In an article about essential skincare products, a woman with brown hair caresses her face with her hands as she tilts her head with her eyes closed against a teal background. The words "Skin Care" are broken up by the woman in the center.

Skincare 101

The fundamentals of self-care and the products to help.
August 9, 2023
9 mins read

At this point in the 21st century, most people understand that it’s important to take care of their skin. However, recognition of this fact does not make the challenge of establishing an effective skincare routine any easier to tackle. It can be hard to find the time to build a steady habit. Certain bottles of product can cost over $100 alone. At the most basic level, it can be intimidating to even know where to begin. If this describes you, follow along to discover the five products that are essential to every successful skincare routine. 

Invest In a Face Wash or Cleanser

Healthy skin is oftentimes a direct result of cleanliness. Hygiene is fundamental to a strong skincare regimen and, consequently , immaculate skin. The best way to begin a skincare routine is to identify an appropriate cleansing formula for your skin type. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, the five primary skin types are oily, dry, combination, normal and sensitive. Discover your skin type here.

Like most skincare products, cleansers come in a variety of types. Some people prefer foaming face washes; others depend on micellar cleansing water and cotton pads. Both are great options, but a cleansing agent’s effectiveness is contingent on matching it to the right skin type. 

Predictably, oily skin requires a cleanser that puts sebum production centerstage. Harper’s Bazaar compiled a list of the best 14 face washes that do just that. Among the lineup, Peach Slices’ Oil Control Balancing Cleanser and Neutrogena’s Hydro Boost Hydrating Gel Cleanser are notably only $10.

 Moisturizing cleansers enable dry skin to thrive. To that end, Healthline determined the top 10 face washes for dry skin. Four of its recommendations sell for under $12, proving that healthy, clean skin can be affordable after all. Similar cleanser compilations exist for combination, normal and sensitive skin. Notice the repetition of cleansers from Cetaphil, CeraVe and Neutrogena across each list. Such brands are dermatologist favorites because they cater to a range of skin types and are gentle in nature. Sometimes finding and sticking to one of these brands is the best approach to reliable skincare.

Follow Up Face Wash With a Moisturizer

A solid moisturizer can work wonders for your skin. Moisturizers replenish skin’s hydration, refreshing its natural barrier. In effect, they make skin softer, brighter and noticeably younger. It is crucial that you apply moisturizer after cleansing, as the skin is still damp and at its cleanest. Moisturizers lock in the water that remains after a face wash to achieve maximum hydration. As a result, moisturizers uphold and reinforce the skin barrier.

Similar to cleansers, moisturizers vary in type and strength. Based on your skin type, you may only need a light daily moisturizer. On the other hand, your skin type and corresponding conditions may necessitate heavy emollients. For example, individuals with eczema or dermatitis benefit from the use of extra hydrating creams. 

Byrdie’s team of health professionals tested and reviewed the best moisturizers of 2023. Given that the professionals deemed a whopping 28 options “the best,” it’s clear that there is a moisturizer out there for everyone. The recommended products’ prices range from $16 to just over $270, so Byrdie specifies whether a choice is budget-friendly or not. The outlet even added a “best drugstore” preference, Neutrogena’s Hydro Boost Hyaluronic Acid Hydrating Water Gel. This may be the best option in terms of accessibility, convenience and price.

Include a Repairing and Preventative Eye Cream

The skin around the eyes is one of the most sensitive areas on the face — as well as one of the first to show signs of aging. Hence, it is important to nourish this area with care. The skin around the eyes needs hydration like the rest of the face, but it usually benefits from specific treatment. The best way to approach an eye cream is to procure a formula that simultaneously heals previous damage and blocks future deterioration.

To that end, Time magazine composed a list of the best eye creams. Most of these cost at least $50, if not much more. However, Time also included a “best budget” option that sells for only $20: Grace & Stella’s If Eyes Could Smile Eye Cream. If there’s an area to splurge on your skincare routine, though, eye cream is the one. Choose whatever option meets your needs and financial situation best, but remember: an eye cream is somewhat of an investment in your skin’s youth.

Implement Vitamin A

Vitamin A, most commonly found in the form of retinoids and retinols, boosts cell-turnover rates. The nutrient leaves skin looking refreshed and treats a range of skin concerns from acne to hyperpigmentation. Perhaps most notably, it fights off wrinkles and signs of aging. Understandably, you’ll want to include it in your skincare practice. 

Depending on the severity of your skin issue, you may need to enlist the help of a dermatologist, as most retinoids require a prescription for topical use. Retinols, however, typically occur in the form of over-the-counter serums and creams. Depending on your insurance, this may be an easier and more affordable way to access the benefits of vitamin A.

Vogue details the best retinol serums and creams here. The least expensive product , Glossier’s Universal Pro-Retinol, clocks in at only $35 and is notably best for beginners. Whether you consult a dermatologist or take matters into your own hands, vitamin A is a skincare fundamental that will imbue any face with added radiance.

Protect Your Skin With Sunscreen

It’s no longer cool to sit in the sun with unprotected skin. You’ve probably heard it more times than you can count : You must use sunscreen, especially on your face. There’s nothing that will age you quicker than the sun’s harsh rays. In addition to inducing a burn that will last for a week, intense sunlight causes invisible skin damage that will persist even after the redness fades. The damage won’t remain hidden for long, though. Shield your skin, and buy a good facial sunscreen.

The New York Times and Glamour Magazine each identified the best facial sunscreens and listed a variety of options. However , Glamour does list a personal favorite staple: La-Roche Posay Anthelios Mineral Ultra-Light Face Sunscreen, SPF 50. The magazine prefers this product over others because of its smooth texture that avoids all oiliness and goes on matte. It’s hydrating, anti-aging and only costs $38 — an all-around great product that will save your skin.

These five products are not necessarily an exhaustive list of everything to include in your skincare regimen, but rather a place to start for anyone who wants to take care of their skin. It may take some time to find the exact products that will help you fall in love with your skincare routine and make it a daily habit. Hopefully, this guide to the five skincare essentials will make your regimen less of a hassle and more of a self-care adventure.

Sarah Deavers, University of Virginia

Writer Profile

Sarah Deavers

University of Virginia
Media Studies

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