How to build your first skincare routine

For the majority of people I talk skincare with on a daily basis, the current goal is to use “less but better”. We are constantly advising each other on how best to streamline our routines so our skin benefits from some consistency. But every so often I receive a message or email from someone who is new to this over-saturated world of skincare and doesn’t know where to start.

Now, I am no skincare professional – I have no professional training, but my skin has got pretty much every concern going so I can tell you what I have learnt from many years of dealing with my own personal woes.

If I’ve learnt anything recently it’s that sensitised skin is your worst enemy. If your skin is sensitised it won’t maintain strong barrier function leaving you open to dehyration, irritation, acne, prolonged pigmentation, etc, etc.

When you are starting out it’s pretty overwhelming in a world of double cleansing, acids, retinols and essential oils (I could go on) to know what is going to suit your skin and make sure it doesn’t become sensitised.

So if I could offer one piece of advice, it would be to start simple.


The collection in the photo is one I have pulled together for an Instagram giveaway. It’s made up of simple, gentle products and would be a great starting point to get your skin used to being shown a little (regular) love.

From there you will get to know your skin and understand what your issues might be. Then you can start slowly adding in some actives, depending on your needs. Check out my post on treatments to see what ingredients and products could work for your skin concerns.

So – your basic routine. What should it look like?

  1. A gentle cleanser. You want to go with something that isn’t going to strip your skin. Have a think about what texture you might like – gel, oil, oily balm, cream – just make sure it doesn’t contain sodium laureth sulfate or any other harsh foaming agents.If you wear heavy make-up you may also want an eye make-up remover, but a double cleanse with a good gentle cleanser will remove make-up and SPF and cleanse the skin. Once you get to know your skin you can migrate to some fancier cleansers and start experimenting with different ingredients and textures.Suggestions: Trilogy Cream Cleanser, Jordan Samuel Skin Plie, Clinique Take the Day Off range, Pixi + Caroline Hirons Double Cleanse, MV Organic Gentle Cream Cleanser
  2. A mask. To really fall in love with skincare, you are going to want to experience some of the more ritualistic steps. Masks are great for this.They give you an opportunity to take some time out for yourself – relax in the tub, or with a book, and a cup of tea or a glass of wine. There are so many different masks on the market that do so many different things. To start off you are going to want something that will give you results but will be gentle and soothing. Think a gentle mud mask, that will deep clean but also soothe and hydrate.Suggestions: Antipodes Aura Manuka Honey Mask, Ilcsi Sour Cherry and Blackthorn, Origins Original Skin
  3. A serum. While you are still figuring out what your skin needs in terms of actives, you are best to start with a simple, hydrating, antioxidant serum. Everyone needs hydration and antioxidants will protect your skin from external aggressors (pollution etc).Suggestions: Sukin Super Green Facial Recover Serum, Paula’s Choice Calm Redness Relief Repairing Serum, Jordan Samuel Skin Hydrate, Hylamide Sub Q Anti-Age
  4. A moisturiser. Moisturisers are your defensive layer. They help your skin maintain its barrier function and lock in all the goodness from your serum. Look for something straightforward to start with – you can migrate to separate day and night creams when you have a better feel for what you like. If your skin is on the oilier side of normal go for something hydrating, if it’s drier go for something nourishing.Suggestions: Skinfood New Zealand Moisturiser (Nourishing or Light), Clinique Moisture Surge (regular or Intense), MV Organic Rose Soothing and Protective Moisturiser, Stratia Skin Liquid Gold
  5. An oil. This is an added bonus, especially if you don’t love the feel of moisturisers. Oils are great for balancing the skin and giving an extra hit of moisture, even on oily skin.Suggestions: Trilogy Rosehip Oil or CoQ10 Booster Oil, MV Organic Rose Plus or Jojoba, Sunday Riley Juno, Jordan Samuel Skin Etoile
  6. An SPF. SPF is the single most important step to protect your skin and prevent aging. This may take some trial and error as you are going to want something that will sit well under make-up. Over time you may find your prefer to have SPF in your day moisturiser, instead of a standalone product.Suggestions: Mecca Cosmetica To Save Face, Zelens Daily Defence, Clinique City Block, Kiehls Ultra Facial Moisturiser with SPF

If you want to know more about how to use the different steps in your routine please check out my Skincare 101 series.

2 thoughts on “How to build your first skincare routine

  1. I’m still in search for the perfect cleanser and bought the kiehls cleanser you’re mentioning. BUT it does contain SLS! It’s its second ingredient. I was so disappointed. Didn’t read the ingredients before I bought it. Just wanted to tell you since you’re recommending it…


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