Skincare 101: The Best Basics for Beginners

Can I admit something here? Up until about, oh, 6 months ago, I never gave much thought to skincare. Like at all. I had a few brief affairs with cleansing wipes and makeup remover, but that was about it. I know, cringe. But this past year as I've finished college and moved on to twenty-something post-grad life, I've been more interested in making healthy lifestyle choices. I've accepted that I will never be some green smoothie chugging health goddess, but I recognized that I could make a few basic changes to feel a lot better day-to-day.

The first on my list was: get a skincare routine.

I was obviously a little clueless about where to begin, but after a lot of experimentation and research, I’ve found several products that work great for me.

So here is a brief primer (primer, get it? you will after reading this) on the basics of skincare and some of my favorite products to get your healthiest, happiest skin!


Cleanser is the cornerstone of skincare; it’s the stuff that takes off your makeup, unclogs your pores, and clears up your skin. It can come in tons of forms – foaming, brightening, exfoliating, or even wipes.

My absolute favorite product is micellar water, because I’m incredibly lazy. You don’t have to rinse it off and it gently clears and cleanses your skin and removes all traces of makeup. I am officially completely devoted to this stuff. All you do is soak a cotton pad or towel in the stuff, wipe off your makeup and saturate your face, and let it work its magic!


Toner is kind of my skincare secret weapon now. It clears pores, nourishes and moisturizes skin, and just generally provides an extra layer of protection for your face. It's especially helpful for those who have oily skin or who are prone to breakouts.

Basically, you just add some to a cotton pad and swipe it all over your face after washing it to reinvigorate and moisturize it. I use the Pixi Glow Tonic and it's done absolute wonders for making my skin brighter and healthier – plus it smells incredible.


Primer is usually used before putting on makeup to give it a smooth, even finish. Often primers have a certain amount of SPF to protect from sun damage as well.

One of my favorite products is the Becca Backlight Filter Face Primer. It’s so smooth and lightweight and it’s formulated with tons of face-friendly vitamins to invigorate my skin.


Exfoliating face products usually contain small beads or other pieces that will gently scrub your skin and remove makeup build up, dirt and dead skin cells from your face. It’s good to use this every once in a while, but do not use an exfoliating product every day, or it can be incredibly rough and abrasive on your skin.

I think many people make the same mistake as teenagers and use a certain pink grapefruit exfoliating product daily to fight acne and clogged pores but it can have the exact opposite effect sometimes, so use this sparingly!


Moisturizer is like, the be-all, end-all of skincare. Basically, a good cleanser and a good moisturizer is all you truly need for the most basic skincare. Moisturizer does exactly what it says – it moisturizes and hydrates your skin to help fight aging, sun damage, fine lines, etc.

As un-glamorous as it may be, the best moisturizer I've tried so far is Pond's Cold Cream. It's silky smooth and leaves my face feeling so soft and hydrated. Plus it's like $5 at the drugstore. Win-win.

Face masks

Face masks are really having a moment right now. They generally come in two different types – liquid mask or sheet mask. The liquid kind come in various types and viscosities, but usually you spread it evenly across your face, let it set for however long, then rinse it off. Sheet masks make you look like Hannibal Lecter but they have the same good results.

Masks moisturize, rejuvenate and revitalize your skin, and they can be a great way to get in some serious self-care time. Plus they make you feel like you're at the spa, so kick back, grab a fluffy robe and some cucumber slices, and get to relaxing.


Oh my gosh, I cannot even explain how important sunscreen is now. It's one of those things that you roll your eyes at as a kid when your mom is slathering sunblock on your back, but now that I'm older, I understand the importance.

The best part is, a lot of products like moisturizers and primers and even some makeup products have SPF in their formulas now, so be sure to check. But if not, you might want to invest in a lightweight sunscreen. It's one of the best ways to prevent aging, fine lines, wrinkles and sun damage. If you plan to use it everyday, make sure to get a product that is specifically for your face so you don't clog up your pores with a heavy formula.

What are your go-to products?