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The Beginner's Guide To A Skincare Routine

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In all honesty, what are you doing on this site if you don't already have a skincare routine? (Who are we kidding? This story is for social promotion purposes—Facebook lives for this kind of thing.) It's likely you are already a genius, learned in the language of moisturizer, but going back to school never hurt. Natalie Portman did it, and look how great her skin is! And it does bear repeating that skincare doesn't need to be complicated to work wonders. It just needs to be thoughtful. Here at ITG, we pride ourselves on being beauty editors with substance. And a fire SEO strategy. No, really, this story is going to be worthwhile. Scroll down; I'll prove it to you.

A no-nonsense cleanser

Be wary of cleansers that promise you the world. Like a credit card with an airline rewards program, there's really only so much it can do. Most cleansers only call your face home for a matter of minutes—that's simply not enough time to brighten, hydrate, tone, clear, and exfoliate all at once. But this is good news, I swear! It means that when you're looking for a cleanser, simple is better. Pick something that'll get the grime off while leaving your acid mantle and existing hydration intact. Bioderma Sensibio H2O continues to be the bedrock of any easy cleansing routine. It removes makeup and impurities without leaving a film behind. If you like a more traditional cleanser to lather with water, Indie Lee's Brightening (for oilier skin) or Rosehip (for drier skin) Cleansers are my favorite. Wash, rinse, repeat—but not too much. Once a day is probably enough.

Something to exfoliate with

But only sometimes! Over-exfoliation (especially when you first discover its skin brightening benefits) is a real and serious problem plaguing our nation. And I hear you—it's just so damn tempting to scrub and scrub and scrub until you're just a skull and a pile of dead skin. Take off one layer of skin and all of a sudden you're a shining, wrinkle-less star... So what happens when you take off another layer? Nothing good. That's when you get thrown out of balance—or start microtearing your skin—so do your best to start slow. Once a week with some acids could be all you need! Pixi Glow Tonic, the 5% glycolic solution with aloe vera and ginseng available at Target, is the very best for beginners. Paula's Choice 2% BHA Skin Perfecting Liquid is another cult favorite. I'd be remiss not to mention Biologique Recherche P50, but I'll be honest and say I don't think it's truly a "beginner" product.

Targeted serum

This one is dealer's choice. Take a moment and think about what your skin really needs. There are no wrong answers—think of this step as taking a supplement for an extra efficacy boost to your skincare. For hydration, try for a hyaluronic acid (Paula's Choice; Pestle & Mortar; Hada Labo). For acne reduction and prevention, try vitamin C or retinol (Marie Veronique; Drunk Elephant; The Ordinaries). For redness, go with niacinamide (Paula's Choice again, InstaNatural, or Glossier). I could go on, but I promised this would be streamlined.

Light but serious moisturizer

This applies to everyone. Yes, even the prone-to-breakouts, "I'm oily enough" crowd. Moisturizer probably isn't the thing that's going to break you out—your zits are most likely coming from some level of imbalance in your system. (Or maybe a crummy, comedogenic moisturizer. But the ones I'm going to recommend aren't crummy.) I actually learned about Kate Somerville Goat Milk Moisturizer from the community on ITG—and it was a great recommendation! Thank you! Works really well as a day and night cream. For true moisturizer beginners though, I often find myself recommending Glossier Priming Moisturizer. Affiliations aside, it's light without compromising hydration. It's also one of the most effective redness killers I've seen work on my skin. Don't knock it 'til you've tried it.

SUN PROTECTION!!!

Every day. For ever. Non-negotiable. See this as the last step of any complete skincare routine. Because even if you forget to do everything else, you'll always know that you're protecting your skin against the ever-present danger of a sun that is coming to kill us all. Nothing is too alarmist during May, Skin Cancer Prevention Month. La Roche-Posay Anthelios is a crowd pleaser, as is Elta MD Broad Spectrum SPF 46 (and a Top 25 alum!). Brennan won't stop talking my ear off about Bioré Aqua Rich Watery Essence, so I'm going to slide it in here too.

But like a Pandora charm bracelet (he went to Jared!), you're free to tack on as many add-ons as suits your personal style. If you ask me, I'd suggest picking up a clay or mud mask to have on hand in case you drink too much and wake up oilier than usual. Charlotte Tilbury's Goddess Skin Clay Mask is high up on my list, but I just got the Borghese Fango Delicato Active Mud Mask for Delicate Dry Skin (all freshly rebranded, too) and am loving it. Get you a clay mask that won't dry you out and there's truly nothing that can stop you.

—Emily Ferber

Photographed by Tom Newton.

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