If you’re just starting to establish a regular skincare routine, the number of products out there can be really overwhelming. It can be challenging to figure out what products are an absolute must and which ones are nice but not totally necessary. Even if you’ve had a simple skincare routine for a while and you’re ready to take it up a notch, figuring out what kinds of products to add can be confusing.
So I’m happy to share with you a short-list of your skincare must-haves along with a more complete list of the purpose and benefits of other products if you’re ready to upgrade your simple skincare routine.
Here are the absolute essentials for everyone, regardless of skin type:
1. Facial Wash.
Ideally, you’ll want to use a low-suds, non-stripping wash that will get you clean without getting rid of all your natural oils. If you’re still not sure why some natural oils are a good thing, I recommend reading this blog post. At Bright Body, we have four different formulas for different skin types and their diverse needs – Gentle, Hydrating, Balancing, and Clarifying. Whether you buy from us or from another company, it can be helpful to find formulas that are designed for your specific skin type rather than a one-size-fits-all solution.
You’ll want to use a naturally-derived and gentle exfoliant up to every other day. There’s an important distinction here – not all naturally-derived exfoliant ingredients are gentle. Ingredients like walnut shells cause microtrauma in the skin and lead to irritation, inflammation, and even infection. You’re better off going for a natural ingredient that dissolves in water – something like organic brown sugar or coconut sugar are great options. While we don’t yet have an exfoliant in our lineup, we are in the works of developing an organic sugar-based exfoliant with noncomedogenic oils, soothing essential oils, and even dried organic herbs. Most non-natural exfoliant ingredients are (1) not great in terms of EWG safety ratings, and (2) are often serious environmental toxins. Anything that says it contains “microbeads” is code for little plastic spheres. After you’ve rinsed that wash from your face, those microbeads survive for a very long time, and eventually they make it into our oceans and waterways. Microbeads absorb toxins like a sponge, and they look like food to aquatic life. You see the problem here – not only are these microbeads toxic to aquatic ecosystems and organisms, but they are toxic to us humans that eat fish. No thanks.
Just like you read in this blog post, oil is not your enemy, it’s your friend! Yes, this is true even for oily skin types. Using a good moisturizer actually helps regulate your body’s natural production of oils. Many people who complain of oily skin actually make things worse by using a high-suds facial wash that strips moisture along with an alcohol-based moisturizer (or none at all, the horror). That’s not to say that there aren’t moisturizers designed for drier vs. oilier skin (check out our Whipped vs. Light Facial Creams), but the lesson is that no matter your skin type, moisturizers are essential to keep skin healthy, glowy, and youthful.
We all should be using sunscreen on a daily basis (full disclosure: I’m guilty of not doing this as regularly as I should), regardless of your skin tone. Sun exposure is the #1 cause of skin aging like wrinkles, dark spots, and of course, skin cancer. Protecting your skin from the sun will keep your skin looking and feeling youthful no matter your age.
While many moisturizers contain sunscreen, the vast majority of the UV blocking ingredients used in mass-produced moisturizers are a serious no-no when it comes to their EWG ratings. Many sunscreen ingredients are serious endocrine disruptors, human toxins, and environmental toxins. Unfortunately, due to the insurance cost, we’re unable to sell a sunscreen at Bright Body. However, we do have some recommendations for active ingredients to look for and products that we like:
- Badger Sunscreen – uses non-nano mineral zinc oxide as their active ingredient in ALL of their sunscreens. We are comfortable recommending the entire Badger line to our customers because they are equally safe and great for your skin.
- Supergoop Sunscreen – some of their products are super safe and great, while I’m not a fan of others due to their problematic UV blocking ingredients. Check out the Supergoop Mineral Sunscreen Collection for their safest options. One of my favorite products from Supergoop is their Mineral Invincible Setting Powder. Yep, you read that right! You can put on this sunscreen product as a setting powder for your makeup, or even on bare skin. I personally like this option so I don’t have to add another cream layer to my routine.
