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Three Essential Elements In A Basic Skincare Routine

Three Essential Elements in a Basic Skincare Routine

Between work, family, hobbies, friends, and all of your commitments, we know that it can be hard to find time to focus on your skin health. Plus, when you wander down the skincare aisle at the drugstore, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the hundreds of products on the shelves. Which products do you actually need, and which can you skip? This month, we’re sharing the three essential steps that we believe should be in everyone’s basic skincare routine.

As a bonus, we’re throwing in two extra steps that you should add if you have concerns about aging skin. Read on to learn how to build a simple but effective skincare routine.


Step 1: Cleanser

Choosing a cleanser that’s specifically formulated for the face (rather than the body) is the first essential step in a basic skincare routine. But how do you choose the best one?

Many products marketed toward people with acne or oily skin contain beads or other particles to exfoliate the skin, but twice a day exfoliation is more than anyone needs. In fact, harsh face washes can irritate and worsen acne in many people. If your skin is acne-prone, focus on finding products that are non-comedogenic, which means that they do not contain pore-clogging ingredients.

For most people, keeping it simple with a gentle formula is best. Those with especially sensitive skin should use washes free of dyes, fragrance, and alcohol to further minimize irritation. If your skin is very dry, you may like a cream or oil-based face wash instead of a foaming formula. The goal of cleansing is to remove makeup, dirt, oil, and sweat without stripping your skin of the good bacteria and essential moisture that it needs.


Step 2: Moisturizer

After cleansing the skin, you should apply a moisturizer, even if your skin doesn’t feel tight or dry. When you use a face lotion, you help maintain the skin’s natural moisture barrier, which protects it from infection and irritation. Pro tip: moisturizer works best when you apply it to damp skin, so slather it on right after cleansing.

It’s a common myth that people with oily skin do not need moisturizer. In fact, using a non-comedogenic moisturizer can help reduce the skin’s natural oil production. If you skip this step, your skin will continue to overproduce oil to maintain the moisture barrier.

Choosing a moisturizer that feels great on your skin may take a few tries, but there are a few guidelines that can help you find the perfect one:

  1. If you have dry skin, you may like a richer formula, so search for products with the word “cream” in them.
  2. If you have oily skin, you’ll probably prefer lighter products, so look for formulas with the word “lotion” in them.
  3. Choose lighter moisturizers for the daytime and summer.
  4. Choose thicker products for nighttime and winter.


Like your face wash, you can keep it simple and skip products with a laundry list of special ingredients. The more that’s inside a moisturizer, the greater the chances that something in it will irritate your skin or cause breakouts. If you’re struggling to find the perfect moisturizer, get in touch. We’re happy to make a personalized recommendation!


Step 3: Sunscreen

The third and final step in a basic, effective skincare routine is sunscreen. Skin cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer in the United States, with more new cases each year than all other types of cancer combined.

The more sun exposure your skin gets, the greater your risk for developing skin cancer, but it’s not just the long days at the beach that put you at risk. Every time you walk your dog, travel between your car and the grocery store, or sit in front of a window, you add to your lifetime UV exposure, which increases your cancer risk. Using sunscreen daily, whether you’ll be outside all day or not, is a great way to lower your chances of developing skin cancer.

In addition to preventing skin cancer, wearing sunscreen can also prevent premature aging. UVA rays from the sun don’t cause sunburns, but they do penetrate deep into the skin to cause wrinkles and fine lines. If you want to keep your skin smooth and youthful for as long as possible, then a broad-spectrum (UVA and UVB protection) sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher may just be the very best anti-aging product you can use.


Taking it to the next level: Antioxidants and retinoids

If you’ve mastered the first three steps and want to add another product or two to address your aging concerns, consider adding an antioxidant serum, retinoid, or both.

Vitamin C is an antioxidant and all-star anti-aging ingredient because it minimizes damage from free radicals, which can cause premature aging if left unchecked. It also brightens and evens the skin tone. Look for a formula that also has vitamin E and ferulic acid, as the combination maximizes the benefits of vitamin C.

Beware that vitamin C is notorious for oxidizing quickly when exposed to air and light, so serums in a container with a pump will last longer than those in a glass jar with a dropper.

Retinoids, such as Retin-A (or its generic tretinoin), are the gold standard in anti-aging skincare products. A prescription retinoid will help reduce fine lines and wrinkles, keep hormonal breakouts at bay, and reduce discoloration in the skin.

Retinoids slow collagen breakdown to improve skin’s thickness and elasticity. They do this by speeding cellular turnover, which encourages the skin to produce new, collagen-filled cells quicker. Retinoids make the skin more sensitive to UV radiation, so it’s best to use them at night and follow-up with sunscreen in the daytime.

Using both vitamin C and a prescription retinoid will supercharge your anti-aging routine. We recommend using the vitamin C serum in the morning and your retinoid at night. It’s best not to use them at the exact same time because they have different optimal pH levels, so using them together will decrease the efficacy of both.


3 (or 5) simple steps to beautiful skin

Caring for your skin is as simple as using a cleanser, moisturizer, and sunscreen. Though there are a million products to choose from, keep it simple, and your skin will thank you. If you’d like personalized recommendations for your skincare routine or want to take it up a notch with an antioxidant serum or prescription retinoid, get in touch. We’d love to help you create the perfect, basic skincare routine.


Center for Surgical Dermatology is passionate about healthy, beautiful skin! If you’d like to visit with a dermatologist to develop your perfect skincare routine, call (614) 847-4100 to schedule an appointment. 

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