Here’s How to Create the Perfect Daily Skin-Care Routine

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Having a daily skin-care routine has always been helpful for so much more than my skin. In the morning it helps me wake up and prepare for the day, giving my mind another signal that it’s go time. And in the evening it helps me wind down and transition to relaxation mode.

Plus, when you’re working from home (as I, the rest of SELF’s staff, and hopefully you are right now, due to the new coronavirus) it’s important to have a routine to keep your work life separate from your personal life—even though they both may be taking place in the same physical space right now.

For me, having a morning and nighttime skin-care routine is definitely part of that. So I’d highly suggest leaning into the routine you have now, evaluating whether or not what you’re using is really necessary, or taking this moment to create a regimen that’s right for your skin.

In the morning…

Complicated multistep skin-care routines may be trendy, but they really aren’t necessary. For most people there are only three essential steps to a daily skin-care routine, according to the American Academy of Dermatology, and those are: cleansing, moisturizing, and sunscreen.

In the morning, you’ll want to start by washing your face with a cleanser that’s right for your skin type. If you have oily or acne-prone skin, you might want to use a face wash that contains acne-fighting or exfoliating ingredients like salicylic acid. Those with dry or sensitive skin should stick with gentle cleansers, which often have a creamy texture. If you have dry skin, you might also enjoy using an oil-based face wash, like a cleansing balm or oil. If you have combination skin, you might want to switch up your cleansers (use an acne-fighting one in the morning and a creamy one at night, for instance).

If you do choose to use any other skin-care products in the morning, like toners, exfoliants, serums, or treatments, this is where they would go (after you wash your face, but before anything else). Experts generally suggest that most people use an antioxidant serum, like a vitamin C serum, in the morning to help prevent sun-related damage (which can still happen when you’re indoors, by the way).

For the most part, you want to use your exfoliator, toner, and then your other products in the order of thinnest to thickest. The idea is that lighter products won’t be able to penetrate through thicker ones, but the truth is that the exact order doesn’t matter that much, as SELF explained previously. Of course, if you’re using a prescription treatment, follow your dermatologist’s instructions for when and how to use it.

Then come the next two steps: moisturizing and sunscreen. You’ll likely want to use a lighter moisturizer in the morning, especially if you’re planning to wear makeup over it.

At night…

Since you’re not worried about sun exposure at night, you only have to do two things here: cleanse and moisturize. And, yes, you can totally use the same cleanser and moisturizer that you use in the morning! If you’re just not that into skin care or you’re short on time or budget, that’s a perfectly acceptable thing to do.

But there are some good reasons for investing in products dedicated to your nighttime routine. First off, if you wear makeup or mineral sunscreen, you might want to think about using a heavier-duty cleanser—or even a double-cleaning routine with two different cleansers—at night to take everything off. Or you might want to use a makeup remover or micellar water to take off the makeup first, following it with your usual cleanser. But, if you have dry or sensitive skin, all that washing might be too much for you. Listen to your skin here and do what feels good!

In between cleansing and moisturizing is another opportunity to use exfoliating products, serums, or treatments for acne or signs of aging, such as retinol. Some of these products can make your skin a little bit more sensitive, so it’s nice to give your skin the night to heal after using them. But, again, these are optional.

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