You may have stumbled across stories about 14-step Korean skincare routines that leave you feeling totally overwhelmed and feeling like you're doing everything wrong. A skincare routine doesn't need a million steps to be effective. It should be personalized to your needs, and there's a good chance you don't need a ton of products to have the best skin ever.
Here are the five steps you should have in your skincare routine. From here, you can add in products to address issues specific to your skin, but you don't need to go crazy. Here are the basics:
Your cleanser needs to clean makeup completely from your face while also removing oils and other nasty stuff. But it shouldn't be too harsh.
We're a fan of double cleansing, which is first using an oil-based cleanser to remove makeup, followed by a foaming cleanser to clean pores.
Most people don't understand what toner does, so they tend to skip it. Toner's main job is bringing your skin back into balance after it's been cleansed. Modern toner shouldn't feel like it's burning your skin off (remember those awful toners from the 90s that felt like they were setting your skin on fire? That's not what this is.), but it should leave your skin feeling slightly moisturized to prepare it for more hydration in later steps.
If you think this is where the essence should go, you're right. But serums and essences take on different meanings, depending on if you're living in the West or the East. Really, this step should be your most deeply penetrating, highly concentrated product.
An emulsion is an important barrier between the serum and heavier cream. This is an especially important step for those of us with very dry skin. Emulsions are also great for people with combination skin, as they won't add unnecessary oil to the oilier parts of your face.
A cream is a heavier product that sits on the surface of the skin. It's perfect for encapsulating the emulsion and serum to prevent them from evaporating and to push them deeper into the skin. A good night cream is great for hydrating the top layer of your skin.