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Cleansers, and Toners, and Moisturizers—Oh My? How to Choose a Skincare Regime as an Adult.

When we are kids, our skin is perfect. Our Fountain of Youth is the envy of adults, with our ever-glossy hair; our clear, glowy skin; our lack of body odor; and our bright white eyes and teeth. But somewhere along the way things change. This change happens when we start to hit puberty, as young as 7 or 8, but more commonly when we’re closer to our teens.

For many of us, puberty spells the end of clear, glowing skin, as we begin to experience the woes of our hormonal adolescent years. Acne rears its ugly head throughout our teens and as we grow into young adults. 


Then, if we’re lucky, our acne passes, and we have a few years—perhaps up to a decade—of great skin. Fast forward to our mid to late twenties, and our skin changes almost overnight. We inspect our faces up close one day and we notice fine lines and sun damage beginning to appear—yikes! You decide it’s about time to get a skincare regime in order.


Your Skin


Apart from seeing signs of aging and sun damage, our skin also falls victim to damage we can’t see with the naked eye. On a cellular level, our skin is constantly being attacked by free radicals such as pollution and dirt. This wreaks havoc on our cells if we don't protect them. A skincare regime helps to protect and preserve the skin’s natural defenses and pH levels.


Our skin’s pH is determined by using a scale from 0-14, zero being acidic, and 14 being alkaline. Adult skin has an average pH of 5.5, which is slightly on the acidic side, so our skin thrives when we use products that are also a little more on the acidic side.


Skincare as an Adult


We talked about why you need to start a skincare regime at a young age a few weeks ago. But what if we are already an adult and still haven’t started using a skincare regime? 


Unfortunately, signs of aging can begin in our early 20s.  So it's important to start off with a basic skincare regime as soon as you can. But even if you're already in your 30s or 40s, it's not too late. 


The most basic regime consists of three steps. These are:


Cleansing: This is to remove impurities from your skin, and to balance your skin’s pH. 


Toning: On a very basic level, toners can hydrate, balance, and prepare the skin for moisturizers.


Moisturizing: This is a crucial step in a regime, as it hydrates and protects the skin from pollutants and skin stressors.


We recommend, as a start, that you perform these three steps every morning and night. 



But Where Do You Begin?


Skincare is not something we inherently know about. It’s a complex topic, and knowing which cleanser, toner, and moisturizer to use for your skin can be overwhelming. With thousands of options at our fingertips, it can be impossible to know which to choose.


It depends on your skin type as to which product you should be using. So let’s first go over the skin types and how you can determine yours.


There are four skin types: normal, dry, oily, and combination. How to tell what your skin type is can be tricky to navigate on your own. But here are a few ways that can help you.


Cleanse only. Using a mild cleanser, wash your face thoroughly, and do not apply anything else on the skin. Take note of how your skin feels after 30 minutes, and then again at 60 minutes.


Is there any shine or oil? Where is it? If it’s just on the nose, or t-zone, but the rest of your face is dry or normal, then you have combination skin. If oil is more prevalent around most of the face, then you’re more on the oily-skin side. 


Does your face feel tight, dry, or irritated? This means your skin is likely to be on the dry side. Normal skin is when there are no visible signs of dryness or oiliness. Majority of adults have combination skin.


Blot method. The other way you can test your skin is to blot your face with paper later in the day to see how much oil is on your skin. Dry skin will have no oil on the paper. Combination will have patches of oil. Oily skin will have a lot of oil. It’s kind of a no-brainer, right?


Which Products Should You Be Using?


Now you’ve determined your skin type. So what products should you be using? Well, this comes down to a few factors:


  • Skin type
  • Age
  • Preference

As mentioned before, our skin type will require different products and ingredients to properly treat our skin. But our age—whether we have signs of aging and damage—and also our preference of how a product feels on our skin are also factors to consider. 


To help you choose, we go over the different types of cleansers, toners, and moisturizers out there.


Types of Cleansers


Gel: this kind of cleanser is a translucent gel that foams up when mixed with water. They work well to remove impurities quickly and effectively, decongesting the pores, and leaving the skin feeling fresh and clean. 

Best for: Normal, Oily, Combination skin types

Worst for: Dry skin types


Cream: these cleansers are packed with hydrators and moisturizers. They usually do not foam up, and they leave the skin feeling soothed and nourished.

Best for: Normal, Dry, Combination skin types

Worst for: Oily skin types


Foam: foaming cleansers are a clear liquid that pumps into a foam, and effectively removes any debris and oil from the skin. Be wary of foaming cleansers as they often contain harsh sulphates (SLES/SLS). 

Best for: Normal, Oily, Combination skin types

Worst for: Dry skin types


Powder: powder cleansers require the addition of water or other wet products to make them into a creamy consistency. They are usually formulated with less ingredients than their wet counterparts, which is great for anyone with sensitive skin, however their texture can cause more irritation if the particles are not milled fine enough.

