It all started with a Google Doc. Back in 2017, Rio Viera-Newton outlined the products she uses to keep her eczema- and acne-prone skin looking clear and feeling healthy for her friends — and then we published it on the Strategist. Four years later, Rio writes about beauty products for us full-time, and now, she wrote a book: Let’s Face It: Secrets of a Skincare Obsessive, in which she helps skin-care rookies and veterans alike better understand what to put on their skin every day and why. We have an excerpt here, but if you want more tips from our favorite skin-care obsessive, pick up a copy of her book.
When thinking about products, it’s important to take your daily life into consideration: Do you tend to wash your face before dinner, or do you do it right before you pass out? Do you skip steps already? In skin care, consistency is key — on average, it takes a whole 30 days to gauge what a product is doing for your skin. So, if you know you’re short on time in the mornings and evenings, creating a giant routine that you know you won’t end up doing is just setting yourself up for failure. And there’s no shame in smaller routines! Simple routines are truly just as effective — it’s just important that the products you are using are right for your skin type.
Equally, maximalist routines can be wonderfully nurturing. Don’t get me wrong: There are certainly areas where you can overdo skin care (we see this most with over-exfoliation), but treating your skin to layers of deeply nourishing and replenishing ingredients can be great. Your dedication to pampering your skin can be particularly important in winter, when your skin is most susceptible to irritation or dehydration. It’s also important to give your skin extra love when you are using intensive treatments such as retinoids, which can often trigger extreme sensitivity and require an equal balance of moisturizing and soothing properties.
Something I frequently hear from people, most often those with extremely busy jobs or kids, is that they’d really love to take the time to create a healthy skin-care routine for themselves but fear that they won’t be able to keep up with the daily maintenance. In this day and age, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the constant influx of information thrown at us and the high standards we’re consistently held to. Socially, we’re expected to stay up-to-date on the buzzy TV shows, books, and films so that we can participate in conversations with colleagues and friends. Plus, we’re told to work out three times a week by studies in magazines or the news, not to mention most of our time is spent working. So, the idea of a skin-care routine — carving out time to pamper yourself with toners and creams and serums — can feel like yet another task to add to your ever-growing to-do list.
But unlike other aspects of your life, which often move at a rapid, unforgiving, unwavering speed, a skin-care routine is entirely adaptable to your needs and schedule. A skin-care routine, at its core, should feel self-nurturing and meditative. No one else but you is in charge of it. How many steps you have time for, what you want to use, what you think will help — all of it is your choice. If you only have time for one step today, that’s okay. If you have time for four, that’s great too. It’s all about executing what you can based on the time you’ve allotted yourself, what your skin needs, and, really, what feels nice to do. When I meet someone new, often they’ll say something along the lines of “You’d be ashamed of how little I do to my skin.” But, honestly, if a minimal, concise routine works for your skin and schedule, I support it. As long as you’re using sun protection!
There’s no point in rushing out to buy products to fill a lengthy ten-step routine if you know you’re not going to stick to it. Personally, I like to keep my morning routine pretty quick and easy, with just the necessities, because I know I’m naturally not an early riser and am always running a bit late. For me, that means cleansing (situationally — sometimes I don’t if I feel I haven’t sweat in my sleep), vitamin C for helping fade any hyperpigmentation, which is a consistent issue for me, moisturizer, and SPF.
In the evenings, however, I like to be more indulgent. I find my skin-care routine to be a relaxing and genuinely therapeutic practice, helping me “turn off” from the day and wind down for the evening. I double cleanse, sometimes exfoliate, pat in an essence, and then lock it in with a moisturizer and face oil. Five-ish steps, for me, is the right number — the one that I know I’ll stick to every evening, no matter how tired, grumpy, or perhaps even tipsy I might be. Certainly, there are lazy Sundays where I might throw in a sheet mask here or there, but for the most part that five-step, 15-minute routine is what I stick to.