I Cut My Routine From 19 Steps Down to the Bare Minimum, and My 40+ Skin Has Never Looked Better

Photo: Getty Images/ Westend61
With the Well+Good SHOP, our editors put their years of know-how to work in order to pick products (from skin care to self care and beyond) they’re betting you’ll love. While our editors independently select these products, making a purchase through our links may earn Well+Good a commission. Happy shopping! Explore the SHOP

Whenever friends come over, the first thing they notice is my skin-care collection, and audibly ooh and aah at the hundreds of products strewn around my bathroom. I tend to collect serums and moisturizers the way that other people collect baseball cards and coins, which means my routine has historically involved slathering a lot of product on my face. It's fun, for sure, but it hasn't always yielded the best results for my skin. 

With that in mind, this year I decided to make a change. Not only did I want to declutter some of the products I never used, but I also wanted to make sure that I was only using things that really and truly worked for my individual skin concerns. As I get older—I'm approaching my 44th birthday in January—I really want to continue to achieve the poreless, dewy, acne-free skin of my youth. And contrary to what you might think, the best way to do this is actually by using fewer products with better consistency. 

“Embracing a minimalist approach to skincare can prove remarkably effective for individuals seeking a simpler, healthier, and more radiant complexion,” says Natalie Aguilar, a dermatological nurse and celebrity aesthetician at Dr. Kami Parsa’s Beverly Hills office. “Your routine is simple yet effective—none of the ingredients overlap, and your products are clean.”

So, about 10 months ago, I cut my skin-care routine down majorly—from a whopping 19 steps to a far more manageable six—and can honestly say my complexion has never looked better. It's hydrated, smooth, and plump; my pores are nonexistent; and I rarely (if ever) break out. This experiment has been going so well, I don't even really need professional facials anymore. 

“By simplifying one’s skin-care routine, a person can minimize the potential for adverse reactions and sensitivities,” says Aguilar. “The philosophy of less is more in skin-care underscores the idea that a select few, carefully chosen products can often deliver more potent and harmonious results than an extensive array of formulations that may counteract each other’s benefits.”

Jenette Serrins, founder of Being in LA and Jenette Skincare, agrees. “The more products you pile on, the more likely you are to be exposed to an ingredient that may be harmful or simply not good for your skin type,” she says. “With fewer products, you’re automatically minimizing your risk of skin irritation.”

I’ll always love skincare, but the moral of this story is that the less I do, the better my skin looks. If you’ve been curious about cutting down your skincare routine in favor of what works—well, here’s what I’ve been doing, and how to copy it. (You’re welcome.)

1. Cleanse

Any derm will tell you that a good cleanse is the most important first step in a skin-care routine, as it whisks away pore-clogging dirt and debris and provides a clean canvas for you to apply the rest of your products on top of.

I wash my face once a day, at the start of my shower routine (pro tip: use lukewarm water instead of scalding hot to avoid drying out your skin).

Glossier, Milky Jelly Cleanser — $19.00

This cleanser has been a staple in my routine for the better part of a decade thanks to its dual-phase cleansing action that nourishes skin while dissolving dirt, oil, and makeup. Plus, the ophthalmologist-tested formula is safe for eye makeup removal and won’t cause stinging. My skin tends to be on the drier side, and I love how moisturizing this creamy formula is while still removing every stitch of debris. It’s almost like using a moisturizer as a cleanser at the same time! It refreshes my skin and opens it up for the rest of my routine.

Fresh, Soy Face Cleanser — $39.00

Fresh Soy Cleanser—a non-stripping formula that maintains the skin’s natural pH-level while increasing hydration—is another long-time favorite. I love how calming and cooling the formula is, and that it keeps my skin feeling fresh and happy. I use this on days when I still need to cleanse, but my skin doesn’t need quite the same level of attention as the Milky Jelly days. It really helps to soften and smooth my skin with just a few quick massaging motions.

2. Exfoliate

The basic goal of exfoliation is to slough off the dead skin cells that live on the surface of your skin, but that process comes with a whole host of beneficial side effects—especially for mature skin. Gentle resurfacing acids (like glycolic or lactic) and physical exfoliants (like rice bran or oat) can help diminish the appearance of visible signs of skin aging like fine lines and hyperpigmentation, brighten skin, and improve skin barrier function.

