A Guide to a Minimalist Skincare Routine

In skincare, more isn’t always more. In fact, you risk confusing or irritating your skin if you layer on a ton of serums, creams, and treatments. Instead, there should be some serious intention behind the products you use, and having an intentional skincare routine means you can use fewer products. The simplicity can prevent irritation and better inform you on what’s working and what isn’t. And it is this ethos that is baked into a minimalist skincare routine, which will also save you money from the start.

Read on to learn how to construct your own minimalist skincare routine, with a spotlight on the core products you should consider. For this, we called on the advice of board-certified dermatologist Kunal Malik of Spring Street Dermatology in NYC. Malik also addresses the ways you should tailor the regimen to specific skin conditions and needs.The Best Products in a Minimalist Skincare Routine

Table of Contents

    The Best Products in a Minimalist Skincare Routine

    Face Wash

    A cleanser is a reset for skin, after a long and stressful day in the city, or to wash away the sweat and grime you accumulated while sleeping through the night. Most skin types will cleanse twice a day—once in the morning, once before bed—always as the first step in a regimen. Prioritize gentle face washes, as Malik warns of irritation caused by overcleansing. If there is any concern for sensitivity or dryness, it’s imperative to avoid scented cleansers. And be gentle with your own hands, too: “Rubbing the skin too hard directly irritates skin and can cause long term damage,” he says.


    Before you apply a moisturizer, it’s ideal to use a lightweight serum or essence that will seep into the layers of skin. These “treatment” products will target everything from dehydration to hyperpigmentation to blemishes, utilizing specific ingredients that pair with your skin priorities.

    But because of their active ingredients, they can be especially aggressive on skin if used incorrectly or overused. Malik echoes the minimalist sentiment here: “More is not always better and can lead to irritated and damaged skin. They can even cancel out benefits.” So, depending on the treatment you apply, you need to use it as directed. Some are just for daytime, others for evening. And note that some are especially volatile, too, namely Vitamin C, which brightens skin: “Vitamin C should be stored in cool, dark environments to prevent oxidation,” says Malik, and you’ll be using snake oil on your face if it oxidizes; the treatment will be useless. 


    After you’ve layered on a treatment, it’s time to trap in those serum benefits, as well as lock in the moisture your skin has at present. A moisturizer acts as an extra (and nourishing) barrier for skin, by blocking it from outside influence. So, if there is cold or dry air around you, you won’t lose any moisture from you skin to those elements. Any pollution in the air will have a harder time getting into your body with this added barrier defense from moisturizer, too. 

    But not all moisturizers are made equal. You need to find one that works with your skin type and needs, says Malik. Lastly, Malik advises applying moisturizer to slightly damp skin, which he notes will help to lock in that hydration.


    Sun protection is imperative, year round. “It’s a common mistake to only apply SPF during sunnier weather, whereas it needs to be used 365 days a year to protect from year round UV radiation,” Malik explains. And on top of that, it’s important to use SPF of 30 or greater, to get the most adequate shield on your skin. Otherwise, anything lower than that opens the doors enough for those UV rays to speed up your signs of aging (like rough, wrinkly, and dry skin, as well as hyperpigmentation). 

    And be sure to use enough SPF, too, says Malik. “You should be using a nickel-sized amount for the face, and a shot glass’s worth for the body,” he explains. “And be sure to reapply every two hours, especially if sweating.”

    Prose Custom SkincareDiscover your custom routine today.Take the free consultation.

    The Optimal Minimalist Skincare Routine, By Skin Type

    Here is how each core skin need should approach a minimalist regimen, according to Malik. Note, if you fall under combination skin, you’ll build a routine combining elements of the oily and dry regimen. And anyone with “normal” skin (not too oily, not too dry, not too sensitive) can change with the seasons or double down on an anti-aging approach similar to that of mature skin.

    Dry Skin

    Cleanser: “Use a creamy or non-foaming cleanser without sulfates or other irritating ingredients both morning and night.”

    Treatment: “Include a hydrating serum if needed, such as a hyaluronic acid serum that should be applied on damp skin before moisturizer, which will help lock in moisture.”

    Moisturizer: “Use thick creams with lots of great hydrating ingredients like hyaluronic acid, ceramides to protect and maintain the skin barrier.”

    SPF: “For dry skin, I prefer one formulated particularly for sensitive/dry skin to avoid any irritation,” says Malik.

    Oily Skin

    Your skin gets plenty of moisture from its own sebum, though it’s a bit too much moisture—to the point of discomfort and glossy foreheads. Stick with lightweight products, and a regimen that balances oil production without stripping away that necessary moisture, Malik says.

    Cleanser: “Use a foaming cleanser for oil control.”

    Treatment: “Use a toning product, with an oil-control ingredient such as salicylic acid.” Willow bark extract is a top-tier ingredient for this, too. 

    Moisturizer: “A moisturizer should be light weight, oil-free, and non-comedogenic (meaning it does not clog pores),” Malik explains. “A gel-based one is a good choice.”

    SPF: “Oil-free SPF is geared for oily and acne-prone skin.”

    Aging Skin

    Cleanser: “Use a hydrating cleanser with hyaluronic acid or glycerin to lock in moisture,” says Malik.

    Treatment: “Consider adding an antioxidant serum such as a Vitamin C serum, to minimize the impact of free radicals.”

    Moisturizer: “Choose a richer moisturizer with ingredients that are known to be anti-aging, like  retinol, peptides, and antioxidants (such as Vitamins C and E).” Bakuchiol makes for a great retinol alternative too, if skin is too sensitive to retinol.

    SPF: Sun protection is more important than ever, to help preserve skin’s elasticity. Find one that pairs with your skin type (dry, oily) and if possible, get one that also has some antioxidants (says Malik) for an added defense against UV rays.

    Sensitive Skin

    Cleanser: “Gentle, fragrance-free, hypoallergenic cleansers are excellent here,” says Malik. “Usually mild or non-foaming ones are best for sensitive skin.”

    Treatment: Calming treatments or soothing herbal toners are terrific for sensitive skin, to preserve pH levels and to ease any redness or inflammation.

    Moisturizer: “Choose moisturizers that have calming ingredients like hyaluronic acid, ceramides, or colloidal oatmeal.”

    SPF: There are many SPF products designed for sensitive skin, notes Malik. In fact, the ones engineered for babies are especially useful for sensitive skin of all ages.

    Acne-Prone Skin

    Cleanser: “Start with a non-comedogenic cleanser, with active ingredients like salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, or AHA (glycolic acid),” says Malik. 

    Treatment: “Use a spot treatment for problem areas, like those containing salicylic acid.” 

    Moisturizer: Choose an oil-free moisturizer to avoid clogging pores.

    SPF: Go oil-free here, too. You don’t want to suffocate or risk blocking those pores.

    Find a Custom Minimalist Skincare Routine with Prose

    If you’re drowning in a sea of products or don’t know where to start in your skincare routine, Prose has got you covered. Take the free online consultation to answer questions about your specific skin type, lifestyle, environment, and more. From there, Prose will custom formulate products specifically for your skin needs. Say goodbye to shelves of products and hello to an easy, custom minimalist skincare routine!