Skincare 101: our chemist's guide to easy skincare

Skincare 101: our chemist's guide to easy skincare

Let’s face it, skincare can be overwhelming! It’s a need for some, and a hobby for some others – a cathartic one at that. From your mom’s neighbor to celebrities, everyone has some or the other skincare advice for you. And for those of us who just want to dip a toe in the proverbial water, this ocean of skincare advice, ads, and brands can be intimidating.


So, if you’re one of those who want to get started on their skincare journey, or even those who want to settle for a minimal skincare routine, here’s a simple starting point.

Any basic skincare routine, has three essential components: a cleanser, a moisturizer, and a sunscreen. These are the things you need to clean, nourish, and protect your skin.

Step 1: Clean

Our skin is a breeding ground for bacteria and dirt. Cleaning the skin not only gets rid of sweat, oil, dirt, and bacteria but also better prepares it for further treatments. You can use a cleanser as many times as you want, as long as it doesn’t strip your skin dry and your face doesn’t feel tight. I personally only cleanse at night to get rid of the deposits I’ve collected during the day and slap my face with some water in the morning. But each skin is unique and it takes some time to figure out a cleansing cadence.

If you have sensitive or dry skin, you can start with a non-foaming, gentle cleanser. If you have oily skin, foaming cleansers might be your jam! A good cleanser is one that leaves your skin feeling clean and soft.

Step 2: Moisturize

Even the gentlest of cleansers strip out oils that keep our skin supple. A good moisturizer, counters this stripping process and restores moisture in your skin, without your skin feeling like you just fried some yummy bacon on it. Moisturizing your skin whenever it feels tight is a good step to start with as you figure out when and how many times in a day you need to moisturize.

There a million different kinds of moisturizer but the usual rule of thumb is that the thicker it is the mor moisturizing it is. If it gives your skin a bouncy and supple feeling, and that feeling last for more than 2-3 hours, it’s doing its job well. If it only lasts for a couple of hours or less, you need to find a thicker moisturizer. If you’re breaking out, move to a different moisturizer since it may contain ingredients that your skin is irritated by.

Step 3: Protect

This is the most critical, and often the most easily skipped step of skincare routines. Not only because it’s hard to find sunscreens that protect your skin without making your face feel all icky, but also because the effects of not wearing sunscreen are delayed. Effects such as fine lines, hyperpigmentation, and skin cancers are not visible in a day. It’s perfectly okay to step out of your apartment without sunscreen once in a while but applying it regularly on all exposed parts of the skin (not just the face) goes a long way in preventing the side effects of sun exposure.

That’s all well and good, but what products should you start with? Here’s some good news and bad news. There are multiple great choices for cleansers, moisturizers, and sunscreen for all skin types but it takes some time and strategy to get to one that works for you and your unique needs. Happy experimenting, y’all!


Meet the Writer: Iffat


Iffat is a Chicago resident trying to find a balance between enjoying the outdoors and not freezing her face. A lifelong battle with acne and an academic interest in chemistry are the driving forces behind her skincare nerdiness. She loves to talk about tennis, history, and all things skincare. She was made in Allahabad, India.