Skincare Ground Rules: The Non-Negotiables
Yes, there is a lot in skincare that is YMMV, but there are also a handful of rules that are absolutes. Here, three of the most important skincare ground rules that are non-negotiable.
I may not be that old, but with my birthday on the distant horizon, I do feel that in some ways I’m definitely no longer young. I’ve ushered many a lost beauty enthusiast into the word of skincare, helping them find their way, answering their questions, offering recommendations, and demoing skincare routines. With that, I also have seen many people rush into the beauty world with so much fervor and passion only to get lost in a sea of what seems like an impossible set of skincare ground rules that “must” be followed: Don’t use this ingredient with that ingredient, your skin type absolutely should be using this type of mask, if you’re not using this product then your routine is incomplete. The list of worries is endless and often pointless.
So when I’m bringing someone into the fold of skincare love, what I lovingly refer to as the “dark side,” there are three simple things that I make sure are understood before moving on to anything fancy or exciting.
Rule #1: Sunscreen. Period.
You can use every serum, toner, moisturizer, sheet mask, and beauty tool under the sun, but it really is all pointless if you’re not protecting yourself when your face is under the sun. Seriously, stop spending your funds on anything else beauty related if you haven’t found a sunscreen you can commit to using every time you’re going to get direct sun exposure. Make this your new beauty project, and focus on nothing else. I hear way too often that people think sunscreen is just for the beach or Disneyland, but the cumulative exposure you can get from going grocery shopping, walking your dog, or picking up the kiddos from school can add up to hours and hours, potentially even days, of UV exposure that will (not might — will) destroy your skin over time.
I may be a bit biased living in a perpetually sunny climate, but photoaging and photopigmentation from the sun are things that can take a very long time and potentially drastic measures to reverse, and more importantly, skin cancer is not a joke. Do not use some weird “all natural” sunscreen remedy you found on Instagram or foundation/moisturizer with a touch of SPF in it. I’m definitively saying here and now, those are not substitutes for dedicated, daily sunscreen. SPF 30/PA+++ is the absolute minimum I advise anyone to wear. If you live in a climate like mine (aka the desert), I’d advise SPF 50/PA++++ for regular use, and apply as close to a quarter teaspoon (approximately 1.23 MLs) as you can. No exceptions. No excuses. Do it. You will be so glad you did as time goes on.
Rule #2: Then get that sunscreen (and everything else) off
Jordan Samuel is one of my favorite people in the skincare industry (ballet dancer turned esthetician with a dope product line), and he has given me one of my favorite skincare-related sound bytes while discussing the industry with one of his mentors, acclaimed esthetician Nerida Joy: Cleansing is 50% of your routine. If you’re not doing that properly, you’re starting off with an “F,” y’all.
Give yourself a better start to your routine and love your products more — you aren’t doing your favorite moisturizer or serum you splurged on any justice by smushing them on top of sunscreen residue (because I know you’re wearing sunscreen now) or remnants of foundation and excess oil.
In all the questions I get about skincare, I cannot recall a single time someone has come to me asking about cleansing. It’s another step that people love to just zoom right through to rush into the “more important” parts of their routine, but there is a reason I wrote a 2-part series on cleansing (morning and night). Jude Chao considered it an essential step in her recent article on an abbreviated skincare routine, and editor Sheryll wrote a whole article diving into the multiple types of cleansers that are common on the market. It’s important, y’all. I walk through my cleansing ideology in my miniseries, so you can refer to that for more details, but for all that is good and chok chok in this word, do not use a makeup wipe and call it a day.
Rule #3: Put that down
I’ve seen this happen so many times, and I’ve also fallen prey to this myself, but whatever you do, do not find someone on social media or model yourself after a friend/expert and copy their entire routine. I know it’s tempting when someone looks like they’ve got everything figured out.
Don’t randomly incorporate a new cleansing device because it claims to change your skin or some facial oil you saw on social media without considering how that may impact your routine, and whatever you do, do not copy someone else’s routine. I’m going to repeat that last one again. Do. Not. Copy. Someone. Else’s. Routine.
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I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve done this more than once, and there’s really only two outcomes, neither of which are helpful in the long run. The first path you could head down is the one that everyone always warns against: You slap on new product after new product, and a few days in, you’re breaking out, experiencing irritation, and/or having some other type of adverse reaction with no idea what caused it. You have to pull everything out of your routine to ease your sensitized skin and solve issues that are likely bigger than the initial concerns you tried to address.
The other outcome is that you adopt this magical routine and your skin does exactly what you want — you’re glowing, bright, and smooth like an egg. The catch is that you have no idea what product, ingredient, or combination of those two are giving you these amazing results. Should your skin condition change, your environment shift, the season change, or any of the products get discontinued/reformulated, you’ll have very little to guide you as to where to go next. Not exactly an ideal scenario either.
Now that I’ve laid out what I consider to skincare ground rules, the next chapter in this two-part series (I always love a sequel) will be me discussing “rules” that I’ve repeatedly been asked about and feel are complete myths — in other words, “rules” that are made to be broken.
Do y’all out there have any skincare ground rules that you consider a must in your routine?