In 2019, the beauty industry was valued at approximately $532 billion. That gigantic industry largely includes skincare, which is a monster of its own. If the thought of just how many types of skincare products are on the market boggles your mind and somewhat scares you, this article can serve as a guide to help you navigate and determine a fundamental routine. Or if the thought of all of these products excites you to the point of trying as many as you can (or can’t) afford, try committing to this set routine to save your money and to give your skin a break. Here are the basics steps when it comes to establishing a facial skincare routine in your late teens/twenties:

Daily Morning Routine:

  1. Cleanser

  2. Toner/Essence (optional but recommended)

  3. Moisturizer

  4. Eye cream

  5. Sunscreen

Daily Nighttime Routine:

  1. Makeup remover (if makeup was worn throughout the day)

  2. Cleanser

  3. Toner/Essence (optional but recommended)

  4. Serum (optional but recommended)

  5. Moisturizer

  6. Eye cream

Once or Twice a Week (no particular order):

  1. Exfoliator

  2. Mask

Now, in order to personalize your products it is essential to shop according to your skin type (if you do not know yours, learn more here).

As far as the makeup remover, eye cream, and exfoliator go though, I will outline those products at the end for the use of all skin types.

For masks. I will give high recommendations, but the nature of this sort of product is flexible, therefore you can be more adventurous in trying new types even after setting a routine. But for your set daily facial skin routine, based on your skin type results you should modify those basic steps outlined above to suit your skin’s needs:

Dry Skin:

For cleanser, you want to look for products that are moisturizing and/or able to gently exfoliate your skin daily, therefore ridding your skin of flakes or dry patches. But emphasis on the gentle. Try St. Ives Gentle Smoothing Oatmeal Face Scrub and Mask, which doubles as a scrub and a mask, or CeraVe Hydrating Face Cleanser, which has hyaluronic acid to retain moisture in your skin. Use of a good toner/essence is especially important for your dry skin. This will help to clarify yet re-hydrate your skin after washing, allowing your subsequent products to better soak into your skin. Try Thayers Rose Petal Witch Hazel Facial Mist Toner for an alcohol-free option or Mario Badescu Facial Spray with aloe. If you have the time and money for a serum, this is a good chance to target other skin concerns besides just your dryness. Although you are only in your twenties, you can start prepping for gracious aging with Ole Henriksen Vitamin C TruthSerum or The Ordinary’s “Buffet,” both of which will gradually give your skin a radiant, brightening effect. Since your skin is dry, you may also choose to use serum in the morning for an extra concentration of moisture and ingredients to soak in. Next is your key step: moisturizer. Not only will this lock in the moisture of the previous steps, it will also become your best friend when you need to hydrate dry patches. Although each dry skin gal needs to find her own “holy grail” moisturizer (since this is such a particular step for your skin), I highly recommend FAB Ultra Repair Cream for an intensely thick cream, especially for extremely dry skin and tough patches, or Cetaphil Daily Hydrating Lotion for a non-comedogenic daily product. There are lots of great sunscreen options, a couple being Supergoop Everyday Sunscreen and Neutrogena’s Ultra Sheer Dry Touch Sunscreen. See the conclusion of this article for makeup remover, eye cream, and exfoliation directions. Fantastic masks for dry skin include Too Cool for School Egg Cream Hydration Sheet Mask and this Sugar + Rosehip Hydrating Facial Mask for a K-Beauty pick.

Normal/Combination Skin:

For cleanser, you want to choose a one that airs on the creamy side, so as to nourish your skin and cleanse without stripping you of your natural oils, which are important to maintain for gracious aging. Glossier’s Milky Jelly Cleanser is a great pick and Cetaphil Daily Facial Cleanser for Normal to Oily Skin is extremely convenient. Use of a face spray or toner is highly advised, for the right one will continue to clarify your skin and help your products soak in (read: using less product and therefore saving money). Thayers Alcohol-Free Rose Petal Witch Hazel Facial Mist is an all-around great pick, and Caudalie Beauty Elixir Face Mist will give you a refreshing and brightening boost. A serum is optional, especially if you are just getting in the habit of establishing a skincare routine, but it is a great chance to supply your skin with great ingredients, especially when your skin is still damp and prepped to soak up ingredients from cleansing and toning. At this stage in your life, it is great to start using products with vitamin C, like Ole Henriksen Vitamin C TruthSerum. In order to seal in all the great ingredients you have treated your pores with, use a good moisturizer, but not one that is too heavy, especially for the sake of your t-zone and chin. Try It Cosmetics Confidence in a Cream. Make sure to use sunscreen daily, with reapplication. Supergoop’s City Sunscreen is just the right mix of lightness and moisture, which is a happy medium for your skin. See the conclusion of this article for makeup remover, eye cream, and exfoliation directions. As far as face masks go, you have lots of flexibility and should tailor to the needs of your skin as irregularities appear, for instance if you are experiencing dry skin, try one of the face masks suggested in the “Dry Skin” portion of this article or refer to the “Acne-Prone” section’s suggestions if you notice clogged pores. Otherwise, maintain your skin’s radiance with Glamglow Gravitymud or sheet masks like Mamonde Rose Flower Mask.


