How to Streamline Your Skin Care Routine

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sirastock / Getty Images

sirastock / Getty Images

When it comes to buying skin care products, you could easily go broke from dropping serious cash on high-end formulations. Not only are the individual products pricey, there are often multiple “steps” in a skin care regimen—from cleanser to toner to oil—and it’s not always clear if you need all of them or if it’s totally kosher to safely cherry-pick.

With these concerns in mind, we put the following question—and more—to two leading skin and beauty experts: How many face products do you really need?! Here’s the lowdown on streamlining your skin care routine.

What’s the ideal skin care regimen?
Your perfect skin care regimen depends on a few factors, says Tata Harper, of Tata Harper Skincare, such as your skin type, how old you are, and what your aging concerns are. “Ideally, a woman would use a cleanser, a toner, a serum, a moisturizer, an eye cream, and a mask treatment—those are the basics,” she explains. “From there, you can add oils and create variations in your routine depending on your specific needs.”

For example, if you’re in your 20s, you’d definitely want a cleansing treatment, a moisturizer, and a face oil to help maintain balance. In your 30s, she says, it’s good to add a serum and a toner, which helps to enhance penetration of your anti-aging products, combating the effects of daily collagen degradation.

MORE: How to Choose the Right Serum For You

What’s the difference between all of these products?
To break down three often-confused products—toners, serums, and moisturizers—we turned to skincare pro Cecilia Wong of Cecilia Wong Skincare. “Toners work to restore pH balance and refresh skin, while also delivering moisture. Serums are targeted treatments that penetrate skin at a much deeper level providing the skin essential nutrients needed to repair cells,” she says. “Moisturizers hydrate skin while providing an extra barrier for protection against environmental damage and signs of aging. Someone with aging skin would want to use all three as the focus is on restoring or repairing.”

Do you really need an eye cream?
According to Wong, eye cream is an important part of a skin care regimen. “But those with younger skin may not necessarily need it or want to use eye cream, as its purpose is to reduce the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and dark spots, while preserving structure, reducing free radical damage, and helping impaired cells function more regularly,” she explains. “This is an additional step to a basic skin care regimen and is good for those concerned with anti-aging treatments.” If you use an eye cream, apply after a serum or targeted treatment before moisturizer to lock active ingredients into the skin, she suggests.

If you can only afford a couple products, which ones should you splurge on?
A cleanser, a serum, and a moisturizer, Harper says. “Cleansing is so important to remove daily pollution, free radical, and makeup buildup,” she explains. “Serums are key for tackling signs of aging and keeping your collagen strong, healthy, and elastic. A moisturizer is important because it keeps the skin plump from within.”

However, if you have oily or acne-prone skin, Wong advises swapping serum for toner. “Most serums are oil-based and may be too heavy for those with oily skin,” she says. “It is important to be aware of the ingredients found in the products you are using and familiarize yourself with the effects of each so to tailor your regimen to your skin type.”

MORE: How to Prevent Spring and Summer Breakouts

How can you get the most bang for your buck with dual-action or combination products?
“I’d say that getting a cleanser that does more than just ‘clean’ the skin is a great way to go,” Harper says. “For example, our Regenerating Cleanser, also exfoliates, so it helps your anti-aging products to penetrate better, making your entire routine more effective.”

Another way to make your products go the extra mile is to combine them yourself, making them more potent in the process. “Another trick of mine is to mix my daily serum with a face oil,” she says. “Not only does it deliver more moisture—perfect for maintaining that glow and cushion —but it helps the skin absorb the anti-aging benefits of the serum better. Doing that simple trick of blending your serum and oil together before applying helps you get more bang for your buck!”

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