Complicated 8- or 10-step skincare routines (often dubbed the Japanese or Korean skincare routine) are becoming quite popular, but a simple two- or three-step skincare routine might be what suits you the very best, both in terms of time, money and hassle. Skincare is not rocket science, but it can be complicated to find out what works for you and what doesn’t.
Dermotopia suggests a COMP skincare routine which is short for Cleanse, Optimize, Moisturize and Protect. The first and the last steps (Cleanse and Protect) are the most important ones, while the two others (Optimize and Moisturize) are optional depending on your skin type and the concerns (such as wrinkles, acne, sun damage etc.) you want to improve. Trying to relieve multiple concerns does not necessarily mean adding multiple steps; for instance, adding a retinol product in your skincare routine as an Optimize step will both give you anti-aging benefits and help oily skin to become less clogged. If you are confused about which skin type you (predominantly) have, you can read about it here.
The Steps of a COMP Skincare Routine
C for Cleanse
Product(s) to use: A gentle water-soluble cleanser for the face and – if you are wearing durable waterproof eye makeup, a product to handle that too.
When to use: Every evening and in the morning too, if you feel the need.
Besides protecting your skin against the sun, cleansing it gently is the best thing you can do for your face. Your skin excretes both water (sweat) and oil (sebum) throughout the day which makes it the perfect magnet for dust, pollution and other elements to cling on to. While a splash of water in the bathroom sink might feel refreshing and even remove some of the water-solvable dirt, you will need a gentle cleanser to get rid of the oil-solvable dirt and any excess of sebum. Leave your face unwashed and the mix of dirt, oil and sweat can clog your pores and make you break out or simply just give your skin a dull appearance.
To see a selection of the best gentle cleansers for sensitive skin, whether it being oily, dry or combined, click here.
O for Optimize
Product(s) to use: Depending on your needs, consider a toner/skin tonic, exfoliator (AHA and/or BHA) and serum. Read about each product type below and consider if it could be useful for your needs.
When to use: Morning and/or evening. If you use more than one Optimize product, use them in the same order as below (e.g. toner before BHA etc.)
The Optimize part of a COMP skincare routine can include various steps (which should be executed in the same order as below) and products, depending on your needs and skin type, but can also be completely omitted if you don’t have any skin concerns. It should be mentioned, however, that an exfoliating product, whether a stay-on AHA- or BHA-exfoliator or a gentle scrub to wash off, used twice a month will make your skin look better and more radiant even if you have the nicest, most compliant “normal” skin in human history. When it comes to daily use, you can consider if the following products could be of interest for you:
A well-formulated toner can be a great addition to a skincare routine – especially if you have oily skin and have no need for an actual moisturizer, but rather some lightweight moisturizing agents nonetheless. With ‘well-formulated’, we don’t just mean that the product is without irritating ingredients such as alcohol, menthol or witch-hazel (which way too many toner-products still do), but also that it should supply the skin with beneficial features such as antioxidants and various skin-repairing and water-binding ingredients.
Worth to consider for: People with oily skin. Everybody else can with benefit include a good toner in their skincare routine, but it is far from necessary and close to redundant if you are anyway getting the beneficial ingredients from a moisturizer, serum etc.
If you have blemishes you should apply a topical disinfectant (or if needed, a prescription antibacterial) like benzoyl peroxide (2.5%-10%) to the affected areas. The application of a disinfectant is meant to kill the bacteria P. acnes and can irritate the skin, so don’t use it anywhere else than on blemishes.
Worth to consider for: People with regular outbreaks of blemishes/pimples/zits/acne.
A stay-on BHA-exfoliator with salicylic acid (concentration from 1% to 2%) is a crucial product for those with oily or acne-prone skin as salicylic acid can exfoliate inside your pores and efficiently dissolve the mixture of oil and dead skin cells which can lead to blackheads and breakouts. Another advantage of using a BHA-exfoliator is that salicylic acid also has anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. If you don’t have oily skin all-over, but for instance just an oily t-zone or certain areas with enlargened pores, do apply a BHA-product to the problem areas to see your pores gradually return to normal size. You can use the product less frequently than instructed, but not more as overexfoliation is an increasingly common problem for overzealous women.
