If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it.
That’s how I feel about normal skin.
You ladies have won the skincare jackpot. Your skin never pumps out too much oil. You don’t know what dryness and blemishes are. Wrinkles haven’t creeped up on your face yet.
Everything’s working as it should. So does that mean you don’t need a skincare routine?
Well, no. Here’s the deal: your skin is an organ. Like your heart. You wouldn’t go and take pills for heart disease when your heart’s healthy, right?
But, you can’t even binge on fast foods every night, smoke 3 packets of cigarettes a day, never move your body and expect not to get a heart attack. Prevention is better than cure.
It’s the same for your skin: you don’t need all those powerful actives that zip blemishes, fade away dark spots and treat wrinkles BUT you do need a gentle skincare routine that helps prevent sun damage and protect it from harsh weather and anything else that could damage it.
Your skincare mantra is KISS: keep it simple, stupid.
What Products Does Normal Skin Need?
I get it. You keep hearing about all these amazing skincare ingredients and think you’re missing out if you don’t exfoliate with two types of acids, use the highest concentration of retinoids you can get your hands on, and incorporate at least a skin-lightener into your skincare routine.
But these are skincare medicines: if you’ve got nothing to treat, there’s no point using them. Especially because they could seriously ruin the balance and dry out your skin.
Normal skin is lucky: it does every job – yes, including exfoliating and moisturising – on its own so you don’t need to jump in and give it a helping hand just cos acids are having a moment and Allure tells you a moisturiser is a must.
The only products normal skin truly needs are:
- Cleanser: I don’t really need to explain this one, do I?
- Antioxidant serum: It helps prevent premature wrinkles
- Sunscreen: It prevents sun damage, including wrinkles, sagging and dark spots
These are the foundation of any good skincare routine. You can build on it if your skin at some point tells you it needs a bit more help. Otherwise, chill. If ain’t broken, why risk breaking it?
Related: My Fave Antioxidant Serums
The Best Skincare Routine For Normal Skin
Now we’ve got the basic steps sorted, it’s time to break them down:
Not washing your skin is just gross. But washing with the wrong type of cleanser could seriously dry out your skin and even give you pimples.
The key is to choose a gentle cleanser that removes dirt and makeup without stripping your skin of the moisturising oils it naturally produces.
I’m partial to milk cleansers for normal skin because they’re neither too stripping nor too emollient. But if you prefer a foaming formula, pick a gentle one that produces very little lather. The less it foams, the gentler it is.
- CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleanser ($14.99): available at Dermstore, Feel Unique, Ulta and Walmart
- Corsx Low PH Good Morning Gel Cleanser ($11.00): available at Sokoglam and YesStyle
- Paula’s Choice Skin Recovery Softening Cream Cleanser ($17.00): available at Dermstore and Paula’s Choice
Related: How To Pick The Right Cleanser For Your Skin Type
2. Antioxidant Serum
Antioxidants are your skin’s BFF: they patrol the body looking for free radicals to kill before they can destroy your collagen, elastin and everything else they meet on their path.
Every brand has its darling, but the truth is, there’s no super antioxidant that’s better than all the rest. Just like your body doesn’t only need kale, your skin doesn’t only need vitamin C.
A combination of antioxidants is the way to go. My fave is vitamin C + vitamin E + ferulic acid (CEF). Studies show they enhance one another’s effectiveness and boost sun protection.
I personally use CEF in the morning and another serum full of different antioxidants in the evening. The more you use, the slower your skin will age. Don’t skimp on this!
P.S. If you do decide you need a moisturiser or essence after all, pick one that’s full of antioxidants. That way, you can avoid using two serums.
- Paula’s Choice Resist C15 Super Booster ($49.00): available at Feel Unique, Nordstrom and Paula’s Choice
- Paula’s Choice Resist Super Antioxidant Concentrate Serum ($38.00): available at Dermstore, Feel Unique, and Paula’s Choice
- The Ordinary EUK 134 0.1% (£6.90): ferulic acid + resveratrol. Available at Beauty Bay, Cult Beauty and Feel Unique
Related: Which Antioxidant Should You Use?
Your skin may not have a care in the world right now but that won’t last long if you skip sunscreen.
The sun is responsible for 90% of premature aging. You know, wrinkles, dark spots and sagging. Imagine how much damage you can avoid just by slathering sunscreen on every single day.
Yep, even in winter. Even if it rains. UVA rays, the sneaky ones that give you wrinkles, are present from the moment the sun comes up to the moment the sun goes down, get through clouds and glass and can even be reflected on snow.
Pile that sunscreen on, ladies!
- EltaMD UV Clear Broad Spectrum SPF 46 ($33.00): available at Dermstore and Walmart
- MDSolarSciences Mineral Creme Broad Spectrum SPF 50 UVA-UVB Sunscreen ($30.00): available at at Dermstore and Sephora.
