How To Build A Skincare Routine: The Core Four
By Michael Pollak
One of the questions that we often get in treatment is, “where do I even start?” This is a totally fair question – there are so many entry points into skincare and so many exciting products to try. To cut through all the options, we always recommend starting with the Core Four. This set of products allow you to build a solid base, a (non-tinted) foundation. Once you see and feel happier skin and find your core products that work for you, then you’re able to expand from there.
Okay, so what is the Core Four?
The Core Four includes a cleanser, an exfoliant, a moisturizer, and a SPF.
Cleansing is the most basic aspect of skincare, everyone should do it daily – from the guy with perfect skin, to the MAC makeup artist. Dirt, bacteria, pollution, and sweat are all looking to creep into your pores, so it’s so important to wash daily. When you read instructions on the back of most products, you’ll notice that almost all of them specifically say to apply to cleansed skin. This is because without a clean base, you’re just adding product on top of the grime. A big no-no, and honestly, a waste of money! “Often, I find that people don’t cleanse for long enough,” our Skin Therapist, Jenna says. “You should really be getting in there. Try to cleanse for a minute. Honestly the longer I do it, the more I find that I start to zone out and it just feels hypnotizing.”
Exfoliation is super important to your routine because it helps get rid of those dead skin cells holding on by a thread. When you exfoliate, you help bring fresh, bright, glowing new skin cells to the surface. Who doesn’t want that?! Everyone will benefit from the right amount of exfoliation, whether it’s manual or chemical. Which type of exfoliation you go with is best determined by your Skin Therapist, as your skin type and current condition of your skin (stress level, hormones, diet, lifestyle) will influence this. They can also recommend how often you should be doing this step, as exfoliating is the one Core Four item that isn't a daily thing. (Don't over-exfoliate!)
Moisturizer though, is daily. Cleansers and exfoliants can remove some of our natural oils from our skin in the process of getting a really good clean, so this step keeps your skin balanced and fed. The skin doesn't make its own water (just oil), so moisturizing adds that hydrating drink that keeps skin plump and healthy. Moisturizer oil or water content/weight depends on your skin type. We recommend using your heavier moisturizer at night. As this is when your body is healing, restoring and repairing itself, and moisturizer aids this process.
And last but definitely not at all least, is SPF! Our #1 product to fight signs of aging, pigmentation, and just general preservation of your skin and the work you put into it. Sun exposure and damage is cumulative. Most of us say we don’t see much of the sun, but think about that time you’re running to grab lunch or those happy hour drinks on the rooftop — it adds up at the end of the year! The sun is serious stuff and skin cancer is no joke. SPF will protect your skin from harmful rays which cause aging (UVA rays; think "A" for aging) and burning (UVB rays; think "B" for burning).
What happens to my skin if I do the Core Four versus if I don’t?
When you have a Core Four routine, you are completing the foundational principles of skincare. When someone isn’t washing their face, exfoliating or moisturizing our Skin Therapists can tell by the dehydration and lack of radiance. Someone who isn’t exfoliating will often feel as though the moisturizer/oils/masks they use never leave them feeling hydrated enough. This means that they’re not exfoliating off that top layer of dead skin and even the most expensive products are not going to penetrate. Some of the most frustrating skin concerns clients have can be solved with just a basic, consistent routine.
When someone is taking care of their skin, they can feel more supple and hydrated skin right away. Their makeup goes on easier, that "glow" happens, and us Skin Therapists don't see those crevices of dehydration in the skin under our magnifying lamp when we gently stretch a small portion of skin. Meanwhile, when someone is not hydrating their skin, purple/white dots will show under the woods lamp representing dead skin cells/dehydration.
Do I do the same routine morning and night?
As a good rule of thumb, you want to use your most powerful, potent ingredients at night when your skin is rebuilding itself. You especially want to hold off on using exfoliants like AHAs, BHAs or any moisturizer with retinols in the morning. These products can cause irritation because the exfoliating bring new skin to the surface, making you more sensitive to rays of the sun and heat. SPF on the other hand, only needs to worn during the day.
Adding four products all at once is a lot. What would you recommend if I’d like to start off with just two products to begin?
“If I had to pick 2,” our Skin Therapist, Alex says, “it would be a cleanser and a moisturizer.” She wants all clients to prioritize getting the cleansing basics down and routine, like washing your face at night at least – bye makeup and city grime – and then learning how much moisturizer their skin needs. “If you can progress to the next product I would say SPF. I only didn’t put SPF first because a lot of makeup and tinted moisturizers these days have some SPF, and most people wear that daily – so this can cover you for a little bit, though we don't think that's truly powerful enough.” Better yet, get a moisturizing SPF to cover two steps in one during the day.
Overall, we believe that you don't need to spend a million dollars or use a 20 step regimen. As long as you have great products with high quality ingredients that unlock the best in your skin, you should be set! Your skin (and your sanity) will love the consistency.
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