The Skincare Wardrobe: Basics and Staples

The Skincare Wardrobe: The Basics

One of the first questions I get when my friends and family discover my skincare addition is, “do you actually own all that stuff?” The answer is yes, and I love it, but I’ll be the first to say it’s completely unnecessary and my skin doesn’t need all of it. Skincare and makeup are my passions, I’d pick buying a cleanser over shoes any day, but I understand that not everyone feels that way. I like to think of my skincare like I think of my closet: I have my basic, everyday pieces and then I have items for special events and days where I just need to feel a little more put together. Just like I think everyone should own a great pair of jeans, a perfect white t shirt, and a black dress (or suit) that makes you feel like a million bucks, I think there are certain skincare items that should be in all cabinets. If you’re a skincare newbie and not sure where to start, or if you want to start taking care of your skin but feel completely overwhelmed with the thousands of products, it’s best to start with the basics and build from there Here are my thoughts on what I believe everyone can benefit from having in their arsenal:


Two, one of which is able to completely remove even waterproof makeup. Why two?

Makeup/SPF Removal

This cleanser should be able to completely cut through makeup, including waterproof mascara. Even if you don’t wear makeup, I’m a firm believer that SPF is a daily must and that on its own requires something with a little more oomph to be completely removed. My two favorite makeup destroyers are Clinique’s Take The Day Off Balm and Bioderma Sensibio.

Second Cleanse/AM Cleanse

 This cleanser actually goes to work on your skin and should gently cleanse without stripping. When I was younger I used to crave that tight feeling after cleansing, thinking my skin was squeaky clean, when in reality my skin was so stripped it was begging for all of the moisture I had removed. Oops. This would be your main cleanser, so look for something that makes your skin comfortable and calm after rinsing. It doesn’t have to be expensive - be weary of cleansers that make huge claims, not many things that are on the skin for 30 seconds can reduce wrinkles and age spots :)

So why not one cleanser for everything? You could but I find the best makeup removal cleansers are usually heavier balms or oils that leave a residue behind and are too heavy for mornings. The one exception to this that I’ve found would be something like Jordan Samuel Skins Plie Cleanser - it’s amazing makeup remover, great for a second/morning cleanse and also can be used as a mask. If I ever had to have only one cleanser, I’d pick this one.

Acid Exfoliant

Exfoliating is important, it keeps pores clear, tackles dullness, and helps with everything from wrinkles to hyperpigmentation. There are many ways to exfoliate the skin, but I prefer chemical exfoliation (using an Alpha Hydroxy Acid or Beta Hydroxy Acid lotion) to using physical exfoliation (using a facial scrub or device). The tricky thing with exfoliating is how strong, and how often. I use some form of an AHA or BHA about 1-3 times a week depending on the state of my skin and I’ve found that’s a great balance for me. It keeps my pores clear and my skin balanced without any redness or inflammation, and without dehydrating my skin. New to acid exfoliating? A great resource is my good friend Vanessa’s blog. Vanessa (@goalstogetglowing on IG) is a research scientist and compiles painstakingly large amounts of data into easy to follow infographics and charts. Lucky for all of us she’s created this one about Acid Exfoliants which is a great starting point. She also has an entire spreadsheet of AHA exfoliants detailing type of acid, strength, pH, and so much more. My suggestion when beginning acid toning is to go low and slow and see how your skin reacts. It may take time to find out which acid your skin prefers. Some redness and tingling is to be expected, but it shouldn’t be extremely painful.

Hydrating Serum

the skin needs moisture, and I believe anyone at any age with any skin type can benefit from a simple hydrating serum. Dehydration can cause premature aging and keeping the skin comfortable and hydrated goes a long way. As you introduce more complex treatments into your regime, a hydrating serum can also act as a buffer to prevent irritation or can be mixed with targeted treatments to create a super serum, the possibilities are endless. I have a lot of friends with oilier skin who shy away from hydration as they believe it will contribute to excess shine when in fact, a lightweight hydration serum can properly balance the skin and keep moisture levels in check.


This was a tricky one for me. I was going to put “moisturizer or oil” because oils are all the rage right now, but I personally don’t believe they are a must in all skincare cabinets. I do, however, believe that you need something to seal in your hydration so if that’s an oil for you, then go for it. Moisturizers and oils are tough to purchase, the price range is insane and the marketing claims are outrageous for some. The goal is to find a moisturizer that doesn’t cause breakouts, is comfortable, and hydrates the skin throughout the day without becoming greasy or drying. In the evenings and during the winter season I prefer a heavier cream with added benefits of ceramides and other barrier repairing ingredients, while in the mornings and summer I go for lightweight and fast absorbing, it’s all personal taste. 


Broken record, I know, but always. The number one criteria I use for purchasing SPF is “will I wear it”? I don’t care if it has the highest rating or perfect ingredients, if I don’t like the feeling of it, I won’t wear it. Find an SPF that you like and will wear and go with it. Chemical or physical, whatever your preference, just wear it. SPF in makeup (especially powders) doesn’t count, as you’d have to put on a great deal of product to get the advertised SPF rating. Sometimes in the winter when we have literally no sun, I will rely on SPF in my liquid base, but never in the summer. I prefer SPF 30 or 50 in lightweight, tinted formulas that hydrate my skin without turning me into a disco ball. I find SPF the pickiest to purchase which is why I’m always open to testing new ones. That being said, I’ve been having great luck with SPFs lately, and this Paula’s Choice Super Light Daily Wrinkle Defence SPF 30 is one of my favorites.

So there you have it - 6 items only, none of which have to be hundreds of dollars. Having these in your cabinet is a great foundation for healthy, hydrated skin at any age. As you go through the many skin stages of life, you can simply add in to your basics: maybe a targeted salicylic acid serum for breakouts, a retinol for anti aging, niacinamide for hyperpigmentation - the possibilities are endless and can be tailored to whatever your skin is needing at that moment.

So where do you go for product recommendations? Are online skin consultations a smart way to go about purchasing product? Can an expert really diagnose your skin without seeing it? Next week I’ll go through my experience with Hello Ava, “the brains behind your beauty” - an online system designed to diagnose your skin, recommend products, and help you navigate those crowded shelves in the skincare aisle.

I hope you’re enjoying the last few weeks of summer!