A Basic 4-Step Skin Routine for Your Everyday Enjoyment

The world of skincare products is a confusing one, full of big money and lack of FDA regulations (cosmetics are some of the least regulated product on the market). It's easy to be tricked into buying a ton of products for your skin that you don't actually need. In order to simplify and streamline everyone's lives during this time of pre-holiday chaos, here's a refresher course on the stripped-down elements of a solid everyday skincare routine. Are you playing by these rules?

1. Cleanse, but gently

Your skin is designed to be a barrier, and it naturally produces protective oils. I know we all hate on anything oily, but your skin's sebum is actually highly beneficial, as long as it's under control. Harsh cleansers, over-exfoliating, and scalding water all take their toll on your skin eventually, stripping away the sebum and potentially irritating your skin.

At nighttime, use a mild cleanser like Cetaphil (the dermatologist favorite), or a purifying oil-based cleanser (I just got this great cleansing oil from Aster & Bay). A soft washcloth should provide all the exfoliation you need. If you cleanse well at night, just splash your face with cool water in the morning — it's what Salma Hayek does.

2. Use a day lotion with SPF

This is one of the most important and basic steps you can take for your skin. Find a day lotion that includes SPF; you won't have to remember the additional step of facial sunscreen every time you step outside. I use Sanre Organics Shaded Rose, which is one of the safest and most effective, according to Environmental Working Group. EWG has a great list of other safe facial sunscreen + moisturizers.

3. Moisturize at night according to skin type

If your day lotion protects you from the sun and other general irritants, your night lotion comes at a time when just-cleansed skin is more receptive to absorbing products, and you've got several hours of deep sleep ahead of you during which your skin will be busy repairing itself. Find a night lotion that gives your skin a leg up. Dry skin will love a rich oil-based moisturizer, sensitive skin can stick to something basic like pure jojoba oil, and oily skin will want a lighter cream. Let your skin dictate your purchases.

4. Minimize your vices

You might not want to hear this, but here goes: cigarettes will wreck your skin. Alcohol is dehydrating. Stress is bad for your skin. Sugar is bad for your skin. I'm not saying you should live a monk-like existence, obsessed with achieving skin that never wrinkles, but if you're worried about your skin, lifestyle changes — like quitting smoking, or eating dark chocolate instead of gummy worms — can be the most powerful part of your skincare routine.

But good news: It's looking like the whole thing about coffee being dehydrating is just a myth, so enjoy that cafe au lait! Did you apply your day moisturizer with SPF yet? Good, just checking.

Image: Claire P./flickr