Fresh start I
Date: 26 May 2016

The mantra to set up (and follow) a winning skincare routine is this: start small and stay strong. Our two-part basic skincare cheat sheet has all the answers to help you fulfil every skin goal you’ve ever had - By Parizaad Khan Sethi

I don’t know about you, but YouTube beauty videos are my crack. I could watch them—unblinking—for hours. My favourite category is the million-step Korean beauty routine, where doll-like women layer on product after product on already flawless skin. Afterward, I’m always filled with a revolutionary zeal, and I fly to my dresser to painstakingly slather on essences, treatments, sheet masks and snail slime. But I sadly lack the iron-will and follow-through of Korean beauty bloggers. A few days into this process, my will crumbles and I fall back into a hole of skincare sloth.

Well, not exactly. I was not born with genes that gave me idiot-proof skin. I know girls who never cleansed their faces after getting home covered with sweat, pollution and commuter’s grime, and yet, had skin like a shiny apple. I was not one of them, no matter how many shiny apples I ate. My skin had become collateral damage to my lifestyle and any abuse inflicted showed up as breakouts, redness, sensitivity or pigmentation. So I took small but serious steps—and they paid off. Still, I’ll never have a complexion that would make a K-beauty blogger envious, but I’ve put together a simple system that makes me feel comfortable in my own skin.

Below is the bare-bones routine that doesn’t need a flow chart to follow and should be the basic minimum you do for your face. The biggest secret to good skincare is also the most boring one—consistency. So try and stick to this schedule no matter what, even if it means 5 minutes less Netflix.

If you’re ambitious, add to this routine, but make sure it won’t overwhelm you when you come home after one too many at happy hour, or when you’re rushing to work because the alarm didn’t go off. Stick with it and hopefully, a shiny apple will be where your face is.

Step 1: Cleanse
A.M. and P.M.

Use a creamy or milky cleanser in the morning (vigorously foaming cleansers can be drying, so opt for a milkier emulsion, which doesn’t strip away all the skin’s oils, like Ananda Cleansing Cream For Oily Skin. In the evening, it’s best to double cleanse to properly remove makeup, sunscreen and pollution. (Read more about double cleansing here.) Massage in a cleansing oil like Forest Essentials Floral Make Up Remover Oil. Wipe that off with a cotton pad and then wash off any residue with a creamy or milky cleanser.

Step 2: Exfoliate and Tone (optional)

Try and delete from memory everything you know about toners. Toners today are very different from the astringent toners of the 80’s and 90’s. Some rules: 1) Don’t go anywhere near a toner containing alcohol (always read the list of ingredients) and 2) Remember a toner is not meant to ‘close’ pores (pores do not open and close, that is a myth). Today, toners usually fall into two categories: acid toners or acid exfoliators and hydrating toners. The former contain alpha hydroxy and beta hydroxy acids, and help exfoliate dead cells to reveal fresher skin. They are vital if your skin is dull and lifeless. Use them once or twice a week.

Hydrating toners, a mainstay of the Korean routine, may contain moisturizing ingredients like hyaluronic acid, glycerin, aloe, and using them gives one more layer of hydration, which can be great for dry skin. Give Kiehl's Ultra Facial Toner a shot. Hydrating toners can be used daily or twice a day, if you need the extra shot of moisture. You can even use both: exfoliator first, followed by hydrating toner.

Fresh start I
Parizaad Khan Sethi

is a beauty and wellness editor based in New York. She was the former beauty editor at Vogue India and now serves as a contributing editor for the magazine. At age 5, Parizaad fell in love with an old cream blush she found in the back of her mother’s drawer, and has been in awe of the transformative power of beauty ever since. When she’s not writing about beauty, she researches advances in skincare as a hobby, and is constantly guinea-pigging herself in the name of beauty.