Building a Skincare Routine 101

I’ve been documenting my interest in skincare for around 18 months now and i’ve only recently realised that although i’ve happily typed out my skincare routine more than once at everyone’s request, i’ve definitely taken it for granted that everyone reading my blog is a fellow skincare fanatic and skipped some of the basics – such as how to even build a basic skincare routine in the first place.

Building a skincare routine is important; not just so you can have a huge instagram worthy shelf of products but to ensure you’re getting the best from your products, to make sure they’re absorbing into your skin properly, and not clashing with other ingredients in your routine. There are definitely rules to building a skincare routine, you can’t just throw everything on in a random order and expect to wake up with glowy skin. Some types of products absolutely have to go before or after others otherwise they wont work and you’ll be wasting your money. Beyond the ordering of product type, you should also be aware that product texture is equally as important and the general rule is; thinnest to thickest. I know it sounds a little confusing, but I’m about to break it down for y’all.

For the most basic routine, if you’re generally happy with your routine, you can opt for cleanser, moisturiser and spf. However, if you want to change your hydration, dullness, pigmentation; you’re going to need a bit more help. To get an effective routine, this is how it should go:

  1. Cleanser
  2. Toner
  3. Serums
  4. Moisturiser
  5. Spf

There are of course over types or products you can add in (such as oils and eye treatments but we’ll get to that later).

I personally prefer not to clean my face with a cleanser in the morning as my skin is so dry, it almost always makes me feel more drier and then leads to sensitivity. Although I consider myself a bit of a cleansing whore (a huge basket of cleansers that one person doesn’t need sits by my bathtub and i use almost every single one of them – what about it?). I don’t just buy every type of cleanser available; creams, balms and oils are what my dry skin prefers as opposed to foaming or water based cleansers. In the evening, I always double cleanse; which means I use an oil or balm cleanser first to remove oil based make up, spf and sebum and then a cream or lotion based cleanser which often contain emollients that can rid your skin of impurities without stripping it and are actually rather hydrating. Be aware of your skin type and look into what products will work for you.

I personally don’t think toner’s are an absolute must in a routine if you’re using a non-harsh, non-stripping good quality cleanser. Toners used to be necessary to balance your skin’s pH after cleansing, but i’d like to think that no one reading my blog is washing their face with soap and requires an additional product to bring their skin back to normal. However, toner’s have evolved and can be beneficial – some contain exfoliating ingredients such as glycolic acid, calming properties such as aloe, green tea or rosewater or a hit of hydration with Hyaluronic acid. Contrary to instruction and belief, you don’t need to use cotton rounds to apply toner – your clean hands should suffice, and it’s also way better for the environment (although reusable pads exist too!). Toners can be used morning and evening, but I’d keep the exfoliating ones for every other evening.

This is where the fun begins, because these are the products that make the biggest difference to your skin, whether that’s for brightening, texture issues, blemishes or dryness – there’s a serum for you. Remember when I mentioned texture? Go from thinnest to thickest, water based and then oil based. There are way too many different types of serum/ingredients for me to list, but here is where you’d add:

  • Hyaluronic acid (apply am and pm) (water based)
  • Vitamin C aka L-Ascorbic Acid (apply in the mornings) (can be water or oil based depending on the solution)
  • Retinol (apply in the evenings) (oil based)
  • AHA’s such as Lactic, glycolic, mandelic, azaleic or whichever acid of your choice (apply in the evenings, don’t mix them in one evening and careful with using acids every single night in case of over exfoliation) (water based)
  • BHA aka Salicylic acid (apply am or pm) (water based)
  • Niacinamide (apply am or pm) (water based)

You may want to use more than one serum in one application which is absolutely fine and even recommended sometimes, because some ingredients compliment one another such as Retinol & Niacinamide (the latter reduces the irritation of the former) but some ingredients don’t have a good friendship and it may be best to use them separately: Vitamin C is not a fan of Niacinamide and you would never use Retinol at the same time as AHA’s as they both cause cell turnover, and the over exfoliation is REAL. I’ll hopefully start making posts on individual ingredients, but in the mean time i’d make sure you research mixing ingredients before you burn your skin off or end up so dry you start shedding your skin like Goldmember in Austin Powers.

Time of day is also important, as per the pointers in the list. Retinol’s and actives are often not stable in the sunlight, and can make your skin even more sensitive to the sun. You’d use these at night, but throwing on vitamin c, antioxidants or niacinamide in the day time is no problem and can even be beneficial in terms of brightening and protecting your skin against the environment throughout the day. Products should have good instructions or warnings on their labels, and if you’re in doubt – contact the company before adding it into your routine.

I truly don’t care if you’re oily and you think you you don’t need to moisturise because the oil from your forehead keeps you lookin’ slick; you best go pick up that cream before I beat your ass. Newsflash! Not all moisturisers are the same, they aren’t all thick lotions; they can also exist as balms, gels and lightweight creams. Even as someone who has dry skin, I may swap a heavy cream/lotion to something lighter in the summer time. Those with oily skin can *trick* their skin into thinking it’s already hydrated, and therefore stop their sebaceous glands from producing excess oil. Some creams are labelled as “Day” or “Night” creams, and this is generally because they contain antioxidants to protect against free radicals and spf or the night creams may contain exfoliating ingredients such as glycolic acid and are often very heavy. I tend to avoid creams that are targeted towards to a specific time of the day; i prefer to apply my antioxidants and acids in a serum type & I like my spf applied separately. I’d rather concentrate on how hydrating the moisturiser is (does it contain ceramides or hyaluronic acid?) and think of it as a sealant for all the serums i’ve applied previously.

