When we think of a skincare routine, it can go one of two ways. We either go to the standard — think: cleanser, toner, serum, moisturizer. Or we are intimidated by the idea of an ideal 12-step K-beauty program, with 3 different cleansers, 4 different serums, an essence, a mist, a mask, a moisturizer, an oil, and of course, an SPF. We’re here to tell you that neither are wrong — but they aren’t necessarily right, either. At least not for everyone.
Our skin’s individual needs are extraordinarily unique to each and every one of us. While some people can go about washing their face every other day, misting on rose water, and dabbing on a little oil if they feel dry, others might experience terrible congestion and an explosion of breakouts with that routine. Some may need to cleanse their face both morning and night, while for others, that practice may result in intense dryness and stripping.
Instead of seeing what other people with great skin are doing and trying to emulate them, consider genetics. What is your skin like? Is your skin similar to theirs? What’s that? No? Then we do not need to copy their routine. In fact, we really shouldn’t. The truth is, toners aren’t for everyone. Four different actives in one sitting isn’t always a great idea. Face oils agree with some, while others need a light moisturizer or a heavy cream.
We don’t love the idea of a “skin type” — all skin is so different, and fluctuates with our hormonal phases, the climate, our stress levels, our joy, the amount of orgasms we’re having, what we are eating … It gets really granular. The first step to learning what works for you is to take note of the obvious details of your skin, including noting any fluctuations and tending to them. Are we more oily right before our period? Sensitive afterwards? Do we get dry around the nose or mouth, or get small breakouts on the forehead? What do the pores in our T-zone look like?
Taking note of these visible details is a surefire way to understanding your skin’s needs and addressing them directly, without looking to anyone else or their routine for their needs and personal skin health. Chances are they have different stressors, or handle them differently — not to mention different sleep routines, different relationships, varying diets, and of course, their own bio-individuality.
If hormonal acne is something you notice, perhaps exploring a prescription retinol could be helpful. Ease into it by trying it once a week. If dullness and dark spots are an issue, rotate that retinol with a stable form of topical vitamin C, which is good for evening tone and brightening. If large pores have you down, try niacinamide in the mornings. Looking to plump fine lines and dissuade congestion? Add a peptide serum to your routine, a chemical exfoliant toner, or perhaps a stronger once-a-week mask.
One thing we recommend? Not changing everything all at once. Try a new product for a while, and see if it agrees with you. After you’ve determined whether or not it works for your personal skin health, you can introduce an additional new product, checking in with your skin’s response. It takes about 14 straight days for our skin to get used to a new product, and about 21 days to start actually seeing results — so don’t be in a hurry to overhaul. Intuitive, intentional skin care is not about instant gratification.
Below are a few of our favorite ingredient-driven products for specific needs. After assessing your own skin, peruse for what may be the perfect fit for you!