How Many Steps Should There Be In My Skin Care Routine?

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Updated 5/3/15. Whenever I’m asked “What’s the secret to beautiful skin?”, my answer is always this: find a skin care routine exclusively for your skin type and use it faithfully morning and night. If you make your skin a priority and take good care of it, you’ll get the return on your investment with beautiful, clear and healthy-looking skin.

But when it comes to your home regimen, how many steps should yours be? Two, three or four? Or more? The simplest answer is, at the minimum, your skin care routine should be three steps. Cleanser, toner and moisturizer both morning and evening. These are considered the basic products needed to maintain the health and integrity of your skin. While more steps can be added once you get in the habit, know that it’s more effective to use a simple three-step routine that’s truly for your skin type than a more comprehensive routine that isn’t specifically formulated for the unique needs of your skin. This means learning about your skin type and making sure that every product that touches your skin is the perfect fit. Not too drying, not too greasy, not irritating, not perfumed, etc…

A basic, three-step routine should consist of this:


Step #1: Wash your skin with a gentle, low-foaming, sulfate-free cleanser to remove oil and impurities. And yes, you do need to wash your face in the morning even though your skin seems clean from the night before. (Read why here.)

Step #2: Wipe an alcohol-free toner over the skin (see my recommendation for toners) and leave the toner slightly damp on your face. Doing so will allow your moisturizer (applied next) to seal in all the hydrating and performance ingredients deep within the skin. Toners have five specific benefits, but one of the main benefits is to give your skin a drink of much-needed moisture.

Step #3: Apply a moisturizer that contains sunscreen like Daily Protection SPF 30 (a favorite of actress, Sofia Vergara!). It’s easiest to use a moisturizer that has the sunscreen already built in so you get two benefits in one. When applying sunscreen, be sure to apply a second coat to the neck and sides of the neck. Wearing sunscreen every single day of the year is one of the best things you can do for your skin. UV exposure from sun and daylight is the #1 cause of premature wrinkles, so you are doing your skin a huge favor by cutting out those damaging rays that are present year round.


Step #1: Wash your face every night with a gentle cleanser. Doing so will ensure your skin doesn’t marinate in a day’s worth of oil, bacteria, and makeup. I recommend using a lotion-based cleanser at night for the best removal of makeup. See my recommendations for lightweight cleansing lotions.

Step #2: Apply an alcohol-free toner and leave it damp on the skin.

Step #3: You will now want to apply a moisturizer without sunscreen. You don’t need to use one specifically called a “night cream.” Any moisturizer without sunscreen that is appropriate for your skin type is suitable for nighttime use. For my skin type, I personally love using Sheer Moisture since I’m a Skin Type #2 but I have many other moisturizers. The health of your skin depends on a good nighttime routine to prepare your skin for optimal repair that occurs while you sleep.

So there you have it. A three-step routine that can deliver great results. And guess what? It should take no more than two to three minutes. It is super fast and easy. That’s just a small investment of time to get healthy skin, right?

If you want to add in more steps to enhance the results and create more noticeable change in your skin, the next product I would suggest would be an exfoliant. Hands down, an acid serum, gentle facial scrub or at-home peel will improve everything from fading discoloration from sun and blemishes to reducing the appearance of large pores to removing dryness and giving the skin an overall smoother look. See my recommendations for various exfoliants.

Be sure to take my Skin Type Quiz to get a full routine recommended for you. A full routine includes products like an eye cream, exfoliant, antioxidant serum, mask and more. You can also see my nine skin types.

Let me also mention this: some people think that how your skin ages is simply genetic and you can’t do anything about it. This is complete nonsense. You may be surprised to know that approximately 25% is genetics and 75% is up to you your lifestyle choices. One of the ways I know this to be true is from having reviewed a study about the lifestyles of identical twins at a course I took at UCLA. Twins look the same when they are younger, but when they are in their 40s (when aging starts to set in), you can see they will age very differently. Add in smoking, medication, alcohol consumption, sun exposure and other factors and  visible aging will be accelerated. The choices in how you treat your skin will make all the difference in the world and it all starts with a good skin care routine for your skin type.

Read: 3 Mistakes People Make When Determining Their Skin Type
Read: Can You Judge A Skin Care Product By An Ingredient Label?
Read: Are You Applying Your Skin Care Products Correctly?

Which skin care products are best for you? See our nine skin types or take the Skin Type Quiz and get products recommended.

Need expert advice from a licensed esthetician? Schedule a virtual consultation to get customized advice in person, over the phone or online via Skype or Facetime.

For more expert advice check out the blog. Also sign up for our skin tip e-newsletter, follow Renée Rouleau on Twitter and Instagram and join the discussion on our Facebook page. You’ll be your own skin care expert in no time. Get the #ReneeRouleauGlow!

Disclaimer: Content found on and, including text, images, audio, or other formats were created for informational purposes only. The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website or blog.

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