Are you in your 30’s and just starting to explore skincare? Here’s what I would begin with.

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There’s a lot out there, in the skincare department, and I completely understand being very overwhelmed. There are not only so many product lines but so many ingredients and chemicals and injectables and treatments that it’s not really clear where to even begin!

I’ve had a few friends tap me for info on this very subject, so I thought I would share my answer here as well.

For a little background, I have never done any work to my face. I promise you that I do not have strong feelings about people having work done to their faces (botox, etc.). For most of my life, I would describe my skin as dry, with occasional breakouts, however, I dealt with a major hormonal acne issue starting in 2022 that I got under control with a daily oral pill in July 2023.

Now, I would still describe my skin as dry and sensitive, and no longer acne-prone since I’m treating it with a pill.

SO! I’m going to go in order of intensity (least to most) to give you a starting point and perhaps an end goal of where to land when it comes to skincare products.

One. Get a great moisturizer. The easiest way to start really caring for your skin is to find a great moisturizer. Something that deeply hydrates your skin without leaving you feeling or looking oily. It also helps to drink a lot of water. The moisturizer I’m loving right now is Peter Thomas Roth Water Drench.

Two. Add Vitamin C to your routine. There are so many different products with vitamin C, and adding one is a great first step in achieving brighter, more even, well-hydrated skin. My long time recommendation is Ole Henriksen’s Truth Serum . I used it for years! My skin looked brighter, more radiant, and felt soft and hydrated during that time. You would apply this product daily before your moisturizer. Another much-loved vitamin C product is SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic. I originally tried this product because it is such a loved vitamin C serum, but to me, I found it smelled like hot dogs and I couldn’t continue with it! I’ve been told to apply it at night, though the SkinCeuticals website suggests applying in the morning. CeraVe makes a vitamin c serum that would be a great budget friendly option. My dermatologist put me on these products when I was quitting all my existing products during my acne flare up. And La Roche-Posay would be another budget friendly brand to explore that makes a nice vitamin C serum!

The thing about vitamin C is you can use it daily, and if you stop using it your skin won’t necessarily have a bad reaction. So it’s a low-commitment, easy-to-incorporate product.

Three. Find a chemical exfoliator you love, like a lactic acid. I know the word acid may sound intense, but a lactic acid product is likely a more gentle exfoliator than a gritty physical product like No7 Total Renewal Microderm Scrub. I like this product and I have it in my shower to use about once a month. Sometimes I just need a little skin reset by using a physical exfoliator. But generally, I err on the more gentle side with products these days. A lactic acid is a great option to exfoliate, brighten, and help reduce the look of fine lines and wrinkles. I like the Good Genes Lactic Acid, as well as the Shani Darden Lactic Acid. For a more budget-friendly option, look into The Ordinary Lactic Acid. It is very well-loved via the comments on Sephora’s site!

If you use a vitamin C and a lactic acid product, I recommend applying vitamin C in the morning, under your moisturizer, and using lactic acid at night on freshly washed skin.

Four. If you’re ready for it, consider introducing a retinol into your routine. This is a product applied at night, and cannot be used in the same night as lactic acid (you’ll give yourself a chemical burn). I had great, great success with Shani Darden Retinol Reform. You can read my experience with it here. I only stopped using it because I was hit with the hormonal acne issue, otherwise I would have kept right on using it. Retinol is a stronger chemical that helps with cell turnover to reveal clearer, brighter, smoother, less uneven skin. It can help reduce fine lines and wrinkles, and generally is regarded as a great anti-aging solution.

Retinol products are everywhere, and it’s wise to do some research before starting to use them. The % within a product will determine the strength of retinol. No matter what strength you begin to use, you must always introduce it gently. Start by using it one time a week. The next week use it two nights, with a little space between which nights you apply it. The third week you can use it three times, leaving a day between use. Pay attention to your skin and if everything is going well, you can begin to use it nightly.

I’ve had the most success with Shani Darden Retinol Reform, so I can personally recommend that one to you. Otherwise, I actually suggest talking to your dermatologist about getting a retinol prescription. It can be pretty cost effective and your derm can help you decide on the strength that is right for you.

Five. Beyond skincare products, I highly recommend sleeping on a silk or satin pillowcase, wearing sunscreen every day, using clean towels when you wash your face, and avoiding washing your face in scalding hot water. Don’t pull down on your skin, and don’t rub your eyes too hard to stretch and tug the sensitive skin around your eye.

If you decide that you can only handle adding one thing into your routine right now (besides moisturizer), let it be vitamin C. You’ll see swift results that I think you’ll be happy with and it will serve your skin well for a very long time!


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Bunny Dupree says · 02.05.24

Kate love all your videos and your information tips!

