What are three things you'd tell to a skincare newcomer?

Start with budget-friendly community favorites first along with a more streamlined routine.. then work up to more specific and/or pricier options. There is SO MUCH puffery in beauty marketing in general, but skincare sometimes feels like next-level puffery. There’s also no reason to have a 20-step routine to start off with. Lastly, be careful about how many active/more intense products you use — you can do more harm than good if you don’t ramp up or space out more intensive products.

— Christine


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Mariele Avatar

Wear sunscreen.
Wash your face every night, a washcloth, warm water, and soap is fine.
Listen to your skin and don’t overload it with products. Start off with a moisturizer and go from there–if you *need* to.

And a bonus: unless you’re getting prescribed something, you can probably make a much more impactful change on your skin with lifestyle changes than with a new product. Your skin is an organ, and it’s important to remember that you have other organs that you need to take care of that aren’t as visible when they’re in distress.

Ana Maria Avatar

Lifestyle is always such a neglected part.
Acne or dry patches can be even caused by stress or lack of sleep, due to high cortisol levels. Not to mention that acne can sometimes be just a side effect of hormonal issues that won’t be fixed by the best topical treatment.

I have combination skin, but with severe small dry patches. If I used a too thick moisturizer it would just make my skin more oily. Then I discovered I have a Zinc absorption issue, and all my dry patches (including on skin and scalp) were actually solved by a Zinc supplement.

kjh Avatar

How’s your sense of smell? That’s how zinc malabsorption affects me. And why healing skin is difficult. I had tests 1000 years ago, and even with an MD private formulation from a sensory disorders specialist, my blood, saliva, and…. Did not show a trace of zinc. I do use titanium/zinc sunscreen, but those are non-nano. Fortunately. Just sits on top and does its thing.

Ana Maria Avatar

I can smell things, but only if I make an effort to notice the smell most times. I always thought I just don’t have the most sensitive nose, but when I discovered my zinc deficiency I realized that I almost lacked the sense of smell.
The second I stop my zinc supplementation, smell goes away and I get dry patches that the most emollient cream won’t fix.

DonnaL Avatar

Don’t fall for the hype about ‘clean’ beauty. A lot of it is marketing hype – there is no standard definition of what makes a product ‘clean’, a lot of fear mongering goes on with calling out certain ingredients as ‘toxic’ (ingredients that have been used for many, many years and are definitely not toxic), all natural doesn’t mean better. A lot of natural ingredients, especially some essential oils, can cause some allergies and sensitivity.

If you choose ‘clean’, go for it but do your homework first. I’d recommend checking out Dr Dray (a board certified dermatologist) on You Tube for her take on the clean beauty industry.

Ana Maria Avatar

The “clean” beauty stance is so fun to me when theoretically a chemical produced in a lab is definitely more clean than any plant grown in a field (which of courses it’s purified through various processes). And a formula with parabens or other preservatives is certainly more clean than a formula without them growing mold and bacteria faster; and more stable to the temperature variations during storage and transportation.

Ana Maria Avatar

Consistently and for enough time; some actives need time to give results, and some don’t even show visible results (e.g. anti-aging product help age slower, but since you don’t know how you would have aged without them, you can’t tell).
But consistency is a very good advice for a newcomer eager to see immediate results or to try every product available.

Cameron Avatar

You really only need three things. A gentle cleanser, a moisturizer, and sunscreen. If your face is feeling tight after you clean it, the cleanser is too harsh for you and you need to pick another one. Your moisturizer shouldn’t make your face feel super oily after you apply it, if it does, pick one that is more suitable for your skin type. Always wear sunscreen. Physical or chemical doesn’t matter: the best sunscreen is one that you will use.

kjh Avatar

The only thing I can think to add is, like medications, change/add only one product at a time. If you’re feeling competently geeky, do a spreadsheet.

Mariella Avatar

1. Wear sunscreen EVERY day. There are so many good, effective and comfortable ones available in all price ranges.
2. Look at French pharmacy brands. They are affordable and effective and there’s a reason so many of them have been around for decades. (ditto other skin care products like good old fashioned Nivea and Ponds Cold Cream).
3. Ask friends who are “into” skin care for suggestions and ideas (but don’t feel compelled to go out and buy everything they suggest; also when you do purchase, keep your receipt, especially for high priced items, so if they don’t work well or are a problem for your skin, you can return them).

Jo Avatar

1. Start retinol in your 20s.
2. Wear sunscreen and sunglasses so you don’t squint.
3. Don’t pick at your skin. (There are more sanitary safe ways to pop pimples, but don’t just scratch at your face otherwise).

Valerie Avatar

Keep it simple, use 1 of each of these:

1) cleanser – for face, the best cleanser is a non-soap, like oil or balm. If you hate the feeling of oil or balm, find a less stripping soap, something without suds. Women with the best skin do not use soap on their face.
For body, soap areas that get dirty or smelly but avoid lathering the whole surface, it’s far too drying.

