAs, rose extracts, and berry extracts for an added boost to your anti-aging effects. It is essential to consider that these masks are less of a long-term benefit and more of a short term boost to your existing skincare routine. The other elements of your regimen, like the moisturizers, serums, and SPF, are really what will create long-term benefits. Of course, these masks can help! Nourishing treatment masks with hydrating ingredients like aloe or calendula can reduce irritation and even out skin tones.
Detoxifying: It is best to detox your skin every two weeks or eliminate the low-grade pollution we experience daily. People with oily or acne-prone skin are more likely to have clogged pores, so this step is especially crucial for them. As mentioned in the types of masks, charcoal is a great detoxifying ingredient and is an excellent option for this bi-monthly ritual. There are many options on the market, ranging from just a few dollars to splurge-worthy purchases, so you will have more than enough to choose from!
For our oilier people, choose a clay mask. It’ll absorb the oil without stripping your skin. If you have combo skin, consider a moisturizing mask, which helps balance the oil output, minimizes hyperpigmentation, and reduces fine lines. If you have sensitive skin, sheet masks are your holy grail. They have fewer preservatives, and they are great for penetrating benefits without irritation. If you have dry skin, don’t detox! That will dry you out even more. Instead, opt for hydrating cream masks.
Brightening: These face masks have nothing to do with the fairness of your skin tone and everything to do with its luminosity. Look for ingredients like Vitamin C, AHAs, and Hyaluronic acid to hydrate your skin and reduce irritation and hyperpigmentation.
Hydrating: The best hydrating masks have active ingredients like collagen, Vitamin E, calendula, aloe, and natural oils, and of course – avoid fragrances and alcohols.
Clarifying: We have all had to deal with an occasional breakout or a stubborn pimple. Sometimes, the breakout is more like cystic acne or severe onset of adult acne. So what? We all need to be equipped with something to tackle our blemishes and quickly. You have probably tried all the pimple patches, and face washes ad nauseum, so try a mask and see if that does the trick. Masks can draw out impurities, so try using a targeted mask about one to three times a week.
Once we have cleansed and exfoliated, it is time for us to live our witch fantasy with all our potions and tonics. Your bathroom may look like a seventeenth-century doctor’s workbench, but you will glow, honey. We may not have enough time to run through every possible oil or serum that could be useful, but here are some of the ribbon-winning winners:
Collagen (serum or cream): This baby can firm up and hydrate your skin. Collagen is usually derived from seaweed in these serums or creams, which encourages our collagen production and plumps up dry skin.
Vitamin C (serum or cream): This will help slow down the aging process of your skin and increase collagen production. The best thing about it is that it helps fade and prevent spots and pigmentation, so say goodbye to any lasting pimple marks. Apply this every other day for the best benefits.
Rosehip Oil (aka rosehip seed oil): Rosehip oil is almost like magic. It is antiviral, antibacterial, and antifungal. It is excellent for hydrating dry skin and is high in Vitamin A and Vitamin C, which makes it a natural exfoliant. It helps protect against sun damage (but it is not a replacement for sunscreen!) and helps reduce scarring. Look for cold-pressed, organic rosehip oil for the highest quality product.
Squalane Oil: Not to be confused with squalene, which is almost the same thing, minus one essential hydrogen molecule. That one little, teeny weeny molecule makes the oil much more stable and extends the shelf-life of the oil, taking it from a pore-clogging oil to a skincare holy grail.
Squalane oil is a substance produced by our bodies naturally. As we age, the production decreases, so we are just bringing it back! Because it is a naturally occurring substance, its hydrating effects penetrate deeply. It also balances the oil production in our skin and battles premature aging in addition to our favorite: skin-plumping!
Of course, these are just a few of the many beneficial oils on the market. You will find some that combine several oils, and that may or may not work for you. You may want to have a varied routine that incorporates different oils on different nights, or some nights without any oils at all. The world is your oyster!
