Here's the simplest skincare routine for the busiest girls

You know those days when *everything* seems like an extra step? When you have a summer part-time job to get ready for, four hours of volunteering on the weekends and you've been staying up late for summer movie nights with the BFFS, the last thing you need to spend extra time on is your skincare routine.

Between Instagram and TikTok, everyone seems to have their own opinion about morning and night routines with 10+ skincare steps. And adding eye cream, serums, face masks and more on top of your daily wash and moisturizer can be, well, overwhelming.

But never fear, bb: We've got you covered with a review of the three basics you need—and the extras you don't—so you can streamline your skincare regimen.

1. The daily cleanse

While eye cream and serum might be optional, cleansing is one thing that you cannot skimp on. It's v. important to wash your face every day—when you wake up in the morning and before you go to bed at night.

Washing your face (and neck) regularly is the single best thing you can do to clear up acne. However, keep in mind that overwashing can hurt your skin barrier and increase oil production. (Counterintuitive but true—the more oil you strip from your skin, the more oil your skin produces to replace it. Simply put, it's a supply and demand issue.)

To make sure you're not overwashing, wash only twice a day with a gentle, mild cleanser. If you have very sensitive skin, it might be even better to cleanse just once at night. In the a.m., you can freshen up with a micellar water pad instead of doing a complete face wash.

If you have acne, you can try a special acne face wash. (That is, if you're not already using another acne product. Acne face wash and acne cream used together can dry out your skin too much.)

Otherwise, we like Garnier's Amino-Berry Soothing Cream Cleanser—it's a gentle formula that cleans your face without cutting the hydration. Neutrogena's Hydro Boost Hydrating Cleansing Gel is another good option, or any cleanser with the words "gentle," "mild" or "unscented." Make sure the label also says "non-comedogenic," meaning that the product won't clog your pores.


2. Sunscreen

We cannot overstress the importance of a daily SPF. No matter your skin type, wearing sunscreen every day is *crucial* for protecting your skin from dangerous UVB rays (and also acts as a daily daytime moisturizer!).

If you're using any kind of acne cream, sunscreen is even more important, since the chemicals can leave your skin more susceptible to the sun's harmful effects.

At the bare minimum, wearing sunscreen on your face, neck and the backs of your hands is a must. (According to the American Academy of Dermatology, you should be using SPF 30 or higher.) On warm days when you're wearing short sleeves, you can use spray sunscreen on your arms and legs to save time after putting on your facial suscreen.

Trader Joe's Daily Facial Sunscreen, Trader Joe's, $8.99

Many people skimp on facial sunscreen because they don't like the grease or "whitecast." But there are many formulas out there that go on smoothly and dry clearly. If you live near a Trader Joe's, pick up a bottle of their Daily Facial Sunscreen. It applies as a clear gel, dries without a ghostly white film, has a solid SPF 40 *and* is an absolute steal at $8.99.

Also amazing (but definitely pricier) are the facial sunscreens from Supergoop!, with different formulas including Unseen Sunscreen ($22 for the small bottle), which is invisible and weightless, and Glowscreen ($22), which has a light tint if you want a subtly self-tanned look for summer. Beauty of Joseon also makes some good ones.

For even more of our fave sunscreens, check out our mega-roundup of the best SPFs for the summer.

As an optional step, feel free to put on moisturizer after cleansing but before sunscreen. But if you're feeling too rushed in the morning, most sunscreens are hydrating on their own and can take the place of daytime moisturizer if you don't have time to spare. For a super-hydrating SPF, try e.l.f.'s Holy Hydration! Face Cream - SPF 30 ($13).


3. Nighttime Moisturizer

The final step in this simple three-step regimen is moisturizer, which you should put on after washing your face at night.

Whether your skin is oily, dry or somewhere in between, moisturizing your face, neck and chest every night will protect your skin barrier and give your skin a chance to heal, rest and hydrate after a long day. If you're using an acne product (prescription or over-the-counter), DW: Applying moisturizer afterward won't interfere with the product's effectiveness—and it will make sure that the product doesn't dry out your skin.

Your moisturizer doesn't need to be anything fancy. Trader Joe's has another winner with the Ultra Hydrating Gel Moisturizer ($8.99). We also like e.l.f.'s Holy Hydration! night face cream ($13).

Trader Joe's Ultra Hydrating Gel Moisturizer, Trader Joe's, $8.99

Even if it's been a busy day and you're tired, take just a few minutes to wash your face and moisturize before going to bed. It's a great wind-down—and the simple routine will help you fall asleep that much faster. Meanwhile, your skin will thank you!

And for one more step that you can do in bed after you turn out the light, hydrate your hands with a hand cream or lotion (especially in the winter when your skin is extra dry!).

4. Extras

Cleanser, sunscreen, and night moisturizer are all you really need for your daily glow-up. But if you have some days when you have a little more time to spare, checking out a new product or two can be fun. Eye cream, a softer, gentler version of moisturizer, is nice to smooth around your eye area at night before bed to make sure the delicate skin gets the love it needs. Eye creams can be pretty pricey, but Trader Joe's comes through yet again with the Supreme Hydrating Eye Cream ($5.99), which is comparatively cheap and very soft and mild. (Srsly, what would we do without Trader Joe's?)

Meanwhile, upping your hydration game with a face mask every once in a while is a nice relaxing wind-down for a busy day. (Bonus: Pampering yourself with a luxurious mask will make you feel like you're at a spa!) If you don't have time on school nights for a 10- or 20-minute mask, you could make it a once-a-week ritual on Saturday.

TONYMOLY I'm Real Radiance Sheet Mask Set, Amazon, $12

Tonymoly has a lot of great sheet mask options to choose from, and you can buy a 5-pack on Amazon for $12. For something even more sustainable, Yes To sells a Watermelon Refreshing Jelly Mask ($3.80), which comes as a gel in a bottle for multiple applications.

Facial serum is another optional skincare step. Serum usually comes in a gel or liquid form, and you can apply a few drops in the morning before sunscreen, at night before moisturizer, or both. Like eye creams, serums often run on the high side price-wise, but Sephora sells The Ordinary's Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5 Hydrating Serum for $8.90.

One last time-saving hack: use an in-shower moisturizer after turning off the water but before drying off! Most of this post applies to facial skincare, but an in-shower moisturizer is a great and *super* quick addition to hydrate skin all over your body. Try the Jergens Wet Skin Moisturizer with lovely tropical scents ($10.69) or NIVEA's In-Shower Body Lotion ($7.79).


Have product recs for your fave SPFs or moisturizers? Let us know on Twitter @girlslifemag!

Looking for more skincare tips and tricks? You've come to the right place:
☀️ These sunscreens keep your skin healthy *and* glowy
🦋 Everything you need to know about your skin barrier
🌺 4 smart habits that may reduce acne breakouts

Slider image: @yesto
Top image: @stivesskin


by Ava Slocum | 6/26/2023