Best for: All skin types

Worst for: Sensitive skin


Oil: oil cleansers either stay in oil form, or they become milky when water is added. Oil cleansers are becoming extremely popular among all skin types because of their ability to protect the skin’s microbiome layer, while effectively cleansing the skin. It might seem counterintuitive, but using oil to cleanse oily skin can also be beneficial for balancing sebum—like fighting fire with fire.

Best for: All skin types

Worst for: -


Balm: balms work similarly to oils, and are great makeup removers. The formulations are usually quite rich in texture, and can help with dry, irritated, or sensitive skin. Because of their texture, they are not recommended for oily skin, as they can clog the pores and cause breakouts.

Best for: Dry, combination, normal skin types

Worst for: Oily skin


Clay: clay cleansers are used to purify and detoxify clogged pores. The clay-based formulations are known to help absorb excess oil and mattify the skin.

Best for: Oily skin types

Worst for: Dry, combination, normal skin types


Micellar: micellar waters are clear fluids that contain micelles, which effectively remove debris. They are predominantly used as a first step to remove makeup, and can be a little harsh on some people’s skin. So it is always recommended to follow with cleanser to provide the skin with more balance and hydration.

Best for: All skin types

Worst for: some sensitive skin


Bars: these are an older form of cleansing, and have become popular again thanks to the zero-waste movement. Bars usually foam up when water is added, and are very effective in cleansing and balancing most skin types. Just be sure to choose a bar with hydrating ingredients, and no sulphates, as they will strip the skin.

Best for: All skin types

Worst for: -


Types of Toners

Toners are an important step in a regime. They balance the skin’s pH, while hydrating and preparing the skin. While many skincare gurus don’t always tout the mighty toner, they are a beneficial piece to a skincare regime. 


There are three kinds of toners on the market:


Hydrating Toners: these are the most common kind of toner, to be used every morning and night after cleansing. They can contain ingredients like aloe for hydrating and soothing, or they can also contain astringents, like rose water, which is great for balancing oily skin. 

Best for: All skin types

Worst for: -


Exfoliating Toners: these contain ingredients that help facilitate the skin’s natural shedding process. Exfoliating toners are normally added to a regime either once per day, or a few times per week, depending on the formulations. They usually contain acids, like AHAs, Glycolic, or fruit enzymes.

Best for:  Oily, combination, normal skin types

Worst for: Dry skin types.


Treatment Toners: These are a great way to boost  your skin’s complexion. Treatment toners are used for targeting specific concerns, like hyperpigmentation, fine lines, or rosacea. They are normally very active, so are usually only added to a regime between 1-3 times a week, depending on your skin type.

Best for:  All skin types

Worst for: Some dry skin types.



Types of Moisturizers

Gel: this is the lightest form of moisturizer, and is generally only recommended for very oily skin due to their non-comedogenic nature. Gels are normally formulated with aloe and other water-based ingredients. You can also find gel-cream hybrids on the market, which are suitable for oily-combination skin types.

Liquid/Lotion: you’ll usually find liquid/lotion type moisturizers for oily and acne-prone skin, as this will not clog pores. The lighter consistency can also be preferable for warmer seasonal changes.

Cream: this is the most common formulation of moisturizer. The consistency varies, depending on the formulation. The heavier consistency will be more suitable for dry skin, and especially for colder seasons or climates.

Of course, the preference of a consistency of a product is also very personal. We may tell you that a nourishing cream might not be suitable for oily skin, yet someone with oily skin may find that they prefer it. It really just depends on you.



Regimes For All


So now you know all about regimes, what products should you choose? Here are three simple regimes we recommend for each skin type. These should be used morning and night.


Normal/Combination Skin

Stevie Fox’s Super Kale Angel Face Wash

UpCircle’s Face Toner with Mandarin & Chamomile 

Earthwise Beauty’s Yasuni Face Balm


Dry Skin

Earthwise Beauty’s Marshmallow Face Cleanser

Earth Harbor’s Tidal Rose Crystal Hydration Toner

Honua Skincare’s Mahealani Moonlit Glow Balm


Oily Skin

M.S. Skincare’s Mantra Skin Perfecting Cleanser

Honua Skincare’s Hawaiian Beauty Water

Earthwise Beauty’s Ambrosia de Cerrado Liquid Moisturizer

 

Emma Masotti is an Australian now living in Austin, TX, and has been a trained esthetician for over 15 years. She is a sustainable skincare writer, educating and building awareness around proper skin health that doesn’t cost the earth.

Some of the products promoted in our blog are from our online store. Many others are brands we have researched and found to be great examples of sustainable, ethical, and innovative brands in their field, and we don't make any profit from mentioning them in our blog. #CollaborationOverCompetition