How to Build a Simple Skincare Routine

Talor Bianchini
Talor Bianchini23 Aug 2022

Taking care of your skin is essential to maintaining overall health. Building a simple and effective skincare routine is worth the time to ensure healthier and happier skin later in life. With all of the products on the market, it can get overwhelming to choose what is best for you and your skin. However, you can build a skincare routine by starting with three simple steps; cleansing, toning and moisturizing.

How to Build a Skincare Routine in 3 Simple Steps 

Skincare is often a regimen that people leave out of their daily routine. As the largest organ in our bodies, the skin is just as important to maintain and nourish as we do for our other essential organs. Once the damage is done to the skin, it isn't easy to reverse. Prevention is key, and it’s never too late to start new healthy habits. 

Starting the process of establishing a skincare routine can be confusing. With so many cleansers, serums, and creams, it appears that taking care of your skin will take more effort than it's really worth. While there are many beneficial products on the market, most people don’t need to use that many for their daily lives. Actually, a skincare regimen is relatively simple and only really requires 3 simple steps:

  1. Cleansing
  2. Toning
  3. Moisturizing

Even these three steps may sound completely foreign to you to someone who may be new to the skincare world. In general, you want to apply your skincare from thinnest to thickest products. Let’s break down each one of these terms and what they would look like in everyday life. 

Step 1: Cleansing

Cleansing is the first part of the process, regardless of the person or time of day. Our skin is constantly in contact with our outside environment and accumulates dirt, oil, and makeup to clog our pores and dull our skin. A gentle cleanser will help remove this grime and provide a clean slate for the other steps of your routine. You’ll want to use a product that is specifically intended for your face. Using bar soap or body cleansers can dry out your skin and imbalance its natural pH levels.

To wash your face, use warm water. Hot water will dry out your skin, while cold water won’t effectively remove all of the dirt, oil, etc. You can either use your hands or a skin cleansing tool like a brush or a cloth. These can be purchased at most drugstores. If using one, be sure to clean it every so often to avoid the buildup of soap and other materials. Finally, after rinsing off your cleanser, pat your face dry with a clean towel before moving onto the next step. 

Step 2: Toning

In the past, toners have received a reputation for drying up faces because of their high alcohol content. Since then, toners have been revamped to become the perfect second step to your skincare routine. So, what exactly is a toner? This liquid prepares your pores by removing other impurities in your skin that might have stayed despite the cleansing process. They are packed full of nutrients for your face, even if it just looks like water. It aids your skin in absorbing the rest of your products. 

You can apply toner however you would like, with your hands or a cotton pad. Try and extend your skincare routine into your neck as well. Makeup, dirt, and other substances can also accumulate here, so it’s important to keep this portion of your skin clean as well! Don’t skip the cleansing process and only use a toner; it won’t be as effective. And, if you have sensitive/dry skin, maybe skip this step for your routine. 

Step 3: Moisturizing

The last step to your everyday, simple skincare routine is moisturizing. A moisturizer is important to use no matter what time of year, as it hydrates and repairs your skin. This area of your body sheds dead skin cells the most frequently, so it needs guidance in replenishing its new skin cells. Whether you have dry or oily skin, you don’t want to skip this step. In fact, moisturizer prevents extreme dryness and oiliness, so it is essential for everyone. 

Depending on what kind of skin you have will determine the texture of moisturizer that will be more successful for you. You’ll also want to make sure that you are protecting your skin from the sun in the morning. The face is the most common place people get skin cancer, so applying at least SPF 30 before starting your day is essential. You can also find a moisturizer with a slight tint to help cover blemishes and other imperfections without the need for makeup! 

Picking the Right Ingredients 

BHA, HA, retinol, and other common skincare ingredients are frequently talked about and advertised. It can be hard to determine what exactly you should be looking for in the products you are using and what ingredients could have adverse effects on your skin. 

Dr. Zachary Okhah is the Founder and Chief Plastic Surgeon at PH-1 Miami. His practice works on minimally invasive surgical procedures for age-related body changes and lipodystrophy. Dr. Zach helped us determine the right ingredients to look for in your skincare products. 


When choosing your skincare products, Dr. Zach recommends that you “look for ones with antioxidants. Also known as free-radical scavengers, antioxidants inhibit oxidation and protect cells from damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals are unstable molecules, and once they amass, they can harm DNA and other structures in your cells, leading to illness and aging. Sources of antioxidants are natural and artificial. Those found in retinoic acid, resveratrol, CoQ10, alpha-hydroxy acid, polyphenols, acai oil, and vitamins C & E contain many antioxidants to help skin repair itself prevent sun damage. These antioxidant ingredients also correct the visible signs of aging- such as wrinkles and dark spots- and brighten the skin, giving you a more youthful appearance.”


Another beneficial ingredient to keep an eye out for is retinol. “Retinol is a type of retinoid and is considered by many to be the ‘gold standard in skin care for its anti-aging properties. A derivative of vitamin A, its small molecular structure allows it to penetrate deep into the dermis- the middle layer of your skin- and energize collagen and elastin production to reduce fine lines and wrinkles and soften rough skin. And it also stimulates the production of new blood vessels in the skin to fade aging spots and improve skin color. Topical retinol application can also help treat acne by reducing the stickiness of cells that clog pores, thereby reducing acne breakouts.” Dr. Zach warns to err on the side of caution, however, because “retinoids may cause dryness and skin irritation because of mild exfoliating effects, increasing your skin's sensitivity to sunlight. So use as recommended and apply sunscreen during the day.” 

