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“Less is more” is often touted as the best beauty advice you can follow. But screw that. Your skincare routine doesn’t need a cap, but it should include certain types of products—the essentials, if you will. Sure, if you’re into an elaborate ten-step skincare routine as an act of self-care (or just because, for that matter), we totally get that too.
With that being said, however, whether you’re a beginner looking to start (and stick to) a daily skincare routine or just looking to cut back and get down to the basics to save some extra time and money, we’re breaking down the products everyone should have in their lineup — regardless of your skin type or personal skin concerns.
You’re probably already aware that every solid skincare routine should include a gentle facial cleanser, moisturizer, and a decent sunscreen (please, please, please don’t skip this step, y’all), but when it comes to the in-between steps (i.e. serums, toners, essences, etc.), you may be looking for a bit more guidance. Scroll through below to check out the six must-have products every skincare routine needs.
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The obvious first step: A good cleanser sets the stage for your whole routine. Ultimately, your cleanser should be gentle, water-soluble and able to remove your makeup. Avoid anything with soap in it—soap’s pH level is too basic and will dry out your skin. This gentle cleanser is formulated for sensitive skin, but it’s suitable for most skin types as well. And when you use the code “SCHOOL20” through August 28, you can snag it — as well as all other regular-priced items on the Walgreens site — for 20% off plus same-day delivery or pickup.
Toner often gets dismissed as overkill, but as part of a comprehensive skincare regime, toner is actually a pretty crucial step. Not only does it remove any oil or makeup residue, but it also preps your cleansed skin to receive whatever treatments you put on next. Think of it like a pre-serum or a pre-moisturizer. We love this rose-infused facial toner by Herbovire because it’s gentle yet effective.
Packed full of active ingredients, serums are for brightening, repairing, hydrating, anti-aging—the works. Some have multiple purposes and some are singular in the way that they work. You can layer these bad boys or pick one to focus on your biggest skin concern. We absolutely love this anti-aging and vegan serum by d’Alba because it’s chock-full of skin-loving ingredients such as hyaluronic acid and nourishing olive and avocado oils.
This is a crucial, though definitely not daily, step in your skincare routine. The best ways to go about exfoliating your face is to either use a cleanser with chemical exfoliants in it or use a dedicated physical exfoliator. Either way, look to use this product about twice a week.
Chemical exfoliators are best for sensitive skin, and physical ones (with gritty bits) are good for occasional use if your skin is on the dry and flaky side. Try Kate Sommerville’s cult-favorite Exfolikate formula — you won’t regret it.
5. Targeted Treatments
These are the big guns, generally for treating blemishes, dark spots, and congested pores. Targeted treatments usually have powerful ingredients that should be used sparingly and (usually) at night to avoid damage from sun sensitivity, but they really work. Retinols and hyperpigmentation treatments fall into this category. There’s a reason GLAMGLOW’s targeted pore-refining formulas are best-sellers.
The last step in your skincare routine is as important as the first. No matter what state your skin is in, it needs to remain hydrated. Luckily, moisturizers are made for all kinds of complexions, either oil-free or loaded with skincare goodies like antioxidants and vitamins. You can use a facial oil as a moisturizer, too, no matter what your skin type. Different types of oils have different benefits, but generally, skin likes it because it matches its own sebum texture.
KORRES’ Wild Rose Vitamin C Active Brightening Oil is one of those moisturizers that brightens and hydrates skin, and you can find it as an ingredient in skincare or just use it straight.
A version of this article was originally published in June 2015.