The 3 basic steps of a skincare routine, according to experts

The skincare products you actually need (and how to order them).

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Curology Team
Oct 04, 2021 · 4 min read

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Simple 3 step skincare routine for men and women
We’re here to share what we know — but don’t take it as medical advice. Talk to your medical provider if you have questions.

A good skincare routine is hard to find—with so many over-the-counter products, it can be hard to zero in on the ones that are right for your specific skin. Some skincare brands may tell you to buy a dozen products from their line to clear up your skin, but most dermatologists agree that an effective skincare routine only needs three steps: cleanse, treat, moisturize

Basic skincare routine for morning and night infographic

Morning skincare routine

  1. Cleanse: Wash your face with a gentle cleanser (or water if you’re in a rush).

  2. Moisturize: Apply moisturizer—if needed. You can use a broad-spectrum moisturizing sunscreen with SPF 30+ to skip step 3.

  3. Protect: Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30+. Do we sound like a broken record? It matters!

Nighttime skincare routine

  1. Cleanse: Wash your face with a gentle cleanser. Now’s the time to remove your makeup (we like micellar water for this). 

  2. Treat: Apply your Curology Custom Formula in a thin layer, or use your other skin treatment as directed.

  3. Moisturize: Apply a moisturizer—if needed. Curology members can choose between our original moisturizer with a cloud-like gel consistency or our ultra-hydrating rich moisturizer.

How to order your skincare products

The exact details of your skincare routine will differ depending on which products you choose, but generally speaking, you’ll want to cleanse → treat → moisturize. In other words, start with products that clean skin, move on to treatments (like serums, exfoliants, or prescription creams), and follow up with hydrating moisturizers like creams and lotions. Always check your specific product’s directions for best practices—not all skincare products are intended to be used daily! 

The 3-step skincare routine 

1. Cleanse

Clearing away any buildup on your skin is essential to prepping your face for the rest of your skincare routine. Look for cleansers labeled “hydrating” or “gentle,” and be sure to avoid potentially pore-clogging and irritating ingredients like sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), alcohol, and isopropyl myristate.

Need to remove makeup? We like micellar water because it dissolves makeup while lightly hydrating skin. Follow up with a cleanser if needed.

In a rush? Splash some lukewarm water on your face and pat dry—it’ll do in a pinch! 

2. Treat

Once you’ve set the stage with cleansing, you’re ready to move on to your skin treatment—that is, a skincare product with active ingredients to target your specific skin concerns. 

We recommend making the treatment step of your skincare routine as streamlined as possible. In other words, avoid gimmicky skincare tools and multi-step skin systems that overcomplicate things. 

Because a skincare treatment may take months to show results, the “treat” part of your routine needs to be sustainable and effective.  If over-the-counter products aren’t cutting it, Curology can pair you with a medical provider who prescribes a Custom Formula with a mix of active ingredients chosen for your specific skin concerns—we’ll explain how you can get your first bottle for free in a minute!

3. Moisturize 

Complete your routine by locking in any moisture your skin needs—this is the secret to that glow from within. If it’s the morning, reach for a moisturizing broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher. If it’s night, look for facial lotions with humectant and emollient ingredients like hyaluronic acid, glycerin, and allantoin. 

Just like with cleansers, you’ll want to avoid potentially pore-clogging and irritating ingredients in your moisturizers—coconut oil and cocoa butter are common moisturizing ingredients that can lead to breakouts! Look for products labeled non-clogging, non-acnegenic, or non-comedogenic.

 

@curology

3 steps in your skincareroutine. nothing more, nothing less. #skincare101 #skincaretips #curology

♬ luxurious - cy

Extra essential: sunscreen

Okay, so there’s actually a fourth step that you need not just in your morning routine, but throughout the day as needed: applying a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher. Sunscreen isn’t a once-daily skin routine step, though—you’ll need to re-apply your SPF once for every 2 hours of sun exposure (more if you’re swimming or sweating a lot), and you’ll want to make sure you’re applying enough (the two-finger method is one easy hack you can use for this). On the bright side, of course, you can skip applying sunscreen and stick to your standard three steps at night. 

sunscreen2

Forget the greasy, pasty sunscreens of our poolside youths—whether you have oily, acne-prone, or dry skin, there's a sunscreen out there for you. One easy way to incorporate sunscreen into your morning skincare routine is to find a broad-spectrum moisturizing sunscreen with SPF 30+ that works well for your skin type. 

Nothing fancy—just simple, effective skincare

Curology was founded by dermatologists in 2014 to make prescription-grade skincare more accessible. Today, 93% of patients say Curology is effective.* All of our products are designed by dermatologists to be no-clog and gentle on acne-prone skin. 

Curology Men s Acne Treatment Free Trial

You can get your first 30 days of Curology for free (just pay $4.95 to cover the cost of shipping and handling). Take a quick skin quiz, snap a few selfies, and one of our dermatology providers will review your info. If Curology is right for you, we’ll send a bottle of your Custom Formula for your unique skin concerns, plus any of our recommended skincare products (like our cleanser and moisturizer). 

So what are you waiting for? Skip the hassle and get dermatologist-designed skincare sent straight to your door. 

• • •

*Among 856 current customers surveyed using Curology for 3+ months. Self-reported.

Curology Team Avatar

Curology Team

Nicole Hangsterfer Avatar

Nicole Hangsterfer, PA-C

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