If the number of skin care products in your bathroom shelves and drawers rivals the stock carried in the skin care aisle at the drugstore, read on. You may also want to brace yourself, skin care addicts, because you may not welcome this news: most of use too many products. And if your hoarder-type way when it comes to skin care products is making you feel like you should cut your routine down to the basics, at its simplest, it comes down to cleansing, protecting and hydrating, says Kiehl’s consulting dermatologist Adam Geier. “Other products are ancillary, and this is an area people can more carefully navigate and simplify, for example,
masks, exfoliants and toners,” says the New York-based derm. While these products can deliver benefits, they should be viewed as add-ons to the big three, he says. And while Toronto-based dermatologist Sandy Skotnicki agrees that cleansing, protecting with sunscreen and moisturizing with products tailored to your age and skin type are critical, she also acknowledges that women simply like to use multiple products.

So where does that leave you when it comes to trying to streamline your skin care routine and ensuring you’re using what you should? Here are some rules to simplifying your regimen:

1. Toners can be eliminated (for many of us).
Toners are the least helpful product in general, says Dr. Skotnicki, but adds that they can be useful if you prefer using a milk cleanser that doesn’t clean your skin as well as other cleansers.

2. Feel free to play the field with skin care products from different brands.
There’s no need to stick to one skin care line’s entire collection for your skin care needs. Pick and choose from different brands. “I find there is so much variety with cleansers and moisturizers that one line sometimes does not fit a patient’s likes and dislikes. A line may offer a cream cleanser and a
heavy moisturizer and fragrance, and the patient may want a foam cleanser or vice versa—it’s really about choice,” says Dr. Skotnicki. However, she says if your skin is acne-prone, then you may find it beneficial to stick to a multi-step regimen. “Acne is different because the opposite is true: the cleansers are formulated to work with the treatment (for example, offering less irritation or delivering an active, and so on).”

3. Before committing to a skin care product, test a sample. If your bathroom drawer of skin care products is overflowing in part because you buy products and discover that you’re not much of a fan, then you should definitely start asking at your makeup counter for a sample of the product to test out before purchasing the full-size product. “Try a sample to see if you like the feel and smell, or if it irritates you or is too thick or thin. If a product irritates you from the beginning it is not for you,” she says. Keep in mind, though, that certain anti-aging products may call for a longer trial period. “Anti-aging creams that contain glycolic acid or retinol take time to adjust to,” says Dr. Skotnicki. While a basic moisturizer should never irritate your skin, with an
anti aging one, she suggests starting with using it three times a week to start to get used to the ingredients’ drying effect and work up to using it daily.

Read on for more simple skin care tips to live by…
4. Apply a serum how it should be applied. If you do
choose to use a serum, it should be the first thing you apply onto your clean skin, that is, before your makeup and moisturizer. But if it’s in the daytime, sunscreen takes priority. “Sunscreens should always go on first,” says Dr. Skotnicki. “Sunscreen with chemical sunscreen actives like Parsol 1789 or Mexoryl need to absorb into the skin and you could affect their absorption if you use something on the clean skin first,” she says. While you’ll probably still get good protection from the sun, if you want your sunscreen to give you the best results you should put it on clean skin. If you are using a a sunscreen with titanium, in this case, you could apply it on top of your serum as titanium sunscreens to no need to absorb into the skin as much, she notes.

5. Pare down to two moisturizers. If you have more
moisturizers than hands, you need to cut back. All you truly need are two, says Dr. Skotnicki. “Pick one for winter and one for summer if you like a change in consistency.”

6. Eliminate from your stash skin care products with ingredients you don’t need. Do you really need that strawberry flavour in your lip balm or the rose fragrance in your moisturizer? “In general, I prefer fragrance free, especially for face products as it is not needed on the face and can lead to irritation,” says Dr. Skotnicki.

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