More and more often, I see women complain in online forums that they have “sensitive” skin. They may be prone to breakouts, dryness, or blotchiness—or all three. And, increasingly, they are buying a large array of products to deal with each specific problem as it arises.

How to Simplify Your Skincare Routine

Do you need to cut some steps out of your skincare routine?

When discussing these issues with NaturallyCurly members, I’ve been shocked by the lists of products that some say they use on their faces on a weekly, and sometimes daily, basis. It includes wrinkle creams, eye creams, exfoliating crystals, anti-acne products, anti-redness serums, skin brighteners, primers, makeup and any other potion they think will work for their particular “problem”.

Two things stand out in my mind when I read these lists: a lot of people are still skipping sunscreen, and there seems to be sheer terror about developing wrinkles among the under-30 set.

Ladies—it is time to simplify your skin care routine!

Consider this: the cause of your “sensitive” skin may be the excess of products you don’t actually need that interact badly together, as well as the harsh scrubs you're using to exfoliate.

Cleansing should be a ritual for removal of makeup and the dirt and grime of everyday living (especially for city dwellers). What it cannot do, no matter what any company says to the contrary, is offer treatment for acne or wrinkles. No cleanser stays on your skin long enough to provide any treatment benefit whatsoever.

This is the step in our skin-care regimens that has the greatest chance of damaging our skin. Many people use cleansers that are too strong in order to “feel clean,” or they use a scrub to exfoliate, or they rub at their eyes to remove makeup.

Start with your product selection. Choose gel or cream cleansers. You want to avoid stripping all the natural oils out of your skin, even if you have acne. That “tight” feeling might mean that your face is squeaky clean. But it will also stimulate your oil glands to produce even more oil to moisturize itself. Look for a product that softens as well as cleanses. Avoid foaming products or those that promise “deep” cleaning.

At the recommendation of a dermatologist, I have used Spectro-Jel for almost 20 years. Two other products that are often recommended are Phisoderm and Cetaphil. Phisoderm has recently reformulated its product line to include an anti-blemish gel cleanser and a dry-skin-friendly cream cleanser. Two other gel cleansers to try include Garnier Pure Daily Cleansing Gel and Shiseido Pureness Cleansing Gel.

I use a generic brand similar to Oil of Olay’s Daily Facials cleansing cloths. If I feel I need extra help removing waterproof eye makeup, I like Avon Moisture Effective Eye Makeup Remover Lotion. It effectively dissolves everything on my face, allowing me to gently remove all traces of makeup – and I wear a LOT of eye makeup!

The No. 1 thing I caution you to avoid in the cleansing step is any product with crushed shells as a scrub. The crushed shells can tear at your skin. And if you already have acne, it can tear open zits and make more tears in your skin, potentially spreading infection

Simplify Your Skincare Routine

You CAN simplify your skincare routine

The best ways to exfoliate are with a rough washcloth or using a gentle facial brush. I used to buy one from The Body Shop, but find them now with at any drug store.

Chemical exfoliation products are NOT necessary. They will not do a better job than a washcloth, or even making up a simple paste out of baking soda and water. Less really can be more.

This same less-is-more philosophy also applies for moisturizers. Yes, you do get wrinkles as you age. But piling on heavy cream won’t make them go away, and may just clog up your pores. Use the lightest potion that makes your skin feel good. Olay Regenerist moisturizers have been shown to be the most effective product by Consumer Reports, and they are fairly inexpensive and widely available. They now offer a very wide range of products, including exfoliants and an SPF 15 moisturizer that is great for winter. I also like Pond’s Replenishing Moisturizer Lotion – it is super cheap and sinks in quickly.

As always, I am promoting sunscreen usage. I do realize that sunscreens have great potential to cause breakouts, and I do wish that more companies offered tester sizes of these products because of this. But you should never skip sunscreen. The higher the price of the sunscreen product, the more likely it is that samples are available. Shiseido is known for its facial sunscreen products, Neutrogena also is a leading company in this area (Healthy Defense), and Coppertone is developing fabulous products for protecting the face.

Look for ingredients such as zinc oxide (Coppertone Spectra), titanium dioxide or Mexoryl. These all guard against UVA and UVB rays. Make sure the product is oil-free.

Keep it simple – and keep with it. Once you find a routine that works for you, don’t change it unless your skin changes drastically or you move to a totally new climate zone.

By stripping down to skin-care basics, your wallet will thank you for it!