- Shiseido Ultimate Sun Protection SPF 50 Sunscreen + WetForce For Sensitive Skin & Children ($42.00): available at Nordstrom and Ulta
What About Moisturiser?
Wait, what?! A skincare routine WITHOUT moisturiser?!
Hear me out: the basic job of a moisturiser is to add moisture back into the skin and strengthen its protective barrier so it never gets dry and flaky. And if it’s already dry and flay, to nurse it back to health.
If your have normal skin, your skin’s protective barrier is intact and working properly. Water isn’t evaporating out of your skin.
If your skin doesn’t feel tight and uncomfortable at any point during the day and it’s not flaking, you don’t need a moisturiser. A hydrating serum or moisturising sunscreen is more than enough for you.
The only exception? Well, if you live somewhere cold and your skin’s constantly under the attack of unrelenting cold winds and low temperatures, you may want to add a moisturiser to give your natural skin’s defences a boost and prevent dryness.
- Cerave PM Facial Moisturising Lotion ($10.94): available at Dermstore, Ulta and Walmart
- Drunk Elephant Protini Polypeptide Cream ($68.00): available at Cult Beauty, Sephora and SpaceNK
- Paula’s Choice Calm Redness Relief Moisturiser Normal To Oily ($29.00): available at Paula’s Choice
Related: Does Everyone Needs A Moisturiser?
What About Exfoliation?
Did you know your skin exfoliates on its own? That’s why your skin is soft and glowy when you’re a teen. But when you get older, your skin starts slacking on the job and needs the helping hand of an exfoliant.
If your skin’s normal, chances are it’s still doing the exfoliating job well on its own. You’ll know when this isn’t the case anymore: when your skin starts struggling, it gets rougher and dull.
Until then, you DON’T have to do anything. If you really, really, really insist on exfoliating anyway, a gentle washcloth or a lactic acid exfoliant a couple of times a week are more than enough.
If you’re around 30s and want to up your anti aging game, you can go with a small concentration of glycolic acid twice a week. It’ll boost collagen and reduce fine lines too.
- Elixseri Opening Act (£76.00): available at Selfridges
- Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 8% AHA Lotion ($29.00): available at Dermstore, Nordstrom and Paula’s Choice
- The Ordinary Lactic Acid 10% + HA 2% ($6.79): available at Beauty Bay and Cult Beauty
Related: What’s The Best Type Of Exfoliation For Your Skin Type?
What About Retinol?
Yes, retinol is one of the very few things that can reduce wrinkles. You don’t want to wait until you have deep wrinkles to use it. But I don’t believe in using it too soon either.
I’d say your late 20s/early 30s are a good time to start using it. Again, look at your skin. If it’s still young and not showing even the tiniest of fine lines, you can hold back. But as you get older and you start noticing your skin doesn’t snap back as quickly when you smile or frown or, worse, you’ve already have a hint of fine lines, add it to your skincare routine pronto.
FYI, retinol can be irritating and drying when you first start using it. The trick is to start with a small concentration (1% is HUGE for retinol – yes, really) twice a week and build up both dose and frequency from there.
- La Roche Posay Redermic Anti-Aging Dermatological Treatment ($56.99): 0.1% retinol. Available at Dermstore and Feel Unique.
- Paula’s Choice Resist 1% Retinol Booster ($52.00): 1% retinol. Available at Feel Unique and Paula’s Choice.
- Paula’s Choice Skin Balancing Super Antioxidant Concentrate Serum With Retinol ($34.00): 0.03% retinol. Available at Paula’s Choice.
Related: What Strength Of Retinol Do You Need?
How To Choose Skincare Products For Normal Skin
Now you know what skincare products you need, how do you pick the right ones off the shelves? I mean, everything seems to be made for oily, dry or sensitive skin. Where the heck is the section for normal skin?!
Well, there isn’t one. But there are a couple of criteria you can follow to help you make your choice easier:
- Skin type: Yes, yes, it’s normal. But does it tend to get a little dry when the weather’s freezing cold? Then you may want to go with products for dry skin. Do you get the odd zit every now and then? Products for oily skin may be better for you. Your skin doesn’t mishbehave? Check point 2.
- Personal preference: Normal skin is lucky. You can choose products based on the texture you prefer. If you like super light lotions, go with gel. If you enjoy something richer, go with that. It’s up to you.
