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

Skincare has got 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.


(Image credit: @browngirlhands)

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 moisturiser, 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 ageing 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 moisturiser 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.

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 overexfoliating 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 its 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. 

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. 

4. Moisturiser 

Trying to keep things simple? Get you an "apply at any time" moisturiser 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 skin.

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

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.

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 moisturiser 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.

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.

Up next, The 19 Products One Beauty Editor Can Vouch For

Giselle La Pompe-Moore