How to Build a Skincare Routine

Skincare. What a joy but also an absolute minefield, am I right? I’ve always been a sucker for skincare, starting with my Superdrug Tea Tree Foam Facial Wash aged 10 and never looking back since. However, I can understand how complicated it can be navigating a world of cleansers, toners, moisturisers, serums, acids, hyaluronic peptide salicylic blue marine WHAAAA.

It’s taken me around fifteen years of trial and error, working for a beauty retailer, and more recently having regular facials with the skincare queen Reii Skin, to discover how to build a skincare routine that works for me and my skin. I’ve suffered for years with combination/blemish-prone skin so I understand the frustration of feeling like your complexion is constantly working against you. Therefore, I’ve written this blog pooling together everything I’ve learnt over the years in the hope of helping you learn how to build a skincare routine that suits you.

Skincare Routine Order

Step 1: Pre-Cleanse Oil/Balm

I know. Having an oily skin tone myself, I’ve been there, I’ve had that shock-horror moment. Combat oily skin with more oil?! Are you joking? But trust me on this one, it’s the thing to do. Tried and tested by an oily-skinned gal herself. Double cleansing is the way forward, allowing your main cleanser to work more efficiently, helping to lessen blackheads and believe it or not, controlling your excess sebum production. I always make sure to pre-cleanse in the evening to help melt away layers of excess sebum, sunscreen, makeup, environmental pollutants and residual skin products that build up during the day.

To say how hesitant I was to incorporate a pre-cleanse oil into my skincare routine, I can’t tell you how luxurious and soothing it feels to do each evening. I’d go as far as saying it’s now my favourite part of the whole process! I have tried, tested and loved each of the below.

Step 2: Cleanser

For your second cleanse, your chosen cleanser will all depend on your skin type. For oily, blemish-prone skin like mine, it means a hydrating yet active solution, containing an acne-fighting ingredient such as salicylic acid. For drier skin tones, it could be a creamier, more natural cleanser with no active ingredients. I also like to mix up my daily cleanser once or twice a week for a mild exfoliating cleanser such as the Murad AHA/BHA Exfoliating Cleanser to keep dull skin and blemishes well and truly at bay.

Step 3: Toner

 A toner is a water-based solution that helps balance the skin’s pH after using a facial cleanser. It can also help remove any last traces of makeup/dirt and to prep your skin for the next steps in your skincare routine. After using an active cleanser in the morning, I stick to hydration-only toners, but if you’ve opted for a more nourishing non-active cleanser, or want a double attack on your blemishes, then here you may want to go for a more active toner. In the evenings, for example, I like to follow my hydrating toner with a gentle, exfoliating liquid such as Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant. It’s important to remember here though that less is more, and if your skin is particularly angry and active, sometimes the best thing you can do is stick to hydration-only products and leave the acids and active ingredients until it’s calmed down a bit.

Step 4: Eye Cream

One of my favourite parts of my step-by-step skincare routine has got to be applying eye cream. There’s just something so soothing about applying a cooling gel or cream to such a delicate area. If you’re looking for a brightening gel to help improve the appearance of dark circles and soothe any puffiness, I would highly recommend the Dermalogica Biolumin C Eye Serum. For a firming and hydrating effect, I love the Biossance Squalane and Marine Algae Eye Cream.

I like to apply eye cream after my toner, to make sure no other acids or moisturisers penetrate the orbital area before my eye cream does!

Step 5: Hydrating Acid

When using serums/acids, your hydrating acid should come before any targeted ones. For example, in the morning I apply The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5 to lock in as much hydration as possible before applying more targeted acids. I do the same thing in the evening, although I like to choose a more targeted hydration serum in The Ordinary Multi-Peptide + HA Serum.

Step 6: Targeted Acid

In terms of targeted acids, I know, it can be an absolute minefield. I like to keep it super simple: Vitamin C in the morning and Niacinamide in the evening. Vitamin C is a powerful ingredient, helping to protect your skin from environmental aggressors, thanks to its anti-ageing properties and its role in the production of collagen, as well as giving your skin that sought-after glow. As one of my favourite super-ingredients, I wrote a full piece about the best Vitamin C skincare products.

Niacinamide on the other hand is your best friend if you have blemish-prone skin. Amongst a whole heap of other benefits, the key call out for me is its power to help reduce spots and improve skin texture. For a stronger Niacinamide hit, I love to use the Dermalogica Breakout Clearing Booster or the Tropic Skincare Ocean Dive Pore-Clearing Serum to help draw out any underlying impurities and bring them to the surface.

Another targeted acid I have recently introduced into my step-by-step skincare routine is retinol, one of the most effective anti-ageing ingredients. How much retinol your skin needs depends on your skin type, your skin concerns and your skin’s tolerance. If you’re a retinol newbie like me, I would recommend experimenting with a low strength and building up your usage over time, monitoring how your skin responds. I have been using La Roche-Posay Retinol B3 Anti-Ageing Serum 2-3 nights a week, and always make sure not to use it in combination with any other active ingredients such as vitamin C, benzoyl peroxide, and AHA/BHA acids which can cause irritation and be very drying. And if you decide to use it during the day, ALWAYS follow with a high-strength SPF!

Step 7: Moisturiser

Another simple yet deeply satisfying step: moisturising. I like to keep my daily moisturiser lightly hydrating, with something a bit more sumptuous and restorative for overnight.

Step 8: SPF

And now the most important step of all…SPF! According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, regular daily use of SPF 15 sunscreen can reduce your risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) by about 40%, and lower your melanoma risk by 50%. And if that isn’t reason enough for you, wearing a daily SPF helps prevent premature skin ageing caused by the sun, including wrinkles, sagging, and age spots.

All of the below sunscreens boast an invisible finish, leaving a dry-touch feel with a matte effect.


PS you might also like Liz Earle Skincare Review

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Julia Catherine Ward
Julia Catherine Ward

Julia has been posting style, beauty, and travel related blogs since 2012 (long live Tumblr!). Enjoy the post and please leave your comments!

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