- Coola Sunscreen – much like Supergoop, some of their products are safe and skin-nourishing, but many of their “classic” formulas aren’t the best due to their UV blocking ingredients. However, I recommend that you check out the Coola Mineral Sunscreen Collection for their safest options, including products for face, sport, baby, and lips (included pretty tinted lip options).
And of course, with any personal care product, we recommend scrutinizing their ingredient lists! Don’t just trust their “natural” or “organic” marketing. Another important note – just because one of their products has been rated safe by EWG doesn’t mean their whole line is equally great – case in point with Supergoop and Coola.
Now let’s move on to the list for those of you who’ve got your basic skincare routine down but are looking to upgrade. I’ll include the essentials in this list to give you an idea of exactly where in your routine you’d add in these new steps:
1. Makeup Remover
If you’re a makeup wearer, you’ve got to have a plan to gently and effectively remove your cosmetics at the end of the day. Sleeping in your makeup is a surefire way to cause clogged pores, acne, dull skin texture, and even eye irritation. Most conventional makeup removers are alcohol-based, since alcohol is a powerful solvent that can dissolve a variety of makeup products. However, alcohol is drying, irritating, and can cause cell death (yes, really). We recommend a noncomedogenic oil-based makeup remover (check out ours here). You will rub the oil-based remover onto your face in circular motions, dissolving your makeup as you go – and yes it works even on waterproof mascara! Use an old washcloth or disposable wipes like these to wipe off the makeup (especially around your eyes) before moving onto your facial wash.
2. Facial Wash
There are so many facial masks out there, and they all do slightly different things. In general, masking shouldn’t be a daily part of your skincare routine. Deep cleansing masks like clay-based products should be used at most once a week, and for drier and more sensitive skin types even less frequently. Hydrating gel-based masks can be used weekly. Sheet masks have many different variations – it’s best to learn the purpose of your particular mask and use that to guide you in how often to use it. As a general rule of thumb, masks that are meant to be hydrating, plumping, and soothing can be used more often than masks that are meant to be clarifying and pore cleansing. If you’re not sure how often you should be using a particular mask, I always recommend erring on the side of caution and going from there based on how your skin behaves.
For the purpose of keeping things simple, I’m talking generally about toners, hydrosols, and essences as three branches of the same tree. These types of products boost the power of your cleanser by getting deeper into pores and working to treat things like redness, irritation, wrinkles, and acne. Most of these types of products will have a specific purpose for either a certain skin concern or a particular skin type. At Bright Body, we have four different Toner options based on different skin types, so that you can easily pair your Facial Wash with its matching Toner – Gentle, Hydrating, Balancing, and Clarifying.
This is where things like vitamin C products, hyaluronic acid serums, and acne treatments come into play. Treatments are developed with specific skin concerns in mind, and only need to be used if you have a specific concern to which you want to give some extra attention. Our treatment product for both acne and inflammatory skin conditions is our Clear Skin Potion.
I personally classify eye creams in the Treatment category. Most estheticians will tell you that they do not apply products around the eyes because that skin is so sensitive, as are your eyes. However, if you are looking to reduce the appearance of crows feet, a hydrating eye cream with hyaluronic acid and calming botanical hydrosols would be a good approach. For under eye bags and darkness, look for products that contain naturally-derived caffeine like coffee or tea-based eye creams.
7. Facial Oils
If you’re already using a moisturizer, adding a facial oil into your routine just goes the extra mile to give your skin the oils that it needs to prevent transepidermal water loss, or the loss of water from the skin’s surface. I recommend Maven Made if you're looking for a Facial Oil. Always look for a formula that contains noncomedogenic oils – there are plenty of oils great for the skin on your body, but are likely to clog pores on your face. Check out this resource on comedogenic ratings to evaluate facial oils. Depending on your skin type, you might find that your skin absorbs facial oils better before moisturizer, while others will do better after moisturizer. We recommend playing around with both and seeing which gives you the best results.
I hope that this is helpful as you navigate how to start and how to upgrade your skincare routine! Feel free to reach out if you have any lingering questions.
Until next time,