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Finding and committing to a routine has always seemed like a daunting task to me. The sheer number of products on the market is staggering and you have to ask yourself questions like: “Why does my face need a mini rolling pin?” and “Do I really have to use a cleanser, toner, serum, moisturizer, and eye cream?”

Honestly, it can seem easier just to skip the whole thing.

Which is exactly what I did for the first 27 years of my life. But after a friend of mine physically recoiled in horror after I confessed that I did not even use a daily face lotion regularly, I thought perhaps it was finally time I changed that.

Being completely new to skin care, I turned to everyone from friends and family to beauty bloggers and professional derms to put together a routine that would enable my #GlowUp — and was simple enough that I would actually stick to it.

After testing out different products and learning from the pros, here’s my advice based on the easy and effective changes I made to start my skin care routine.

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In the mornings, I like to keep it as easy as possible since I’m usually already rushing to get ready for work. Board-certified dermatologist Dr. Purvisha Patel put it best: “If you have never started a skin care routine, it is important to start out simple and effective. Use the fewest products necessary to get the maximum results.”

Drink water

As someone who’s been more or less chronically dehydrated for the past 20-plus years, this is one of those things I already knew but had a hard time actually doing, so I decided it was high time to make it part of my routine. I started drinking two glasses of water first thing when I woke up. I also set alarms at work to remind myself to refill my water bottle until it became a habit. It may sound over the top, but it worked for me and helped to significantly reduce my dry skin.

Wear SPF

As celebrity dermatologist Dr. Tabasum Mir told me, “If you don’t protect your skin with SPF, it doesn’t matter how many anti-aging creams you use. If there is only one thing you do during the day, use sunblock.”

Since I was worried about going from using nothing on my skin to several products a day, I turned to my colleague Molly Nover-Baker. A beauty expert and founder of The Edit Collective, Nover-Baker suggested I use La Roche-Posay sunscreen which is designed for sensitive skin. I opted for their Tinted Mineral Sunscreen for Face so I could get some lightweight coverage with my SPF.

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While daytime is about preventing damage, “Night is the time to use more powerful anti-aging ingredients to repair your skin,” says Mir.

Ditch makeup remover wipes

One tip I received from beauty blogger Lindsay Silberman, who shares skin tips on her Instagram series #InsomniaBeauty, was to get rid of my makeup wipes ASAP, especially if alcohol was listed as an ingredient.

“Those wipes are filled with chemicals!” says Silberman. “And while they technically remove makeup, they don’t do a great job of actually cleaning your face — most of them leave a film on your skin. Use micellar water or an oil-based cleanser instead.” She recommends Bioderma as her favorite alternative.

Use a serum

“In the PM it is important to use actives that will change your skin while you are sleeping,” says Patel. “Retinol, Vitamin E, Ferulic Acid, Hyaluronic Acid and fruit acids are all important to use at night. They act as exfoliants and over time can boost collagen production.” My choice was Visha Skincare Advanced Correcting Serum which contains retinol, vitamin E, ferulic acid, and salicylic acid, along with a natural skin lightener to help diminish sun spots and scars. I was shining (in a good way) as soon as I put this product on.

And a moisturizer

Yes, it turns out you really do need both a serum and a moisturizer. Put on a good hydrating cream after you’ve used a serum. Again, because I was on the hunt for products that would be extra gentle on my skin, I went for First Aid Beauty’s Ultra Repair Hydra-Firm Sleeping Cream after a friend with sensitive skin told me about it. It’s rich and creamy but soaks in quickly so I don’t end up feeling like I’m sleeping with gunk all over my face.

Beginner’s basics:

  • SPF
  • oil-based cleanser or micellar water
  • serum
  • moisturizer
  • lip mask
  • chemical exfoliant
  • sheet mask

Potentially (ok, definitely) due to never being sufficiently hydrated, I also lived with constantly chapped lips. That all changed when I discovered Laneige Lip Sleeping Mask thanks to the helpful ladies at Sephora.

“This is a best seller for reason,” one associate told me. “It’s a miracle in a little tub.” And I have to agree with her. I generously slather this on every night and wake up with baby soft lips. I’ve even ditched my regular balm since they stay moisturized all day. Even my boyfriend, who used to fondly refer to me as “the most chapped lady in America,” has noticed a huge difference.

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Add a chemical exfoliant

Silberman told me if you only add one new thing to your routine, it should be these Alpha Beta Universal Daily Peel by Dr. Dennis Gross. “They remove the dead skin cells/build-up that are preventing you from being your glowiest self,” she explains.

And while she recommends using them 2 to 3 times per week, I started out using them just once a week as an introduction and saw the results immediately. I even made my sister try them out when she came for a visit and after one use, she hopped on the bandwagon too.

Refresh with a sheet mask

I often travel for work and find myself extra dried out from the plane rides. If you go out over the weekend, skip a couple days of your usual skin routine, or otherwise find yourself in need of a quick fix for your skin, a sheet mask is just the trick.

Nover-Baker suggests the Go-To Skincare Tranformazing Sheet Mask. The serum-drenched masks work to revive your face in just 10 minutes.

There’s no universal fix

This is what worked for me, and it’s a great place to start, but it also took a lot of trial and error. Don’t give up if you start breaking out or don’t see results right away. Everyone’s skin is different and your first step for starting a routine should be figuring out what your skin type is.

“If you have oily skin, you are able to use stronger concentrations of acid and can use retinols with your products at night. If you have dry or sensitive skin, then only add one active [into your routine] at a time so there is less irritation to your skin,” advises Patel. Introduce new products one at a time and try them out for a month or so before deciding if they’re right for you. You’ll be posting glowing #IWokeUpLikeThis selfies in no time.


Hannah Freedman is a writer and editor based in Brooklyn. You can follow her travel and beauty adventures at @hfreed11.