Skip To Content

    30 Skincare Basics You'll Wish You'd Known About Sooner

    I'm sure you know to wash your face by now (I hope), but do you know what else to do?! Time to find out!

    We hope you love the products we recommend! Just so you know, BuzzFeed may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page. Oh, and FYI β€” prices are accurate and items in stock as of time of publication.

    1. Plan out your routine by product β€” there's a proper order for everything (your face can tell, even if you can't).

    2. Wear your sunscreen! It's so easy to forget this step, but it really helps protect you in the long run from the sun's harmful UV rays. You can even double this Cosrx aloe soothing sunscreen as your moisturizer.

    That's right, it hydrates your face, as well! It's super lightweight, improves your skin's ~moisture barrier~, and obviously protects from UVA and UVB rays. Plus, it's good for sensitive skin!

    Promising review: "This is my favorite SPF, because it doesn't have an overpowering smell (just a slight aloe scent) and goes on thick but sinks in fast, so it ends up feeling like I have nothing on my skin. In the winter it keeps my skin from drying out and looking flaky, and in the summer it doesn't result in an oily shine. I also have yet to have a breakout with this SPF, and I have not had a problem applying makeup over it. I will continue to repurchase it." β€”Beth

    Get it from Amazon for $11.36.

    3. Try out apple cider vinegar with this crazy-popular Aztec Secret clay mask if you're struggling with cystic acne, a.k.a. the toughest of underground pimples. It's not *proven*, but there are thousands of people on Amazon alone who have seen major improvements from this formula.

    Check out our full article for honestly astounding transformation photos!

    Promising review: "Wow. Just wow. I had no expectations for this product since I've been dealing with cystic acne since I was a teenager (I'm 24 now), so I went into this purchase not expecting much. As many others have said, I previously tried absolutely everything on the market to cure my acne. I have very sensitive, reactive skin and have never seen any real improvement. After reading all the crazy reviews about this product I figured I would give it a try, again, not expecting much. However, I have been blown away by the long-term results of using this mask. I mix it with apple cider vinegar and apply it several times a week when my skin is really bad, and it has never done anything negative to my skin – no irritation, no dryness, nothing. It always destroys every single pimple that emerges. It does bring underlying pimples to a head, and that can be a little disturbing at first, but it is so worth it for the end result. I was considering taking Accutane, a very strong and dangerous medicine to finally cure my acne for good, and this product has made me completely reconsider." β€”Heather E.

    Get the mask from Amazon for $8.80.

    4. Know your different types of acne β€” they're like snowflakes, except so much more unwelcome. Whether yours is more of a whitehead or the hormonal type (usually a cyst), the first step to treating acne is knowing what the heck they are!

    Check out more from Birchbox for identifying your acne!

    5. Try retinol, a fancy name for vitamin A, to balance your complexion, stimulate collagen, and fade hyper-pigmentation. If you're ever so much as sat in a dermatologist's chair you've probably heard of this β€” but there are a lot of topical over-the-counter options for a light treatment.

    It can be *especially* good for cystic acne (oh the joys), smoothing out fine lines, and eczema. This one acts doubles as a matiifying primer oily skin, as well as shrinks the appearance of pores and brightens your skin! Like a two-for-one makeup product.

    Check out more from Birchbox for all the benefits of retinol!

    Promising review: "This makes my skin look and feel AMAZING! It goes on beautifully and feels wonderful on my skin. It soaks right in and leaves my skin feeling smooth, hydrated, and not at all oily. My dark spots are beginning to diminish and my complexion looks fresh and clear. I use it under my makeup. It keeps my face from getting oily all day long! I will definitely be buying again and again!" β€”Snoopy65

    Get it from Birchbox for $34.

    6. Exfoliate without overdoing it β€” this skincare technique is great for removing dead skin cells and promoting brighter skin, but it can also be harsh. Opt for this Aveeno daily scrub that doubles as a moisturizer!


    This works to improve your overall complexion by helping skin tone, texture and clarity. Its soy extract moisturizes so you're not left ~high and dry~.

    Promising review: "Out of all the products I've used for my face, I can say that this gave me the best results. My face became brighter after a month of using this product. To those who have sensitive skin (like me) and gets irritated very easily, Aveeno is a good product for you. It doesn't dry up your face after multiple uses. It moisturizes your face and keeps it looking healthy and clean." β€”Gaelle Moise

    Get it from Amazon for $6.29.