2) moisturizer – there’s an infinite amount of this on shelves. Start with something that you like using and just use that twice a day. The easiest thing is oil, that’s a product with 1 ingredient. I used olive oil after seeing Greek and Italian ladies with perfect complexions. That’s the only thing that they used on their face. I smelled like salad and it would occasionally sting my eyes but my skin looked great. Camelia, argan, other oils available that don’t smell or sting your eyes. Some like Vaseline or Aquaphor (seems popular on runways). It’s not for everyone – you could break out. Girls who used cold cream for 50+ years have amazing skin. If you hate oil or grease or cold cream, find a cream or lotion that agrees with you. For body, the easiest thing to start with is Amlactin (12% lactic acid OTC), particularly if your legs are dry.

3) tretinoin – adults except pregnant women should use this on their face (and neck and hands, with caution). You need a Rx from your doc. This makes your skin turn over faster and removes clogged pores, discolorations, fine lines, small bumps. It’s also used to treat acne. It’s the only cream that will remove (fine) lines. It can make your skin sensitive to the sun and dry you out so this needs to be discussed with your doc.

4) sun, smoking, straws – these 3 factors damage your skin, the latter 2 damage the area around your lips (google “twin studies sun smoking”). Apply spf, or if you hate spf, wear a giant hat and glasses, or parasol, protective clothing – something so you’re protected from the sun. Quit smoking and don’t use straws.

Erica Avatar

1. Wear SPF every day even in the winter and when it’s cloudy. Always wear SPF

2. Never use products with grain alcohols ie SD Alcohol or Denatured. EVER. No matter your skin type. It irritates, dries out and damaged skin long term and you will thank your skin you stayed away

3. Always, ALWAYS remove makeup. Never sleep in makeup. It’s a big No, Noooo

Lesley Avatar

First, figure out what type of skin you have and note any seasonal changes.

Second, keeping your skin type in mind, start with as few products as possible that don’t contain too many ingredients and start with affordable options. Add new products slowly.

Third, if you suspect you have a medical problem, like acne, eczema, psoriasis etc, consult a dermatologist, not the Internet, although photos on the Internet can help you identify whether you have a medical problem.

Ana Maria Avatar

1. Sunscreen
2. Sunscreen
3. Sunscreen

😆 Jocking, but not jocking

1. Get the basics covered, no need to have a complex routine. In the end you only need a good cleanser, a night moisturizer with a couple of active ingredients (niacinamide, hyaluronic acid, etc.) and a sunscreen (and nowadays many options already have included vitamin C and other antioxidants in).

2. Understand that your skin is unique and it changes with time (if you are a female, might change several times a month). In the end you’ll have to try multiple formulas and ingredients to see what works for you. You’ll have to learn to identify the days when your skin is more oily or the days when your skin needs more hydration. All of this take time. Be patient. Add ingredients / products one by one and see how your skin reacts.

3. Learn where to invest your money. Nowadays many brands offer more affordable skincare. A cleanser doesn’t have to be expensive, the ingredients are cheap and any fancy ingredients are pure marketing since you wash the product off. A basic moisturizer is also cheap, things like humectants don’t cost a lot. Once you make your routine more complex, a well formulated Vitamin C or Retinol serum will have a higher price tag; don’t worry, you’ll most likely use a bottle for 6 to 12 months. They shouldn’t be ridiculously expensive, but a well formulated serum is better than buying single ingredient formulas from cheaper brands. Also, since you should wear sunscreen every day invest in a product you love to use.

My bonus advice is to find a good source for skincare information. For me 10 years ago it was Paula’s Choice / Paula Begoun and Beautypedia. Nowadays there are YouTube content creators like Gothamista, James Welsh, Hiram, etc. Understand that they aren’t always right and they have their biases. But try to get educated; you don’t have to be a chemist, just find a trusted source to search ingredients, try to understand high level what each active does for the skin in general and your skin in particular.

Nancy T Avatar

1.) You are never too young or too old to start caring for your skin!
2.) Sunscreen, sunscreen, sunscreen!
3.) Research products, especially those new to the market, before buying/investing in them. There are some very good YT sites that give good, reliable advice.
4.) Not every product is for everybody. Especially actives and other more heavy duty ingredients. Try to get a decent size sample to see if your skin reacts to it or likes it before buying the full-size version, particularly important if you live in a place where returning products is not an option.

Lune Avatar

1. Avoid sun. They make comfier, sheerer sunscreens than my childhood 100spf sludge, so read reviews and find a nice one. Wear sunscreen, hats, and long (breathable natural fiber) sleeves if the UV index is high. Apparently most Americans have a vitD deficiency, so consider catching some sun on low UV days. Or eat more mushrooms when you wear sunscreen.

2. Research before buying. Make a simple consistent routine based on research and what works for you. There’s marketer darling ingredients that lack compelling research or flat aren’t effective. Keep in mind whether claims are coming from research, brands, or fellow skincare lovers.

3. Retinol or not, we’re all going to get wrinkly and bald eventually haha so don’t stress over buying a top-shelf routine. Skin health is dependent on nutrition, lifestyle, and genetics/environment, too, so products can’t carry the whole team. Instead, enjoy skincare for the self-care aspect and the confidence boost from prettier, softer skin.

