I’m a chronic planner. Some may say I overplan; I say I prepare thoroughly. The sheer number of Google docs, lists, and notes in my phone is probably enough to overwhelm the average (read: normal, lol) person, but I feel an intense sense of calm when I know I have a game plan sorted out for whatever I’m about to do. Suffice to say, it’s no surprise that I have my skincare planned out at least six months ahead of time both so I can test out new things as well as take advantage of any sales or discounts that pop up throughout the year.
I am by no means saying that everyone needs to plan things out to this extent, but I think taking a bit more of a methodical approach to skincare can benefit just about anyone who wants to have a consistent routine. Even if you’re not someone who finds it fun to hunt for new products or brands to try out, avoiding situations like an emergency grocery store run because you ran out of face wash or frantically looking on YouTube for solutions to an emerging breakout because you have an event coming up is always a plus in my book.
Here’s how I like to get my skincare game plan together.
Even if you don’t find it fun to hunt for new products, avoiding an emergency grocery store run because you ran out of face wash is always a plus in my book.
1. Clear Goals
Before you set out to do anything, I feel like it’s best to have a clear idea of where you want to end up. There’s no guarantee that you’ll end up there of course, but having some targeted goals to reach with your skincare routine makes it so much easier to find your way through all the product launches, marketing campaigns, and social media reviews you’ll find along the way.
When I say clear, I also mean tangible, realistic goals. Things like “I want nicer skin” or “I just want to look younger” are way too broad and don’t give you anything to actually measure any progress you may make. “I want poreless skin” or “I need my acne to just disappear” are unrealistic or even impossible (your skin cannot exist without pores), and you will inevitably be disappointed because there are no such things as surefire miracle workers. If products like that existed, we’d all be using them and nothing else would exist.
The kind of goals I’m talking about are more along the lines of “I want to reduce the frequency/duration of my breakouts,” “I want to address the amount of clogged pores I’m getting,” or “I want to focus on hydration because it’s dry where I live.” These are all more measurable, attainable goals that still have a ton of possibilities to explore in terms of products, skincare philosophies, and treatments without having you chasing some elusive finish line.
2. Price Point
Considering my love for making lists, I doubt it will shock anyone that I’m also a huge proponent for creating a budget, and skincare is no different. I do consider some parts of skincare to be essential, namely washing your face and applying sunscreen. Just like brushing your teeth and washing your body is a part of basic hygiene, I consider washing your face to be in that group. And sunscreen’s ability to greatly reduce the risk for skin cancer is more than enough to be considered essential in my book. Any other goals or desires we might have for our skin, especially when we get into areas like trying to even out skin tone or “anti-aging,” are things that all of us could live perfectly healthy lives without.
Do not ever spend beyond your means for some serum you saw on Instagram or a moisturizer that an influencer told you is a “must have.” The price points of products vary hugely in the realm of skincare, and especially nowadays, there’s likely a more affordable version of any higher priced item you’re considering trying out. Be firm with your budget and do not stretch it because a celebrity you like launched a skincare line; these tempting purchases may work well for you or do nothing for you, but they’re definitely not worth financially taxing yourself.
3. Balance It Out
It can be easy to see these hyped-up ingredients and products that people are claiming to have amazing results from and want to dump them all on your face at once, but please don’t y’all. Layering too many “active” ingredients like AHAs, BHAs, retinoids, or vitamin C in one routine is a recipe for irritated skin. I’ve seen this overuse of potent ingredients resulting in irritated, inflamed skin happen way too many times to count and experienced it myself a few times as well. Selecting and incorporating these types of ingredients is a whole process on its own, but the thing that I want to highlight here is to keep a good balance of the types of products you select.
In general, I’d recommend just choosing one “hero active” for any given routine (i.e., one for morning and one for night, if you do different routines) and making sure everything else is there to support your skin with hydration and moisture. Again, there’s a lot to be said here on how to effectively use actives in your routine(s), so I’ll probably go over this more at a later time, but a balanced, steady approach is what will benefit you the most rather than going full speed with every aggressive treatment product you can get your hands on.
4. Fill in the Gaps
I know I just said it, but let me repeat it again: Do not buy things just for hype. Keep a clear idea of what you currently have and what you’re running low on before picking up anything new so you’re getting things you’ll actually use in the near future. I’ve fallen down this rabbit hole before and as someone who ended up with five face washes and literally no moisturizer, don’t be like me.
This type of forethought can also give you some space to try out new products without locking yourself into something that may not work out well for you. For example, if you have a hydrating serum you know you like, but want to try a new one, make sure you have one to backup your favorite so that in the event the new kid on the block doesn’t work out, you can go right back to some you already know and like.
5. Have Fun
Please remember that the vast majority of skincare practices that we engage in are for personal satisfaction. Try to have some fun and keep things lighthearted when it comes to skincare. I know what it’s like to be dealing with something like cystic acne and wanting a solution so badly, but putting immense pressure on yourself isn’t going to make your skin any healthier or feel any better. I also know how it feels to get lost down a research wormhole because you’re scared to make the “wrong decision.” While gathering intel before you make a purchase is something I always advocate for, making skincare purchases out of fear or panic is not something anyone should do.
I’m here to tell you that it’s okay if you end up making a skincare purchase because you just like the packaging or a particular ingredient. It’s okay that it may not be the most scientifically researched but just sounds like a fun thing you’d enjoy using. There’s no “winning” in skincare, and as long as you’re covering your bases like I mentioned earlier (i.e., don’t go over budget, have a good sunscreen, etc.), buying something because the bottle is pretty or you like the philosophy of the brand or founder is absolutely okay.
As I was writing this, I opened my Google doc I use to plan my skincare about a dozen times, and I am genuinely excited for all the experimenting that I have planned out for the first half of the year. I hope that I was able to offer some of y’all out there a bit of guidance and got some of you hyped up to move forward in your skincare game plan. Here’s to everyone having calmer, healthier, and glowier skin in 2021.