How to Create a Skincare Routine That Works for You

The recent explosion in skincare content has made it easier than ever to learn about skincare products, but it’s also made it overwhelming to get started with a simple skincare routine that’s just the essentials. To help you out, we’ve outlined the five skincare steps everyone needs to be following, plus four option add-ons that can take a skincare routine to the next level.

Essential Skincare Steps

A basic skin routine should encompass five steps: a makeup remover (at night), a face cleanser, treatment serums, a moisturizer, and a sunscreen (in the morning). Here’s what you need to know about these skincare 101 steps:

Makeup Remover

Makeup Remover

Makeup removers are specifically designed to remove makeup, water resistant sunscreen, and other stubborn cosmetic products that are difficult to clean off with an ordinary face wash. For that reason, we recommend doing a double cleanse that starts with a makeup remover before moving onto your facial cleanser. Most people find that cleansing balms or cleansing oils provide the most effective first cleanse. However, if you don’t wear a lot of makeup or water resistant sunscreen, then you may find that a micellar water will suffice.

Face Cleanser

A facial cleanser will wash away your makeup remover as well as any remaining traces of dirt, oil, or impurities. Face cleansers come in many different formulas, from gentle milk cleansers for dry skin to foaming gel cleansers for oily skin. Some people also like to vary what cleanser they use with the seasons; your perfect summer cleanser might be too drying once winter arrives. Your face cleanser should leave your face feeling clean and fresh, but not dry or tight. If you notice a lot of dryness or flaking, try switching to a more gentle cleanser that is less stripping for your skin.

Treatment Serums

Treatment serums are the powerhouses of the skincare routine, delivering effective at-home results that can help to brighten skin, dissolve dry patches, smooth out fine lines and wrinkles, and more. What treatment serums you choose should be based on your personal skincare needs as well as the time of day. For instance, we love using a brightening serum first thing in the morning to get antioxidant protection against free radical damage. At night, we enjoy using an exfoliating serum to smooth out skin tone or a retinoid to encourage skin cell turnover.


Once you’ve applied your treatment serum, you should apply a layer of moisturizer over the top. Face moisturizers help to seal in your other skincare products, replenish the natural oils in your skin, and prevent water loss throughout the day and night. If you have oily skin, choose a lightweight gel moisturizer that won’t feel greasy on your face. If you have dry skin, choose a heavier cream that will help to soothe tight, irritated skin. And if you have normal or combination skin, a midweight lotion will likely be the perfect compromise for you.


In the morning, your final skin care step should be sunscreen that is rated at least SPF 30. If you tend to sweat a lot or get in and out of the water, choose a water-resistant sunscreen and reapply every two hours. There are many different types of sunscreens to choose from, including untinted vs. tinted and chemical vs. mineral. Formulations have really come a long way in the last few years, so with a little trial and error you’ll be able to find a sunscreen that you look forward to using every morning.

brunette applying sunscreen

Extra Skincare Steps

Ready to take your simple skincare routine to the next level? Try one of these four option add-ons to elevate your basic skincare routine and get additional benefits:


Toners have a liquid, water-like consistency that soaks in quickly, making them a top pick for oily skin types. Toners were originally designed to counteract very alkaline water, which could leave soapy residue behind on skin. Nowaday, advanced filtration has mostly eliminated toner’s original purpose. Instead, they now offer a host of benefits from brightening to exfoliating to hydrating, so you can choose the one that works best for you. They aren’t a necessary part of a simple skincare routine, but they can be a nice addition if you are looking to incorporate some extra products.

Eye Cream

Depending on the ingredients, you sometimes can apply your regular moisturizer around your eye area as long as it doesn’t contain anything irritating like fragrance or acids. However, the skin around that area is especially delicate and prone to irritation, so you might benefit from applying a thicker cream meant especially for the eyes. If you want to get the benefits of a powerful active ingredient like vitamin C or retinol, then you should definitely choose an eye cream that is meant specifically for use around the eyes to avoid irritation.

Lip Mask

Lip masks are super moisturizing products that help to soothe chapped skin and prevent water loss. They are especially helpful for preventing dry lips during the winter or travel. Apply it before you go to sleep, and you’ll wake up to soft, plump, hydrated lips.

Face Mask

Face Mask

Face masks aren’t an essential part of a basic skincare routine, but they can be fun to add once or twice a week. Similar to toners, face masks offer a variety of benefits, so you can choose one that addresses your skincare concerns. Face masks also come in a variety of formulations, including wash-off creams and sheet masks, so you can pick the one that appeals to you the most.

Do you have any steps that you would add to an essential skincare routine? What products have you been loving lately? Let us know in the comments below!