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Different Skin Types 

While there are core ingredients you should be looking for the next time you go shopping for skincare products; some may work better than others depending on what kind of skin you have. Your skin texture can change the type of cleanser, toner, and moisturizer you use. Depending on your skin, it may also be beneficial to incorporate serums into your routine. While different skin types come with different products, there’s no reason it still can’t be simple. 

Overall, there are 5 basic types of skin:

  • Normal
  • Sensitive
  • Dry
  • Oily
  • Combination

Let’s review each of these to help you determine what type of skin you have and what is most important for your skincare regimen. 

Normal Skin

If you have normal skin, it's neither too dry nor oily, you aren’t particularly acne-prone, and it’s easy for you to try new products without the worry of an adverse reaction. In this case, if it’s not broken, don’t fix it. To preserve your normal skin, make sure you eat healthily, drink lots of water, and keep up with your skincare routine. It’s also important to wear lots of SPF and participate in healthy skin habits, like removing your makeup before going to sleep. The simpler, the better, don’t try and incorporate many products, even though they may seem appealing. 

Sensitive Skin

Skin sensitivity is characterized by many symptoms, ranging from changing skin type over the seasons to being itchy if you wear tight clothing. It often looks different for everyone, and therefore hard to pinpoint an exact science to making your skin less sensitive. Like normal skin types, you want to keep your skincare routine fairly simple. Maybe opt for a more gentle cleanser and remove toner from your regimen. 

Dry Skin

Dry skin is often rough in texture and appearance due to a lack of moisture in the skin. This could be caused by a multitude of factors, including your genetics. If you are experiencing a random period of dry skin, it may just be because of the weather or a product you are using that is too harsh. The key here is to add a lot of moisture to your routine. Many cleansers are advertised for dry skin, so be on the lookout for those. Again, toner may be too drying in this case. Try adding a facial oil in addition to your moisturizer, and make sure to stay hydrated. Spending too much time in the shower with hot water can also be very drying. 

Oily Skin

If you have oily skin, your face probably has a shiny or glossy look, and your skin is susceptible to new breakouts. While this is often due to hormonal imbalances, oily skin can also be caused by exfoliating too much or using harsh chemicals. To control oil production, it’s important to moisturize regularly, even though most people with oily skin assume moisturizers will make their skin more oily. Look for products that are oil-free and lightweight. Washing your face twice a day is great for removing dirt from your pores that may be causing the overproduction of oil. 

Combination Skin

People with combination skin have characteristics of sensitive, dry, and oily skin. They most likely have an oily t-zone and are prone to breakouts while also having dry patches on their face. Make sure to use a gentle cleanser for your face, so you are not irritating your skin. Exfoliating can also be helpful, but don’t do it every day as it will be very damaging. Because oily skin and dry skin require different types of skincare, have two different routines for the different parts of your face. 

Skincare Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

If you still have questions about starting your simple skincare routine, here are few things that people commonly ask.

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How will the weather change my skincare?

Overall, there shouldn’t be any large changes to your routine as the seasons change. You may want to alter some of the products that you are using. For example, winter makes our skin very dry, so it’s important to use extra moisturizer to keep your skin hydrated. This can be done with a thicker moisturizer or by substituting a moisturizing cleanser. In the summer, we tend to be more oily, so you may want to opt for an oil-free moisturizer, as well as something that has a higher amount of SPF. 

It’s been one week of doing my routine; why is there no progress?

One of the biggest aspects of a skincare routine is patience. It takes time for the products you are using to affect, so don’t expect to see results immediately. As a rule of thumb, expect to wait around 6 weeks until you see a change in your skin. 

Should my morning and nighttime routine be different? 

In the morning, your focus for your skin is to protect it from the outside environment. You first want to cleanse and remove products from the nighttime and then apply lightweight products to prepare for the day. It's also essential to apply SPF at this time. On the other hand, your focus should be to cleanse and hydrate your skin deeply at night. You want to remove all the oil, makeup, and dirt that may have accumulated while replenishing it as well. 

How often should I be exfoliating my skin? 

While exfoliating can be successful in unclogging pores and removing bacteria, exfoliating too much can damage your skin. Aim to add exfoliating into your skincare routine 1-3 times a week, based on the texture of your skin. 

Can I use multiple serums on my face?

Serums are a great addition to a skincare routine and come after toning. They can provide great nutrients for your skin that help with anti-aging, fixing dark spots and acne scars, and more. Using multiple serums can get tricky since the chemicals may react with one another and cause rashes or breakouts. For example, retinoids are great for their anti-aging effects but are not safe to combine with vitamin C, benzoyl peroxide, or alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs). 

Bottom Line

Skincare is important for maintaining a clear and healthy complexion while also protecting your face from harmful conditions like skin cancer. Creating a skincare routine for yourself is simple and only requires 3 easy steps. It’s never too late to start taking care of your skin. 

Talor Bianchini

Talor graduated from Penn State University with a B.S. in Biobehavioral Health, and minors in Spanish and Diversity & Inclusion in May of 2022. She has a passion for health equity and diversity in health. In the future, Talor hopes to work in public health policy reform to help eliminate health disparities. She enjoys reading, cooking, and listening to podcasts in her free time.