A great cleanser to use for your skin is Bioré’s Witch Hazel Pore Clarifying Cleanser, which is packed with ingredients to remove the day’s excess oil. You could also use Skinfood Egg White Pore Foam. That being said, you absolutely do not want to signal your skin to produce even more oil to make up for overly stripping your skin, so remember to replenish lost oil. Within the pool of products aimed at combating oil, there are too many drying toners that take the double cleanse too far; you want to use a good toner that will indeed help clear your pores of oil, but not to the extreme. Applying toner with a cotton pad as opposed to using a spray is not necessary, but it can be especially refreshing and clarifying for oily skin. Try The Ordinary’s Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution or Blithe Vital Treatment 5, which also is great for your skin because it contains salicylic acid. For very oily skin, this may seem too heavy, but if you’re interested in using a serum, you will reap the benefits; it may just be the step that truly targets clogged pores and oil production. For those benefits, Alpha Intensive Renewal Serum, Be The Skin Botanical Pore Serum, and Mizon Original Skin Energy Serum are great picks. While yes, you have a dependable natural production of oil, it is necessary to stick to the philosophy of giving your skin just enough moisture that it doesn’t overproduce its own. Therefore, light, non-comedogenic moisturizer is key. Gel formulas, like in Neutrogena Hydro Boost Gel-Cream and Simple Water Boost Hydrating Gel Cream are safe, for they offer compact hydration in a lightweight consistency. Oil-free varieties are also great, like the dependable Neutrogena Oil-Free Moisturizer. Make sure to use a non-comedogenic sunscreen as well, like Neutrogena Clear Face Liquid Lotion Sunscreen. See the conclusion of this article for makeup remover, eye cream, and exfoliation directions. Freeman Clay Avocado & Oatmeal Mask and Aztec Secret Healing Clay Mask will refresh you of excess oil, and tea tree masks such as TonyMoly’s I’m Real Tea Tree Mask and Proactiv Skin Purifying Mask are perfect for reducing clogged, large-looking pores. As you age you will learn to love your natural oils, for they will likely reduce or at least defer your share of wrinkles.


It is important not to over-complicate your routine, but to cover your bases efficiently by using gentle products packed with nourishing ingredients. For cleanser though, avoid formulas with active ingredients that seek solutions, like acne reduction. Rather, keep it basic and pure with a fragrance-free gentle cleanser that does its definitive job: cleansing. If your skin is more oily, try Cetaphil Daily Facial Cleanser for Normal to Oily Skin, and if your skin is normal to dry, use Neutrogena Ultra Gentle Hydrating Daily Facial Cleanser or CeraVe Hydrating Face Wash. Use a face spray, like Evian Mineral Water Spray or Caudalie Grape Water Spray, both of which will  help the following products to penetrate more easily, and the latter of the two packs extra benefits for graceful aging. Aveeno MaxGlow Serum + Primer is great if you want that glowy, hydrated look, and La Roche-Posay Rosaliac AR Intense Visible Redness Reducing Serum is great if you struggle with redness or irritation. For a moisturizer, fragrance-free options like Eau Thermale Avène’s Skin Recovery Cream are perfect, alternatively Elizabeth Arden’s Eight Hour Cream comes in a fragrance-free, soothing formula. Aveeno Protect + Hydrate Lotion Sunscreen is perfect for gentle purposes. See the conclusion of this article for makeup remover, eye cream, and exfoliation directions. Be careful what masks and treatments you use; avoid harsh exfoliation. Glamglow Thirstymud helps to boost radiance and hydration and Simple Water Boost sheet Mask is soothing, and aim for masks that can offer an anti-redness and anti-irritation effect, like the Mario Badescu Azulene Calming Mask.


It is especially important to be patient and understand the reality that what works well for someone else might not necessarily work for you. This can be discouraging to say the least as well as unkind to your bank account as you try any and every “fix” on the market. (And remember to talk with your family doctor, dermatologist, or aesthetician about your options, because while I have advice and recommendations, I am not a specialist.) Rather than viewing your spots as obstacles, view and treat them like small “wounds” to tend to and heal. Just as you would never want to retwist an ankle, pick a scab, or cut open stitches as they are healing, you also should not be tempted to pop your pimples or put too much pressure on your blackheads or whiteheads. Re-“wounding” yourself by picking at your skin will not truly harm you, but it will certainly lengthen the healing process. This may be an odd perspective, but because you will view spots as targets of your body’s natural healing mechanisms, you will hopefully care for them rather than hate them. 

