The key to clean skin? Clean skincare! Just like the rest of your body, your skin will look and feel better if you nurture it with vitamins and minerals and avoid harsh ingredients. Here’s how to get started with this complete guide to clean skincare!
What Is “Clean” Skincare?
While there’s no official definition for clean skincare, it usually refers to products made without sulfates, parabens, phthalates, and artificial fragrances.
Sulfates are known for drying out your skin because they strip the oil from your skin. That breaks down your skin’s natural protective barrier, leaving it exposed to dirt, germs, and the environment.
Phthalates are endocrine disruptors, meaning they can interfere with your body’s natural hormone production. While there are only trace amounts in most skincare products, it adds up over time.
Artificial fragrances, while not toxic by nature, are the leading cause of allergic reactions to skincare products. If you’ve ever used a new cream or serum and broken out in hives, chances are artificial fragrances are to blame.
Clean skincare uses more natural ingredients and works with your skin’s natural chemistry instead of against it.
Other Skincare Trends & Ingredients to Avoid
If you want to heal your skin using clean skincare, you should also avoid these skincare trends.
Peel-off masks, while fun to do, can be incredibly harmful to your skin. Some can even remove the top layer of skin from your face, leaving your more sensitive layers of skin exposed to sun and other irritants.
Harsh exfoliants can create similar issues. Ingredients like sugar, salt, apricot, and walnut can leave microscopic scratches on your skin, leaving you exposed to bacteria and breakouts.
Essential oils can be great when used in moderation as an ingredient of a scientifically-crafted formula. On their own, though, they’re way too strong for your skin. Never apply pure essential oils to your face. Better yet, leave the essential oils to the pros!
DIY spa treatments, like microneedling or injections, are a big no no. Seriously, leave that stuff to the estheticians!
When it comes to clean skincare, simple is better! Anything overly complicated is unnecessary, and it might do more harm than good. I love following celebrity esthetician Joanna Czech or Dr. Emi if you’re a German speaker for skin care tips.
Build Your Complete Clean Skincare Routine (With My Favorite Products!)
Personally, I like to keep my skincare routine simple with a few go-to products. These are a few of my favorites, but feel free to add or subtract steps to create your perfect routine!
Note: I have dry/normal skin that’s a little sensitive and these products and routine work great for me.
STEP 1: Cleanser
I only use a cleanser at night and simply splash my face with water in the morning. Skipping cleanser in the morning protects your skin from washing away your natural oils and moisture. Stripping your skin of those oils and moisture too often can cause holes in your skin barrier, leaving it dry and unstable. Only those that wake up with an oily T-zone should wash their face in the morning also. I like this oil to milk cleanser from cocokind. Gel-based cleansers are also great for those with sensitive skin.
STEP 2: Toner
For extra clean skin, follow up with a toner. It will help remove dirt deep in your pores, including dead skin from your pillow or sheets. I love this toner from REN to hydrate and help with a dull and uneven complexion.
STEP 3: Serum
Serums are basically high concentrations of vitamins, minerals, and other beneficial ingredients your skin loves. For mornings, I use a Vitamin C serum (brightens skin) and hyaluronic acid (locks in moisture). My favorite Vitamin C serum is this Radiance Vitamin C serum from REN skin care.
Vitamin C is best applied in the mornings because of its antioxidant properties. Make sure you combine it with SPF to fully protect your skin!
This Drunk Elephant B-Hydra Hyaluronid Acid Serum is super hydrating and improves the look of skin tone and texture, and plumps up your skin.
STEP 4: Eye Cream
There’s two eye creams I really like to help hydrate and smooth fine lines. This Collagen Recovery Eye Cream and Wake Up Beautiful Retinoid Eye Cream from Pacifica.
STEP 5: Moisturizer
I LOVE this Dream Youth Day And Night Face Cream by Pacifica. It feels super smooth on my skin and smells divine.
STEP 6: SPF
Can’t forget the SPF! Sunscreen should always be the last step of your morning skincare routine. I’m a big fan of this sunscreen formula from cocokind or this Unseen Sunscreen from Goop because they don’t smell like typical sunscreen and sits really well under my makeup. Goop also has a whole skin care line with different products all including SPF.
How much SPF should I use?
