The Essential Skincare Products Every Routine Needs


essential products

With new skincare products hitting the shelves every day, it can be kinda hard to decide which products you need and which ones your skin can live its best life without. Since we’re asked all the time to outline a reliable skincare regime, we thought we’d do a step-by-step guide with our fave tried and tested products that actually deliver results.

From the products you need to use daily and the extra skin steps that should be done once or twice a week, we’ve also rounded up our fave products for your skin type. If you’re unsure what skin type you have, check out this guide. Here’s your ultimate skin routine and the products your skin really CAN’T live without – think of it as your skincare 5-a-day!

Step 1. Cleanse

Essential products

Source: Burt’s Bees, Shu Uemera, Avene

We can’t lie, our life (and our skin) changed forever when we discovered double cleansing – our fave K-Beauty trick – it’s so simple, yet SO effective. All you do is cleanse with a cleansing oil and then follow with a milk, foam, water or gel-based cleanser, depending on your skin type. By double cleansing, you’ll ensure that all of the makeup residue is removed as well as any oil, dirt, or bacteria that’s clogging your pores. This will also allow your next skincare steps to absorb more easily and penetrate further into your skin. You only need to double cleanse in the evening or after wearing SPF and makeup, so you can skip the oil cleanse in the morning, and just use a water-based cleanser that suits your skin type, to start the day.

Start with a cleansing oil:

Acne-prone/ Oily skin: Shu Uemura Porefinist Anti Shine Fresh Cleansing oil, $49, which contains acne-busting BHA, salicylic acid, that penetrates deep into the skin to get rid of any debris that’s blocking your pores.

Normal/ Combination: Tatcha Pure One Step Camellia Cleansing Oil, $48, this cleansing oil contains antioxidant and vitamin-rich, Camellia oil, that will rebalance your skin and leave it with a radiant glow.

Dry/ Sensitive: We love the Burt’s Bees Facial Cleansing Oil with Coconut and Argan Oils, $16, it’s super rich so it’ll hydrate and cleanse your skin without stripping it of its natural oils.

Then cleanse again:

Essential products

Source: Avene, Sunday Riley, Neutrogena

Once you’ve cleansed with an oil (unless it’s the morning), it’s time to use a different cleansing formula. If you have dry or sensitive skin, you should look for a heavier formula whereas if you have oily skin, you want something lighter that’ll remove oily residue without blocking your pores. For more info, check out our guide to cleansers here.

Acne-prone/ Oily skin: The Sunday Riley Ceramic Slip Cleanser, $35, is amazing for oily or acne-prone skin as it contains three forms of clay that’ll help extract impurities from your skin. Plus, it’s made with plant-based soaps that’ll rebalance your skin, leaving you with a healthy glow.

Normal/ Combination: The Neutrogena Hydro Boost Micellar Water, is one of the best drugstore cleansers: it contains hydrating ingredients micellar water and hyaluronic acid, which will provide your skin with a surge of moisture!

Dry/ Sensitive: The Avene Extremely Gentle Cleanser Lotion, $24, is fragrance-free, paraben-free, and is hypoallergenic so it won’t irritate or dry out your skin further.

Step 2. Tone

essential products

Source: Glow Studio, COSRX, Origins

Toning is another integral step of any good skincare regime. Firstly, it’ll help remove any lingering makeup residue – we swear, you’ll be surprised how much makeup is still on your skin – as well as any chlorine or minerals in the water. Many toners have an alkaline base, to rebalance the skin’s pH level, as our skin is naturally slightly acidic. As its name suggests, it’ll also tone and tighten your pores, reducing the penetration of environmental impurities. Like we said it’s a pretty essential step.

Acne-prone/ Oily skin: We’re currently using the pre-soaked, COSRX One Step Original Clear Pad, $19, which are formulated with willow bark extract, Tea Tree, and hyaluronic, so they’ll exfoliate while simultaneously hydrating your skin – it’s a win-win!  

Normal/ Combination: We’re obsessed with the Glow Studio Green Tea Serum Toner, $22. This serum-toner hybrid is formulated with anti-oxidant rich green tea extract to soothe and brighten the skin.

Dry/ Sensitive: The Origins United State Balancing Tonic, $23, is perfect for sensitive skin as it contains soy proteins to protect your moisture levels as well as soothing antioxidant-rich lavender.

Step 3. Moisturize

essential products

Source: Clinique, Drunk Elephant, Tarte

Everyone knows that moisturizer is one of the most important products on your shelf, but what a lot of people don’t realize is that finding the right moisturizer is just as important. More specifically, finding the right formula is key: it needs to hydrate and restore your skin efficiently without leaving it feeling greasy. A lot of people with oily skin also make the mistake of not moisturizing all together, but this is actually counterproductive as when your skin is dehydrated, it’ll compensate for the lack of moisture by producing more oil. And yes, you need to moisturize in the morning and at night!

