A Foundational Skincare Guide For Beginners

I am definitely a “less is more” type of person when it comes to skincare and taking care of myself. The vast majority of skincare and personal care products are not more than clever marketing designed to make you feel badly about yourself so you’ll spend more money. I try to avoid this and instead try to adopt a principles-based approach to skincare.

I. Stick to clean, organic products free of harmful chemicals, fillers, preservatives (only when absolutely necessary), artificial scents, etc. Clean, natural beauty is a must and I am very glad that this is becoming a larger trend.

II. Building off of the first principle, if you’re avoiding toxic, useless products, you’re automatically going to be reading labels more and discerning the difference between a Vitamin C Serum that has a high concentration of Vitamin C versus something that is cleverly packaged and may not be effective. Focus on ingredients not packaging or brands.

III. Listen to your skin and understand the type of skin you have. I’ve read that less than FIFTEEN percent of people actually have “dry” skin, so all of that moisturizer and lotion you’re putting on your face may not be harming you but it certainly isn’t helping or doing anything, especially if it’s a product made from synthetic ingredients.

I have normal skin and do not wear a lot of moisturizer or lotion unless I am traveling, skiing, in extreme weather conditions or my skin feels extra dry for a legitimate reason (using a retinol at night falls under this), otherwise I let my skin breathe and leave it alone. Use common sense when applying different products or trying something new.

With these principles in mind, the following is what I would recommend to almost anyone looking to take care of their skin and it my usual routine. I am trying to work up to a few more products as there are more I want to test out but this is it for now.

Ingredients I like to have in my routine include:

Vitamin A, Vitamin E, Hyaluronic Acid, Vitamin C, a plant-based Retinol or Prescription Retinol, Organic Cleanser, Some type of manual or chemical exfoliation


Use an excellent suncreen that is chemical-free and oil-free. The two ingredients you may want to look for in a sunscreen are titanium dioxide or zinc oxide. I use it on my hands, face and neck.

I use Elta MD (sold at my dermatologist) or Cera-Ve

Both of these have have hyaluronic acid in them which causes skin to maintain hydration and can reduce the appearance of fine lines, etc. and make skin appear more plump and beautiful.



Retinol (1-2x a week, you can work up to more depending on how your skin tolerates it)

Using a retinol is super important, it increases cell turnover, increases the production of collagen, reduces fine lines, etc. etc. and has been clinically proven to do these things.

Prescription Version – various concentrations and can be acquired via your dermatologist, the most common being Retin-A or the generic version of Retin-A

Plant-Based/Natural or OTC Retinols I recommend:

Tata Harper

Sunday Riley Luna

***Would probably go with Tata Harper, they are 100% natural and ingredients are sourced from their farm in Vermont.

On nights with retinol, a good quality heavy cream to protect skin after retinol is applied and then sleep in that.

For heavy creams or lotions after retinol:

Weleda Skin Food or Ahava Creme Mask

On nights without retinol, I use a Vitamin-C serum to brighten skin, reduce any spots or hyper-pigmentation and to keep my skin tone even and consistent.

Two Vitamin-C Serums I like: Mad Hippie Vitamin C, 100 Percent Pure Vitamin C

2-3x a week in the evenings or in the morning I manually exfoliate with an organic product from Lush. I like manual exfoliation but I’m interested in learning a bit more about chemical exfoliation, specifically Lactic Acid exfoliation.

Exfoliation helps cells turnover, can prevent acne, unclog pores, evens skin tone, boosts circulation and increase collagen synthesis and finally helps other skincare products penetrate more deeply into your skin for optimal efficacy.

Two Exfoliants I like:

Lush Gentle Exfoliant: Angels on Bare Skin

Chemical Exfoliant (using BHA or AHA acids): Sunday Riley

One last thing, skin stays HYDRATED with water so make sure you are drinking plenty of water, MOISTURIZER seals in that hydration. If you have dehydrated skin, you need more water, if you have dry skin, your skin is lacking oil.

Most people shouldn’t have an issue with either if I understand correctly so try to keep an open mind with regard to marketing and packaging of certain “must-have” products. My dermatologist stated I didn’t need moisturizer or lotion unless I desired a specific texture for my skin.

And just for fun – sleeping on silk pillowcases helps your products and serums soak in better as silk doesn’t absorb like cotton pillowcases do. Your skin also doesn’t get those lines in them that regular pillowcases leave.

I LOVE silk. Try the Alaska Bear Silk Pillowcases for a more affordable option if you are interested as well, one of the best gifts I received last year. Thanks Mom and Dad 🙂

I’ll update this post as I learn more and continue trying new products.

For the short version if you didn’t want to read this entire article:

  1. Wear Sunscreen Daily on face, neck and tops of hands
  2. Exfoliate, either chemically or manually a few times a week
  3. Use a retinol as your skin can handle it in the evening
  4. Cleanse your face once or twice a day with a gentle cleanser
  5. Look for clean and nontoxic beauty products with the active ingredients scientifically proven to help your skin
  6. Drink water
  7. Fish Oil and other supplements can also improve your skin in addition to sleeping on silk and letting your skin breathe when appropriate.