To see a list of the best BHA exfoliants, click here.
Worth to consider for: People with oily skin, oily zones or areas of enlargened pores (=the majority of the adult human population).
A stay-on AHA-exfoliator with either glycolic or lactic acid (concentration from 5% to 8%) is great for exfoliating the surface of the skin and improve its moisture content. As it can’t exfoliate inside your pores, it is best for dry and/or sundamaged skin while those with oily skin (even if sundamaged) should stick to BHA-products. There is absolutely no need to use both an AHA- and a BHA-product – but if you do, use one in the morning and the other in the evening. Again, you can use the product less frequently than instructed, but not more as overexfoliation can make your skin look even worse than if you did not exfoliate it at all.
To see a list of the best AHA exfoliants, click here.
Worth to consider for: People with dry and/or sundamaged skin.
A serum with antioxidants or cell-communicating ingredients like retinol for its anti-aging properties. However, these ingredients can just as well be included in a moisturizer, so using a serum with the exact same beneficial ingredients as your moisturizer would be unnecessary. If you have oily skin, on the other hand, chances are that a moisturizer is too emollient for you and therefore a serum can be a great way to include some valuable antioxidants or cell-communicating agents in your skincare routine.
Worth to consider for: People with oily skin and no need for an actual moisturizer, or those who want some extra/different antioxidants and beneficial ingredients than those in their moisturizer.
M for Moisturize
Product(s) to use: Depending on your needs, consider a moisturizing cream or lotion – perhaps only on dry patches and/or around the eyes. Don’t waste money on an eye cream (more below).
When to use: Morning and/or evening as well as in between if you feel the need for it.
Not everybody needs a moisturizer and especially not in the daytime where you should also diligently apply a sun cream (or moisturizer with SPF15 or higher) to protect against the sun’s damaging UVA and UVB rays. Therefore, if you have oily skin or your sun cream is adequately moisturizing, consider skipping this step altogether – especially if you have already used a serum and/or moisturizing toner as part of the Optimize step. However, if you have dry skin, patches of dry skin or simply feel that you need some extra nourishment, a moisturizer is a great way to relieve your skin of the tight and dry feeling and appearance. Depending on your skin type and needs, consider if it would be best for you with a calming moisturizer that will soothe sensitive skin rather than stimulating it (see our list of the best calming moisturizers here) or a more invigorating cream with cell-communicating ingredients like retinol for an anti-aging effect (see our list of the best retinol creams here) and/or plenty of antioxidants like vitamin C etc.
We don’t recommend spending money on an eye cream, because they are often nothing more than slightly lighter, but much more expensive versions of the “mother moisturizer” when you compare price with quantity. If you feel like your eye area does need a different (more or less heavy/light) moisturizer than the rest of your face, try instead to find a normal-sized moisturizer which suits you. Many skin care lines have light, normal and rich versions of the “same” moisturizer, so if you have a good all-over moisturizer you can try to use one of the alternative versions around your eye area.
Worth to consider for: People with dry skin or patches of dry skin (consider only applying the product to these).
P for Protect
Product(s) to use: A broad-spectrum sun cream or moisturizer with SPF15 or higher.
When to use: Morning and throughout the daytime (reapply at least every 2 hours) if you are in the sun.
No matter your age, gender or ethnicity, applying sun cream everyday all year around – rain or shine – is the best one thing you can do for your skin. Besides protecting your skin from cancer and painful burns, diligent application of sun cream has serious cosmetic benefits as it is estimated that up to 80% of your skin’s aging is caused by the sun. That means that the best anti-aging product you can ever apply to your skin is a sun cream! Because it is such an important product, we recommend that you get a product which feels great on your face (e.g. not sticky or greasy) like a daily moisturizer with SPF15 (as an absolute minimum) or a sun cream especially formulated for the face as these are often lighter and less greasy than the sun creams for using all over your body.
To see a selection of the best sun creams for the face, whether your skin is oily, dry or combined, click here.