April Avatar

LOVE YOUR SKIN! Do not neglect it! It’s the only one you get!

1. Don’t go to bed with makeup on. Cleanse with something wonderful like good old Ponds! It removes everything, and then apply a second time and wipe it off again just to show that it’s all gone. I’ll sweep some around my eyes if it’s been an allergy day and I’ve caught myself rubbing.
2. Bedtime/Sleeptime is renewal time for your skin. In warm weather I make sure to have a nice shower to get rid of bug spray, sunscreen, and perspiration. Then use in-shower lotion all over before drying off. No sticking to bedsheets then. My face also gets overnight care. When I was young, we didn’t do the sunscreen thing so I was constantly sunburned. NOXZEMA was my friend then every night. My mother encouraged the use of a night cream when I was very young (18, “you’ll thank me later…”) so Oil of Olay became routine 40 years ago. The product has changed to ROC every other night, but I thank my mom for my young looking skin daily. I turned 60 this year and no one believes me!
3. DO NOT SMOKE! For heaven’s sake, it’s not only bad for your lips: lines, wrinkles; and causes cancer, but it is an ugly-smelly-expensive habit that affects every aspect of your life and your body! That includes vaping. You smell like an ashtray all the the time. My 2 older sisters both smoke. They look 25 years older then I do, though only 5 and 7 years older. Do your body a huge favor and just don’t do it. Then you never have to go through the agony of trying to quit, especially when you want a baby.
And one more thing I think is important is read the labels. Know what the ingredients are. Educate yourself before you put something on your face. Do you need fragrances in skincare? Maybe not, but some natural stuff still has it and smells awful. I’d rather wear something with a fragrance that smells pleasant to my nose then to rub an obnoxious weed-like smelling potion on and then have that stuck in my nose all day.

April Avatar

Oh and one more thing, do not neglect your NECK.
START NOW, DO IT DAILY!!! Oh my gosh, the anguish! Once you notice the skin on your neck has started to change I don’t believe there is any product out there that can change it back! It’s so true! Crepe paper! Moisturize Moisturize Moisturize and rub it in the correct way. It takes one minute to possibly change your life for the better! Eat well balanced-sugar free diet. Sugar is so bad and it’s in everything. You’ll feel so much better without it. Putting on my Mom finger here, shaking at that young person, use sunscreen, don’t smoke, wash your face, no sugar (except once in a while…when you’re good)

Genevieve Avatar

I would tell a skincare newcomer this:
You are never too young to start a decent skincare routine and you don’t need to buy expensive products. Nearly everything you need can be purchased at a budget beauty store/chemist/drugstore.
And they are often on sale too.

1. Start with a cream cleanser, not a foaming one as the foaming agents can irritate your skin. Cetaphill cream cleanser, Neutragena gel cleanser, Swisse Sweet Almond cleanser are all good products.

2. Use a dedicated face sunscreen – every single day. SPF 50 in spring/summer and SPF 20-30 for cooler weather.

3. Moisturise your skin at night and before using the sunscreen. CeraVe moisturiser in the tub is a great one to start with. Neutragena has a great Hydro Boost range too.
At night time, use an oil (unless you have acne or skin problems and always see a doctor about it). Argon Oil from The Ordinary is a perfect one to start with.

Be consistent with your products and only add extra if you need it

dia Avatar

1. Listen to your body. There are ingredients that people will gush are the safest or most effective, and you can be the one-in-a-million person that has a bad reaction. Believe your self.
2. Chill out. Skin cancer is bad and to be avoided. But wrinkles, scars? They’re proof you lived, laughed, loved. Ageism is real, but the more people embrace their faces, the sooner society will catch up. Don’t shame anyone either way- we’re all a work in progress.
3. Figure out how to get family members to stop buying you Bath & Body Works products. I haven’t managed this myself and now have a bathroom cabinet full of scented lotions I never use. 😱

Susan Avatar

1. SKIN TYPE : learn how to accurately determine your skin type from a reliable source (manufacturers, celebrity advice, and consumer ratings are not necessarily unbiased and reliable).

2. BUY MINIS : skincare products can be very hit or miss and the cost adds up extremely fast.

3. KEEP NOTES : skin is easily damaged and can take a long time to heal. Note a product’s list of ingredients, shelf life, impact on your skin, etc.

I will gladly provide more info if you’re interested 🙂

Jane Avatar

Cleanse (daily to twice a day), like you’d, KISS (keep it simple sunshine, yeah my change, LOL!)
Serum (at least a few ties a week)
Moisturize (day and night, and if you’re older, definitely heavier or perhaps thicker hydrating cream for night)

Avoid strong toners or micellar water (both are damaging for most)

And also, I agree, start with less costly products, in France a consumer group found that when comparing most low to high-end skincare products (not luxury though, wish I’d see them do a wider comparison), some low-end ones, like from Lidl’s brand Cien, work just as well if not better in some cases.

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