Above all, I believe in the 'less is more' approach when it comes to skin care. Finding the right skin care regime is undoubtedly the most important and at the same time, trickiest part of streamlining your beauty routine, but once you have found it, you will be able to get away with less make up now, and also in the future - a bonus if you prefer the natural, bare-faced look.
For me, the ideal skin care routine consists of a small number of steps that cover four basic elements: Cleansing, hydration, exfoliation and sun protection. I will probably add to that list in a couple of years, but for now these four components are all I need to keep my skin calm and blemish-free. I have normal skin that gets a lot drier in winter and a bit oiler in summer, so for each of these steps I use different products depending on the season: In the summer I use a stronger cleanser, a lighter moisturiser, a gentler exfoliator and a higher SPF, whereas now, during wintertime, I mainly use products for dry skin. This is my current routine:
Morning: Wash face with Soap & Glory Peaches and Clean 4-1 Wash-off Deep Cleansing Milk and apply Clinique's Dramatically Different Moisturizing Lotion. Evening: Take off make up with Johnson's Refreshing Facial Cleansing Wipes for normal skin, wash face with Peaches and Clean cleanser and moisturise with Clinique's Moisture Surge Skin Fortifying Hydrator. Twice a week: Apply Lush Oatfix for 15 minutes post-cleanser and pre-moisturiser.
So basically, I cleanse, moisturise, take off my make up and use a mask twice a week. Simple, eh? During the winter season, this is all my skin needs. In fact, a more complicated routine with frequent treatments and exfoliation tends to irritate it and trigger rosacea, so I prefer to stick to the basics and focus on hydration.
A bit more about the products I use: The Soap & Glory cleanser is a cleansing milk with a lovely peachy smell that is purifying without being too harsh. I do not use an additional scrub during the winter, but Peaches and Clean also contains alpha hydroxy acids, thus will exfoliate lightly. I have never really found that high-end cleansers to do a better job than lower-priced products, so I generally stick to drugstore brands for that part of my routine. Hydrating my skin is my number one priority during the cold season, so I usually splurge on my all-time favourite moisturiser, the Skin Fortifying Hydrator from Clinique's Moisture Surge Line. I apply a thick layer at night and sometimes also in the morning if my skin is feeling extra dry. Otherwise, I will wear Clinique's Dramatically Different Moisturizing lotion underneath my tinted moisturiser with SPF (see my full make up routine here). Twice a week I use one of Lush' fresh masks, Oatfix, a super emollient banana-based paste with finely ground almonds and oats. I would probably still use that mask even if it didn't moisturise my skin as well as it does - it just has the most amazing, yummy smell.
My routine is very simple, but I think it's consistency is what makes it work so well: A little often instead of irregular, intense treatments. I first started following a set routine when I was about 12. Having normal to dry skin, I never had any major issues with breakouts, but I do believe that my consistent regime kept teenage acne at bay. Nowadays, washing and moisturising my face at night is such an automatic process for me, that it involves no effort whatsoever; in fact, skipping it would feel extremely weird. It's not discipline, it's all down to habits, and habits are hard to break once they are established (Read this post for more info on how to establish new ones).
I would love to hear more about your approach to skin care. Tell me about your routine and holy grail products in the comments!