When our days are scheduled from sunrise to sunset, taking time to nurture ourselves is the last thing on many of our minds. Between the countless hours spent in Zoom meetings, writing emails, and taking care of our families—we’re forced to jolt out of bed to start the day and are literally falling into bed exhausted each night. A skincare routine may not even make our to-do list, but taking even a few minutes for yourself can have lasting mental health benefits as well as the skin ones.
Studies show that rituals provide a sense of control, which can ease anxiety and improve performance.
Where to begin? Well, right here. We called up New York-based dermatologist Dr. Whitney Bowe to gather 10 of her best tips and tricks. Most importantly, these are realistic and achievable ones. Keep scrolling to start building your beauty regimen right now.
Your Beauty Routine Starts Here
Lasting results rarely come from laser focusing on fancy products. “I don’t advocate the ‘kitchen sink’ approach to skincare that we often see displayed in ‘shelfies’ on Instagram,” says Bowe, adding that product investment should be more about “selecting thoughtfully, intelligently formulated products than buying the most expensive luxury brands.” Splurge with a purpose by focusing on safety, efficacy, purity, and sustainability. Dr. Bowe opts for a variety of clean products in her own routine, emphasizing that “health is the ultimate luxury, right?”
A short and simple ingredient list, in itself, doesn’t necessarily translate into a safer, more effective product. “For example,” Dr Bowe explains, “a good moisturizer should contain emollients, humectants, and occlusive ingredients to really trap moisture, a blend of antioxidants to help to stabilize the ingredients so they actually work, and prebiotics that support a healthy microbiome,” says Bowe. So, using a simple oil with a single ingredient to moisturize your skin isn’t the smartest choice. However, she adds, “some ingredients are definitely better left out of a product,” like the hundreds of irritating ingredients often hidden behind the word “fragrance.” So, educate yourself as much as possible on the elements of a product (especially the secretive ones) before purchase.
Know What Beauty Buzzwords Mean
It’s important to recognize that there is still a lot of debate surrounding how we define clean beauty. “Natural doesn’t automatically mean skin-safe. This is not the same as when it comes to eating natural foods and a clean diet,” says Bowe. “I am beginning to incorporate more clean products into my product recommendations, and working to help educate people as to the best that ‘clean’ has to offer because there is a lot of confusion in this space,” says Bowe.
Start Small, Slowly Expand
When expanding your product lineup, proceed with caution and listen to your skin. While basics like cleanser and moisturizer should be used right off the bat, there’s no need to rush when it comes to adding in extras like toners, serums and actives. Dr. Bowe recommends testing one variable/new product at a time, and waiting at least two weeks to see how your skin reacts.
Results don’t come overnight. A nourishing face mask and a cool mist humidifier at night will deliver a hydration fix quickly, but when it comes to powerhouse ingredients, such as retinol and bakuchiol, it can take months for their beneficial effects to kick in. Though Dr. Bowe ensures that they are well worth the wait!
Application is Everything
When and how you apply your products is just as important as the products themselves. Applying your products with the thinnest to thickest consistency is a great way to ensure they’re doing their job. Another simple method is to first use products that are meant to deeply seep into the skin, like antioxidant-rich serums, and finish with products that sit on top of the skin, like hydrating moisturizers. Dr. Bowe says to “massage your moisturizer into your skin using circular motions, but don’t massage a retinol or AHA or vitamin C serum into your skin because that’ll likely cause irritation,” she emphasizes. As far as acids go (those are your AHAs and BHAs), she recommends applying one to two per week at night, never on the same night as retinol.
Cleaning too aggressively or over-exfoliating in an effort to experience that tight, squeaky-clean feeling is a habit for many. Despite common belief, that’s not what your skin wants or needs! “When our skin’s healthy microbiome is disrupted by harsh cleansers and other abrasive products, this discontent results in breakouts, rosacea flares, psoriasis, and eczema” says Bowe. In sharp contrast, she adds that when our “good bugs” are healthy, “they’re empowered to fight infections, combat against environmental damage, boost our immune system, and keep our skin hydrated and radiant.” Be gentle and protect that skin barrier and microbiome!
Rejuvenate the Mind
Your skincare routine is a chance to not only pamper your skin, but ease your brain as well. To get the most out of your me-time, throw on a silk robe, rock a cute headband, and turn on a peaceful playlist. Or even better, take time away from your tech and embrace the silence. Activate that airplane mode! Dr. Bowe finds that adding a jade roller into her routine and repeating a positive mantra like this one while applying her products makes a major difference.
Prioritize the Basics
A product-focused regimen can be life-changing, but it doesn’t mean you should skip the simple things. Don’t underestimate the power of deep sleeps, sweat sessions, or refreshing sips of water. And of course, stress. “Stress causes your intestinal lining to grow weak and leaky, allowing toxins to spill into the bloodstream, and triggering body-wide inflammation and a host of potential diseases, says Bowe, who often speaks about the connection between leaky gut and leaky skin. The best medicine? Decompression. “As I note in The Beauty of Dirty Skin, meditation is a shortcut to calm. It sparks what’s known as the relaxation response, which eases anxiety—and the skin conditions that come along with it. It can even turn on genes that are anti-inflammatory in nature,” she explains. Find what works for you (yoga, deep breathing, repetitive prayer) and commit to it for a few minutes each day. “You can even try an app like Headspace or Breathe,” recommends Bowe. A healthy and happy mind is reflected in your skin.
Carve Out Time for Your Routine
It can be easy to put skincare on the backburner, but not if you reserve the time for it. “The more that it becomes a healthy habit and self-care ritual, the more that you will crave it each day,” says Bowe. To start, set a reminder on your phone or add a brightly-colored sticky note to your bathroom mirror. Have kids? Introduce a mindful activity that’ll keep them entertained while you relax.