• Project Adulthood

How to Build a Skincare Routine as an Adult

Good skincare is an essential part of adulting. Although everyone’s skin is different, there are some skincare basics that everyone can and should follow.

Step 1: Cleanse

Purpose: Remove makeup, oil, pollutants, dead skin cells, and sweat.

Frequency: Twice a day (morning and evening) or once a day (if you have dry skin, splashing some water on your face in the morning should suffice).

What to know: Avoid washing your face with body soaps or body cleansers. They’re typically too harsh and can strip your face of natural hydrators. Instead, go for cleansers with minimal ingredients and are fragrance-free (for example, CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleanser).

Step 2. Moisturize

Purpose: Prevent dryness AND oiliness, soften the skin, and reduce the appearance of blemishes like acne scars and fine lines.

Frequency: Twice a day, even if you have oily or acne-prone skin.

What to know: While moisturizer probably won’t make your skin look younger, it will make it look healthier.

Step 3. Apply sunscreen

Purpose: Prevent cancer.

Frequency: According to dermatologists, you should put on sunscreen about 30 minutes before going outside and reapply it every two hours (or when it comes off, like when you go for a swim). Some dermatologists say you should even wear sunscreen inside, especially if you sit near a window or in front of a computer.

What to know: Sunscreen is especially important if your skincare routine includes retinoids, AHAs, benzoyl peroxide, or if you are on medication that may cause photosensitivity.

Optional Steps

It's essential to get the basics right before you introduce new products into your skincare routine. Note that it might take a while -- up to several months -- before you start to see any results from implementing a skincare routine.

Make sure you patch test products before you start to use them, even if you don't think you're sensitive/allergic to anything. Also, it's best to introduce just one product at a time and use it for a few months to better gauge your skin's reaction to it before switching (unless you experience an allergic reaction/your skin is irritated, in which case, you should stop using the product immediately).


Exfoliators remove dead skin cells, increase cell turnover, boost circulation and lymphatic drainage, fade acne scars, brighten your complexion, and help other skincare products penetrate deeper into your skin. There are two types of exfoliants: chemical (acids) and physical (scrubs, brushes, and procedures like dermabrasion -- those with sensitive skin should stay away from these).

Apply a serum

Serums are lightweight formulations that target specific skin concerns and should be applied before a moisturizer. However, before you buy a serum, you should have a good idea of what skin issues you want to target.

Put on a face mask Like serums, face masks can help with specific skin concerns, like acne, dark spots, dry or oily skin, etc. From sheet masks to creams and gels, there are many different types of face masks to choose from. Healthline has an article detailing how to apply each type of face mask. Apply a toner Toners remove oil and dirt. However, the verdict is still out on whether toners are necessary. Apply eye cream Eye cream hydrates and brightens the delicate area under your eyes. Again, whether or not eye creams are actually useful depends on who you ask. Tip: r/SkincareAddiction has a guide on how to expand your skincare routine.

If you're only going to do one thing

Wear sunscreen. Not only does sunscreen protect us against cancer and sunburn, but studies show that it can reverse aging.

Go for a sunscreen with 30 or higher SPF and don't forget to apply it on your neck, back of the ears, and your hands and feet.

By the way, lip cancer is a thing (and is especially common among men), so make sure you also wear a lip balm or sunscreen meant specifically for lips with an SPF of 15 or higher.

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