Skincare 101: An Simple Guide for Beginners

some product ideas to kickstart your skincare 101 journey

This article is for anyone needing a Skincare 101 crash course. Are you just dipping your toes into a skincare routine? Wondering which products you need, and which you can pass on? If you’re new to the world of skincare, it is without a doubt overwhelming. Just try searching for “cleansers”, and there are an absurd amount of products available. They’re categorized by skin type, formulation, whether they’re first-cleanse or second cleanse … and it’s the same story for every category. Hydrating serums abound. There are pages and pages of moisturizers on Sephora. New products are being released every day, often to great hype, only adding to the confusion. So how does someone know where to begin?

I’m going to let you in on a little secret. No one needs a ten-step routine replete with sheet masks, serums, and fancy toners and moisturizers. It’s fun, for sure. You won’t catch me giving up my extensive collection any time soon. But all that matters is having a simple, effective skincare routine you can do morning and night. This routine would incorporate the following three products (yes, only three!):

-at least one solid cleanser you can use morning or night (preferably two, so you can double cleanse)

-a moisturizer suited to your skin type

-a sunscreen of at least SPF 30 for the daytime

Step 1: Cleansing

The first step in skincare 101 is this: start with a clean face! Cleansing your skin allows you to remove all the impurities it has collected over the day. It keeps your pores clean (making them look smaller), reduces the causes of some acne (like whiteheads and blackheads), and preps your skin for the rest of your routine. Finding a cleanser that works for your skin is critical.

For normal or oily skin types, I recommend looking for a cleanser that isn’t super rich but will still be effective at removing any dirt or impurities. Some of my favorites are the Youth to the People Superfood Cleanser (read my review here!), the Fresh Beauty Soy Cleanser (the only cleanser that removes my eye makeup) and Indie Lee’s Brightening Cleanser.

For drier skin types, I would recommend either the Kate Somerville Goat Milk Cleanser or the Holi Frog Tashmoo Milky Wash. Both are super nourishing and won’t dry out your skin.

A single cleanse is a good place to start. However, if you want to get a little fancy I would look at trying a double cleanse in the evening. Double cleansing means starting with an oil or balm cleanser and finish with a gel or foam cleanser (like the ones listed above).

The first cleanse gets rid of oil-based impurities (such as makeup or sunscreen, which you MUST wear – the makeup is up to you!). The second cleanse washes away anything left. My all time favorite second cleanse is the Deviant cleansing concentrate. Safe for sensitive and acne prone skin, it effectively removes all of my sunscreen, makeup and oil/dirt from the day. Read my review of this holy grail product here!

If you want to try double-cleansing but are looking for something a little more budget-friendly, this Oat Cleansing Balm from the Inkey List has gotten rave reviews (and is frequently sold out in Sephora!)

So now that your face is clean, what next?

Step 2: Moisturize

A moisturizer is the second vital step in your routine. It seals everything in and keeps your skin hydrated for the day. Even if you have oily skin, you can still find a moisturizer that will work for you.

If you have normal to oily skin and are looking for a lightweight option, the Youth to the People Superfood Airwhip Moisture Cream is fantastic. It’s sufficiently hydrating, yet won’t clog your pores.

If your skin is on the drier side, you can’t go wrong with Youth to the People’s other moisturizer: the Adaptogen Deep Moisture cream. Packed with adaptogens – powerful ingredient that helps fight the effects of stress and fatigue – this cream will deeply hydrate your skin and soothe any irritation you’re experiencing.

There are also some amazing budget-friendly moisturizers out there as well, such as Tarte’s H20 Hydraboost Moisturizer or the Inkey List’s Multi-Biotic Balancing Moisturizer.


Sunscreen is so so so SO important! No amount of anti-aging products will work for you the way spf does. It is critical to protect our skin from the sun’s harsh rays. Not only does it prevent skin cancer, but it will help keep you looking younger for longer. This is the most critical part of this crash-course Skincare 101 guide. If you don’t use sunscreen, you are honestly wasting your money on the rest of your skincare.

My favorite sunscreen currently is Love Kinship’s Self Reflect Mineral Sunscreen with SPF 32. “With a zinc oxide concentration of 22.4%, this sunscreen takes its blocking duties very seriously. It’s loaded with turmeric to soothe skin and protect from future damage and is full of kinbiome, a plant-based probiotic that supports clear skin.” It’s also extremely budget friendly and works well on all skin tones.

Some other great sunscreen brands to check out are Elta MD and Supergoop.

Skincare 102: How to Level Up

If you’ve got skincare 101 down, you can take your skincare routine a step further. Below are some extras you can incorporate to address particular skincare concerns.


Removing dead skin cells is critical to achieving that healthy glow. An exfoliator will help slough off that rough skin.

There are two types of facial exfoliators. A physical scrub, like the Fresh Beauty Sugar Strawberry Scrub gives you that gritty texture and can be nice to use, but if not careful can cause micro tears. I like these when I need a quick result and want to smooth out my skin’s appearance.

The second type are chemical exfoliants, like the Allies of Skin Mandelic Acid Night Serum or Paula’s Choice Azaelic Acid. These are left on and often gives more long-term results; But you have to be diligent about sunscreen!


Masks are my favorite part of my routine. They’re enjoyable to put on, a great way to practice self-care, and can help with certain skincare concerns. Read about my favorite masks from Fresh Beauty here and my favorites from Sand & Sky here.


Serums are one of the best way to target particular skincare concerns. There are so many amazing options that would be impossible to address adequately here (but I’ll get into serums specifically in another blog post!) You can find one for every skin type and problem: hydration, exfoliation, pigmentation, texture, etc.

Facial Mists & Toners

Mists are a fun extra step to refresh during the day or keep your skin damp during steps in your routine. I love the Tower Beauty 28 SOS Mist and the Youth to the People Adaptogen mist.

Eye Cream

This is the extra-est step of all extras, but it’s fun! Check out this article I wrote for Lindsay Silbermann’s blog all about great eye creams containing retinol for ideas. Another option I love is the Indie Lee eye gel.

Final Thoughts

Is it fun to pile on the masks? To test new products? To take 45 minutes to do my routine some nights? Yes, yes, and oh most definitely yes. Skincare is my way to relax, take time for myself, and truly take stock of where I am. It’s my creative outlet and a form of therapy. But if I needed to, for whatever reason, I could go back to basics and my skin would be fine. If you’re looking for a place to start, this is it: create a 3-4 step basic routine that you do consistently. Your skin will thank you. Then you can start adding in all the fun extras 🙂

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