4 Basic Skin Care Needs



There are tried-and-true ways to properly care for your skin, from the right way to cleanse your face, to the best moisturizers and sunscreens.

How you care for your skin is utterly dependent on the type of skin you have: oily, normal/combination, dry, sensitive or sun-damaged. Find out what skin type you have. Here's a little tip that few people know: most of us have combination skin, which means some of our skin is oily while much of it is dry.

In any case, once you know what skin type you have, taking care of it will be much easier.

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The right ways to cleanse, moisturize and exfoliate your skin

Woman cleansing face.
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The Basic 4-Step Skincare Regimen Step 1: Cleansing

Simple is key here. You need to find a good cleanser that your skin responds well to and stick with it.

You can find a good cleanser at the drugstore. There's no need to spend $40 on a fancy wash. Avoid bar soaps as they tend to dry out the skin. For you organic types, you can cleanse skin with milk or yogurt (who knew?).

Here are some tried-and-true cleansing tips:

  • Be careful not to cleanse too often or you risk over-cleansing and drying out skin. Most experts agree you really only need to wash your face at night to remove makeup and sunscreen, which can clog pores. 
  • In the morning, a splash of lukewarm water is all you need. If you have super oily skin, you can cleanse your skin again in the morning. Never wash your face with hot or cold water (both can cause broken capillaries).
  • Make sure to remove eye makeup with a proper makeup remover. The area around the eye is delicate so don't pull or rub too hard. You can also use olive oil as a natural eye makeup remover.
  • If you have dry skin, consider cold cream like Pond's, or make your own organic cold cream using a simple cold cream recipe. Simply apply the cream, then wipe off, no water needed (if you have hard water, it can be especially harsh on skin).
  • To cleanse skin, most women prefer the water method: Use warm water to loosen dirt and clogged pores. Use a dime-sized bit of cleanser, then rinse with cool or lukewarm water.
  • Skin purists believe tap water is bad for your skin because it contains harsh minerals and additives like fluoride and chlorine.

For detailed tips on cleansing, see How to Wash Your Face Properly.

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Step 2: Exfoliate

Soapy washcloth.
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Exfoliation is the step most people skip in their weekly skincare routine. But if you start properly exfoliating your skin, you will notice an almost immediate difference.

How much you should exfoliate is up for debate. Some women have skin that gets scaly quickly. Others look dewy and fresh with minimal fuss. Dermatologist Dr. Patricia Wexler recommends women exfoliate every day. "This once-a-week thing is nonsense. But, I think you have to know your skin. You should never look red or irritated—you should look better after you scrub."

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Types of Exfoliation

Facial scrub
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This picture here shows a woman using a salt scrub. Can you tell what's wrong with this photo?

Simple: those salt crystals are too big and can tear delicate facial skin. When choosing an exfoliation method, remember you want to treat your skin gently. Micro-tears are not good for the skin. Salt scrubs are indeed popular but choose tiny crystals like the ones in a basic table salt. 

Here are your typical exfoliation options:

A facial scrub

You can buy a great scrub or make your own. Try out a recipe using brown sugar and coconut oil in Make a Face & Body Scrub.

A washcloth

Put a dab of cleanser and a sprinkle of white refined sugar on a damp washcloth and massage skin in a circular motion. After a quick rinse, any sign of dead skin is erased. If you have dry skin, try extra virgin coconut oil.


Done at home or at a doctor's office, microdermabrasion uses an instrument that gently "sands" your face to remove old, dead skin cells and reveal skin's fresh, more radiant layer. 

Chemical peels

In the hour it takes to get a chemical peel, you can take a year from your face. Can't afford the price tag for a monthly peel? Try some over-the-counter peels that work over the course of a month, like Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Alpha Beta Peel.


Retinoids (such as Retin-A or the more moisturizing Renova) also work by removing the top layer of dead skin cells while also generating collagen in the skin. "Collagen is the skin's structural fiber," dermatologist Dennis Gross said in O Magazine. "As we get older, it breaks down, creating lines and large pores." Skincare experts disagree on all sorts of things, but most of them consider retinoids to be a miracle skin saver.

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Step 3: Moisturize

Woman applying moisturizer to her face
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A basic rule of beauty is that if you have dry skin, you should invest in a good moisturizer.

So how much should you moisturize? Your skin will tell you. When your skin is tight or flaky, it's crying out for moisture. Be careful not to over-moisturize—this can clog pores.

For you natural girls, nothing beats a good oil for your skin. You can use extra virgin coconut oil, olive oil, sweet almond oil or jojoba oil. Learn more in Beauty Uses for Everyday Kitchen Items.

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Step 4: Apply Sunscreen

Woman applying Suntan Lotion at the beach
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The #1 cause of wrinkles is sun damage, so it's important to use a sunscreen of at least 30 SPF from your early years on, even in winter and on cloudy days. A great trick is to purchase two moisturizers: one for the night and one for the day that includes UV protection. Don't use moisturizers with sunscreen at night, the ingredients are not meant to be used 24/7 and can aggravate skin. When choosing a sunscreen, make sure it contains Mexoryl.

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Should You Use a Toner?

Do you need toner?
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Many beauty experts say you don't need them because toners are meant to remove all remaining traces of oil, makeup, and dirt, and a good cleanser should do this. That said, toners of today are not your mother's toners of a couple decades ago. They are much more gentle, full of antioxidants and skin brighteners and can make even the driest skin look vibrant.

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Are Eye Creams Necessary?

Are eye creams necessary?
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The answer is: Maybe. Some beauty experts strongly recommend eye creams. Why? The skin around the eye contains no fatty tissue and is therefore very thin and susceptible to wrinkles. Special eye creams are formulated to "thicken" this area. Yet other experts claim your daily lotion works around the eyes just as well.