Amy says · 02.05.24

What is your certification/education that qualifies you to give this direction? Do you have any recommendations for skin not like your own? I’m also a little confused around the sunscreen thing….none of the steps mention it but then at the end you say to use it everyday. As the first thing I put on my face? Or should I not take your recommendations on moisturizer but instead purchase one with spf in it?

Kate says · 02.05.24

Hi Amy! I’m a licensed cosmetologist, which is a license covering education in hair, skin, and nails. I am also a beauty blogger and have found a great place here online to simplify and educate consumers on a variety of different subjects in the beauty space. While I am not an esthetician or a dermatologist, I do have quite a bit of experience here and approach these kinds of blog posts as a way for me to offer advice, recommendations, and suggestions as if I was chatting with a friend. Does that confuse you? I hope not.
SPF is important for daily use, and it’s best to apply daily to bare or moisturized skin. As far as combining the two, you certainly can, just pat attention to the SPF # as well as how it works with your skin. Thanks!

Amy K says · 02.05.24

Any recommendations for a good eye cream?

Kate says · 02.05.24

I like Bobbi Brown Eye Base!

Susanne says · 02.05.24

Did you try all of these tips and tricks on your skin?

Kate says · 02.05.24

I have used all of these products, yes

A says · 02.07.24

How did you like the CeraVe Vitamin C serum or the LaRoche-Posay vitamin C?
Did you personally use The Ordinary Lactic Acid?

Letta says · 02.05.24

Thank you for keeping it simple. There’s no way I have time or the budget for a 5 step regimen!

Kayla says · 02.05.24

I love all of this!! I turned 30 last year and decided to prioritize skincare. Before that, I barely even washed my face…gross. 😆 Have you tried any Hugh & Grace products? They are hormone safe. Thank you for always sharing a variety of price points with your own use and opinions.

S Joy says · 02.05.24

Thank you for doing this! Exactly what I needed as I get overwhelmed with all the options out there. Thank you for being there and helping us out ❤️

Erin says · 02.05.24

What a great blog post! Thank you for this straight-forward and easily-actionable post. I’ve bought a myriad of products over the years, but never got into a routine. You’ve given me some clarity to try again! Thank you!!

Liz says · 02.05.24

This is exactly what I needed! Thank you for explaining this skincare approach in such a simple way. It can be so overwhelming for those of us that are not up to speed in this category, but care about aging gracefully! I am so grateful for your expertise! Keep doing what you do!

Lindsay says · 02.05.24

Thank you! Seeing this all laid out in one place helps simplify what seems so overwhelming sometimes!
I tried the good genes lactic acid months ago after seeing it on your stories and it has made a huge difference, by far my favorite skincare product!

Madison says · 02.05.24

Love this, Kate. Thank you for breaking down the overwhelm!

Alison says · 02.05.24

This is a really helpful post. I decided 2024 was the year to figure out a better skincare routine and this has helped me decide on some new products to try.
Thanks so much!

Samantha says · 02.06.24

Can you share which oral pill you take?

Kyly says · 02.06.24

Love this topic, but from this post we can’t really tell which products you do/don’t use. It sounds like you no longer use Vit. C? Any cleansers? Maybe you could do a follow-up post on the actual products currently in your regimen and the steps in which you use them!? That would be super helpful and simplify things. Thanks as always for sharing!

Kate says · 02.06.24

I hope you can understand that I’ve made a lot of changes to my skincare routine so I’m hesitant about sharing my own personal routine right now. I am on a daily medication, as I stated in the post, and have been apprehensive about introducing new products to my routine now that my skin is stable. So, this was written as advice I would give my friend, but not necessarily what I am personally doing right now.

Jenn says · 02.06.24

Thank you for this! Quick question- do you have an additional recommendation for a moisturizer that’s a little more budget-friendly? I know you often “get what you paid for” so maybe this is one product worth spending the money? Thanks so much! LOVE your content!

Kate says · 02.06.24

Look into Cerave or Cetaphil!

Kaitlyn says · 02.06.24

I love this post and found it so helpful! Skincare is so intimidating and this really helps break it down in one place and to understand it better. Quick question- if we want to do moisturizer, vitamin C and sunscreen…what order would you apply? And do you have a recommendation for a great, budget-friendly (but gentle) sunscreen? I also have rosacea so if you follow anyone that shares tips/recommendations for that, please let me know! As always, thank you for sharing your knowledge 🙂

Amanda says · 02.07.24

Hi! Would you suggest these products for aging men as well? Does Justin use any products our men would like to know about?

Kelly says · 02.14.24

I love this post. Thank you for the always helpful and wonderful info. I wanted to add for those that don’t know,,,, do NOT use retinol products if you are pregnant, nursing or trying to conceive.

Kate says · 02.19.24

helpful tip!