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Cultivating your skin routine

As a skin care enthusiast, there’s nothing better than unwinding after a long day and pampering my skin. And because our skin cells regenerate in the evening, this is prime time to focus on restoring it.

I personally have acne-prone skin after years of teenage pimples. To combat this, my routine focuses on maintaining my skin barrier and treating acne and the hyperpigmentation aftermath. And since I’ve hit my mid-20s, I’ve added preventive anti-aging products to try and avoid premature wrinkles.

For my nighttime skin care, my basic routine looks like this:

  • cleanse
  • treat
  • hydrate
  • moisturize

While I stick to this routine daily, I do switch the products from time to time, depending on how my skin is feeling on that particular day. I also like to keep my routine fun but mindful — read more about this below.

If you’re looking for a bit of skin care inspo, check out my four-step nighttime routine.

To start off, I always make sure that I’m working with a properly cleansed face. Cleansing is very important but often overlooked. Removing all the excess dirt and sebum from our face is crucial for the next step of our skin care routine to absorb and work better. I personally like the idea of double cleansing. Here’s the breakdown:

Oil cleanser

Whenever I’m using any base makeup product — think BB cream, foundation, or concealer — I like to start by removing them with an oil cleanser. I found this step is the easiest and gentlest way to melt off all the base makeup from my face.

I apply the oil cleanser on dry skin while giving it a little massage, and finish by rinsing it off with water. I then move on to the next cleansing step.

My pick: Bonair Blue Smoother cleansing oil

Water-based cleanser

On days where I don’t wear any makeup, I’ll jump right to this step. One thing to remember is that this product should be gentle, shouldn’t irritate your eyes, and shouldn’t leave your skin feeling tight and dry. It should rinse off easily and effectively remove dirt and grime from your skin.

Regardless of whether the cleanser is in gel, foam, or milk form, as long as it’s checked off the above criteria, you’re good to go.

My pick: Dr. G pH cleansing gel foam

I like to apply my serum right after cleansing. This is where I incorporate the “fun but mindful” approach to my skin care routine. Serum is a product with a concentrated amount of focused ingredients to tackle certain skin issues. And there are many varieties to choose from.

While I love trying out the various serums available, being mindful of what my skin really needs is equally as important. I learned this the hard way when I once tried a product that got a lot of hype, rather than paying attention to the ingredients. In the end, it really didn’t agree with my skin.

Be mindful of how your skin reacts to a product, and if the result is bad, that’s when it’s time to say, “thank u, next.”

Here are some of the ingredients that I look for in a serum for each of my skin concerns:

  • Acne: BHA (salicylic acid), AHA (lactic acid, glycolic acid, mandelic acid)
  • Hyperpigmentation: vitamin C, niacinamide, licorice extract, alpha arbutin
  • Anti-aging: retinol, peptide

My picks:

Using toner adds an additional boost of hydration when my skin is feeling dehydrated, especially during winter. Toner is a water-like product that’s formulated with other beneficial ingredients that help to add more hydration to our skin.

It’s usually packed with antioxidants or humectants, which attracts water into our skin. What I like to do is put a generous amount of it into the palm of my hands and gently tap them on my face until it all absorbs.

Whenever I take this step out of my routine, my skin is greasier the next day. This is because when your skin is dehydrated, it stimulates your oil gland to produce more oil to naturally moisturize the skin. When this happens, your risk for acne can increase. Therefore, adding more hydration when your skin needs it can help cut this never-ending cycle.

My pick: Thayers witch hazel toner

Moisturizer helps to lock in all the goodness that you’ve just put on your skin, while ensuring your skin stays hydrated. Not to mention your skin often feels soft and plump directly after applying it.

I like to apply generous amounts of moisturizer that contains a light texture and doesn’t leave any tacky residue. If I’m honest, it’s not easy to find a product that fits my skin. In fact, it took me some time to find one that doesn’t clog my pores or cause me to break out.

My pick: Kiehl’s ultra facial cream

When I have extra time, I like to apply a mask and wash it off between step one and step two, at least once a week. Clay masks and exfoliating masks are my personal favorites.

Simply apply them for 10 to 20 minutes — depending on directions from each product — and then rinse it off with lukewarm water. Not only does this help to make my skin clearer and brighter, it’s incredibly relaxing.

My pick: Glamglow Supermud clearing treatment

After experimenting with different types of products and applying them in different orders, I found that this routine works best for me. That said, I believe that skin care is very personal. At the end of the day, there’s no absolute right or wrong, as long as you enjoy the process and your skin benefits from it.


Claudia is a skin care and skin health enthusiast, educator, and writer. She’s currently pursuing her PhD in dermatology in South Korea and runs a skin care-focused blog so she can share her skin care knowledge with the world. Her hope is for more people to be conscious about what they put on their skin. You can also check out her Instagram for more skin-related articles and ideas.