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Everything you need for a minimalist skin care routine

Do you know what actually works for your skin? If your bathroom cabinets are cluttered with bottles and jars, it can be challenging to identify what’s making your skin thrive or what’s irritating it. Paring down your skin care regimen to the absolute essentials takes some time and intentionality, but it can be healthier for your complexion as well as easier on your wallet.

Why choose minimalist skin care?

Between social media and simply wandering the aisles of our favorite beauty retailers, it’s easy to feel inundated with product possibility. Before we know it, we’ve accumulated so many serums, oils, and lotions that we can’t actually use all of them effectively. Decluttering your storage and narrowing down the ingredients and formulations that work best for you help you shop smarter and develop a skin care routine that truly suits your needs.

A minimalist skin care regimen can also help you save time. Routines with 10 or more steps aren’t for everyone, and not everyone enjoys being stuck in the bathroom for an hour washing their face. If you feel like your schedule is getting away from you, perhaps eliminating a few products from your beauty routine can help.

More importantly, knowing exactly what’s in your skin care products can help you avoid potentially harmful interactions. Some ingredients, such as retinol and vitamin C, can cancel each other out, meaning your skin won’t get any benefit from them. Others, such as retinol and alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs), can cause serious irritation if used together.

Shop by skin type

What makes the cut in your minimalist skin care routine depends on your skin type. For example, those with acne-prone skin will benefit from a spot treatment, while someone with dry skin should include a hydrating serum instead.

It can also help to look for multitasking products with ingredients that perform a variety of functions for skin. Hyaluronic acid, for example, is popular for boosting moisture levels, but it can also improve skin elasticity, soothe eczema, and help skin better absorb other skin care.

Generally, a minimalist skin care routine should include:

  • a cleanser
  • a toner
  • a serum
  • a moisturizer

Sun protection should also be included somewhere in your regimen. This can be in the form of a moisturizer with SPF, makeup with SPF or an SPF lotion that’s applied as a separate final step. For your optimal skin care routine, talk to a dermatologist about your concerns.

Best cleansers

Neutrogena Hydro Boost Fragrance-Free Gel Cleanser

This foaming cleanser is formulated with hyaluronic acid, which helps lock in moisture to hydrate dry skin. It’s hypoallergenic and noncomedogenic, and it’s free from fragrance, alcohol, oils, parabens, and dyes, all of which make it a good pick for sensitive, as well as dry skin.

Tatcha The Camellia Cleansing Oil

This cleanser does double duty by gently melting away makeup and leaving skin nourished and refreshed. It’s formulated with a special blend of botanical extracts and hydrating, nutrient-rich camellia oil.

La Roche-Posay Effaclar Purifying Foaming Gel Cleanser

Made by a trusted French brand, this cleanser gently yet effectively washes away excess oil without stripping skin. It’s made with zinc pidolate, a purifying acne fighter, as well as skin care superhero niacinamide.

Paula’s Choice Resist Perfectly Balanced Foaming Cleanser

If you have oily or combination skin, try this cleanser to manage oil production and minimize the appearance of pores. It contains hydrating ingredients such as hyaluronic acid, aloe, and glycerin so skin feels restored, not stripped.

Best toners

Indie Lee CoQ-10 Toner

Those with dry skin should choose an alcohol-free toner to avoid drying your skin out further. This one is formulated with hyaluronic acid and aloe vera and omits potentially irritating alcohol, parabens, and phthalates. The antioxidant complex CoQ-10 protects skin from environmental stressors.

Dickinson’s Original Witch Hazel Pore Perfecting Toner

Formulated with a potent amount of soothing witch hazel, this toner helps oily skin feel balanced. It’s fragrance-free and helps ensure skin is fully cleansed while also leaving it feeling soothed and refreshed.

Best serums

The Inkey List Hyaluronic Acid Hydrating Serum

This budget-friendly, award-winning serum contains 2% hyaluronic acid plus peptides to help dry skin get and stay hydrated. Hyaluronic acid also improves the effectiveness of your other products, so this serum is one almost anyone can benefit from.

Murad Rapid Dark Spot Correcting Serum

This serum addresses hyperpigmentation thanks to brightening niacinamide and vitamin C. It also promotes skin cell turnover for more even skin tone. Glycolic acid helps exfoliate away dead skin cells to optimize ingredient performance and enhance skin’s radiance.

Best moisturizers

CeraVe Moisturizing Cream

This popular drugstore moisturizer is formulated with ceramides, a type of fatty acid that helps lock in moister and protect the skin barrier. It’s noncomedogenic and fragrance-free, so it’s a good pick if your skin is sensitive, as well as dry.

La Roche-Posay Toleraine Double Repair Matte Moisturizer

An oil-free, gel-cream moisturizer such as this one is a good choice for those with oily skin. The formula includes three different ceramides as well as niacinamide and glycerin to hydrate, balance and soothe skin. It dries down quickly, eliminating shine and giving skin a soft matte finish.

Best facial creams with SPF

EltaMD UV Clear SPF 46 Face Sunscreen

No matter what your skin type or skin care concerns are, SPF is an essential step. This dermatologist-trusted sunscreen provides full-spectrum UVA/UVB mineral sun protection, and it’s formulated with niacinamide and hyaluronic acid to hydrate and soothe skin. The oil-free formula works as a primer underneath makeup.

BareMinerals Complexion Rescue Tinted Hydrating Gel Cream Broad Spectrum SPF 30

This tinted moisturizer is a great pick for no-makeup days. It offers broad-spectrum SPF 40 mineral sunscreen protection and includes hyaluronic acid and olive-derived squalane for lasting hydration. It’s available in 20 shades.

Prices listed reflect time and date of publication and are subject to change.

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