4 Questions to Ask When Building the Steps in Your Skincare Routine

By Hayley Wood for Apoterra Skincare

As an esthetician, I pay attention to the questions people consistently ask me about the steps in their skincare routine because this usually means there is an opportunity for more widespread education. Today, I want to discuss one of the frequently asked topics that deserves its very own blog post which is how to build and/or reassess the steps in your skincare routine. Whether you are starting from scratch or have a plethora of experience with a daily skincare routine, I am here to help you navigate the inevitable skin changes that you will face throughout your lifetime. 

I call this time of assessment taking a skincare self-inventory. This can make a huge difference in how you connect with your skin and your products. To get started, you have to know what to ask yourself in order to uplevel your skin care game. Here are the top 4 questions to pose to yourself when seeking to build or reassess the steps and find the best skincare routine for you. 

Question #1 Are my skincare basics covered? 

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When it comes to skincare, many people fall prey to niche advertising that creates a “must-have” desire to purchase the newest skincare products on the market. But the reality is that any of the fun skincare that may inspire you to add new steps or even start a natural skincare routine won’t be useful to you unless you have your basics covered. 

The basics of a skincare routine are structured for good reason. In order to support the functions of each step, you have to have your basics covered. The first two steps that need to be put in place in order to have a successful skincare routine are what I call the bookends of your routine; a gentle cleanser and a form of nourishment, which is an occluding layer to protect the skin such as a balm, moisturizer, and/or SPF. The reason these bookends matter is that they are essential to preparing and protecting your skin. All the fun serums, mists, masks, and exfoliators won’t be as useful until the basic steps of your skincare routine are successfully set up. 

A full skincare routine generally follows the order of these steps:

STEP 1 CLEANSER - This step is your first bookend as it sets the rest of your skincare routine up for success. It is used to cleanse the skin and help prep the beautiful canvas that is your skin for nutrients and hydration. This step isn’t meant to strip or erase anything on the skin. It’s important to be consistent and gentle as not to over-cleanse the skin which may impact the skin’s PH or tamper with your protective barrier. APOTERRA SUGGESTION: Cleansing Complexion Soaps.  

STEP 2 HYDRATOR - this is a step in your skincare routine that can be in the form of a water-containing product such as a hydrosol, mist, alcohol-free toner or water-based serum which will naturally balance your PH post-cleansing, feed your skin some hydration, and prep the skin for optimal absorption of any incoming nutrients. APOTERRA SUGGESTION: Toning Mists

STEP 3 NOURISHMENT - This step is the second bookend in skincare when looking to reassess or build your routine. Nourishment can differ from person to person as we all have different skin types and conditions. It can be in the form of an oil, serum or balm to help seal in the goods from the previous steps. Depending on your skin type, you may require both an oil and a balm. APOTERRA SUGGESTION: Facial Oils, Serums, and Balms.

STEP 4 SPF - This step is usually reserved for just the AM skincare routine and would be considered a moisturizer with SPF or a daily SPF to help protect you from UV rays and other possible damaging environmental elements. 

BONUS - Masking, steaming, and exfoliation are great steps to add into your routine once you have your basics set up. Starting with these steps may leave room for confusion in your overall skincare routine because they are not daily care. Once you have the rest of your routine set up, these steps help elevate your skin health by treating and exfoliating the skin. 

Question #2 When was the last time I updated my products? 

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This can mean a couple of things which makes it that much more valuable to bring up when reassessing the steps in your skincare routine. First, the obvious reason to check in on your products is to make sure they are not expired or have turned rancid. This is even more so true when it comes to plant-based natural skincare. 

If you didn’t know you can usually find a product symbol with a number on it which will tell you the shelf life of your product once it’s open. You can also tell by checking if the consistency, smell, or texture has changed. The average time frame is between 6-12 months but if you are using your products consistently, you will go through them between 2-6 months easily. With Apottera products, you can even check the batch number to know when your products were made. There is also a details tab on each ingredient to go over ingredient information. If you’re still not sure, feel free to reach out to the brand - here at Apoterra, we are always happy to help!

Secondly, if you haven’t updated the kinds of products you have been using for a few years, it’s time to reassess why you are still using them. If you are almost ready to go to your 10th or 20th high school reunion, you most likely don’t need to keep using the same products you did back then. You are completely different now and so is your skin. We all have a skin type (dry, oily, sensitive) that generally stays the same throughout our life but there are skin conditions that are often shifting. Reassessing the steps in your skincare routine will help you make sure that you are not still treating your skin like you did for your past self. Plus, formulas are always changing and the availability of new sustainable, clean, and natural plant-based products to nurture your skin has risen significantly over the past decade +. 