Acne-prone/ Oily skin: We’re in love with the Clinique Moisture surge 72-hour Auto-Replenishing Hydrator, $20, it leaves your skin feeling silky smooth and features antioxidant-rich aloe vera, as well as hyaluronic acid.

Normal/ Combination: Tarte Rainforest Drink of H2O Hydrating Boost Moisturizer, $46, is a mega hydrating moisturizer as it contains marine ingredients and hyaluronic acid to brighten and plump your skin.

Dry/ Sensitive: Drunk Elephant’s Protini Polypeptide Cream, $75, is packed with nourishing and hydrating essential oils to leave your skin feeling silky smooth.

Step 4. SPF for daytime

essential products

Source: Supergoop, Dr. Jart+, Thank You Farmer

If you ask any dermatologist they’ll tell you one of THE most important skincare products you’ll ever own is sunscreen. We have to admit, even we were a little lazy with the sunscreen until we found out that 90% of how your skin ages is within your control and is a direct relation to sun exposure. The powerful UVA and UVB rays of the sun result in aging, fine lines, wrinkles, dark spots, and of course, skin cancer, which is why wearing daily protection is key. Make sure you look for a sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher, with 5-star UVA rating.

Acne-prone/ Oily: The Thank You Farmer Sun Project Water Sun Cream, $23, offers amazing protection and yet the formula is lightweight so it’ll absorb easily into the skin.

Normal / Combination: We LOVE the Supergoop Unseen Sunscreen, $32. This serum-like gel literally disappears into your skin and is free of oil or fragrance. Plus, it’s packed with antioxidants, shea butter, and rejuvenating meadowfoam.

Dry/ Sensitive: The Dr. Jart+ Cicapair Tiger Grass Cream, $48, is SPF 30 and is infused with minerals, that’ll replenish the skin and soothe any irritation. It’s color correcting too so it cancels out any redness and evens skin tone.

Weekly Essential Additions:


There’s a fine line between exfoliating your skin too much and not enough. We recommend exfoliating twice a week using a chemical exfoliator (Alpha Hydroxy Acids) to remove dead skin cells and improve tone. However, if you have sensitive skin or have exfoliating ingredients like salicylic acid or lactic acid in your other products, you may want to consider limiting your exfoliation to once a week.

Acne-prone/Oily skin We’re obsessed with the cult classic, Sand and Sky Flash Perfection Exfoliating Treatment, $49. It mattifies, exfoliates, and helps draw out excess oil in the skin.

Normal / Combination: We love the Ren Skincare Clean Skincare Glycol Lactic Radiance Renewal Mask, $56, as it contains natural lactic and glycolic acid.

Dry/ Sensitive: If you have dry or sensitive skin you need to be really careful when exfoliating as it could irritate your skin. Try a hydrating toner that has exfoliating ingredients like the PIXI Glow Tonic, $15.


Getting in the habit of doing a mask weekly will take your skincare regime to the next level. It’ll deliver that extra dosage of nutrients or help target a specific skincare concern, so finding the right mask for your skin is key. If you have dry or sensitive skin, you want to look for a mask that’ll hydrate and replenish your skin so a sheet or jelly mask packed with soothing and hydrating ingredients like aloe vera, chamomile, hyaluronic acid or centella asiatica is ideal. If you have oily skin, a clay mask can work wonders on your skin.

Acne-prone/Oily skin: We love the L’Oreal range of clay masks, there’re six in total: each mask caters to a particular skin issue. Our fave is the grey mask with activated charcoal powder to draw out oil – you can literally see the oil being extracted. Read our full review here.

Normal / Combination: The Glow Recipe’s Watermelon Glow Jelly Mask, $8, is our go-to for a hit of hydration. The rubbery mask is a triple threat, as it contains watermelon, centella asiatica, and hyaluronic acid. You can do this every day if you like!

Dry/ Sensitive: The Dr.Jart+ Hydration Lover Rubber Mask, $12, is perfect for dry skin as the rubber formula prevents active ingredients from evaporating, allowing for complete penetration.

Extra ingredients to target skin concerns:

Hyperpigmentation: If pigmentation or dark spots are one of your skin concerns, try a brightening serum that contains vitamin C like the Drunk Elephant’s, C-Firm Day Serum, $80. For more tips on how to treat dark spots, check out our expert’s guide here.

Dark circles: If you have dark circles (or are aged 20+) you should use an eye cream daily. Look for products that contain ingredients like caffeine, green tea or vitamin C as these will help brighten your undereye are the most effectively.

Acne-prone: We’re couldn’t live without our Mario Badescu Drying Lotion, $17, read our full review here and check out our guide to banishing acne here. Also check out our top 10 acne-busting products here.

Dry Skin: Look for a rich cream or hydrating night mask that’ll help seal in moisture and restore the skin’s protective barrier. Possibly one of the best products for dry skin is a Cica Repair Cream that you can buy from most drugstores for just $8 – it’s a total bargain. Find out more about Cica creams here.