Around 67% of Americans surveyed said that skin problems make them feel self-conscious about their looks. It’s frustrating because it can often feel like you’ve tried every lotion and potion under the sun to fix your issues. And no matter what you do, nothing works.
But achieving smooth and clear skin demands scientific precision. You can’t try random products off the shelves or follow someone else’s skincare routine. You need a personalized skincare routine that matches your skin type and will help you meet your skin goals.
Not sure what your skin type is or how to create your personalized skincare routine? Don’t stress! This guide will help you figure out both, step by step.
Finding Out Your Skin Type
Your skin type is the main factor that’ll dictate what products you need in your skincare routine. Here are the main skin types:
People with normal skin types only get the occasional blemish and they have small pores. They also don’t have skin that feels too dry or oily.
Dry skin is prone to flaky patches, even when the weather isn’t cold, and blemishes are rare. If you think your skin is dry but there are no flaky patches, then it’s likely normal but a little dehydrated.
People with oily skin are more likely to have enlarged and clogged pores. They’re prone to breakouts and have shiny patches.
Combination skin is a mix of oily skin in some parts of the face (often forehead and nose) and normal or dry skin in other parts.
You can take an online quiz to find out your skin type if you don’t know it. And you can do an at-home test to be 100% sure of your type.
Wash your face with a mild cleanser and don’t apply anything afterward. Wait for an hour and then examine your skin.
If there are shiny patches, you likely have oily skin. But if it feels rough and it tingles, then you might have dry skin. If nothing’s changed, then chances are, you have a normal skin type.
Choosing Your Skincare Goals
There’s one other factor that you need to consider when creating your personalized skincare routine: your intended outcome after following your skincare routine for 6 months or more. Sometimes, that’s how long it takes for a new routine to be effective.
Here are some common skincare goals:
- Easing the redness of sensitive skin
- Evening out skin tone
- Reducing wrinkles and dark spots
- Banishing acne and breakouts
- Lessening other skin complaints (e.g. rosacea)
Try to choose 2 skincare goals at the most. Unless you want to spend $$$ on your personalized skincare routine every month (and you might! No judgment), then adjust your expectations.
Creating Your Personalized Skincare Routine
Now that you know what you’re dealing with, you can create a morning and evening skincare routine. You can choose up to 9 products.
Korean skincare rules swear by applying many layers. But minimalist Scandinavian skincare rules dictate only 5 layers at the most.
Whichever rulebook you choose to follow, consistency is key. Don’t start an 8-step personalized skincare routine if you can’t keep it up. Choose a routine that works with your schedule and wallet.
Let’s go through each product step by step in the order you should apply them to your face.
Cleanser is one of the most important parts of your personalized skincare routine. This product will remove makeup, dirt, and other impurities from your face. Face wash and makeup removers are both types of cleansers.
For people with dry and/or sensitive skin, cream cleansers are best. Choose a cleanser that boasts hydrating and moisturizing properties.
And for people with combination or oily skin, choose gel or foam cleansers. These are lightweight so they won’t sink into your pores. Opt for ones that are deep cleaning to shift excess sebum.
Normal skin types can choose whichever cleanser best matches their skin goals. If you want to reduce redness and age spots, opt for a cream one.
If you wear a lot of makeup, you should cleanse twice in the evening. You can either use micellar water or an oil-based cleanser with a clean washcloth first to melt the makeup off. Avoid makeup wipes because they harbor a lot of bacteria.
Toner is a liquid skincare product that you apply to your skin using a disposable cotton wipe. Its purpose is to restore the pH balance in your skin after cleansing. Toner can also remove any lingering dead skin cells that your cleanser didn’t catch.
Cleansers are now much more sophisticated and less soapy than they were, so using a toner is no longer necessary. And if you’re using an exfoliator in your personalized skincare routine, you 100% don’t need to use toner as well.
Some people associate the word “exfoliator” with cleansers that have raw ingredients, like charcoal or salt. Don’t use these exfoliating scrubs no matter what your skin type is! They’re too rough for facial skin and don’t help unclog your pores.
Good exfoliators have the same consistency as toners, but they consist of 5-10% chemical acids. These acids sink deep into your skin to fix the root of your skin complaint. This is a list of the best skincare acids and the issues they can treat:
- Salicylic acid – acne, dark spots, oily skin
- Glycolic acid – dry skin, mature skin, sun damage
- Citric acid – mature skin, oily skin, sun damage
- Retinoic acid – acne, mature skin, scarring
As you can see, there are lots of crossovers in the skin issues that these chemical exfoliants can treat. So if one doesn’t work, try another that matches your complaint.
Ensure you don’t have more than one acid in your routine. For example, if you’re using a salicylic acid exfoliator, then don’t use a moisturizer with vitamin C (citric acid).
Serum is often a gel-based product full of vitamins, minerals, and sometimes, acids to hydrate your face. If you have oily or combination skin, you’re better off using a chemical exfoliator in your routine.
But if you have normal, dry, or aging skin, then a serum might be more beneficial. Use a serum with hyaluronic acid if you have normal or dry skin, as this is hydrating. Opt for one with collagen if you have mature skin.
Everyone, no matter their skin type, should use eye cream. Because the skin around the eye is sensitive and blemish-free for all skin types, you don’t need to use a specific one.
The only exception is for mature skin. If you’re conscious about wrinkles (though these are a natural part of the aging process!), then use an eye cream with collagen and retinol.
Personal Treatments (Optional)
If you have a specific skin condition, this is the part of your personalized skincare routine where you can apply extra treatments. This includes topical treatments that a dermatologist may have prescribed for you. Or you might have a huge zit that demands a powerful, localized one-off treatment.
Moisturizer, along with cleanser, is one of the most important parts of your personalized skincare regime. It can rehydrate your skin, but its most important job is to protect your skin from external harm. It stops pollution from dulling your skin and cold weather from drying it out.
Oily and combination skin types should use a gel-based moisturizer in warm weather and a creamy one in cold weather. Wear a matte moisturizer during the day so your face doesn’t get too shiny.
People with normal skin types can use a light, creamy moisturizer. Those with dry skin should use a thick, creamy moisturizer, no matter the season.
Face Oil or Spray (Optional)
There’s some disagreement around when you should use a face oil or spray in your skincare routine. If you want to use face oil, apply it now. But if you want to use a spray, use it after you apply makeup as a setting spray.
Don’t apply face oil and a spray, as you’ll look like you’ve run a marathon!
To be honest, only the most die-hard skincare fanatics use face oil or spray. They have hydrating properties, but that’s what serum is for. You should avoid face oil if you have oily skin, in particular, as you’ll be asking for trouble (and clogged pores!).
Sunscreen (Daytime Only)
Always finish your daily sun skincare routine with an SPF every single day, no matter your skin type or the weather. People with oily skin should look into moisturizers that include SPF so you don’t need to apply another cream to your face.
The Right Skincare Can Help You Look and Feel Great
It may take some trial and error to find the right personalized skincare routine for you. Use one combination of products for at least 2 months (or until you finish the bottle!) before trying something new. And if you’re consistent, determined, and patient, you will be able to enjoy smooth and clear skin.
Your diet and exercise habits can also affect your skin’s appearance. Browse our health and lifestyle articles if you’d like to learn more!