How Do I Even Get STARTED?

Regimen-building for the nervous and overwhelmed.

If your current skincare regimen is “wash face in shower w some form of liquid, slap body lotion on dry parts,” the idea that people are embracing ten (or more!) step Korean-derived beauty routines can seem a) B A N A N A S and b) impossible to break into.

My starting point for this newsletter is that if you have subscribed, you are interested in taking better care of your skin, and are willing to devote 10 minutes or so to it, twice a day. So I’m not going to get into a lot of WELL it does seem excessive or BUT it’s very soothing or YOU KNOW feminism and choices, etc. We’re here, we want to be clear, bring us the soft poreless ageless skin of a small child.

(Edith Zimmerman, one of the most beautiful women I have ever met in real life, once told me that she has almost a hard time LOOKING at babies, because she envies their skin so much, and I really get that.)

One of the reasons that “starter kits” from a skincare brand are so enduringly popular is the allure of having a ready-made regimen. Lock and load! Done and dusted. This can work out just fine, especially if you have relatively uncomplicated skin, and it CAN be cost-efficient, if you will actually use all of the products (there’s usually some kind of like eyelid serum that you’ll wind up tossing out.) I personally think it’s better to try samples until you know what works for YOU and build your arsenal one need at a time.

A multi-step routine is like putting together a baseball team. The only way I keep myself in check, honestly, is that I cannot have two shortstops, so if I have a product I’m longing to try, and it’s currently doing fine, I have to finish it before swapping in the new guy from the farm team. So, what positions do we ultimately want to fill? Note that we will NOT be filling them all right away, and you may never feel the need to play a full field.

(Don’t worry if you have no clue what some of these things are, I’ll be going through each step in turn in subsequent weeks. No one knows what toner is unless you’re a veteran, it’s like racketeering.)

AM:

CLEANSER

TONER

ESSENCE

VARIOUS SERUMS

MOISTURIZER

SUNSCREEN

PM:

CLEANSER

TONER

ESSENCE

VARIOUS SERUMS

MOISTURIZER

SOME KIND OF OVERNIGHT NONSENSE

Apart from “various serums,” which can be anywhere from one product to four products (I know I have a problem), you want to hold firm to your one in, one out policy. I know you can do it.

In your rush to be extremely extra about your skin, it will be extremely tempting to buy a bunch of stuff and start using it all right away, which is a first-class ticket to your skin FLIPPING OUT.

(I have some great products for when your skin DOES flip out, but let’s try to avoid it.)

Instead, you want to start slow and easy. The first thing you need is a cleanser. There are lots of fancy ones, but I personally find that if you want to save money, cleanser is the one to cheap out on. Most of them are fine, and they only spend fifteen seconds on your face, so why break the bank? K-beauty is all about double cleansing, which is an oil cleanser followed by a whatever cleanser, but you don’t need to jump right into that. Stick with what’s best for your individual skin, and start with one product: if you’re oily, you’ll want something a little more foam-y, in all likelihood, and if you have older skin, you’ll be drawn more towards cream cleansers. Remember how I mentioned samples earlier? You can march into any Sephora and explain you’re trying to pick a new cleanser, your current area of concern is X, and you’d like to sample two or three different varieties. Walk out proudly with your lil bag of tiny bottles. You deserve it.

The second thing I would add (this is assuming you already wear sunscreen, if you don’t, immediately hit the x on your browser window and go get some sunscreen and put it on right now, it’s the most important thing) is a moisturizer. This is also a relatively inexpensive step, if I’m the one guiding you. I like a very basic moisturizer. Actives (various things that fight aging/acne/lines/texture/dark spots) are for your serums to take care of, and I find they can get into fights if you also buy a fancy moisturizer that purports to do more than just hydrate your skin. We don’t want redness or stinging, just moisture. Any cream that’s non-comedogenic will do just fine. Sample away! Use stuff already in your bathroom cabinet! (We’ll obviously be talking about specific brands in upcoming weeks, if you want to wait.)

So, now we’re getting somewhere! Cleanser, moisturizer, sunscreen. Let it ride for a week to see if your skin doesn’t like a product, and then it’s time for your first serum. (We’ll come back to you, toner, soon enough.)

See you next week!