Tatcha, The Rice Polish, Gentle — $68.00

It may surprise you to know that, until a few years ago, I never used a face scrub. My skin is on the sensitive side, and I always found exfoliators to be too harsh. Then I discovered Tatcha’s The Rice Polish, and all bets were off. I’ve stocked and restocked this in my routine more times than I can count—I love the miniscule grains of rice bran and the brand’s patented Hadasei-3™ complex, which work to exfoliate, resurface, and plump the skin. It also gets the seal of approval from Aguilar, who says it “leaves your skin with a balanced pH, eliminating the need for a toner.” I use it about twice a week, especially when my forehead and cheeks are feeling dry. I simply open the spout, pour a dime-sized amount in my palm, add water to emulsify, and massage into my skin for about 10-15 seconds. And voilà! Not a stitch of flakiness in sight.

3. Treat

My skin tends to get dry (which isn't uncommon for women in their 40s), so flooding it with hyaluronic acid is an important part of my daily routine. It's a great ingredient for mature skin, as it delivers hydration and plumpness in one fell swoop.

“The goal of hyaluronic acid topically is to increase and improve skin hydration and elasticity, and decrease wrinkle depth,” says board-certified dermatologist, Dr. Erum Ilyas, MD, MBE, FAAD. “Hyaluronic acid can attract and retain moisture in the skin. It has lubricating properties, hydration, cushioning, and wound-healing effects.”

The Ordinary, Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5 Serum — $16.00

I apply one dropper-full of this hyaluronic acid-packed serum all over my face immediately after getting out of the shower, while my skin is still damp (which makes for better absorption). I tap equal amounts onto my cheeks, forehead, and chin, and then massage in gently for about 15 seconds. It sinks into the skin immediately without leaving behind any tackiness or greasiness, plays well with all the other products in my routine, and ensures dryness stays at bay. It comes in two different sizes, but I always buy the bigger one, especially since it’s only $16.

Herbivore Botanicals, Cloud Jelly Plumping Hydration Serum — $50.00

This little pink bottle has been a total game-changer for my skin. It’s formulated with tremella mushroom, a hyaluronic acid alternative that has the same moisture-sponging properties, along with vegan collagen and strawberry extract, which work in tandem to hydrate, nourish, and brighten the skin. And, yes, the trifecta does exactly that. I use one dropper-full in the morning immediately after patting in The Ordinary serum and massage it into my cheeks, forehead, chin, and neck. I also use it at night before my moisturizer, and it helps keep my skin feeling firm and moisturized.

4. Moisturize

To combat some of the inherent dryness that comes along with mature skin, moisturizing is a must. This step helps to infuse skin with hydration, seal in moisture, and strengthen the skin barrier. To double your moisturizing step as an anti-aging treatment, dermatologists recommend using a peptide-infused formula, which will stimulate collagen to diminish the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. In the morning, be sure to follow up with an SPF 30+ for UV protection (and to defend against future signs of skin aging).

Lawless, Forget the Filler Skin-Plumping Line-Smoothing Perfecting Cream — $52.00

As I approach my mid-40s, I’ve definitely noticed some lines creeping onto my forehead and the 11’s starting to show. I incorporated this Lawless moisturizer into my daytime skin-care routine about three months ago, and it has made a huge difference in my skin.

“It seals the two serums and provides restorative protection by including peptides,” says Aguilar.

It’s formulated with the brand’s MAXI-YOUTH™ ingredient, which helps improve elasticity and smoothness, plus Octapeptide-3 and Hexapeptide-8 to reduce wrinkles and tighten skin. I appreciate the rich, creamy texture and the Barbie pink hue, but what I really love is how it makes my skin look and feel throughout the day. True story: I actually yelped out loud the first time I applied it and watched my lines disappear right before my eyes.

Farmacy, 10% Niacinamide Night Mask — $44.00

This night mask made it into my pared-down skin-care routine because it makes my skin so incredibly soft come morning. It features 10 percent niacinamide (AKA Vitamin B3) to visibly smooth and even skin texture, panthenol and beta-glucan to hydrate and support skin’s moisture barrier, and upcycled blueberry seed oil to restore and revive dull skin. I love the lilac hue and gel-cream texture, and how it turns into a nourishing cream as it’s massaged into the skin. It does take a bit of massaging to make the white cast disappear; once it does, however, I’m left with glowing, baby-soft skin.


But wait, there's more!
Want to be the first to hear about the latest (and greatest) SHOP product drops, custom collections, discounts, and more? Sign up to have the intel delivered straight to your inbox.
Our editors independently select these products. Making a purchase through our links may earn Well+Good a commission.

Loading More Posts...