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If you’re new to skincare, it can be incredibly overwhelming to choose items with the vast world of skincare brands and their purported claims. Each person’s individual skincare routine will vary due to personal preference, lifestyle, skin type, budget, and needs. This is why even recommendations from other people may need to taken with a grain of salt because a product that works for someone else may not work for you. Finding products and creating a great routine for yourself can really require trial and error. For complete newbies to skincare, here’s some products you should consider incorporating into your routine.


Read More: How to “Winter-Proof” Your Skincare Routine for Colder Months



DSC Cleansers Blog Graphic with text cleansers in black centered over green bottle of facial cleanser on a green background with water



A cleanser is a vital and basic step for any skincare routine. There are different cleansers that suit different skin types. Some cleansers even have active ingredients that can combat acne or help exfoliate skin; however, cleansers are usually not left on the skin long enough for active ingredients to make an enormous difference. Cleansers with active ingredients can be helpful on the body if left on for a number of minutes while showering. For a basic cleanser, you can choose a foaming cleanser or an oilbased cleanser, or even both if you’d like to double cleanse. Most are probably familiar with a foaming cleanser. A foaming cleanser is a great option for most people. Applied to skin with a bit of water, a foaming cleanser will create suds that help remove dirt, oil, and debris when rinsed off. Oily, to normal, to dry skin can benefit from a foaming cleanser.

For those that wear a lot of makeup, thick SPF, or who often feel that a foaming cleanser alone doesn’t get the skin all the way clean (try wiping the skin with a cotton pad soaked in toner after cleansing, there should be no dirty residue if skin is cleansed properly), an oil-based cleanser is also a great option. Like dissolves like, so oil-based cleansers remove makeup and thick sunscreen without needing excessive force or scrubbing. They can also help to clear out excess sebum (oil) or sebaceous filaments (the threads that are expressed when skin is squeezed) from pores. Emulsifiers are added to oil-based cleansers so they rinse off cleanly with water. Oil-cleansers are not appropriate for those with lash extensions, as the oil can breakdown extension glue more quickly. On the other hand, if you have dry skin, an oil-cleanser is a great option that doesn’t feel harsh or “stripping” after use.

A double cleanse refers to using an oil-based cleanser followed by a more traditional foaming cleanser. This ensures a thorough cleanse with no remaining residue. Double cleansing makes sure that no remaining leftover makeup, oil, dirt, or debris is left on the skin after cleansing.


DSC Exfoliants Blog Graphic with black text "Exfoliants" centered over terracotta background with smear of gritty exfoliant




An exfoliating product smooths skin by removing dead skin cells from the surface of the skin. There are two types of exfoliants differentiated by their mechanism of action. The first is a physical exfoliant. A physical exfoliant is one you might be more familiar with: something that physically or mechanically removes dead skin cells. This includes products with included particles that buff the skin or even tools/devices like scrubbing cloths, washcloths, or cleansing brushes, e.g. a Clarisonic or Foreo. A physical exfoliant can be used on the face AND body.

The second type of exfoliant is a chemical exfoliant. A chemical exfoliant doesn’t work in the traditional sense of physically scrubbing the skin; it works by loosening/dissolving the bonds that hold dead skin cells to the surface of the skin. This removes dead skin cells without needing to physically scrub. Common chemical exfoliants are AHAs (alpha hydroxy acids) like glycolic acid, mandelic acid, and lactic acid. These come in different strengths and can be suitable for all skin types. AHAs help clear congested pores, remove dead skin cells for smoother skin, reduce dark spots, improve skin tone, reduce sun damage, and prep the skin for other products by sloughing off superficial dead skin cells.

Another type of chemical exfoliant is a BHA (beta hydroxy acids) such as salicylic acid. A BHA has better oil solubility, which means it works great at clearing clogged pores, blackheads, and can help reduce excess sebum on normal to oily skin.


DSC Toners Blog Graphic with text Toners in black centered over blue bottle of toner on the left and several cotton rounds on the right on a pink background




A toner is a water-based or more “liquid” product that is applied immediately after cleansing. Toner in the traditional sense is a product that returns skin to regular pH after cleansing. This is a relic of older times, when facial soaps were quite harsh and more basic in pH. The natural pH of the skin leans acidic, ranging between 4~6 in pH. This acidic pH functions as a barrier to deter bacteria and foreign particles. These days, with so many improvements in skincare science, there are plenty of facial cleansers that are not overly harsh and do not drastically alter pH of the skin. Therefore, the need for a toner in the traditional sense to balance pH is “outdated” when using a well-formulated facial cleanser. This does not mean that toners available now do not have this function, rather that toners can offer more benefits beyond just balancing pH.

Toners can be astringent (like witch hazel) to help reduce excess sebum, or anti-inflammatory (e.g. formulated with green tea, cucumber, or chamomile) to calm breakouts or irritation. Products formulated with glycerin or fatty alcohols are more hydrating and moisturizing. Even an AHA (see Exfoliants) can be considered a toner which improves evenness of skin tone and reduces dark spots.

