A beginner's guide to layering skincare and building a routine

This step-by-step guide will explain the importance of a simple skincare routine and layering products in the correct order to achieve maximum results.

It comes as no surprise that over the last year, skincare has shot to the top of our beauty agendas. Gone are the days of honing our make-up artistry skills for every IRL occasion. Now, the focus has definitely shifted to looking after our skin and using skincare to achieve that fresh-faced glow. Natural beauty is always in and well-nurtured skin provides the perfect base for any of your favourite make-up looks. 

Applying skincare correctly is a fine art, and many of us don’t stick to the optimal routines and products for our individual skin types and needs. Do you know what comes first... Your eye cream or moisturiser? Do you know the ins and outs of retinol and vitamin C? Skincare can seem like a confusing world that we’re not all completely clued up about. But don’t panic, we’re here to help!

While some skincare steps are non-negotiable for healthy skin, others are there to help boost your routine and target specific concerns. There isn't one miracle product to suit your skin type and address all your concerns, but the right combination of products can do just that. Forget about the slow, expensive, environmentally unfriendly, trial-and-error approach to finding your perfect routine - take the skoosh skin quiz! Our data-driven routine builder, based on expert advice and research, will match you with products to target your individual skincare needs.

So, what are the basics of skincare? We’ve compiled the three essential (and some other not so essential, but totally game-changing) steps you need to follow to build a simple but successful skincare routine from the ground up.

Essential Step 1: Cleanse 

The right cleanser will clear your pores from the likes of dirt, excess oil, bacteria and pollution without stripping your skin’s moisture. Getting this step right can not only improve the appearance of your skin, fight the ageing process and prevent various imperfections, but it can ensure the skincare products you follow up with are more effective on your skin. 

Cleansing gel

Many people replace this step with a quick once-over with make-up wipes. Not only are wipes filling up our oceans and damaging the environment, but they can also cause inflammation, irritation and lead to accelerated dehydration of the skin. In contrast, the right cleanser will clear your skin of pollution, hard water minerals and environmental toxins. So, always opt for a cleanser instead!

Milk, balm, cream or gel… your choice. When it comes to cleansing, different skin types have different needs. For example, dry and sensitive types might find that a balm or milk cleanser works better than a foaming gel cleanser which contains sulphates

Essential Step 2: Hydrate 

Now your skin is perfectly clean and all the nasties have been removed, it’s time to focus on giving your skin the hydration it needs.

Your moisturiser has two main purposes; to hydrate and protect the skin. Similar to a coat of armour, your moisturiser creates a barrier, which keeps the good stuff (like natural oils) in, and irritating elements from the environment such as pollution, out. 

Hydrating cream

Whilst studies have shown British women pay considerable attention to facial care and hydrate their skin on a regular basis, so many still struggle to find the right moisturiser for their skin type and are left with unwanted shine and pesky clogged pores from using the wrong products. 

Like when choosing your cleanser, the best moisturiser for you depends on your skin type. Whether that be normal, oily, dry or sensitive, there’s a formula out there that will work for you and our quiz will help you find it. 

Essential Step 3: Protect

Sun protection is an ever-important and often overlooked step in our daily skincare routines. Experts advise SPF should be worn 365 days a year, not just when we’re soaking up the rays on holiday. UVA can penetrate clouds and windows, so even if you feel shaded, you might not be. Altitude has a part to play too, if you’re up a mountain skiing and are closer to the sun than usual, remember your high factor SPF!

Sunlight hitting woman's face

The right SPF will crucially protect your skin from harmful UV damage, which can cause premature ageing and skin cancer with long-term repeated exposure. Moisturisers which contain SPF aren’t as effective as using a separate sun protection on top of a moisturiser, so make sure you cream up and don’t be afraid to add this critical layer.

Any sunscreen you invest in should span both UVA protection as well as UVB. UVA rays damage skin's elasticity (causing wrinkles) whilst UVB can cause skin damage and alter the structure of cells, which can lead to skin cancer… All of which we definitely want to avoid.

