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A Basic Skincare Routine
27 January, 2016 / by Maya Adivi

One of my favourite things to do is to walk into an unfamiliar pharmacy or beauty shop and just look at all the skincare they have. I lift up the boxes and bottles, read the ingredients, and often I don’t even purchase anything. I don’t think the sales people like me much.

Every time I do this I notice a few products whose purpose I can’t even begin to guess━and this is with years of skincare experience. I remember being in high school, dealing with hormonal acne and zero knowledge, and being so confused! So hopefully in this blog I can make the purpose of basic skincare products clearer.

1) Cleanser (aka face wash)

An evening skincare routine should always start with a cleanser; a self explanatory product. Its use in the mornings is optional. A cleanser’s job is to remove dirt, sweat, makeup, excess oil, and pollutants. A cleanser does not stay on the skin for longer than a few minutes, and as such its skin care benefits are very minor.

However, a bad cleanser can do a lot of harm to the skin, and could totally destroy all the other benefits of your skincare routine. It is important to avoid cleansers with harsh surfactants like sodium lauryl sulfate, since they can dehydrate the skin and often irritate it. This can exacerbate any skin condition, including acne. Cleansers generally work best on damp skin. The skin should be massaged with the cleanser in upward motions until makeup and dirt are dissolved, and then the cleanser along with the pollutants/makeup should be completely removed with a face cloth, a wipe, or a facial sponge. The Nairian Cleanser is an excellent choice.

2) Toner (aka astringent, essence, mist, or even lotion)

A little tougher to explain, is the toner. The outdated explanation was that a toner will balance the skin’s pH (aka acidity level, the skin’s optimal pH is a touch below 5), and close the pores following a cleansing. Well formulated cleansers do not disrupt the skin’s pH, and pores cannot be ‘closed’, however an astringent ingredient can tighten the skin a little bit, which will temporarily reduce pore-size. In reality, a toner is any skin care product that comes in the form of a liquid, and stays on the skin; it is not a mandatory skin care step the way cleansing and moisturizing are. Often times it won’t be called a toner, so just remember that it has to take the form of a liquid.

A good toner will be lightly hydrating, could be used throughout the day to refresh the skin and makeup, and could even replace a moisturizer for oily skin types during the summer months. It is important to avoid toners that contain alcohol, since they can be extremely sensitizing and dehydrating. In the mornings a toner could be applied with a cotton pad, instead of cleanser – this way excess sebum and sweat could also be removed from the skin. Throughout the day, and in the evening following a cleansing, the toner can just be sprayed directly onto the skin. The Nairian Toner is well-formulated and alcohol free.

3) Moisturizers (aka cream, emulsion, gel, or lotion)

Next, moisturizer. Also known as lotion, or face cream, although occasionally comes in the form of a gel. A moisturizer’s primary task is to hydrate and protect the skin, ideally with occlusive ingredients (ingredients that will prevent water from evaporating from the skin), humectants (ingredients that will absorb moisture from the air), and emollients (create a protective film over the skin and fill in the gaps between the skin cells). Moisturized skin is healthier, and therefore functions more normally. It is less likely to over or under-produce oil or become easily irritated. Good moisturizers will also have additional tasks, like fighting aging, sensitivity, or acne. A moisturizer should be massaged into cleansed skin in upward motions, ideally every morning and night. Nairian has a large selection of handcrafted moisturizers, with unique properties to suit all skin types and conditions.

4) Exfoliant (aka scrub, peel, polish, or resurfacing mask)

Lastly, let’s talk about exfoliants. Exfoliants are products that remove dead skin cells, allowing moisturizing ingredients to become absorbed faster, and speeding up the elimination of scarring and clogged pores. There are two main types of exfoliants: beaded physical exfoliants, and acid-based chemical exfoliants. Physical exfoliants are gels or creams that also contain some sort of beads that physically dislodge the dead skin cells. Those kinds of exfoliants can often be too harsh on facial skin, and should be used with caution. Badly formulated physical exfoliants can cause micro-tears to the skin, and exacerbate sensitivity and acne. There has also recently been uproar over the use of plastic microbeads in physical exfoliants, since they cannot be filtered from the water, and end up hurting lake ecosystems. If one does choose to use a physical exfoliant, it should be used 2-4 times a week, following a cleanser, and it should never feel like it is scratching the skin. Exfoliating cloths are also an excellent option for physical exfoliation.

The modern skin care community heavily leans in favour of chemical exfoliants, like glycolic acid, lactic acid, and salicylic acid. These provide a more gentle, comprehensive exfoliation, and often have additional benefits (lactic acid is hydrating, while salicylic acid is anti-bacterial). The ways chemical exfoliants can be used are extremely varied, and a lot of research should be done into each type of acid before choosing to go with this route. It is extremely important to use sunscreen when using chemical exfoliants, since they make the skin more photosensitive. In the future I will write blog posts with more information about chemical exfoliation and the importance of using sunscreen.

Having a hard time putting together a skincare routine? Think I missed anything? Send me any questions and comments at, or reach out to us on Facebook!

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