Choose a toner with ingredients based on the needs of your skin. Toners can be applied directly into the palm and patted on the skin, or applied onto a cotton pad and swiped over the skin. Some toner pads consist of pads presoaked with product, which is a convenient form of application. Other toners come in a spray bottle or mist application.


DSC Serums Blog Graphic with text Serums in black centered over image of serum dropper with serum dripping out




Serum is applied after toner and is usually a thinner consistency than a cream or moisturizer. Skincare serums is where the market really and truly proliferates. There are infinite choices for serums, all with different applications. Serums can be multi-purpose or used concurrently for different effects. Ingredients determine the specific usages of a serum and when they should be used during the day. Sun-sensitizing serums (e.g. retinoids) and pigmentinhibiting serums should generally be used in the evening, while products with antioxidants like Vitamin C can be used in the morning. Hydrating and antiaging serums can be used morning, evening, or both. Serums with peptides should not be used simultaneously with AHAs; it is best to separate AM/PM.

Pump serum onto fingers to apply to the skin, or drop onto skin without directly touching dropper to skin. This helps ensure hygiene and longevity of product.


DSC Moisturizers Blog Graphic with black text Moisturizers centered over smear of white lotion on pink background




A moisturizer is a variant of cream, lotion, or balm whose primary function is to hydrate the skin. Moisturizers consist of three primary categories: humectants, emollients, and occlusives. This is usually determined by formulation and ingredients.

Humectants hydrate the skin by attracting or holding onto water. This affinity for hydration can help plump skin by reducing the look of fine lines and wrinkles. Dryer skin has more texture; water retention in the skin can help smooth this texture. Key ingredients with this function are hyaluronic acid, sodium hyaluronate, and glycerin. All skin, including oily skin, can benefit from humectant ingredients.

Emollient moisturizers are those that help smooth and soften the skin. Moisturizers that accomplish this contain ceramides or various oils, among other ingredients. These are especially useful for soothing dry and/or irritated skin.

Lastly, occlusives are moisturizers with ingredients that form a barrier on the skin. This protects the skin and prevents water loss in the skin, or trans-epidermal water loss (TEWL). TEWL is the process of moisture naturally evaporating from the skin. Rather than hydrating the skin, occlusives prevent the loss of hydration. Petrolatum, mineral oil, and even beeswax are common occlusive ingredients. This type of product is important for dry to very dry skin, especially in the winter months when skin can be chapped and irritated.

Moisturizers are generally thicker in consistency than serums and applied after serums. As a general rule of thumb, it’s best to apply skincare from light to thick, where the thinnest and most liquid products are applied first, followed sequentially by products with thicker consistencies.


DSC Sunscreens Blog Graphic with black text "Sunscreens" centered over three arms smeared with sunscreen




SPF is a MUST in any skincare routine. Aside from its medical application in skin cancer prevention, sunscreen is vital to help maintain healthy-looking skin. It prevents skin damage from the sun, which is direct cause of unwanted pigmentation, premature aging of the skin, wrinkles, uneven skin tone, and loss of firmness and elasticity. Using a broad-spectrum SPF protects against both UVA (“aging” rays) and UVB rays (“burning” rays) from the sun.

While a higher SPF number is great, protection differences between SPF 30 & 50 become trivial when SPF is applied CORRECTLY. Correct SPF application is about applying enough to get the listed SPF rating. This means a quarter teaspoon for the face and neck and a full ounce for the entire body. This amount needs to be reapplied as directed by brand in order to maintain skin protection throughout the day. This is why it is recommended to use a dedicated sunscreen product and not just a moisturizer or makeup product with added SPF; the amount of product needed to get the actual listed SPF is much more than anyone can comfortably apply in one go.

There are two types of sunscreen – physical and chemical. They are differentiated by their sun-protective ingredients. Zinc oxide or titanium dioxide sunscreens are physical sunscreens. These are the typical “white cast” sunscreens you may think of smeared on a lifeguard’s nose. A sunscreen formulated with any other protective ingredient is a chemical sunscreen. Chemical sunscreens differ around the world because of country-specific FDA approvals of various sun protective ingredients. It is possible for a sunscreen to be one or a combination of both types of SPF depending on formulation.

SPF should be applied in the AM after all other skincare and before makeup. Take care to apply evenly all over the face and neck. Apply carefully around the eye area without getting product into the eyes. Lip balm with SPF can also be used to protect the delicate skin of the lips.


Read More: Sunscreen 101



For assistance building your skincare routine, or any questions pertaining to all things skin in Los Angeles, contact us at DSC! We’d love to chat and recommend products to fit into your skincare routine.


DSC Laser & Skin Care Center

(626) 285-0800
889 S. San Gabriel Blvd. San Gabriel, CA 91776