Skincare 101: a guide to skincare routine essentials!

I’m really struggling with finding a face regimen, and have been researching and am more confused then ever! I have normal skin and am just starting to see signs of aging and am looking for an all around moisturizer :) I was wondering if I needs a separate daytime moisturizer and a night cream ! What’s the best out there ? Do they have to be the same brands :) when I’m sleeping I would really like to get the bang for my buck on a good enriched moisturizer that will help even out skin help with sun spots and fine wrinkles :) any suggestions Thanks so much Jen

I love your questions! Consumers are having a difficult time sorting out which skincare products are worth it, and what claims can be trusted. To answer your easy question: you don’t need a separate day and night moisturizer. But you want to start adding active ingredients, and those are more day/night specific. There is a entire world of science and chemistry to produce these products. How can anyone not versed in the science of the industry understand it all? Big disconnects between consumers and skincare is why I created SkinTour. Here’s my crash course in skincare. We’ll call it Skincare 101: a guide to skin products for best results! Whether you’re a beginner, or more educated in products, you’ll be able to get something out of this. Here’s how I explain it to my patients. I’ve linked products I personally recommend. I’ve tested them at my clinic and many of my client’s love them.

Skincare 101 for Beginners

Definition:  You really haven’t done much so far, other than wash your face, put a little sunscreen on only if it’s sunny, and  maybe some makeup.

Start with:

  • Wash your face twice a day, not just once. Here are cleansers I recommend to my own patients.
  • Use a Clarisonic or gentle exfoliant once or twice a week when cleansing;
  • Change to a high zinc sunscreen. Use it every morning, rain or shine. This is such an important product for long term skin health and reducing signs of aging. Use it on your face, neck, chest and hands;
  • And use a moisturizers for your skin type every night.

Intermediate Skincare Tips:

Definition:   You’re already doing the above, plus maybe a few things more.  Great! Now, here’s what you can improve:

  • After you cleanse in the morning, add an antioxidant under your moisturizer and/or sunscreen.  Try the Phloretin CF, the C E Ferulic or polyphenol like Replenix Cream CF. These help prevent UV damage to skin cell DNA. How? By reducing free radical formation and preventing DNA mutations.
  • Then Add a retinol or Retin A (tretinoin) type cream at night over your moisturizer.  Try the SkinMedica Retinol 0.25 first, if you haven’t used a retinoid (vitamin A cousin) before. Retinoids are repair creams, and they have 20 years of science and experience behind them. They build collagen and normalize sun damaged skin cells.
  • Also add an eye cream at morning and night. The product will help with early fine lines and crepeyness.  Try the Pevonia Evolutive Eye Cream (my favorite), or the Replenix All Trans Retinol (better for dark circles).
  • You don’t need as much exfoliation if you are regular with retinoids, because they cause a natural exfoliation.

Fine Tuning your Regimen for Advanced Skincare Users

Definition:  You are doing all of the above.  Here are a few things to fine tune.

  • Double check to make sure your daily sunscreen has at least 8-20% zinc, depending on the season and how much you are out. Basically when I look at a sunscreen, I don’t care about or even look at the SPF as long as it’s 30 or more. What I care about is sunscreen zinc percentage. Zinc is currently the only common sunscreen ingredient that blocks the entire UVA and UVB spectrum, fighting the sun’s aging affects on skin.
  • Add cell growth factors like TNS Recovery serum, under your moisturizer or retinol at night.
  • Learn to work with several different moisturizer weights, and adjust them depending on the climate you are in and travel. When you travel, often artificial air (heaters and air conditioning) in the cabin or car can dry out your skin. So you need to moisturize more. Bring a great portable one in your carry-on. Depending on your destination, the air might be drier or more humid. Adapt your products depending.
  • If you are very oily or acne prone, try adding a glycolic or salycylic acid product into your skincare. Here’s an affordable glycolic lotion.
  • Lastly, think about working with a dermatologist or great aesthetician to fine tune your skincare regimen.

For the Early Adopters

Definition: You’re doing all of the above and want to try new things and experiment a little. Here are some guidelines:

  • Change only one product at a time, and give the new product at least one to two months before you decide, unless you just hate it! It can take a bit to see actual results. And doing the products one at a time ensures you don’t confuse your results and products.
  • If your skin gets irritated from something, stop all products, and rest your skin by using only gentle cleanser, moisturizers and sunscreen again for a few weeks.  Then restart your products.  If your skin doesn’t clear up in a week or so, see your doctor!
  • Remember that if your skin is already good, you won’t see a difference usually with a new product, and it’s probably not worth the extra money.

Hope this helps,  Dr. I


Dr. Brandith Irwin, MD

Ask me your skincare question!

Hi, I’m Dr. Irwin. I believe that consumers deserve a medically trained and unbiased skin care advocate.

  • All our content is written and researched by myself.
  • My medical office in Seattle has treated thousands of patients for 15+ years.
  • This site is not affiliated or financially tied to any product, treatment or device.
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SkinTour Skincare
One of the best investments in your skin is your daily skincare. Why? Because you can prevent many problems with blotchy skin color, lack of glow, texture, some types of acne, and fine lines with good skincare products. You can also correct some of these problems with effective skincare products. Great skincare is often more expensive because quality ingredients are expensive. Some companies spend on research/development which benefits all of us and adds to the cost. Are they worth it? In general - yes! I have handpicked some of what I consider to be the best skin care products, and offer them for sale on SkinTour's shop. This is based on my team and I's testing and research at our clinic. Many of the products are in my own regimen. What could be better than using skin care products a dermatologist uses?!