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How to Build a Routine For Your Skin Type From Scratch

Want to build a skin care routine but don’t know where to start? Follow our guide to get going with a three-step regimen based on your skin type.

For the skin care-obsessed like myself, building an elaborate, multi-faceted routine can come as second nature. For the skin care novices out there, the idea of just a three-step regimen can be daunting. If you find yourself in the latter camp, we’re here to help you build your routine from the ground up.

Before we jump into product recommendations, let’s identify your skin type. This information is key to determining what formulas are best suited for your skin concerns and needs.

There are four primary skin types: Dry, oily, combination, and normal. If your face often feels tight and never quite quenched and you experience flaking skin, you have dry skin. If you often look shiny, have blackheads, or are generally acneic, you likely have oily skin. If one part of your face, for example your cheeks, is often dry but another, for example your T-zone, is oily, then you have combination skin. And if your skin is agreeable to most products, and you only experience dryness or oiliness due to environmental factors, you likely have normal skin. For more in-depth explanations of each skin type, click here

RELATED: The Most Common Questions About the 10-Step Korean Skin Care Routine – Answered!

Once you have your skin type figured out, it’s time to build the basis of a routine. We suggest starting with the three most essential products: A cleanser, a moisturizer, and a sunscreen. 

A three-step routine for…dry skin:

With dry skin, it’s all about hydration, hydration, hydration. For a cleanser, you’re going to want one that’s gentle and non-stripping. Oil cleansers, which remove makeup, sunscreen, and excess sebum, are great for all skin types (yes, even oily!), but dry skin can specifically benefit from all of that added nourishment. If you’re not yet ready to branch out into the double cleanse method (which involves using an oil cleanser followed by a water-based cleanser to remove impurities like dirt and sweat), start with a two-in-one like the Mamonde Petal Spa Oil to Foam Cleanser

For a moisturizer, you’re going to want something that is not only hydrating, but will protect your skin’s moisture barrier. Look for a cream that contains a mix of humectants and ceramides, emollients, or occlusives (or all of the above) to replenish moisture and lock it in like the COSRX Honey Ceramide Full Moisture Cream. The honey (serves as a humectant) and ceramides pave the way for calm and relaxed skin, so if you happen to be redness prone, you’ve also got that covered.

Last but certainly not least – SPF. Dry skin can be more prone to premature aging, making wearing sunscreen every day all the more vital. We love the Tony Moly My Sunny Watery Essence. The essence woven into the formula adds a nourishing and hydrating element, so not only are you getting UVA/UVB protection, but you’re also getting an added moisture boost.

A three-step routine for…oily skin:

To my oily skinned soldiers out there, I salute you. Having oily skin myself, I know how frustrating that seemingly permanent sheen of grease can be. Double cleansing has helped me a ton (read about my journey here) in keeping sebum under control. A great multi-tasker is the Neogen Real Fresh Green Tea Cleansing Stick. It breaks down makeup, SPF, cleans pores, and lightly exfoliates. Plus, green tea is a hero ingredient for those suffering with acne as it is anti-inflammatory and helps to calm breakouts. 

If you’re reading this and thinking, “I don’t have to moisturize because my skin produces so much oil,” we respectfully disagree. When skin is dehydrated, it over-produces oil to compensate. In order to bring your skin to equilibrium, hydration is key. Just look for a lightweight cream or serum that also has some calming properties to help reduce the appearance of inflamed and red spots like the Klairs Midnight Blue Calming Cream.

SPF is a commonly dreaded step amongst the oily, but once you find the right one, you won’t look back. A popular formula is the Missha All Around Safe Block Sebum Zero Sun. Green tea and tea tree extracts gently and naturally mattify and calm the skin – are you seeing the common thread here?

A three-step routine for…combination skin:

Taming combination skin is all about balance. For a cleanser that helps with both oily and dry skin and removes all types of impurities, try the Neogen Real Cica Micellar Cleansing Oil. It’s gentle, but effective, which is everything you need in a cleanser.

A thick cream may br too heavy for you, but a serum may be too light. A gel cream, however? Just right. The Tony Moly Chok Chok Green Tea Watery Cream is perfect for combo skin, as it offers lightweight hydration, doesn’t sit on skin, and contains antioxidants to protect against environmental damage, and antibacterial ingredients like lemon seed oil to combat breakouts. 

For an SPF, you’re going to want something that absorbs quickly. The Thank You Farmer is a great product to start with, as it moisturizes and helps reduce the appearance of pores, without leaving a white cast or a greasy finish. 

And if you have normal skin?

Lucky you! We recommend piecing together a routine from the products suggested above depending on your current skin concerns.

Next Steps

Ready to take your routine to the next level? Instead of diving straight into the 10-step, we recommend easing into it slowly by choosing one or two more types of products to introduce. To better target your skin concerns, consider adding in an exfoliator and a treatment product like a serum. 

Exfoliating is an incredibly important step amongst skin care junkies, and one that even beginners should get into. Exfoliants help to lift dead skin cells off of the surface of your skin to de-clog and decongest any breakout or blackheads, sweep dry, dead skin off the surface, and to brighten and even out the complexion. If you have sensitive skin, look for PHAs or low percentage lactic or mandelic acids. A more aggressive exfoliant such as glycolic acid or a retinol are great options for those that can handle a little more. 

And then serums act as targeted reinforcement when addressing specific skin concerns, so adding one of these in can be the key to achieving your skin goals. Dry skin types might look for hydrating formula, while oily skin types might need a formula that tackles acne scars. There are truly so many options to choose from

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