Most of us only use 20-25% of the recommended amount of sunscreen. To help you figure out how much is enough, squeeze SPF 30 sunscreen on the length of your index and middle fingers. This is the right amount you should use on your face alone.
Even if you spend most of your time indoors or in the shade, 50% of damaging UV rays still make their way into the shade (more if you’re sitting inside, but in the sun).
STEP 1: Cleanser
After a day of wearing makeup, walking around town, and working out, my skin is practically begging for a deep clean. I’m a big fan of double cleansing and use this gentle and clean oil to milk cleanser from cocokind, also available at Ulta and Target.
What is double cleansing?
Double cleansing allows you to give your skin a more thorough cleanse, revitalize dull skin and allow your other skin care products to penetrate more effectively.
Double cleansing basically means using an oil-based cleanser first to remove oil-based impurities like makeup, sunscreen and pollution, followed by a water-based cleanser to really work its way into the skin and remove the rest of grime and sweat.
STEP 2: Toner
If you wear makeup, toner is a must-have in your PM skincare routine. I usually use the same toner morning and night, like this toner from REN to hydrate and help with a dull and uneven complexion.
STEP 3: Serum
For night time, I switch my Vitamin C serum with a Retinol one. If you’re new to Retinol, start by adding it to your routine for 2-3 nights per week and supplement with hyaluronic acid (I use this one) on the other nights. Retinol helps fight signs of aging and I love this Squalene + Phyto-Retinol Serum by Biossance.
Note: Retinol makes your skin more sensitive to UV rays and sunlight decreases the efficacy of Retinol, so it’s super important you use sunscreen the next day.
STEP 4: Eye Cream
The best cure for puffy, red eyes in the morning is prevention the night before! There’s two eye creams I really like to help hydrate and smooth fine lines: this Collagen Recovery Eye Cream and Wake Up Beautiful Retinoid Eye Cream from Pacifica.
STEP 5: Moisturizer
I don’t always use separate moisturizers for day and night but this Lala Retro Whipped Cream from Drunk Elephant is heavenly and the perfect moisture level and consistency for great regenerating sleep.
STEP 4: Face Oil
I don’t always use face oil but when I want to lock in my moisturizer with an extra layer and plan to give myself a facial massage or use my gua sha stone (here’s directions on how to try gua sha yourself), I slather on this Virgin Marula oil from Drunk Elephant.
What order should my skin care go in?
An easy rule of thumb to follow is to apply your products with the thinnest consistency to thickest, or from liquid to cream. This ensures your skin gets the full benefits of each product.
Another important note: Wait a few minutes between each step for your skin care to fully absorb. After applying your Vitamin C serum, wait 2-3 minutes. After applying Retinol, wait 10 minutes. Don’t apply serum when your face is still damp from toner you used in the previous step. Similarly, don’t head to bed immediately after applying your night cream and give it some time to sink in first.
Extra Treatments & Products
Every once in a while, my skin needs a little extra TLC. These are some of my favorite “special occasion” treatments.
Chemical peels are great for sensitive skin and I swear by the Drunk Elephant Babyfacial – worth the hype!
If you want to go more heavy duty, I love getting a microdermabrasion facial because it removes up to 40 (!!) skin layers you don’t even need (comprised of pollution, dead skin cells etc.), allowing your skin care to penetrate more deeply as otherwise up to 50% of your skin care is wasted on dead skin cells before reaching your actual skin.
There’s nothing more relaxing to me than putting on a face mask and relaxing while it soaks in. I’m not a huge fan of sheet masks, so I tend to lean towards formulas that come in a tub like this from Herbivore. Every time I use this mask, I swear I can see the difference the very next day! Some other great options are this White Algae Mask from Osea, Clay Detox Mask with Salicylic Acid from Fenty Beauty and this Clay Mask Exfoliating Pore Treatment from Tatcha.
Gua sha (or skin scraping) is a regular part of my skincare routine. I use either a scraper or a jade roller. Pop it in the fridge for extra depuffing and a super relaxing cooling sensation. If you don’t want to invest, you can also achieve great results using your hands only (but consistency is key). I really like following Sophie Perry’s face workouts.
Start Your Clean Skincare Collection
Start with a single product, and replace what you use now with clean products as you run out. You’ll be surprised how much better your skin looks and feels!
Skincare Isn’t Just Skin-Deep
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