How Many Pieces Do You Need in Your Skin Care Wardrobe?

Happy August! The summer has flown by and many of my clients are sending the kids back to school, or going back to school themselves. I love this time of year, because it's a great time to reconnect with best practices, new routines and old routines too. With that in mind, I thought this might be a good time to address a common question that comes up when building your skin care routine.

Many clients want to know how many steps are necessary, how to choose the right products and what order to use them. Don't worry. Today we're going to do a little refresher and get you all ready to build or re-build your skin care routine, just in time for fall.

Autumn is also an apt analogy here, because just like we pick out new school clothes and re-vamp our wardrobe in the fall, we're going to take the idea of a skin care wardrobe and run with it a little here.

Image courtesy of Intelligent Elixirs

So how many pieces do you need?

There are many ways we can approach this dilemma, but what it really comes down to is preference. How many steps do you want to do? How many steps will you realistically be able to do on a consistent basis? Whatever that number is, is how many steps you should have in your routine. Just as everyone's closet looks different depending on their lifestyle, your skin care works the same way.

There's no such thing as a wrong number of steps. That said, as a ballpark range of what I like to see clients using, I'd say anywhere from 3 to 10 products. For the sake of example, let's look at what that might look like in three different wardrobe scenarios.

#1 - Simple & Chic (3-5 Products) - For someone who is on-the-go or on a budget. As long as you have healthy skin and don't like a lot of fuss, 3-5 products is enough to create a solid, holistic routine. When you know what works for your skin, there is nothing wrong with repeating the same classics again and again.

#2 - Accessorized (5-7 Products) - It's a good idea to have a skin care routine that you can dress up or dress down. Some staples like moisturizer, SPF and cleanser you'll want to keep consistent but then from there, you can really customize your "wardrobe" with corrective serums, toners and oils.

#3 - Dressed to the Nines (7+ Products) - Never without a full-face of skin care. Your wardrobe might consist of multiple cleansers, masks and maybe even a plethora of eye creams that you're not afraid to mix, match and layer. Because you've gotta have options right?

For me personally, I feel like five products is about the perfect number for your daily staple routine, but from there, you can build on other products as needed - weekly exfoliation or a monthly mask for example. I don't necessarily count products like eye cream and lip balm as "steps" in the routine though they can and should be included as you progress in your skin care journey. Think of those as your accessories.

Why five steps? Because it's enough to cover all your bases but not overwhelm your skin, especially if you are doing skin care twice per day. It's a clean, effective and efficient number, while still being very customizable and interchangeable. And something even better? It should take no more than five minutes to apply.

I will also note that the products and steps used in your routine may vary from AM to PM. So when I talk about the number of steps, understand that I am talking about how many pieces per routine (or outfit if you will.) Not the number of pieces in your overall product wardrobe. Which leads us to the next question...

Should I do skin care in the morning or at night or both?

Much like my answer to "how many pieces?" this part is up to you, your schedule and your preferences. When do you want to do your skin care? When will you realistically make time to do it. If you shower every morning before work, that might be the perfect time for you. Or maybe you like to unwind with skin care as a night time ritual. Neither is wrong and you can certainly do both. It's whatever works best for you.

The key is knowing what time of day works for you. From there, you want to choose

smart steps and the best products to make the most of your time. You many need more products for the AM than PM or vice versa. Just like clothing, you may need different pieces for day vs. night, or you can keep it simple and follow the same routine twice daily.

For now: here are some examples of AM and PM routines to show you just how endless the combinations are.

