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The Beginner’s Guide to Building a Skincare Routine

Still thinking about how to put together a basic skincare routine? Use this no-frills guide as a cheat-sheet for all your skin-related woes.

By Adarsh Soni
21 Jul 2021

Great skin is not simply a result of good genes. Your daily habits have a huge impact on how you feel, and as it turns out, how you look. But with the influx of a gazillion beauty trends out there, building a simple yet effective skincare routine can be confusing. If you’re unsure about where to begin, here are the basics that you need to keep in mind before moving forward.



This is the most basic step of any skincare routine and most of us are already doing this everyday. The general rule of thumb here is that cleansing your face twice per day is ideal. Once in the morning and once in the evening. But if you can physically feel a layer of oil building up during the day, then feel free to use a hydrating mist that also acts like a no-rinse cleanser. Cleansing in the AM is important because it gets rid of the oil that your skin builds up overnight while doing so in the PM is even more beneficial because it removes all the dirt, sebum and other pollutants that have collected on your skin throughout the day. No matter what your skin type is, one must always stay away from cleansers that contain surfactants. According to research by Dr Russel M Walters, Johnson & Johnson Corporation, New Jersey, USA, surfactants disrupt the skin’s molecular structure and degrade its barrier properties leading to unhealthy skin. There are a lot of good cleansers out there but you should always pick one that suits your skin type. Here is a quick guide to make it easier:


  • If you have oily skin: Foaming face-wash

When activated with water, this liquid morphs into a rich foam that helps get rid of excess oil and dirt stuck to your skin.

  • If you have dry skin: Cream or lotion-based cleanser

These cleansers are formulated with hydrating ingredients like shea butter or glycerin that make sure that your skin stays moisturised.

  • If you have sensitive skin: Oil-based cleanser

Non-comedogenic oils like neem or sweet almond oil are excellent cleansers that don’t clog your pores.

  • Something that everyone can use: Micellar water

This sulphate-free option contains molecules that attract oil like a magnet without getting rid of the skin’s hydration. Commonly used as a makeup remover, micellar water is suitable for all skin types and doesn’t need to be washed off. But don’t treat it like a substitute for your cleanser.



Don’t worry, this isn’t about the alcohol-based, stingy toners from the 90s. It might sound surprising but toners have slowly started to make a comeback and with good reason. Most toners these days don’t just help minimise your pores but also contain a wide variety of ingredients that nourish your skin. While a toner may not be as important as a cleanser, it is an easy way of making up for the lack of certain vitamins and acids in your skincare products.

When it comes to application, it is best to use your bare hands. After cleansing your face, dab a little bit of liquid on to your face and gently swipe it all across your face. Wait for it to dry before proceeding with the next step of your routine.



Serums are lightweight, easy-to-apply potions that pack a powerful punch of vitamins and other ingredients meant to treat specific skin-related problems. From acne to fine lines—these elixirs can fix anything. The trick is to find a product that contains the minimum amount of ingredients and no fragrance, so that the key ingredient can work its wonders without any interference. Even if you’re lucky enough to be blessed with perfect skin, using certain serums can act like a preventative measure against a variety of issues that might pop up as you grow older. Here are some of the most commonly available serums and the specific issues they are meant to treat:

  • Salicylic acid serum helps gently exfoliate the skin while also preventing acne.
  • Hyaluronic acid serum seals in hydration and gives you a plump complexion.
  • Vitamin C serums can be used everyday in the morning as they are a powerful ally for your SPF. They also help brighten dull skin and decrease dark spots.
  • Retinol serums aid the production of collagen that prevents fine lines and wrinkles. They should only be used at night.
  • Niacinamide serum helps reduce skin redness by decreasing inflammation.
  • Peptide serums work hand in hand with retinol and help prevent aging by promoting the growth of skin cells.



The job of a good moisturiser is to hydrate and soften your skin without lending any excessive oiliness to your complexion. As we grow old, our skin loses its ability to retain moisture, which is why you should invest in a product that provides your skin with the extra nourishment it needs. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends using your moisturiser on a slightly damp face so that your skin can seal in the moisture better. People of all ages and skin types should use a moisturising cream or lotion everyday but the texture can vary according to your skin type. Refer to this guide before beginning:


  • If you have oily skin: Gel-based moisturiser

A lightweight and non-sticky formula that gets absorbed quickly works best for oily skin. You don’t want anything that’s too dense or rich because that can cause breakouts.

  • If you have normal skin: Lotion

Don’t confuse this with body lotion. It’s more about the consistency of the product. It should be somewhere between a gel and a cream.

  • If you have dry skin: Cream

Creams are usually oil-based and provide dry skin with the extra hydration that it needs. But make sure that the oils in your cream are non-comedogenic otherwise it could lead to pimples in some cases.

  • If you have sensitive skin: Balm

Balms are heavier than cream-based formulas and are best suited for cold temperatures or if your skin is extremely sensitive or inflamed.

Moisturising is the only basic skincare step that actually requires a different product for AM and PM. So what is the difference between day and night creams? Well, creams that you use in the morning are formulated to protect your skin from all the dirt and pollution that it is going to be subjected to during the day and often contain antioxidants and even SPF to ensure protection. While night creams focus on repairing your skin while you get your beauty sleep. Which is why some of them contain cell turnover boosting ingredients like retinol and peptides.



Repeat after us: Sunscreen is the most important step in any skincare routine. Doesn’t matter if you’re 16 or 60, using a broad-spectrum SPF every single day is absolutely vital. According to The Skin Cancer Foundation, New York, USA, daily application of sunscreen decreases your risk of skin cancer and helps prevent premature skin aging. If you’re skipping this step, then nothing else really makes sense. While there are plenty of options available in the market, most of them fall within two categories:


  • Chemical: They contain ingredients like oxybenzone and octinoxate, which are absorbed into your skin to protect it from sun damage. They are lightweight and transparent on the skin but can cause irritation with sensitive skin.
  • Physical: They contain mineral-based ingredients like titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, that physically stay on top of your skin to prevent the harmful UV rays from entering the surface.


Some general tips to keep in mind

  • With any skin-care product, apply in order of consistency. Which would be from thinnest to thickest. For example, cleanser, toner, serum, and then moisturiser and sunscreen at the end to seal it all in.
  • When it comes to skincare, there’s nothing like an overnight miracle. Give it some time for the products to work their way into your skin before you start to notice any changes. Generally, aim to use a product over at least six weeks, once or twice daily, to notice a difference.
  • Even if certain products are crafted just for your skin type, you never know how your skin will actually respond to it. Which is why it’s better to do a small patch test before putting anything on your face. If you notice symptoms like excessive stinging, burning, rashes or bumps then stop using the product and contact your dermatologist immediately.




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