    7. Understand that not every mask is for you. In fact, most are designed with a very specific skin type in mind (i.e. dry, acne-prone, etc.). Take our quiz to match your concerns and complexion with the best mask for you!

    Getty Images

    8. End your ~dry spells~ when it comes to parched skin with oil-based serums. They're like giving your pores a tall drink of water without actually clogging anything.

    Check out even more pro tips from a dermatologist for ways to improve your skincare!

    Glossier has *three* serums that you can buy either as a group or separately. Know what each one does!

    Super Bounce ($28 on Glossier) comes to the rescue of dry skin. It plumps up skin with a moisturizer and vitamin B5 to help you *bounce back* with elasticity and softness. Use this if you're hungover (bleh), recovering from long travel, or just battling A/C and heat.

    Super Glow ($28 on Glossier) brightens your skin and gives your face energy even you personally have zilch. Loaded with vitamin C and magnesium, turn to this when your skin looks a little sallow from lack of sleep (yes, I spent all night scrolling through Instagram again SUE ME). This evens your skin tone and is super fast-absorbing, thanks to its super-light water-like texture.

    Super Pure ($28 on Glossier) is here to help when you're feeling stressed and unblessed. Its niacinamide and zinc soothes redness and calms blemishes β€” period skin meet your match. Speaking of that time of month, if you're coming down from a junk food bender (just how we deal), this will help counteract all that oil. Lastly if you're mid-breakout, this will fight excess sebum that builds up in stressed pores. All in all, LIFESAVER.

    Promising review: "I had very discolored skin that broke out a lot and had a lot of texture. These serums worked magic! My pores are smaller and my face all around is more flawless! If you're looking for some good serums β€” these are the ones." β€”Anika

    Get the three-pack from Glossier for $65.

    9. STOP picking at your skin, for Pete's sake!! I know it's hard! I did it yesterday! But we need to stop! I don't think I really need to explain why. If you have a pimple you can't stop staring at, cover it with this acne treatment drying lotion.

    Check out more ways of how people stopped picking at their skin!

    Promising review: "This is the single best spot treatment for blemishes. It works after just one or two applications at bedtime. I get occasional, episodic stubborn, hormone-triggered pimples and nothing else has zapped them like this product." β€”MplsMalone

    Get it from Amazon for $9.75.

    10. Regularly clean your makeup brushes (those things pick up acne-causing bacteria faster than you can say zit) with a finger scrubber board. Try to do this once a week β€” any longer and grime really starts to build up.

    Read more from Glossy Box for how to clean your makeup brushes like a pro!

    Promising review: "I wash my brushes that I use every day and this little gadget works great and cuts my cleaning by half. It is hard rubber and fits two of my fingers to hold. I love the ease of use of this product β€” it really, really cleans your brushes well." β€”Internet Shopper

    Get it from Amazon for $5.95+.

    11. If you're going to do a *peel* (a common technique for fighting tough acne and fine lines), remember that you are literally removing a layer of skin. You need to moisturize after or you are going to be SORRY. Dr. Dennis Gross's peel and moisturizer kit has both all set for you!

    Promising review: "I have been using this peel system for over four years. I use the product two to three times a week. It keeps my pores clear and gives me a healthy glow!" β€”MC

    Get it from Dermstore for $48 (list price $58).

    12. Drink πŸ‘ water πŸ‘. Aim for eight glasses a day. Sure, you're peeing more, but you're also flushing out daily toxins and improving your natural *glow*.

    Discovery Channel

    Get a hydration-reminder water bottle ($19.99 on Uncommon Goods) to help keep you focused! It's marked with motivational phrases that track how much more you need to drink to reach your daily goal!

    13. Wash off sweat and dirt after working out, even if you don't have time to shower. A pack of Burt's Bees cleansing towelettes is obviously a good makeup remover, but also for killing bacteria!

    And they're great for sensitive skin! They also moisturize with rice extract and calm skin thanks to aloe.

