For many of us, our extensive skin-care regimens are established out of need. Whether it's acne or rosacea, eczema or premature signs of aging, most of our routines are built specifically to fend off whatever our personal skin hang-ups may be. But if your skin’s always pretty much fine — normal, even — then what’s the impetus for you to invest time and money in a thoughtful regimen? After all, if it ain’t broke…
But that doesn't mean you're exempt from the importance of having at least a few good skin-care products that work for you. A good regimen is part maintenance, part insurance: keeping what you have in check, and ensuring your good-skin streak lasts as long as possible. And most people will tell you that the three pillars of an effective routine are cleansing, exfoliating, and protecting.
So first, cleansing. Double-cleansing might sound like overkill, but if you live in a city or wear makeup daily, it's actually a necessity. Taking your makeup off is just the beginning; if your cleanse stops there, you leave untold amounts of bacteria, grime, and residue lurking in your pores. A good makeup remover doesn't have to be expensive — micellar waters, like the classic Bioderma formula, make light work of even waterproof makeup. And then on to your second cleanse, which removes any last trace of makeup as well as general day-to-day dirt. Sure, your face may not look dirty, but the accumulation of even microscopic particles of buildup and grime can still make your skin as congested as L.A. at rush hour. Gel cleansers are great all-rounders suitable for most skin types.
Then, onward to exfoliation. Your skin has a natural exfoliation cycle that it goes through every day, where dead cells slough off and fresh new ones come through, but makeup and SPF can get in the way of this, so make sure you expedite the process with an exfoliant a couple times a week. The jury’s out on whether physical exfoliants like scrubs are better than chemical, like lactic or glycolic acid, and there are compelling arguments on either side. Try rotating between the two for the best of both worlds, but be careful not to overdo it.
The next part is the most important, so pay close attention. Protection takes a lot of forms — primarily, SPF and a good antioxidant. UV damage is the silent killer when it comes to your skin health, and while you do get more sun in the warmer months, you need to wear sunscreen all day, every day, regardless of weather. The sun's rays can even penetrate glass, so if you sit near a window or drive a lot, you'll be getting exposure without setting foot outdoors.
Antioxidants are your best friend when it comes to fighting the free-radical damage that pollution brings. Free radicals are nasty little suckers that go around attacking cells in your body and causing oxidative stress. Your body is pretty good at fighting them off using antioxidants of your own, but over time, you get less good at it, and modern-day pollution is sky-high. Vitamin C, in addition to being a powerful antioxidant, is supremely brightening on the skin and has numerous side benefits, making it a winner all-around.
Then you'll definitely need a hydrating booster, to be worn under your sunscreen every day. And these are truly the basics — the skin-care adventure doesn't stop here, so add whatever you see fit. Try some niacinamide in the evening if you're in pursuit of smaller pores, and you'll definitely want to add a retinoid at some point.
The thing is, skin care shouldn't be a chore, no matter your skin type. For some, a 10-step regimen of toners, essences, serums, and lotions is the perfect day to wind down before bed; for others, it's as much fun as filing your tax return. Find a happy medium in terms of effort and cost that works for you, and make sure you cover all the bases, and your "normal" skin will be better than fine.