Simple & Chic

Routine #1:

AM - Gel Cleanser, Toner, SPF

PM - Gel Cleanser, Hydrating Serum, Moisturizer

Routine #2:

AM - Gel Cleanser, Toner, Moisturizer, SPF

PM - Creamy Cleanser, Toner, Hydrating Serum, Moisturizer


Routine #1:

AM - Gel Cleanser, Toner, Vitamin C Serum, Hydrating Serum, Moisturizer, SPF

PM - Oil Cleanser, Cream Cleanser, Toner, Eye Cream, Retinol Serum, Moisturizer

Routine #2: AM - Gel Cleanser, Exfoliating Scrub, Vitamin C Serum, Hydrating Serum, Moisturizer, Eye Cream, SPF

PM - Cream Cleanser, Toner, Hydrating Serum, Antioxidant Serum, Lip Balm, Moisturizer, Facial Oil

Dressed to the Nines

Routine #1:

AM - Gel Cleanser, Creamy Cleanser, Exfoliating Peel Pad, Toner, Vitamin C Serum, Hydrating Serum, Eye Cream, Moisturizer, Lip Balm

PM - Face Wipe, Creamy Cleanser, Toner, Hydrating Serum, Antioxidant Serum, Hydrating Mask, Facial Oil, Moisturizer, Eye Cream, Lip Balm

Routine #2:

AM - Oil Cleanser, Creamy Cleanser, Face Scrub, Toner, Vitamin C Serum, Antioxidant Serum, Eye Cream, Moisturizer, SPF

PM - Gel Cleanser, Exfoliating Wipe, Toner, Hydrating Serum, Sheet Mask, Antioxidant Serum, Retinol, Moisturizer, Eye Cream, Lip Balm

How much product should I use? How often? And in what order?

I answered this question more at-length in an entire blog which can be found here!

But as a general cheat rule - after cleansing or removing a mask, always apply products thinnest to thickest. Toner or essences will typically come first as they are a liquid. Followed by liquid serums, cream serums, facial oils and moisturizers. SPF will always come last during the daytime and should be reapplied throughout the day. Hydrating toners or mists can also be spritzed overtop any skincare periodically to set makeup or just give the skin a hydrating boost.

How to perfect your skincare wardrobe

In addition to considering everything we've already talked about, I recommend one more piece of advice for building your new routine: start simple. Your skin care, like your personal style is something that evolves over time and with age. Over time you learn what works, what doesn't and what makes you feel your best.

When switching up your routine or product line, it's natural to want to overhaul everything and invest in ten new products that some salesperson insisted you must use all at once in order to transform your skin. But a better option for your skin (and your budget) is to build it one step at a time.

Start with a new cleanser or moisturizer. Or really whatever product you are currently out of and wanting to replace. Incorporate it for a couple of weeks before adding anything else. That way you'll be better able to assess the results you're seeing. If it's going well, then you can add another product. If it's not going well. You may need to experiment with other options more, before moving on to the next piece of your routine.

If you are looking to uplevel your basic routine into one that's well...less basic, that's totally great! But the same advice applies. Going from being a minimalist to a product junkie overnight will likely only stress your skin and not produce the next level results you were hoping for. You want to transition slowly, but also give yourself time develop the habit of incorporating more and more steps progressively. I recommend picking one aspect of your skin that you'd like to focus on correcting or enhancing and start with a targeted product for that. Use it for a few weeks or even months as advised above before adding more to the mix.

On the other end of the spectrum, there's nothing wrong with wanting to declutter your skin care wardrobe. If you've been using a ton of products and your skin still isn't happy, it might be worth trying a reboot and starting over with a more minimal routine. Nurture your skin with just a few gentle, hydrating products and then begin to rebuild one piece at a time.

Often, with skin care and fashion less truly is more. Invest in quality products with clean ingredients. Listen to your skin and never push it if a product feels like it's making your skin feel dry, irritated or congested. It's okay to back off and take breaks if you suspect a product is too harsh or just not right for your skin.

Still have questions? I'm happy to help you curate your perfect skin care wardrobe so don't be afraid to ask! Until next time!

<3 Jenny

About the blog:

This is a blog about everyday skin health. As an esthetician I strive to provide comprehensive skin care advice and knowledge to anyone who wants to know more.

Read on and please don't hesitate to reach out! I love educating people about their skin and am always happy to respond to questions.

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