HomeLifestyleFashion & Beauty

How many skincare products do you really need?

How many skincare products do you really need?

With so many skincare products to choose from, how do you narrow it down? Here are the three skincare building blocks you need, according to experts

Let's face it, skincare can be overwhelming, and it’s hard to know where to start. Like, do you really need a ten-step skincare routine? Who’s got the time?

With new products constantly appearing on TikTok and Instagram, each promising that this will be the one that finally gives you that ever-elusive perfect skin, it’s hard not to get sucked into buying more products than you can ever hope to use.

"Do you really need a ten-step skincare routine? Who’s got the time?"

But most dermatologists agree that you only really need a few products. According to consultant dermatologist Dr Alexis Granite, the building blocks of any skincare routine can be narrowed down to just three products: cleanser, moisturiser and sunscreen. Applying too many products can actually damage the skin’s barrier, leaving it dry, flaky and irritated. 

Okay, so we’ve narrowed it down to three products. Except actually, we haven’t narrowed it down that much, because there are so many cleansers, moisturisers and suncreams out there! What should you actually look for in your skincare products, then?


Cleanser is essential, as this is how you remove dirt, sweat, bacteria and all that fun stuff from your skin. Ideally, wash your face twice a day—once in the morning, once in the evening. If you only find time to wash your face once a day, make it before bed. This gives you the chance to get rid of any dirt and oil that has built up throughout the day. 

The cleanser you’ll want to be using depends on your skin type. If you have dry skin, look for moisturising ingredients like lactic acid, hyaluronic acid, ceramides and natural oils. These types of ingredients lock in moisture to hydrate the skin. You could try this Hydrating Cleanser from CeraVe, which contains ceramides and hyaluronic acid. 

Ceramides - how many skincare products do you really need?

Ceramides are lipids that support the skin's barrier

Oily skin will benefit from tea tree oil and aloe vera, natural ingredients which balance oil production. Tea tree oil has antiseptic properties that can combat oily skin, as well as an anti-inflammatory effect that can reduce redness. Try this Tea Tree Skin Clearing Facial Wash from The Body Shop.

Sensitive and combination skin types should use gentle cleaners that are fragrance-free, hypoallergenic and paraben-free to avoid irritating your skin. Micellar waters are good for these skin types, such as Garnier’s Micellar Cleansing Water.


Next stop, moisturiser. This is essential for keeping your skin hydrated and healthy, and most experts recommend that you should moisturise on a daily basis. A key ingredient to look for is glycerin, a moisturising agent that hydrates the outer layer of your skin.

For dry skin, you’ll want once again be on the hunt for hydrating ingredients like hyaluronic acid and ceramides. This Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel Moisturiser contains hyaluronic acid to lock in intense moisture without leaving your skin feeling oily, as well as glycerin. 

"A key ingredient to look for is glycerin, a moisturising agent that hydrates the outer layer of your skin"

Moisturiser can be a little intimidating if you have oily skin, as you don’t want to end up feeling greasy. In this case it’s worth thinking about the ingredients you might want to avoid. Dr Alexis Granite suggests avoiding occlusives such as petrolatum, lanolin and paraffin. Occlusives moisturising agents which mimic the skin’s natural lipid barrier to prevent moisture loss. Consider the La Roche-Posay Effaclar MAT+ Moisturiser, which contains moisturising holy grail glycerin, as well as salicylic acid for combatting breakouts. 

For combination skin, it can be tough to find a moisturiser that will hydrate dry areas without irritation oily t-zones. A good way to find the balance is opting for oil-free formulas that will moisturise without feeling greasy. Nivea’s Mattifying 24H Day Cream contains glycerin and is oil-free, making it a good option for combination skin. 


You should wear sunscreen every day, even if your moisturiser or makeup products contain SPF. This will protect your skin from the side-effects of prolonged exposure to UV rays, including DNA damage and hyperpigmentation. 

Applying SPF should be the final step in your skincare routine prior to applying makeup. As for which factor to choose, the NHS recommends that you should use at least factor 30 to protect against UVB rays. 

"You should wear sunscreen every day, even if your moisturiser or makeup products contain SPF"

When looking for a sunscreen for dry skin, keep your eyes peeled for the usual suspects: hyaluronic acid, ceramides and glycerin. This Soltan Face Protect and Moisturise SPF50+ containing shea butter and glycerin is a good option. 

Sunscreen - how many skincare products do you really need?

Sunscreen should be an essential part of your daily skincare routine

Sunscreen has a pretty bad rep when it comes to feeling oily, but there are options that will protect your skin from UV without adding extra oil. Once again, avoid occlusive-heavy formulas. Eucerin Sun Oil Control Face Protection Sun Cream for Oily and Blemish Prone Skin SPF50+ is specially formulated for oily skin. 

The best sunscreen for combination skin is one that is oil-free but has hydrating properties. A lightweight formula is best for this skin type. La Roche-Posay’s Anthelios Anti-Shine Sun Cream Gel SPF50+ is oil-free and lightweight. 

So, with these building blocks, go forth and create your perfect skincare routine that will still leave you with enough time to eat and sleep, too!

Keep up with the top stories from Reader's Digest by subscribing to our weekly newsletter


*This post contains affiliate links, so we may earn a small commission when you make a purchase through links on our site at no additional cost to you.

Loading up next...