    Promising review: "These are great to use after a workout before driving home. I work out in the morning at a gym and then drive home. I do not like the breakouts that happen when I do not cleanse my face after a workout! I keep a pack of these in my car for just that purpose! I also run sometimes after work before heading home and these are great to cool me off and cleanse before heading home! The smell is pleasant too!" β€”Me

    Get it from Amazon for $4.49+ (available in seven styles).

    14. Smooth out qualms between you and your complexion with glycolic acid treatment pads. Glycolic acid is essentially the holy grail of exfoliation β€” it removes dead skin cells to reveal brighter layers underneath (and can help with acne).

    There are different levels to this ingredient, but it's best to start with a low dose as a gentle introduction.

    Promising review: "Whenever I see a pimple starting to form, these take care of it β€” and after two nights, it's gone and never actually surfaces. I wouldn't dream of using these more than twice a week but they work and are very affordable. My skin loves glycolic acid." β€”lemonnest

    Get a 28-pack from Sephora for $15 (available in two sizes).

    15. Remove your makeup every night, even if you don't feel like washing your face. Late nights call for this Garnier miscellar cleansing water. It acts as both a makeup remover and facial cleanser for your entire face (including lips and eyelashes).

    Check out why a BuzzFeeder now lives by this (it's #5 in the post!)

    Promising review: "My new HG facial cleanser. I've been loyal to Philosophy Purity for years but wanted something for a quick refresher in the mornings. This stuff is fabulous β€” so fabulous that I've been using it in the evenings and mornings, and have all but retired Philosophy. It is so simple and fast to use. I love that I don't have to pull my hair back and inevitably get my hair wet when I wash my face. Anyway, I use this with a facecloth and to help do some light exfoliating. It dries quickly and once it does my skin is silky smooth and clean. Best of all, my pores are literally gone and so tiny that I rarely even wear foundation any more." β€”Mrs. Warren

    Get it from Amazon for $6.36 (available in five styles).

    16. Tone down finicky skin with Thayer's widely-trusted alcohol-free witch hazel with aloe vera, rose-petal water, and vitamin E. It can help reduce oil buildup and bacteria (as well as tighten pores), thanks to its gentle exfoliation.

    It *also* contains natural antibacterial and antimicrobial agents, aloe vera, citric acid, and grapefruit seed extract!

    Check out how one BuzzFeeder kissed acne goodbye with this seriously-helpful review!

    Promising review: "This stuff is freaking amazing! I had a lot of redness and breakouts on my chin, as well as a few on my forehead. It truly just cleared them all up. I don't have any breakouts as of now, just my scars that I will be working on. I used this every night after cleansing my skin and it was perfection! I love this product!" β€”Amazon Customer

    Get it from Amazon for $8.32 (available in four scents).

    17. Wash and change your towels and washcloths every week (bleh laundry, I know, I know). But those things are bacteria MOTHERSHIPS. The longer you wait to clean them, the more and more of those suckers grow.

    20th Century Fox Television

    AND THEN GO ON YOUR FACE. Btw, if you have sensitive skin (or body acne) you might want to try All Mighty Pacs Free Clear laundry detergent ($19.98 on Amazon). Its formula is specially designed with sensitivity in mind.

    Learn more easy way to step up your skincare routine!

    18. Identify which oil is best for your skin type β€” it's definitely not for everyone, but it CAN seriously reduce acne, restore hydration, and balance oil production given the right combination.

    Check out more how one BuzzFeeder completely got rid of her acne with oil!

    19. Sleep. Please. Seven or more hours a day when you can. While you're off in dream land, your body is increasing blood flow to the skin, which means you wake up to a healthy glow.


    LATE NIGHT TV WON'T DO THAT, OK? Sorry to the Jimmys, but it's true.

    Learn more about how much sleep you should actually get!

    If you fall short of sleep and wake up to lovely eye bags, try these 24K gold eye masks ($5.99 on Amazon). Fancy, fancy.

    20. Alleviate eye bags with a Lily Ana brightening and firming moisturizer. Ingredients like vitamins C and E, plus rosehip seed oil reduce puffiness and darkness.

    This one is even cruelty-free and gentle on sensitive skin!

