Beginner’s Guide to Routines
What is a skincare routine and why do I need one?
Knowing what products work together, how they benefit your skin, and the order in which to use them is incredibly important when selecting the most effective skincare routine for you. At Paula’s Choice, we recommend an essential skincare routine that consists of three simple steps, 4 products, each designed to treat the core needs of any skin type—the minimum your skin needs to keep it healthy and protected day and night.
Find the perfect routine for you with our Routine Finder. Backed by 35+ years of extensive research we have 500+ routines specifically customised to deliver visible results.
WHAT PRODUCTS MAKE AN ESSENTIAL SKINCARE ROUTINE AND HOW DO I USE THEM?
Regardless of your skin type, your skincare routine should contain a minimum of 4 products: a cleanser, an exfoliant, a day moisturiser with a minimum SPF of 30 and a night-time moisturiser. These are the core products required to meet all the basic needs of your skin to maintain its health and appearance for the short and long term.
The first essential step of every skincare routine is to cleanse. Cleansers remove dirt, excess sebum and makeup. When your face is clean, it allows the other products you use to work even better.
How to choose a cleanser
If your skin is normal to dry, choose a cleanser with a rich creamy or lotion texture to gently cleanse and nourish skin without drying it out even further. If your skin is oily to combination, opt for a gel or light lotion texture.
A gentle leave-on AHA or BHA exfoliant removes built-up layers of dead skin cells that cause dullness and clogged pores. They are effective for treating sun damage, wrinkles, blackheads, clogged pores and breakouts. When used as the second step in your routine, an exfoliant will leave your skin smooth, radiant, and younger-looking. Exfoliants also help other products absorb better into the skin. After application, you don’t have to rinse it off and you can immediately follow with the rest of your routine.
How to choose an exfoliant
Choosing an AHA or BHA exfoliant depends on your skin type and concerns. AHA’s exfoliate the surface of skin and are most effective for dry, sun-damaged skin. BHA’s exfoliate the surface of skin and inside the pores and are best for oily to combination skin with breakouts and blackheads. Due to its anti-inflammatory properties, BHA’s are also great for calming redness and sensitivity. Our exfoliants are suitable for all skin types.
The final and most critical step of your daytime routine is application of a moisturiser with SPF 30 or higher. SPF moisturisers keep your skin shielded from sun damage which is the No. 1 cause of wrinkles, brown spots, and other signs of ageing. Use as the last step of your morning routine.
How to choose a moisturiser
When looking for a new moisturiser, the texture of the product should match your skin type. For normal to dry skin, look for creamy, lotion textures for extra hydration and nourishment. For oily to combination skin, go for light-weight, liquid textures that don’t clog your pores or make you break out.
A night cream should provide more than simple hydration. Packed with antioxidants, cell-communicating and skin-repairing ingredients that all help skin function better and look healthier, our moisturisers come in cream, lotion, gel, and liquid textures to suit every skin type. You can (and should) use them around the eye area. Use as the last step in your evening skincare routine for smoother, younger-looking skin.
How do I know which products are right for me?
Your skin type determines which product textures are best suited for you. To discover your skin type, you can monitor how your skin responds after washing with a cleanser and leaving it bare. If your skin feels tight and uncomfortable, you have dry skin. If your skin immediately becomes shiny after, then it’s likely that you have oily skin. If you experience oiliness in some areas and feel tightness on other parts, then you have combination skin. If your skin feels fine after and doesn’t look shiny, then you have normal skin. Discover more
As a general rule of thumb: normal to dry skin needs creamy and lotion textures that nourish and hydrate, oily skin needs more light-weight textures like liquids to prevent pores from clogging. For combination skin, you may need light-weight textures for the oily parts of your skin and lotion textures for the drier parts of your skin.
Find the perfect routine for your skin type and concerns in just a few clicks with our new Routine Finder.
How can I make my routine more personal?
So now that you know the essentials, you may find that your skin requires a little extra boost to treat stubborn skincare concerns. Adding products to your essential routine depends mainly on your skin concerns. To personalise your essential routine, you can include toners, serums, boosters, treatments and essences. Each product type has a different purpose.
Toners are often the unsung heroes of a skincare routine. The right toner can breathe new life into a lacklustre complexion. Use a toner after cleansing as the second step in your skincare routine. Toners with antioxidants and skin-repairing ingredients (hyaluronic acid, glycerin, ceramides, and fatty acids) will not only remove the last traces of makeup but also will provide benefits targeted to your specific skin concerns. The right toner will leave your skin smoother, soothe redness, and even help improve the appearance of enlarged pores. Even better, that the right toner contains more of these ingredients than many serums or moisturisers.
Antioxidant serums help to interrupt free radical damage from environmental factors which can cause premature ageing. Our serums contain a wide variety of potent, research-backed antioxidants and cell-communicating ingredients which help repair, protect and soothe skin. You can apply an antioxidant serum after your exfoliant.
Sometimes your skin needs a bit of extra TLC. That’s where anti-ageing boosters come in. Boosters provide higher concentrations of specific ingredients to address your targeted skincare concerns, from loss of hydration to enlarged pores and wrinkles. Use daily or a few times a week, whatever works for your skin. You apply a booster after the exfoliant and before the serum, or mix a few drops into your serum or night moisturiser.
Our targeted treatments are great options if you deal with stubborn concerns like brown spots, wrinkles, uneven skin tone, breakouts or enlarged pores. You can use a treatment after your exfoliant, before your moisturiser.
Where do the ‘extra’ products fit into my essential routine?
When adding products to your routine, follow this guideline:
Step 1: Cleanser
Step 2: Toner
Step 3: Exfoliant
Step 4: Booster, treatment and/or serum
Step 5: Moisturiser
When using a booster, treatment and/or serum in your routine it often works best to apply them in order of thickness, starting with the most liquid product first.
To quickly and easily find the perfect routine for you, try our Routine Finder. It selects the right products for your skin type and skin concerns.
How do I know if I am using the right routine?
You’ll notice a significant difference if you're using the right products for you. Your skin will be smoother, brighter and healthier. It can take a while before you notice results on more stubborn skin concerns (after all, they didn’t appear overnight!). When trying new products, and especially a new routine, you should allow at least 2 weeks to see if your skin improves. Use our routine finder to discover what your skin needs.
Do I need to adapt my routine to the seasons?
If you have found the right routine for your skin, you shouldn’t have to adapt it for different seasons. The basic needs of your skin remain the same, winter or summer, rain or shine. Keep in mind that this doesn’t count for everyone, no skin is the same. What may change is the need to add extra products, like extra layers of sunscreen in the summer to oily, acne-prone or combination skin, or when heating and air-conditioning is taking a toll on your already dry skin.
Need help with finding the right product for you skin? Our customer care team are skincare and product experts and can guide you to the best skin of your life.
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