Health & Wellness Articles

The Basics of Skin Care

4 Steps to Flawless Skin

Next to eating well and exercising, maintaining a healthy complexion is one of the key ways to look our best. Taking care of your skin doesn’t have to be an expensive (or time-consuming) endeavor. These days, high-quality skincare products are available at any drugstore, formulated for oily, normal or dry skin types. While the individual ingredients of each product may differ depending on what your skin needs, a basic skin care regime involves four simple steps: cleanse, tone, moisturize and exfoliate. Whether or not you need all four steps will depend on your skin type and preferences.

Proper cleansing to remove dirt, makeup and pollution should be the core of every skin care routine. Try to wash your face twice daily, usually in the morning and then again before going to bed at night. (If your skin is dry, you can skip the morning wash and simply use water and a soft face cloth or a moisturizing, cream-based cleanser.) Use lukewarm water to keep irritation to a minimum and avoid harsh cleansers, even if your skin is oily. Strong detergents like sodium lauryl sulfate, soap, and alcohol strip the moisture barrier from the skin’s surface, leaving it vulnerable to irritation and damage. Always use a gentle touch and don’t rub too much.

It is only necessary to use a toner (or astringent) if you skin is oily and still feels sticky after cleansing. Alcohol-based toners will strip away all the oil on the surface, leaving your skin dry and irritated. This dryness will actually prompt your skin to make even more oil, so it’s a vicious cycle. If you wish to use a toner, select one for sensitive skin and use it sparingly.

While some companies would like you to believe that using a toner can change the size of your pores, this is not true. Pores can appear enlarged because of a buildup of dirt and oil, but using a toner will not immediately make them appear smaller. Proper cleansing and exfoliating will help keep your pores clear, thereby improving their appearance over time.

Moisturizing is an optional step for many people. If you have oily skin, you don’t need to add any additional moisture. You may decide to moisturize around your eyes however, but this is a matter of personal choice. Normal skin can benefit from an oil-free moisturizer that won’t clog the pores but again, this is up to personal preference. Dry skin sufferers need to moisturize often however, to soothe tightness and minimize lines. While no moisturizer can prevent wrinkles and lines, it can “plump up” the skin and make existing lines less noticeable. Some moisturizers contain light-diffusing ingredients that soften the appearance of lines and make them seem to disappear.

Your skin is constantly renewing itself and shedding off dead cells. As you age, however, the rate at which your cells turn over slows down, resulting in a dull, dreary skin tone. Exfoliating, or sloughing, speeds up the process and produces a brighter, rosier complexion.

There are two basic ways to exfoliate: physical or chemical. Physical exfoliation involves using a grainy facial scrub or buffer pads. Be careful when selecting an exfoliating product, as it is very easy to go overboard and treat the skin too roughly. Stay away from products containing ground up nut shells or apricot shells, as these have jagged edges that could damage the skin. Try a product with exfoliating beads instead, which are round and much gentler. Exfoliate with a scrub or a buffing pad only once or twice a week.

Chemical exfoliation uses Alpha Hydroxy Acid (AHA) or Beta Hydroxy Acid (BHA) to loosen and remove dead skin cells. With chemical exfoliation, less is more. Use these lotions sparingly, as it is very easy to irritate the skin. If your skin becomes red and flaky or stings excessively, reduce the amount of product you’re using or apply it every other day instead of daily. Alpha hydroxy creams and lotions may help with fine lines, irregular pigmentation and age spots and may improve the appearance of pores by dissolving dirt and oil. Beta hydroxy acid (or salicylic acid) tends to be gentler on the skin and also does a good job at improving texture and skin tone.

Don't Forget to Wear Your Vitamins
While scientists once thought that vitamin molecules were too large to be absorbed by the skin, vitamin-enriched skin care products are now commonplace.

Number one for effectiveness is retinol (a derivative of Vitamin A), which has a molecular structure small enough to reach the lower layers of the skin, where collagen and elastin are produced. Retinol improves skin tone, treats fine lines and wrinkles and improves texture.

Vitamin C is another complexion powerhouse. It helps minimize fine lines, scars and wrinkles. It has also been shown to reverse sun damage. Be very choosy when picking a Vitamin C product for your skin because the vitamin is very unstable and breaks down when exposed to oxygen, making it useless. Look for one in opaque packaging to minimize exposure to the elements and close the bottle tightly after use.

A derivative of Niacin called nicotinamide has been shown to improve the skin’s ability to hold moisture, while another derivative called niacinamide helps with hyperpigmentation or excess melanin in the skin. It is useful for fading age spots and fighting the signs of sun damage.

Several products containing Vitamin K have come to market recently as treatments for dark circles (or "bags) under the eyes. Vitamin K is important for blood clotting but it has not yet been decisively proven to minimize dark circles.

