Help me with my skincare routine, pls.

I feel like I missed out on some sort of walkthrough when I started this...Is there a direction or steps I should take to find what works best for me?


I appreciate someone's perspective outside of my small social circle.

Anyway, I feel like I might get a genuine response from you about this sort of thing, and I also feel like I'm not the only one in my situation, so just going to go with it.

I'm a guy and I decided I was going to try out some skin care products and happened to find a package deal that I liked using, but I've only bought it once and I'm running out of the supply. It's also got one of the stereotypical male names and branding and all that, that I could really care less about.

My question is this; how do you figure out what is right for you? 

I feel like I missed out on some sort of walkthrough when I started this. I like the products I've been using, but I'm not the type to just leave options on the table when I've only really tried one. Is there a direction or steps I should take to find what works best for me?



Oh my gosh I’m thrilled by this question!!! Mostly because— please no one arrest me— until January 2019, I did NOTHING for my skin. Like nothing. Despite growing up with three sisters, a mother and a step mother, no one told me what I was supposed to do with make up or skin care and by the time I wanted to get into it, I felt like everyone already knew what they were doing and I was too far behind maybe? It felt like raising my hand in college and being like, “Hey I don’t know what the colors are.”

Anyway, 2019 I made two New Years resolutions like a big corny clown and they were:

  1. To get into skin care.

  2. To make pasta by scratch.

Reader, I did both. I made a very successful sweet potato gnocchi by hand that was a real dick to clean up AND I got a very inexpensive, but highly effective skin routine down. And I’m now very into skincare.

I will not pretend to be a skin care expert by ANY MEANS, but I most certainly can help you figure out what you need to do!!!

First things first— you have to figure out what your skin type and “skin concerns” are. I don’t know why companies always call it that, but they do.

Skin Types:

  • Dry

  • Oily

  • Combination (unsurprisingly… this just means some parts of your skin are oily and some are dry).

Skin Concerns (Not an exhaustive list, but possibilities):

  • Dryness

  • Redness / irritation (itching, patchiness, etc).

  • Acne (often happens with more oily skin BUT it is not exclusive to that skin type! Anyone can have acne issues!)

  • Aging

  • Dullness

I will be very real with you— it has taken me a bit to know what “dullness/brightness” are in terms of skin. The rest of the common skin concerns seem very visually obvious to me, but that one didn’t. If you don’t “get it” that’s fine! Ignore it! You do not need to know everything to create a simple skin routine.

As a very basic definition— skin that is bright seems fresh and glow-y rather than sallow or gray. I know that’s a bit nebulous, but I just want to explain should anyone want to know.

If you’re really struggling to figure out what your skincare concerns are or what type of skin you have, ask a trusted friend or family member who knows even a tiny amount about makeup or skincare OR pop into a Sephora or an Ulta Beauty store if you live near one. They will likely be able to give you info (although if you go into a store, they will likely try to sell you shit).

Ok!!! Now I’m going to drop the BASIC skin care routine that everyone needs to do. I’ll also put a MINORLY expanded routine at the bottom if you’re trying to get a little more fancy and see some extra results. Start small and keep it manageable. We’re not trying to break any records here!!!!


  1. Cleanser.

  2. Moisturizer.

  3. SPF.

That’s it.

Now there are MANY more things you can do, but those are the required things. I’ll break down them a bit more and give you ideas.


Ok, you should for sure wash your face at night to get off all the days dirt. Pollution is very bad for skin and—bad news bears!— the world is very polluted. Sorry. You gotta wash your face. If you want to also do this in the morning, great. That’s fine. Skin care people are divided on whether you need to do both times or just at night. Find what works for you!

To pick a cleanser, go to Amazon or a site like that (YOU DON’T HAVE TO BUY FROM THERE, JUST TO GET REVIEWS!!!) and type in the words, “Cleanser for _______ skin” and then in the blank fill in the type of skin you have. You don’t want to get a cleanser that is going to dry out your already dry ass skin, or one that doesn’t fight acne if that’s your concern. You can also go the other way and search for “hydrating cleanser,” or “oil-free cleanser.”

