The true answer to this question really depends on YOUR skin. If you have more normal skin that rarely experiences acne or other skin issues, you may feel like you can skip some steps! On the other hand, if your skin is excessively dry or oily, you may feel like you need more steps to maintain a healthy and clear complexion.The key to an effective skin care routine is MOISTURE. Your skin quite literally cannot function properly without adequate water content. Your goal should always be to avoid TEWL (transepidermal water loss). In my humble opinion, there are 5 parts to a good skin care routine that will help you maintain clear, bright, and glowing skin!
A good cleanser is the foundation of every skin care routine! Your cleanser’s job is to remove dirt, excess oil, makeup residue, and dead skin cells. It creates a clean foundation for everything you’re going to apply afterwards.
If you have more of a dry skin type, opt for cream based cleansers as they tend to be less stripping, making them perfect for skin that already lacks oil. For those of us with oily skin, you may feel like you have to completely eradicate oil from your skin, but you’re actually making your skin MORE OILY when you do this. Excessive oil production is usually a sign of dehydrated skin. Your skin overcompensates for a lack of water content by producing more oil. Opt for a lightly foaming cleanser that doesn’t have high concentrations of drying alcohols and sulfates.
As a bonus for both skin types, If you want to give your pores some extra love, go in with an oil cleanser before your traditional cleanser. The contents of your pores are oil soluble, so using an oil cleanser before your traditional cleanser really helps melt away all the gunk.
Toners can be used to address a variety of concerns depending on the active ingredients they have in the formula, but in this case I’m referring to basic hydrating toners! Most have been conditioned to believe toners and astringents are the same thing, but they’re actually quite different at their core.
Basic toners are mostly humectants (ingredients that help retain water content) and water, and are used to add water content into the skin and reset your skin to its natural pH. They should be applied directly after you cleanse your skin. This allows the products you apply afterwards to penetrate more effectively. Look for toner ingredients like glycerin, sodium hyaluronate, and hyaluronic acid. Avoid toners that have witch hazel or alcohol.
Astringents on the other hand have alcohol in them, so applying after you’ve already cleansed your skin is unnecessary and will likely dehydrate your skin. (If you’re dead set on keeping an astringent in your routine, they’re best used to remove excess makeup your wipes leave behind.)
This is where I know people are going to come for my neck, but I said what I said! Serums are usually water based, and are super effective at addressing specific issues. The small molecular structure of their ingredients allow them to penetrate more deeply within the layers of the skin. This makes them more effective at delivering active ingredients where they really matter compared to cream based products. There are two types of serums I recommend to anyone that reaches out to me for skin care advice — a hyaluronic acid serum and a vitamin C serum.
Hyaluronic acid is a moisturizing acid and super humectant. It can hold up to 1000x its weight in water, so it’s great at preventing dehydration. Vitamin C is an antioxidant that brightens tone, boosts your skin’s natural regeneration process, and helps protect against UV ray damage. Vitamin C can be potent stuff, so it’s best to start at lower concentrations and work your way up from there. Also, try doing a patch test on your neck or the inside of your arm to make sure your skin doesn’t react negatively!
The point of moisturizer is to keep the skin from losing water content throughout the day. It does this by reinforcing your skin’s natural moisture barrier. Moisturizing everyday reduces the chance of experiencing extreme dryness or oiliness. The outermost layers of your skin are made up of a combination of keratin and different types of lipids. A good moisturizer should also contain some of these so it mimics the structure of your skin’s actual barrier.
For the dry skin kings and queens, try formulas that are thicker and more creamy to help keep you moisturized all day long. If your skin is oily, you should probably opt for a water-based gel formula moisturizer. Gels are a lot more lightweight, and a better option for people whose skin already provides the oil it needs. Personally, even though my skin is oily, I use both types of moisturizers. I like to use richly textured cream moisturizers at night when I don’t care about looking like a krispy kreme donut to help offset TEWL , and more water based gel formulas during the day when I don’t want as many oils present.
This is another step that is really controversial, especially amongst the black community. Hear me, and hear me clearly… SUNSCREEN IS NOT AN OPTION. Yes, black people rarely suffer from extreme sunburn, BUT we are not exempt from the DNA damage caused by UV rays.
There are two types of UV rays, UVA and UVB. UVB rays are known for causing sunburn and contributing to certain types of skin cancer. On the other hand, UVA rays are known for causing cancer through damaging DNA, in turn compromising your immune response to cancer cells. UVA rays also have the ability to penetrate more deeply within the layers of the skin. Yes, I know some sunscreens leave a horrible purple cast on brown skin, but here’s the tea… Those are sunBLOCKS, not sunSCREENS. I won’t get into the super “sciencey” details of it, but the mechanisms that they use to protect your skin from the sun are completely different.
Sunblocks use minerals to physically deflect the sun’s rays away from your skin, while sunscreens use chemicals to absorb UV rays as they hit your skin. Chemical sunscreens are a much better option for brown people because they don’t have the minerals in them that give you that horrible “Gross Sisters” ashy look. Avoid anything that has zinc oxide or titanium oxide in it!
The other important thing to consider when choosing a sunscreen is the level of sun protection you are getting. Anything less than SPF 30 is not enough protection, and anything more than SPF 55 is pretty much a marketing gimmick. SPF 30 protects you again 96.7% of the sun’s rays, and SPF 50 protects you against 98% of the sun’s rays.
Overall, your skin care routine doesn’t need to be 20 steps long to be effective. If a routine that’s that in depth is overwhelming for you, leave that to the “skinthusiasts’ like myself! Don’t let anyone shame you for preferring a more concise routine. If you follow all the steps I mentioned above (in combination with the proper products, of course), your skin will be poppin before you know it! Remember, preventing TEWL is key. Focus on keeping your skin moisturized, and a lot of your skin concerns will disappear… I promise.