Look, I’m no skincare expert. Walking in to Sephora makes my wallet hurt and the online reviews are all over the place, but because we’re on a honesty session sort of thing,  I’m going to warn you ahead of time: the best way to develop a skincare routine is honestly through (seriously long) trial and error. 

There are a few ways to make this journey filled with less errors though.

1. Determine your skin type: at its core, a skincare routine has three steps- cleansing (washing), toning (balancing skin ph), and moisturizing (adding ‘water’ back to the face). Search for quizzes online and take a few! Knowing your skin type helps you make decisions when it comes time to purchase items for these categories: for example, I don’t use toners because they irritate my dry, sensitive skin.

2. Check out instagram skincare accounts: while they do receive PR packages from other companies, these instagrammers write genuinely honest reviews for all the products they test out. Scroll through hashtags like #skincare, #skincarelover and find accounts run by people with similar skin texture to you. Or, search for a brand you’re considering purchasing from and read a couple of posts to get a general sense of the product. Because they try so many products, they are able to identify what has worked and what hasn’t for them.

3. Read the ingredients: here are a few basics for this- fragrance irritates skin, silicone is fake, and any company that does not list their ingredients in full is lowkey sketchy. While you definitely should not be feeling overwhelmed when it comes to reading the miniscule texts, definitely gravitate towards products that do not have a scent and brands that tout ‘clout’ products. The Ordinary is great at listing out their ingredients and identifying their benefits, and I would personally recommend them as a brand for those who are starting out, to go in stores (with a mask!) and ask sales associates what would work best for your skin.

4. Listen to your skin: if your skin actively rejects or is uncomfortable while using a product, stop using it. Simple as that. Scrape off the surface that you have already used and give it to a family member/friend or return it to the store if they allow you to (Sephora does!), because the product does not work for your skin. Some signs that may show up include: immediate redness, rash that appears in areas the product touched, and tightening of the skin after cleansing. When that happens, immediately wash it off and allow your skin to rest. While it is normal for some small breakouts to occur when a new product is introduced, alternating days, to the routine, it is not normal for your skin to react negatively the moment the product is tested. 

5. Start small: purchase items consciously. Do not spend frivolously on skincare, because while you can alter a piece of clothing for it to fit, you cannot alter a product’s formula to match your skin (also, waste is bad and skincare is expensive). So, start with the three basic categories mentioned above, and maybe even forgo to toner if you have sensitive skin like me. Find the ones that work for you in those categories, then dive into the world of serums, essences, mists, clay masks… you will find yourself needing them in time. 

I hope these tips have helped you start your journey in skincare, or that it has provided some new insights to advanced skincare gurus. 

– Heather Yuan