Skincare Basics

Splash Rinsing. No one actually does this.

I wish there was a study or survey with data regarding average budgets or amounts allocated to beauty expenses. Unfortunately, it would never be accurate because we, as people, do not want to admit our own vanity. Or perhaps you’re willing to admit to it, but not to its extent.

Many people dole out for cosmetics to cover up and hide what they perceive to be imperfections. I would be willing to bet, however, that most spend more money on things to hide what they feel they need to rather than improve it. Skincare is neglected because, unlike slapping concealer on your face when you feel you need it, taking care of your skin is a daily effort. No amount of makeup is going to, “fix,” poorly cared-for skin – not even high end ones, don’t let the girl at the counter suggest that (be a skeptic!). Clean, well-cared for skin looks and feels better, ages better (who can argue with that?) and takes less effort to, “dress up,” if you will. I have also found that there is this thought that taking care of your skin = huge expense – not so. You don’t need to go drop cash at the Clinique counter or on Murad. My entire routine is readily available online, in various drugstores, and in mass merchants.

After the jump is a peek into my skincare basics and current routine. It isn’t costly, it isn’t very time consuming once you establish a routine. For reference, my skin is normal/combination T-Zone/non-sensitive.

1. Cleanse – with Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser (normally $8-9 in drugstores for a 16oz bottle, Amazon sells a two-pack). This cleanser can be used with or without water. I use it with, but if you’re in a hurry, you can wipe it away with a soft cloth. Steps are simple: wet face, apply one pump of cleanser (the two largest sizes have pumps, at least), massage into face, rinse. I do this in the shower because let’s be real here – trying to do this at the sink like the ridiculous woman in the stock photo above do? Congratulations, the entirety of your bathroom is now drenched from your Magikarp-like splashing.
Extra Credit: Use a cleansing brush such as an Olay Pro-X (normally $32ish) to make your cleanse more efficient and thorough. They’re now selling it with an at-home microdermabrasion head and cleanser.

2. Exfoliate – Before I hop into what I do – you can do this a few ways. There’s the quintessential St. Ives Apricot Scrub (normally $3) [manual] or creams/liquids/wipes [chemical]. I alternate between two products, a semi-manual, and a chemical. St Ives Timeless Skin (normally $3), is gentler than the original and uses Alpha and Beta Hydroxy Acid to help your skin slough off old layers rather than tons of crushed walnut shell (though it still has some). I use a slightly-larger-than-pea-sized amount, massage it into my face, and rinse. I do this about twice a week. On 2-3 different days, however, I will use Alpha Hydrox Enhanced Lotion 10% (normally $11). This is a lotion applied in a thin layer, after cleansing but before moisturizing. Let it dry for 30 seconds to a minute before continuing. You do not need to do both things. I just do because I have both things, but you definitely do not need to go out and buy both. FWIW, I will not be repurchasing the St. Ives – I’m not unhappy with it, but for my money, Alpha Hydrox lasts longer and feels better.

Also, FYI: current advice suggests avoiding scrubs whose exfoliation agent consists of sharp granules (such as the original Apricot Scrub, which uses crushed walnut shell) because they can create micro-cuts on the surface of your skin. I’ve never experienced this, nor has anyone I know (perhaps because we aren’t applying with this) but because I strongly advise being an informed consumer I thought it was worth knowing.

3. Moisturize – with CeraVe Moisturizing Cream in the tub (normally$15 on Amazon, goes on sale often at The amount I use varies depending on how dry my skin feels, so there’s less science to this one. Apply a thin layer – you may feel it at first but it will sink in and be glorious.

4. Protect – Please. Wear. Sunscreen. What you need depends on how much exposure you face. Currently, I’m using Walgreens Sheer Dry-Touch Sunscreen, SPF 55 ($9, but goes BOGO!). I don’t get that much sun exposure these days (thanks, work) but there was a melanoma diagnosis in my immediate family, so an ounce of prevention and all that.

Takes maybe five minutes, that’s if I’m going slowly. Total investment on basics: Roughly $44, shooting high (buying Alpha Hydrox and not St Ives) and paying full retail for everything (I do not – coupons, sales, etc). They tend to last me (based on daily usage):

Cetaphil (16oz) – 5-6 months
St Ives Timeless Skin – 3 months
Alpha Hydrox Enhanced Lotion 10% – 12+ months
CeraVe Moisturizing Cream – 12+ months
Sunscreen – Based on one month of usage, I estimate this will last 6-8 months.

Total estimated annual cost, assuming re-buying Cetaphil and Sunscreen: $62
Total daily cost, assuming daily use of everything (you probably won’t): Not quite $0.17.
Thanks to coupons, sales, TJ Maxx ($6 bottle of Alpha Hydrox) – but not counting eBates
My actual cost: $40
My daily cost: Not quite $0.11.

This is not a suggestion to go without in favor of skincare (no, not ever, don’t be that guy) but if you’re in a position to set a little aside or if you’re spending on cosmetics consider re-routing some of that budget and invest in the health of your skin. My skincare regimen may not be right for you, though most can’t go wrong by starting with Cetaphil. Also, if you use chemical exfoliants, you need to be a bit more vigilant about sunscreen use. There are other options that are even less expensive – pHisoderm, for example, is fantastic, but can be hard to find.

Disclaimer: I am not a dermatologist or doctor of any sort! My opinions and experience are not to be taken as medical advice or direction. If you have serious concerns about skin conditions, melanoma/skin cancer questions, I urge you to seek a qualified medical professional.