Here is a quick guide to help you best navigate how to upgrade your skincare routine per stage of life:

Teens - a basic skincare routine with a gentle cleanser, hydrating mist, and SPF is all you need to get started. 

20s - While keeping the gentle cleanser, hydrating mist, and SPF, it’s also time for you to add in a daily nutrient-rich serum based on your skin type/state and a weekly exfoliation or mask. 

30s - At this point, you may need to add another cleanser to diversify your cleansing options based on travel, makeup use, and environmental stressors. And if you haven’t added a nighttime balm, now is the time to add it into your skincare routine. 

40s - Even if you are having the occasional breakout, this is really a time to scale back on too many active exfoliants and harsh treatments. Keep your cleansing gentle, your skin hydrated, and infuse lots of vitamin-rich nutrients into your care with serums and balms. 

50s&60s - The steps in your skincare routine here can often look similar to what they did when you were teens. The simpler the better but make sure you have nutrient-rich hydrators to help keep your glow! 

At the end of the day, it’s important to remember that these updates are to help you listen to what your skin’s needs are as they inevitably change throughout your life. If you are feeling confident in your products and routine because you have been tuning into what your skin is communicating with you, then keep using them. This check-list is to help remind you of what you’re doing right and ways you can improve. 

Question #3 Am I consistent with my skincare routine?

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Consistency is key when it comes to maintaining long-term skin health. That’s often confused with intensity or even excess. At the end of the day, a skincare routine is very similar to our dental hygiene. Hear me out on this - if you only relied on going to the dentist when you were experiencing a flare up, the dentist would most likely be forced to have to perform invasive, expensive, and often painful procedures. However, if you brush and floss consistently, you may only require a cleaning for maintenance with your dental team. Those small daily efforts have a greater impact on your health, well-being, and wallet just like your skin care. 

Whenever I meet a client who needs immediate support with an inflammatory skin condition and they just want to dive deep into invasive procedures, I recommend they start with the basic skincare steps anyways (such as the routine listed above). From a holistic perspective, I don’t believe in trying to just fix a problem quickly - just like you can’t lose weight overnight or heal from an illness instantly. I believe in the long-run where building mindful practices and consistency to your skincare will support you through the ups and downs of life. The skin is a resilient and transformative organ that often just needs a little support in order to do it’s many functions optimally. 

If you haven’t started a skincare routine yet, the answer to my consistency question is obviously no, however, that’s okay. We all have to start somewhere so don’t get discouraged. In fact, you could benefit from the steps listed out in this article on how to introduce a product into your skincare routine. 

Question #4 How does my skincare make me feel?

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This is the most overlooked question in a skincare self-inventory that can really make or break your entire experience. At the end of the day, who does this skincare routine benefit? It doesn’t really impact your dermatologist, a skinfluencer, and your esthetician on a personal level the way it does for you. In order for any skincare routine to be successful, you have to enjoy the steps on some level. 

If a product is making you feel less like your vibrant self, it won’t matter if it was recommended by a professional or not. Everytime you use it, you won’t be enjoying the process and therefore missing out on an opportunity to nurture yourself through your skincare routine. 

Your skincare doesn’t have to be a perfect experience of self-care every time. But if you are turned off by a smell, texture, or whatever else, that may be your sign that it’s not a good fit. Your skin can start telling you that it’s not fit by showing signs of dullness, inflammation, or even small breakouts. But even if those physical signs don’t show up, it’s important to not ignore your intuitive senses. If the steps in your skincare routine are causing more stress or anxiety, then they won’t be helpful for you and that will naturally reflect in the health of your skin. The best way to a consistent, loving, and full skincare routine is to appreciate each step as an opportunity to nurture yourself. Just like exercise, consistency is usually formed when you find that type of workout that speaks to you. Just remember that if you don’t like your skincare routine, whether it’s for a tangible reason or not, there are plenty of other products out there that may be a better fit. And don’t you deserve that?

I hope this skincare self-inventory guide is helpful. This guide is not to discredit any professional advice curated to your individual needs, but to help empower you to become a collaborator in your skincare. After all, this is your skin experience and you deserve to feel your best in it.

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