Also, give legitimate options an honest chance; first patch-test new products and then commit to a routine for at least a month, but ideally 12 weeks, before feeling defeated and moving on to the next. As someone who has struggled with cystic acne, I can assure you that as I was trying to heal said acne, my skin was overwhelmed by the irregularity of trying new products every few days out of desperation. Therefore, besides maybe incorporating a new mask or spot treatment every once in a while, you are more than likely to see the best results when you give your skin a chance to truly respond to one routine. There are many options on the market, and you can try services like Curology for personalized consultations. Yet from my experience and those of others, I sincerely and highly recommend’s Regimen to anyone struggling with acne. This regimen is slightly different from the steps I outlined above, but please follow the company’s directions. As far as masks go, try SheaMoisture African Black Soap Mask for a less drying option but with the amazing effects of tea tree oil, Freeman Feeling Beautiful Facial Anti-Stress Dead Sea Minerals Mask to reduce redness, or Aztec Secret Healing Clay Mask for more oily skin. Make sure to use a non-comedogenic sunscreen, like Neutrogena Clear Face Liquid Lotion Sunscreen. If you only have occasional spots, Origins Super Spot Remover and Mario Badescu Drying Lotion both work wonders.

There are many forms of makeup remover on the market, but not many are gentle and strong. When picking a makeup remover, you want something effective enough that you can remove eye makeup without harsh rubbing. You also want something that will begin to clear out your pores before face washing rather than just wipe the surface of your skin. For this reason, I unfortunately do not recommend makeup wipes for daily use unless you have already committed to one or if you only use them occasionally, say on-the-go or when you are feeling really tired or lazy. Not all, but most makeup remover wipes are not saturated enough with makeup remover, especially when the seal worsens and they dry out, and they are usually not very plush, therefore requiring lots of rubbing with little cushion. Yet, if you know that there is no way that you’ll take off your makeup without one, try Neutrogena Makeup Remover Cleansing Towelettes, and make sure to close the package every night, and maybe even store it in a plastic bag to retain moisture. Preferably, use a liquid makeup remover like Neutrogena Effective and Gentle Oil-Free Eye Makeup Remover with a cotton pad. I also do recommend using micellar water, like Garnier SkinActive Micellar Cleansing Water, or makeup removing cream like Clinique Take The Day Off Cleansing Balm, especially for sensitive skin. Good makeup removing tools include The Makeup Eraser or similar towels, which only require water and are therefore a sustainable and affordable option (just make sure to avoid rubbing too hard).

Since you are in your late teens or twenties, it is crucial to start prepping for a graceful aging process. For this reason and more, you will thank me later if you start incorporating eye cream into your routine now. You need only a small amount morning and night, and gently apply with your ring finger in a tapping manner, focused on your under eye but also with application on your lid. Be sure not to extend it too far down that it gets on your cheek. Also, once you’re down applying your eye cream, you can rub the excess off your ring finger onto your lips for moisturization and to relieve fine lines. If you want a boost in the morning, Origins GinZing Refreshing Eye Cream has caffeine and other super products to address puffy eyes and dark circles, though you can use it at night too. Olay Ultimate Eye Cream is all-around great, especially for dark circles. Other good options include Shiseido Waso Essence or Neutrogena Healthy Skin Eye Firming Cream, the latter being especially suited for fine lines.

Although some people’s skin requires deep exfoliation more often than others’, it is important to not exfoliate too often, otherwise your skin will not be able to replenish itself or increase cell turnover before you exfoliate again. For deep exfoliation, it is recommended to incorporate this step into your routine at night 1-3 times per week maximum. Sensitive skin should not be deeply exfoliated often. Deep exfoliation can include a scrub, like St. Ives Fresh Skin Apricot Face Scrub or just a palmful of sugar. You can also physically exfoliate your skin via microdermabrasion, Neutrogena’s system being an effective and affordable option. Yet, as you get older it is smart to incorporate chemical peels, which are not as harsh as they sound. On the contrary, this can often be a gentler method of exfoliation especially with products like Caudalie’s Glycolic Peel. Other great peels include Ole Henriksen Instant Transformation Lemon Facial Peel, especially to combat dark spots, Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Extra Strength Peel, which is easy to use, and The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution, which is a bestseller.

Remember that the most important thing you can do for your skin is embrace its natural tendencies! Skin is truly wonderful, for it is the body’s largest organ and it does so much to heal and protect us. Therefore, it is necessary that we do our best to implement personal routines to replenish, assist, and care for it, because in the long-run this extra attention will lead us to healthier lifestyles.

Future Female Leaders is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites.

Lucy H

Lucy Hutchinson is a proud Pennsylvanian. Her life goals include riding a bison, becoming a physician, visiting all seven continents, and retiring as an old beekeeper. She spends a majority of her time studying, reading, or worrying about not studying or reading. Amidst that worrying, you’re likely to find her gushing about Jane Austen, Israel, sun protection, agriculture, and GMOs.