After Years of Testing Skincare Routines, This Is the Easiest and Most Effective

Skincare has gotten seriously complicated. There are too many steps and too many unpronounceable ingredients, and do we really need a 12-step routine? Trust me. I've tried it all, and I test a lot of products, but I always go back to a low-maintenance skincare routine, the essential products that I need to keep my complexion looking its best (aka glowing), without the stress and shelf space. 

While you might need to add in a few more products based on your skin's needs, like blemish treatments or serums for hyperpigmentation, the staples will never steer you wrong.

To find out what steps are an absolute must, I spoke to Bibi Ghalaie, MRCGP, director of British Aesthetics and Glowday practitioner. So if you're looking to go back to basics and cut out the noise, keep scrolling for a low-maintenance skincare routine.

What are the steps in a low-maintenance skincare routine? 

If we don't need things like essences and whatever new product categories are invented, then what do we need? Ghalaie has all the details for a morning routine:

"Step one is cleanser, and this is necessary to clean away debris, oil, and makeup. I recommend cleansing with an AHA/BHA cleanser. Step two is exfoliator and toner to slough away dulling, clogging skin cells, dissolve oils, and promote hydration. Step three is an antioxidant serum such as vitamin C, which is great for brightening the skin and functions as an antioxidant, providing protection against free radicals.

Step four is moisturizer, and step five is SPF. This is an absolutely essential last step. Skin must be protected from UVA/UVB, even in winter months.  If you use a product that also protects against HEV (the light emitted by our computer screens and mobile phones that contributes to aging of the skin) and infrared waves, you are giving yourself maximum protection." 

Depending on your preferences and skin concerns, you can also add in blemish treatments, and Ghalaie recommends eye cream before moisturizer to "protect the delicate eyelid skin and skin around the eyes."



1. Cleanser

For a simple but effective routine, let your cleanser do most of the work with some gentle exfoliation, such as the alpha-hydroxy acids in this popular cleanser. It's guaranteed to give you a clean base to start your routine.

This cult-favorite gel cleanser getly clears out pores with salicylic acid from white willow bark and glycolic acid from sugar cane extract.

Low-maintenance doesn't mean it can't be decadent. For a double cleanse at night, use a rich balm to remove makeup and impurities before a second cleanse to clean the skin. This is surely one of the most divinely scented beauty products around, and it's effective at cleansing.

2. Exfoliant

Avoid over-exfoliating by going for PHAs that focus on only exfoliating the surface of the skin and not as deeply. This ensures that you get the glow and that it's gentle enough to use both morning and night. 

To penetrate more deeply, this tonic is the one-stop-shop for radiant and bright skin. It unclogs pores and works hard to effectively exfoliate on the daily. 

These peel pads are soaked in both AHAs and BHAs for extensive exfoliation.

3. Antioxidant Serum

This is basically like having your very own bodyguard to keep you protected with a stable form of vitamin C (20% ethylated L-ascorbic acid). Consider it your glass of orange juice to give your skin a boost for the day ahead.

Get in on the skin-glowing, brightening, and antioxidant protection of vitamins C and E and nourishing oils that come in an easy-to-use capsule. Ideal for using on the go and ensuring the ingredients within stay at their very best. 

This inexpensive vitamin C serum gets rave reviews on Amazon. People are seriously obsessed.

4. Moisturizer 

Trying to keep things simple? Get you an "apply at any time" moisturizer that you love, one that you can apply both day and night that really works with your skin concerns. If you're looking for a do-it-all product, this is a dream come true with its inclusion of ceramides and a host of oils such as moringa to nourish, brighten, and protect the skin.

This skin-smoothing moisturizer is where it's at for locking in moisture thanks to squalane, the ingredient of the moment. 

This trusted moisturizer is lightweight, unscented, and suitable for all skin types.

5. SPF

If you've been battling with white casts and SPF messing around with your foundation, then look no further. With a clear formula that works with every single skin tone, you get protection that's easy on your complexion. 

Ask most people which SPF they swear by and this will be their answer. The lightweight formula doesn't weigh skin down nor does it budge, making it a staple for your everyday skincare routine.

There isn't a dermatologist alive who doesn't love this formula.

Low Maintenance Skincare:



Evening Add-Ons

Now that your morning routine is covered, for night-time, you can swap out your SPF and antioxidant serum for a vitamin A or a night-time serum of your choice.

Ghalaie says, "If vitamin A/retinols are going to be used, they should be reserved for night-time use. At night, it is important to cleanse the skin again to clear it of any dirt, bacteria, and build-up from the daytime. 

"At night, the products being used should be a retinol and rich moisturizer to prevent “retinisation,” or what I refer to as retinol-related dryness, redness, and irritation. If someone is pregnant, trying to conceive, or breastfeeding, then retinol should not be used, and instead, an effective alternative to vitamin A is bakuchiol, which is an excellent natural competitor to retinol."

A powerhouse serum with two retinoids and encapsulated retinol that's time-released. For even skin tone, resurfacing, and a smoother complexion, this will always have your back.

This plant-based alternative to retinol is just what the skin doctor ordered for brightening skin, protecting against blue light and pollution, and smoothing. In other words, it's a skincare staple.


This retinol serum is beloved by countless celebrities for its pore-refining, skin-smoothing abilities.

Very rarely does an eye serum deliver on its promises, but if you want to give your eyes some extra attention, then this will keep your eyes looking awake and re-energised.


Here's another eye cream that helps to diminish the look of fine lines around the delicate eye area.

This post originally appeared on Who What Wear UK.

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