    Promising review: "I have used an expensive name brand line of skin care for about 20 years and I never noticed the difference that I see using this eye cream. I have spend in the neighborhood of $100 on a product that didn't do what this one does. I decided to try it and I'm so glad I did. I have bags under my eyes and when I don't the skin under them is very dry. Since just a few days after starting this cream, I have had no bags and the skin under my eyes is more firm and doesn't appear dry." β€”nanabon

    Get it from Amazon for $11.23.

    21. Layer your skincare products by what you think is most important to target. So, for example, if you want good sun protection, slap on your sunscreen first.

    Getty Images

    22. Unclog those pores without constantly picking with an Innisfree Pore Clearing Color Mask. It absorbs excess oil and clears out impurities so you can stop trying to push them out yourself.

    Its main ingredient is Jeju volcanic scoria, which is an alkaline substance with a pH level similar to the human body.

    Promising review: "I've suffered from cystic acne on my jaw line, ocassional pimples on cheeks, and have extremely oily skin to where it looks like I purposely applied baby oil on my face. This was is absolutley amazing. My skin is clean, less oily and I RARELY break out!!! What!? Me, really? I'm so happy! This product deep cleans and does not dry!" β€”Alice li

    Get it Amazon for $10.38+.

    23. Benefit from the power of vitamin C with a vegan serum. Vitamin C promotes collagen growth, which is just a fancy way to say your skin will be more plump and radiant.

    It's also been known to really help with rosacea and acne! This one is packed with natural ingredients like chamomile flower, grapefruit, vitamin E, and hylauronic acid.

    Get it from Free People for $33.99.

    24. Adjust your routine to the season. When summer and spring approaches, apply more sunscreen and regularly cleanse (there's more sweat in your life, sorry). As colder weather hits, moisture, moisturize, and moisturize! And moisturize.

    25. Stick to a fragrance-free moisturizer if you have sensitive skin. It's a super simple solution and can give you much more soothing results.

    This one is also cruelty-free, paraben-free, and vegan! Its ingredients like hyaluronic acid, almond oil, aloe and jojob soften your skin with zero irritation.

    Promising review: "This is THE best facial lotion I've ever used. I've been using this brand for about 15 years and it's a great lotion. It's not greasy, it goes on easily, and it soaks right into the skin. My face is very soft and I think it's helped manage my wrinkles by keeping them at bay, which is no easy feat as you get older! It's not irritating and it feels so good going on each day." β€”Eileen W.

    Get it from Amazon for $7.29.

    26. Keep your dang hair out of your face with a headband when going through your skincare routine.

    Promising review: "They're extremely cute! They always keep my hair back when doing makeup or skin care routine. I've recommended this product to so many friends and they love it as much as I do!" β€”Amanda

    Get it from Amazon for $6.

    27. Be patient when it comes to skincare products β€” some are going to take time to work! But there are other times when it's just not doing the trick, and it's important to know the difference.

    28. Sleep well knowing your face is safer from acne-causing bacteria by opting for a silk pillowcase. There's less transfer from your skin to the pillow, and is also gentler if you're one to toss and turn (me).

    Promising review: "I absolutely adore these β€” I've heard they're great for your hair and skin, but they also stay so cool and are just so soft. I sleep with them every night! I just ordered another. I can't use any other pillowcase now and get the same level of sleep. They are the best. My favorite part is not only the feeling of them and how they stay cool, but the zipper on the side makes my pillows look so sharp and clean and tidy! It's the best. I haven't had acne issues at all since and my hair is so much less frizzy. I cannot rave enough about these." β€”Rianna

    Get it from Amazon for $22.90+ (available in five sizes and 33 colors).

    29. Find a *happy medium* when it comes to the temperature with which you wash your face. Too hot, and you can accidentally dry out your skin and heighten sensitivity β€” but sticking to strictly cold water leaves your skin in need of ~variety~.

    Screen Gems

    The way to go? Lukewarm water! Not only does this temp get *just* the right amount of foaming from your face wash, but it also effectively removes dirt from the surface of your face, balance your skin's oils, and subtly open your pores to absorb enough product without overdoing it.

    Check out even more from L'OrΓ©al Paris for the best water temperature for your skin!

    You trying to take yourself seriously like:


    The reviews for this post have been edited for length and clarity.

    Need A Shopping Buddy?

    Get great products - from pros in the fine art of buying stuff online - delivered to your inbox!
    Newsletter signup form