Now that we have clued you in on some of the best oils and serums, here is how to use them: after cleansing, exfoliating, toning, and letting everything dry. I keep a cute little hand-fan in my bathroom to speed that process up. Once your skin is dry (and it may be slightly sticky if you used a targeted toner), then use a few drops of your oil or serum. Press them lightly into your skin until they are absorbed, and do not forget your neck! We recommend using one or two oils at most – more than that will muddy their effects and might end up clogging your skin instead of benefiting it. After you have applied your chosen skincare serums, fan yourself again and admire your handiwork – you are almost done!
It is important to note that some oils are ideal for daytime use, and some are better for evening use. Any oils with retinoids are better for evenings, as they can irritate the sunlight. If you want, you can divide your skincare up into a morning serum and an evening serum routine, though that may require more time than some people are willing to dedicate. However, you choose to divvy up your oils, make sure they are following the labels of the product to avoid any damage to your skin.
Ah, the wonderful world of moisturizers. There is an endless selection of them! All your skincare efforts can go down the drain if you do not adequately seal in the work with a moisturizer. It would be like painting a Monet and leaving it to the elements unsealed. The best moisturizers on the market harness the magic of sunscreen, but sometimes you need to apply both. It is worth it! The few extra seconds of the skincare regimen will buy you years of skin health and wrinkle avoidance.
Just as with most product categories, there are more than enough morning and evening moisturizers, and they can all be targeted to your specific needs. Are you acne-prone? Do you have dry skin? Do you have hyper-pigmentation, or maybe rosacea? There is a moisturizer for you, no matter what you need. It is critical, however, that you find the right one for you. If a moisturizer is too greasy or too heavy, then you should see a new one. The same rule applies for sunscreen if you will be utilizing it separately – especially if you are using it daily as part of your skincare regimen. Find one that caters to your skincare needs. Of course, it is much easier to find a moisturizer that has SPF in it, so try that first!
If you have sensitive skin, look for moisturizers with glycerin as the active ingredient to avoid irritation. If you have drier skin, use more oil-based creams and prevent alcohol and fragrances. For oilier or acne-prone skin people, find moisturizers in the form of gels or serums, as they are lightweight and will not clog your pores.
Do you cleanse your face after sweating? We get it – we all want to pass out on our yoga mat after a hardcore workout. If you can’t wholly cleanse your face after getting a decent sweat, make sure to wash the sweat off. The impurities you’ve sweat off should not sit on your skin. Once you have done that, you can apply a light moisturizer to retain hydration, then apply sunscreen. Of course, cleanse as soon as you can, but that should tide you over until you can.
Are you relying too much on brushes — without cleaning them properly? Though cleansing brushes are great for exfoliating in theory, they can be too harsh for daily use. They can also breed bacteria if they are overused and not replaced. A great option is the konjac sponge we mentioned previously, which comes in various colors, which means different active ingredients. Replace them every six weeks, since they are a natural, biodegradable root product.
Attacking your skincare regimen with vigor is great. Attacking your skin with strength, however, is not so great. You want to avoid scrubbing or drying your skin so roughly that you damage it, even if you may not see the damage with your eyes. The key to skincare is gentleness above all. Once you have gently cleansed your face, pat it dry with a towel.
To get even more hydrated, dab on some hyaluronic acid or serum with it as an active ingredient when you’re still fresh out of the shower to trap moisture in your skin. Though the effect will be temporary, you can recreate it every day by incorporating it into your regimen.
We’ve all committed this cardinal sin, right? Though one night of sleeping in your makeup will not do much damage to your skincare (beyond staining your pillowcase), doing it repeatedly can clog your pores and lead to blackheads and whiteheads.
If you absolutely cannot bear the thought of going through your cleansing ritual, at least swipe a facial wipe or some of that tremendous micellar water we mentioned earlier over your skin to remove your makeup and give your skin a chance to breathe through the night.
Though relying on facial wipes as a frequent skincare tool is not a great idea, it is better than sleeping in makeup.
We hope this list helps you create a skincare regimen that works for you and your skin’s needs. Remember, make sure to test it first for any signs of irritation with any type of skincare. If your test spot shows no irritation after 24 hours, then it should be safe to use.
You can do as much or as little of this as you want, but your skin will give you as much as you put into it back, and this is an investment into your future self. Skipping one day isn’t the end of the world, so don’t think of it as an all or nothing. Enjoy your skincare, and make it part of your self-care!