You do not need to get crazy here. A lot of daily cleansers are cheap and well-rated. Just don’t pick something that is working against your skin goals. When you wash your face either use your hands or a CLEAN, NEW wash cloth. The aesthetician Nayamka Roberts-Smith went viral on twitter last year for suggesting that everyone should wash their face for 60 seconds (The 60 Seconds Rule as she calls it). Aim for that.


Even if you have oily skin, you must moisturize. Again, search for the type of moisturizer that your skin needs. There are moisturizers for all types of skin and skin concerns.

If you’re looking for cheaper products, add the word “drugstore” to your search. Moisturizer can get a bit more expensive, especially if you look for ones with anti-aging ingredients.


This is the most important and boring part of any skin care routine. A lot of people buy moisturizers with SPF in them to skip this very stupid step, which I frankly hate. I don’t know why I hate putting sunscreen on so much, but I do. I resent that the sun is being a little brat and trying to ruin my face. But you HAVE TO WEAR SUNSCREEN ON YOUR FACE. 80% of aging is apparently from sun damage, according to L’Oreal. Idk how they know that, but they put it in a magazine ad, so I believe that it’s true.

Regardless of if 80% is true, the sun causes a lot of damage before you get to the whole cancer deal. So even if, for some dumb reason, skin cancer isn’t a real enough threat to you (IT SHOULD BE), please just wear SPF out of vanity. Look for things with SPF 30 and above, ideally.

You can also buy this separately from your moisturizer. Buy facial sunscreen, though, rather than just misting the body stuff on yourself. It’s usually fragrance free and a bit gentler in my experience.


-On occasion, you should also be exfoliating your face. Don’t get crazy!! You do not want to over-exfoliate. Exfoliating is just sloughing off dead skin cells. You can do it chemically (often preferred by skin care people) or with physical things within in the formulas (think thinks with a more gritty texture like a sugar scrub). You have to be careful with physical exfoliation because some things are not gentle enough to exfoliate your skin with, they create micro-tears on your skins surface, which is BAD. Famously, a very popular brand St. Ives Apricot Scrub does this. You will be banned from Skincare University if you buy St. Ives Apricot Scrub.

-Toners also exfoliate lightly, so if you follow the steps below, your toner will help you. You can buy toners for all types of skin, just like everything else, but frankly toners are very confusing. There’s a lot of variance in what they can do and do do. (lol @ doo doo). Basically, they clean your face and even your skin tone. If you want to know more about toners, write in again and I can walk you through what you need to do. There’s A LOT of information out there about them and some of it is conflicting. Because of this, I’d recommend not adding toners until you’re already doing a more basic routine.

-Serums are a pretty great way to specifically address certain issues. There are brightening serums, hydrating serums, tightening serums, anti-aging serums and everything in between. There are some really highly rated, fairly cheap serums on the market that have thousands of 4+ star reviews on Amazon/Sephora/etc. They are pretty easy to shop for because of this. They’re relatively cheap, easy, and effective.

-Night creams. These are usually really helpful for anti-aging and hydrating. These—unsurprisingly— go on at night, after you’ve washed your face. They’re a great booster type of thing, but you don’t have to do it. Hell, you don’t have to do any of this!

Expanded skin routine in order for the ambitious:

  1. Cleanser.

  2. Toner.

  3. Serum.

  4. Moisturizer.

  5. SPF.

** Night creams at night, exfoliation every few days (NEVER more than 3x per week, EVER) **

Ok. I hope I made that all clear. PLEASE write in with any questions and to any skin care fanatics out there, PLEASE feel free to correct me on anything I got wrong.

For the most part, address the concerns you have within your budget and time availability. It’s better to do what you have time to do and stick with it than to get a massive fancy skin care routine that you’ll never do.

Sophia Benoit writes this very newsletter; she also writes about sex & relationships for GQ, tweets about everything else at @1followernodad, is a researcher for Lights Out With David Spade, and has had bylines in The Guardian, Reductress, Refinery29, Allure, and The Cut. You can reach her or yell at her at