>>> And now for some optional skincare steps, all in the name of glowing up...

Optional Step: Boost

Serum

It’s wise to invest your money on this luxurious booster step! Serums typically target a specific concern and can make a noticeable difference to the appearance and texture of your skin. These tiny drops of gold dust deliver a concentrated dose of nutrients and active agents straight to your skin, as well as high quantities of antioxidants which act as a protective barrier against damage. 

Your serum should be applied under your moisturiser to enable it to penetrate through the upper epidermal layers, to be able to truly work its magic. Applying serum is the perfect opportunity to give yourself a mini face massage too, so take a couple of minutes to enjoy the therapeutic ritual of applying your favourite serum. Potent formulations with a weightless feel work best for more oily skin types, but you’ll want to opt for a more oily and enriched emollient serum if your skin is on the drier side.

Facial oil

Facial oil

Whilst similar to serum, facial oil molecules are much larger than serum molecules and the oil should be applied as a final step rather than prior to moisturiser. Due to the more dense and rich texture of facial oil, it is best applied in the evenings to aid your beauty sleep, when the skin has time to truly rest and repair overnight. 

The aim of a facial oil is to nourish, repair and lock in moisture for glowing healthy skin. Similarly to serums, these oils are often a source of antioxidants and vitamins, so can give your skin that extra deep replenishment it craves.

Optional Step: Target

Eye cream

A good eye cream can help combat fine lines, dehydration and puffiness. The right ingredients will also reduce the appearance of dark circles. Dark under eye circles are mainly a genetic trait, but the right ingredients can help to noticeably reduce their appearance. 

Eye creams should always be applied straight after cleansing, before other products such as serums and moisturisers are applied. This is so that the active ingredients can penetrate the skin and get to work on perfecting your eye area and combating common problems. If we don’t look after the windows to our soul, who will?!

Optional Step: Treat

Exfoliate

Through encouraging natural collagen production, removing dead skin cells and aiding the skin’s renewal process, exfoliating is the fastest and most effective route to seeing glowing results

However, like with each step of your skincare routine, the type of exfoliator that’s best depends on your skin type. Chemical exfoliants (aka acids), are gaining momentum over more traditional methods such as scrubs and microbeads. Unlike physical exfoliants, you don’t always have to rinse chemical exfoliants off before you start the next step of your routine. But do you know your AHAs (alpha hydroxy acids) from your BHA’s (beta hydroxy acids), and which one will work for you?

Exfoliant textures

All acids come in a variety of strengths and products are designed for certain skin types and concerns. Generally speaking, AHAs  (glycolic, citric, lactic, mandelic, tartaric and malic acids) are great for dehydrated skin, stimulating collagen production and targeting the very early signs of ageing. Lactic and mandelic acid have also been shown to lighten hyperpigmentation and dark spots. BHA (salicylic acid) is a slightly milder formulation and recommended for acne-prone and sensitive skin types. 

Although core to an effective skincare routine, we advise you to go easy with exfoliants and listen to your skin. If you have sensitive skin, go less frequently (once or twice a week). If your skin is more resilient, still proceed with caution but follow your skin’s response.

Masks

First of all, to work most effectively any face mask should always be applied after cleansing. Clay masks draw out impurities which cause blackheads, whitehead and blemishes, as well as help you to get a hold on shine. These are best appreciated by oily, combination and acne-prone skin. 

Hydrating and nourishing masks should be the choice for dry or sensitive skin types. If this is you, you should look out for hyaluronic acid, ceramide, and squalene-based formulas which will help hydrate, plump and smooth your complexion. For the best results and to avoid overpowering your skin with intense treatment, always follow the recommended usage of face masks and stick to once or twice per week as a rule of thumb. 

Still wondering what the best products for your exact skin type are? Take our simple and quick skin quiz and let the experts create a personalised routine for you! 

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