One more thing: whatever product you pick, make sure it doesn’t contain any irritants that could wreak havoc on your skin. The worst culprits are:
- Alcohol denat
- Essential oils
- Methylchloroisothiazolinone and Methylisothiazolinone
- Mint and peppermint
- Sodium lauryl sulfate
- Witch hazel
For the complete list, download your FREE “Skincare Ingredients To Avoid” cheatsheet below:
The Bottom Line
When it comes to normal skin, less is more. Unless your skin is telling you it needs an extra helping hand, keep your routine as simple as possible. Focus on maintaining the balance and don’t be tempted to try the latest fad: they may push your skin over the edge and wreak havoc!
Gio, what’s your view on CC creams? I don’t seem to find anything on the site. I love my Juice Beauty Stem Cellular CC. So my morning routine looks like that: cleansing + Paula’s Choice Super Antioxidant Serum + CC (which has zion oxide 20%, gives spf 30 and has a bunch of antioxidants). Or would you ditch CC as the serum already has a lot of antioxidants and use a tinted sunscreen for broader spectrum protection? Thanks!
Laura, imo, your skin can never get enough of antioxidants! Instead, ask yourself if you’re applying enough CC cream to reach the SPF stated on the bottle? It’s easier to apply enough product with sunscreen but if the CC Cream works for you, then keep using it.
A nice distillation of lessons it took me more than a year to experimentally discover. I’ve amassed a wide collection of products but found that my skin knows how to do its job better than I do, so now I keep my routine to three to four items. It’s easy to get sucked into a skincare vortex online where you assume recommended products for others will also do wonders for you, but it’s important to listen to your skin’s needs first and foremost. Appreciate the post!
Naph, oh I wish I had written this post sooner! I couldn’t agree more. I see so many women with 10-steps long routine because they think they have to use every ingredient that’s popular right now. But that’s not how it works. You skin is perfectly capable of doing many jobs on its own and when it can’t anymore, it will let you know. Until then, less is more.
Love this post! Paula’s Choice Moisture Boost cleanser has SLS as its second ingredient. Would that be too harsh for normal skin? What are your thoughts on Bioderma Micellular water?
Alex, it doesn’t have SLL (sodium lauryl sulphate). It has SLES (Sodium laureth sulphate). That’s a lot gentler and suitable for normal skin too. Bioderma micellar water is another great option. I’ve reviewed it here: http://www.beautifulwithbrains.com/bioderma-micellar-water-sensibio-hydrabio-sebium/
Hi Gio, So glad to have found your blog ! I would love your suggestions on how I can improve my current routine. I have dry skin and a few wrinkles . Currently I am using 1) Cerave Hydrating Cleanser 2) Paula’s choice 2% BHA (as an exfoliator, I tried the AHA but did not notice a difference. 3) Cerave Moisturizing Lotion 4) Elta MD SPF 47 Nightime: I just use a cleanser,moisturizer and seal with shea butter. I want to add a vitamin C serum, but which one do you recommend (tried the Paula’s Choice Antioxidant Serum and didn’t see that it made a difference) Also I would like to add a retinol product (as that seems to be the key to anti aging )that is effective and not too expensive, but don’t know which one to try. Any suggestions?
Hi Mary, adding vitamin C and retinol to your skincare routine are great idea. But NOT at the same time. Your skin is already dry and these ingredients can make it even drier. Pick one ingredient, stick with it for a month and, if all’s good, add the other active.
You can check this guide for the best retinol products for your level, beginner: https://www.beautifulwithbrains.com/strength-retinol-need/ I know the concentrations seem to small, but they work and they won’t dry out your skin even more. Be patient and work your way up gradually. If you don’t, retinol will dry out your skin and make your wrinkles look worse, which totally defeats the point of using it!
For vitamin C, I recommend the C15 booster. You have to use it quickly because vitamin C doesn’t last long. So buy it when you’re ready to use it, don’t leave it in a drawer for two months or so or it won’t work as well when you finally get around to it.
This is great info, and helping me to narrow down what to do buy with my Ulta gift card ~ thank you!
Hey, i have normal skin (only because im on birth control, otherwise uncontrollable breakouts), i wouldnt say its an easy type! Its perfect and balanced never dry or oily… until i use something on it. Then it’s oily, dry or breaking out or all 3 at once. Im 29 and have just started noticing tiny signs of aging and have a discoloration patch and large pores on my cheeks. Ive found a sunscreen that works perfect (mecca Australia 50+) but im wanting to address these other problems now too. I just bought the ordinary niacinamide & zinc, seems fine, and buffet, but this has caused tiny whiteheads. What would you recommend for a cleanser and serum/oil? Most cleaners (including corsex) make my skin feel tight and dry.
I was thinking to get Paula’s choice niacinamide & zinc after reading your review and a rosehip oil as they address my concerns. Please help!
Stephanie, I recommend you book a consultation so that we can get to the bottom of this and understand what your skin really needs. Here’s the link: https://www.beautifulwithbrains.com/skincare-consultation/