Properly caring for your skin care may take a few extra minutes each day, but the benefits far outweigh the amount of time you invest. Taking care of your skin is the best way to fight the signs of aging and you will reap the benefits for years to come!

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Member Comments

  • My face & body say "thank you."
  • Good tips. Thank you
  • for exfoliates try to pick those that have natural ingredients rather than plastic microbeads.
    Can these be same for body skin also? Hey, I'd heard about you SparkPeople a lot. Just suggest me that, massaging will help me to get rid off all my skin issues like cellulites or others? I'd heard about http://www.cellub for massaging. Tell me whether it will be working? And also is my skin safe?
  • Those beads you are telling people to look for are made of plastic, and end up in our waterways and lakes. They float, so they are not filtered out at sewage treatment facilities. And when they wind up in lakes, they absorb toxic pollution, and then fish eat them, thinking they are tiny eggs! They are the exact same size as the eggs they would normally eat. Please read this article:


    To exfoliate, you only need to lather on something and scrub with a loafah or a washcloth.
    Don't forget drink water daily, even when you are not thirty. Water can help you to increase smooth for your skin. You can also wash face by warm water twice a day and after makeup.
  • Drinking water and getting enough sleep! The keys to health and beauty, in my experience.
    It's fun to play with the lotions and potions, but without the basic lifestyle habits, they are not going to work their magic.
  • Great article. Yes drinking plenty of water os good for you. I don't use nothing on my face but a little lotion. All that other stuff no way.
  • I follow everything this article states. I have been doing it for years but now since I'm 36 years old my skin is changing once again. Very Very Very oily and nothing seems to help. And forget makeup- all the liquid foundations I've tried seem to run right off and pores seem bigger than ever. Any suggestions?
  • As I got older my oily skin turned to combination skin, with an oily t zone and drier cheeks. Moisturizers, the right ones, definitely are a must for me at this point. I feel that I omitted using them rather longer than I should have -- as soon as I started using one, my face just felt SO much more comfortable especially at night and in the wintertime. I agree too, that drinking plenty of liquids can help keep skin looking good, again, particularly during dry times of the year or in dry environments!
  • I liked this article but I am with several others there are some things I disagree with:
    1. Toners are a must and come in all types for different skin types. Toners are what they say, they tone the skin and close pores after the cleansing and masking process and should be used at the very end.

    2. Moisturizing is a must!!! I have oily skin and can not stand it if I go without some type of moisturizing. Moisturizing not only provides an extra amount of moisture to the skin but it helps with maintaining collagen and elasticity in the skin.

    3. Chemical Exfoliation is by no means natural beauty. Chemical processes should always be avoided, there are so many risks you take when you apply chemicals to your skin.
  • Article is interesting, but it left out one of the best things for skin care - drinking plenty of water.
  • A lot of good advice, but I do have on issue with this article. I have always been told that no matter what skin type a person has, moisturizing is necessary for all. I did not think that it was option.
  • I have a few issues with this article...first, I am an aesthetician and I have been in the aesthetic industry for over 10 years...the first problem I have is that toners are "optional" and only for those with oily skin...
    Toner is and should be for EVERYONE...from dry skin to normal's a great way to leave moisture on the skin after cleansing and it also helps to spread the moisturizer easier and then you aren't using as much product! For oily skin...a toner with alcohol is actually called an it helps to remove the excess oil that can be left on very oily/acne skin. Toners help the bring the pH of the skin back to "normal"...cleans
    ers are designed to lower the skin's pH in order to remove dirt and impurities..if the skin is not normalized, then it leaves the skin exposed to irritation.
    The second problem I had was
    ain everyone should have a moisturizer for the skin!! It helps to protect the skin....there are different moisturizers for all skin types, and for those with oily skins only need to put moisturizer where ever there may be a dry's most important to make sure that your moisturizer has an SPF included. We need to make sure that we take care of our skin the best we's the only skin we have and don't get a second chance to maintain it.

    The MOST important steps for basic skincare is : cleansing, toning, exfoliating and moisturizing (or even using a serum in it's place as a nighttime treatment)

    Telling people that they don't need toner and moisturizer is like telling people not to bother with flossing or using mouthwash.. In my opinion.
  • There was one time I used products that at first, making my face getting better but in 2nd or 3rd month, the skin is getting redder as if just went through a deep peeling and skin underneath eyes and around lips were so dry I felt like an old lady. After that, I think it's better to have my combination, acne-prone skin rather than risk my skin to get dry, flaky, peeling like a mummy. It's so hard to find products suitable to my skin in long term use, at least more than 3 months. Usually, after 2, 3 months, the skin is getting worse or back to its previous condition. One thing for sure, cleanse face morning and night are very important and daily fruit intake as without this habit, my skin will getting worse

About The Author

Leanne Beattie Leanne Beattie
A freelance writer, marketing consultant and life coach, Leanne often writes about health and nutrition. See all of Leanne's articles.