NO THE SPF IN YOUR MAKE UP IS NOT ENOUGH. I don’t give a damn fuck if your pressed powder says it contains spf 15 and your foundation has spf20 – you can not do quick math and add them up to create spf35. In addition to that, the spf in make up products are not going to get absorbed into your skin properly, and you’re best off either going for a moisturiser that contains spf or a separate product altogether. Whether you have the palest or darkest skin, you really need to be wearing spf – the sun doesn’t discriminate, and although you may not physically *burn*, it doesn’t mean uva and uvb rays aren’t damaging your cells. You can still get the benefits of sunlight and tan even whilst wearing spf. Black don’t crack may be real, but so is skin cancer. Consistent spf wear can also minimise fine lines, wrinkles, texture issues and even appearance of pores – why wouldn’t you wear it? Spf 30 is the recommended level and reapplication can vary depending on what you’re doing. Swimming and sweating will of course cause your spf to run off more quickly, and you should apply every few hours even when you’re indoors. i’m not perfect, i often don’t remember to apply it throughout the day when i’m at work; i do own a spray bottle of spf by Soleil Toujours that doesn’t disturb my make up, and setting powders with spf can be useful here for reapplication as opposed to initial coverage (See Supergoop!).

There are different types of spf: Mineral (aka natural or physical) and Chemical (aka Synthetic).

Mineral spfs are of a “natural” source and contain ingredients like titanium dioxide or zinc oxide; they absorb in to your skin and deflect or scatter the suns rays (hence the term physical) – they can be good for acne prone and sensitive skin as the ingredients are quite mild. Mineral spf’s are notorious for giving the dreaded white caste that can make my fellow melanated people’s look like a fucking smurf. However, time’s have changed and it’s easier to find mineral spf’s that don’t have a white tinge at all – one of my favourites being Soleil Toujours. They work very quickly and but only after absorption, and i’d slather on plenty to ensure proper protection.

Chemical spfs don’t get the greatest rep nowadays, for one; they’re typically not coral reef friendly (this means that what washes off in to the sea is damaging the corals, and some ingredients are banned in Hawaii for this reason). they can sometimes take longer to work, and they can potentially be pore clogging but this can be very dependent on your skin type and other ingredients in the product. They may work the same way as mineral spf, but can also work by absorbing the uv rays and converting it into heat (could be a problem for sensitive and rosacea skin). However, they are often broad spectrum – i’ve used both mineral and chemical spf and my skin is happy with both!

Neither are better than the other, essentially everything is a chemical including water; and i’d go for what works best on your skin and aim for something that has broad spectrum protection.

What about?…
Of course, you may also have other products you want to add in to your routine and you’re not sure where they fit after you’ve got your staples sorted.


Masks can be put on after cleansing and serums, and before moisturising. There are various types of masks; sheet masks, clay masks and even sleeping masks. The latter of course may need to go on right at the end of the routine to act as a sealant, but the others can be washed off and then you can continue with the rest of your routine. Sometimes I may do a mask in the middle of the day, and apply it before my serums.


Oils are one of my favourite parts of my routine, and i don’t think my skin would be the same without them. They can be beautifully hydrating, great for evening skin tone,  and calming redness depending on which oil you use. Oils go after moisturiser but before spf or the last step in your night routine.

Eye creams?

Eye creams are generally thinner than moisturisers, so I’d apply them after serums but before your moisturiser. You can use thicker eye creams at night. The skin under your eyes is very thin, work the product in gently using your ring finger.

Acne treatments?

Acne specific products such as benzoyl peroxide would go after cleansing and toning but before serums. Don’t mix acne treatments with other acids or actives like retinol – although some can go together like salicylic acid and BP, id speak to your doctor or dermatologist before going wild!

I genuinely thought this would be a short blog post, but as usual I forget how much detail and order goes into skincare. No one would think me doing my routine would be one of the most relaxing moments of my day! I hope this blog post has helped, and has inspired you to get your own skincare routine in order – don’t worry about spending lots of money on fancy serums until you’ve got the basics right. Stick with your basic/staple routine for at least two weeks before considering changing anything. It takes this long for your skin’s moisture barrier to repair itself and for the true effects of the products to make themselves present. Listen to your skin, read product labels and don’t introduce too many new products into your routine at once!

Until next time,

Demi – Colleen x

3 thoughts on “Building a Skincare Routine 101

  1. Keziah says:

    Masks I definitely add and I use these under my arms as well. Very thorough post. I like that you added spf it is one of those steps often overlooked especially by women of colour.


    1. demicolleen says:

      That’s actually a great idea. I’ve also heard of masking your butt!
      Yes! It’s my life’s mission to ensure all people of colour are wearing spf 😂


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