The Best Basic Skincare Routine

by | Sep 5, 2019

basic skincare

I get a lot of questions sent to me, either via email or through Instagram, and there are always a few things that get asked more than anything else. For the past year or so, that question has been (roughly) “I’m completely new to skincare, where the hell do I start?”

There are variations on this, but mostly the person sending the message seems to either have a very basic semi-routine (for example, they cleanse properly but don’t do anything else at all) or they have listened to a million different people and taken it all in and have shelves filled with things they’ve bought and don’t know why.

A lot of these people have tried to follow features and articles on skincare but aren’t really that bothered in finding out about it – they just want to know the absolute skincare basics so that they can tick that particular box and get on with their day. I have at least a dozen people in my life who fit this description – they know that they should be doing something about their skincare routine, which consists of lathering up some Imperial Leather soap and following that “cleanse” with some apricot hand lotion, (not made up, unfortunately!), they just don’t want to spend any time getting to grips with it all. And they are put off by the acids and the vitamins and the layering and the tonics and the steps – oh my God the steps – and the price of all of this stuff.

best basic skincare

So this post is for them. I thought that I would write down the absolute basics when it comes to skincare and then in the future I can just direct people to this page. Because you truly don’t need much, when it comes to buying products. Of course, if you’re interested in skincare and enjoy adding things to your routine that are more potent and exciting and miracle-promising then that’s great (I’m definitely in that camp!) but for the people who currently take off their makeup with a baby wipe and then use a bit of their boyfriend’s aftershave balm as a moisturiser, here’s what you need to do:

Cleanse Properly

You have to get off the makeup and dirt and grease and grime of the day, at the end of the day. It’s non-negotiable and if you don’t do that bit, it’s almost not worth bothering with anything else. So cleanse properly, with formulas that effectively break down the foundation and sunscreen and city dust (or country filth!) and don’t, unless you really have to, resort to quick-style cleansers that promise “one wipe and you’re clean” type of thing. If it doesn’t require water and (preferably) a wash cloth or flannel then it probably isn’t going to do the trick, long-term.


We all know what moisturiser is, but which one do we choose? Do we need more than one? I say yes, but only because for daytime I combine my moisturiser with my SPF – or, to put it more accurately, I choose an SPF that’s moisturising – and I wouldn’t ever sleep in sunscreen. So I have SPF for day and non-SPF for night. Still, pretty simple. For day I like a lightweight but hydrating cream with sunscreen, for night I like a cream that has long-lasting hydration but isn’t greasy and is reasonably inert, in that it’s not filled full of funky acids and so on, so that I can layer it on over my retinol at night. See below. So to recap, that’s cleanse and then moisturise. Job done.

Oh, sorry, were you expecting more? That’s about it, if we are talking absolute, ground level, bargain basement beauty. Cleanse your face, then keep it hydrated. Cleanse, hydrate. If you have a good facial moisturiser it will be helping to strengthen the skin’s barrier so that it can hold in moisture for longer, and it might contain some antioxidants for a bit of extra protection against things like pollution and UV rays. And if you really, really don’t want to invest any more time, energy or mental space to your skincare routine then that is it.

If you do, and you’re fretting about wrinkles and fine lines and sun spots and other things that make you frown at the mirror when you look at it in the morning, I’ll add one more thing to your list: try retinol. If all of the ingredient names flying about confuse you and send you scuttling back beneath the virtual online rock, just plump for this one. Plump is a choice word in this case, because retinol will – in a good product – help to firm, plumpen, smooth and even out skintone. It’s wondrous stuff.

So, my picks for those keep-it-simple people who also don’t want to spend masses? I’ve listed some great affordable options below but I’ve also linked to various category pages with product reviews so that you can browse other price-points and product types. Enjoy – it could take you down a total wormhole!

basic skincare best cleansers


Balm: Plantastic Deep Nourishing Moisture Balm, £9.20 (plus membership and delivery) here*. Beauty Pie is a strange one; the skincare products are fabulous but buying them isn’t the most straightforward process. You need to subscribe and then you get a certain amount to spend, depending on which membership level you subscribe to. You can read more about it on their website or I did a post here. Personally I feel it’s well worth it, I haven’t had a skincare product I haven’t loved I don’t think… This cleansing balm is so luxe and beautiful, it smells amazing and it gets off even stubborn makeup.

Cream: Pixi Rose Cleanser, £18 here*. I was trying to find a relatively affordable cream cleanser with a luxurious edge, so (as with all of the products here) please do add your own suggestions into the comments box. If you want a lighter, organic cream cleanser then I love Weleda’s Almond one – it’s £11.75 here* and the tube is smaller than Pixi’s, but the price per ml is actually slightly less so it’s good value for money.

Wash: Cerave’s Hydrating Cleanser would be my pick of the budget bunch, whatever skin type you have. It’s light and non-greasy on oily skin and won’t feel tight and uncomfortable for drier and sensitive skin. The bottle is huge, I quite often use a bit for my body in the shower as well as doing my face – in for a penny, and all that. You can find it online here* – it’s £9.

cerave spf

Moisturiser with SPF (or Moisturising Sunscreen!)

Cerave Moisturising Lotion SPF25 is an elegant, velvety broad spectrum sunscreen that doesn’t cost the earth. Find it for £12 here* – it stands up to most high-end, luxury products in terms of texture and performance, though it’s not the highest of factors.

best basic moisturisers

Moisturiser without SPF

Oily and/or Sensitive: Toleriane Fluide, £16.50 here*. This moisturiser is so light but has a pleasing, soothing texture and hydrates – non-greasily – incredibly well. (Read more about it here.)

Very, Very Dry: Weleda Skin Food (or Skin Food Light if you don’t need SOS hydration!), £10 for a huge 75ml tube here*.  (For more info on great moisturisers for very dry skin click here.)

Hydrating Night Treatment Mask for pretty much all skin types: L’Oreal Revitalift Night Cream-Mask, £22 here*. It’s bouncy, fresh and you really feel the difference the next morning.

basic skincare best retinol


Indeed Labs Retinol Reface, £16.66 here* – performs as well as products that cost multiple times the amount. It’s a really lovely, sophisticated formula and I’ve never experienced any side-effects with it.

Beauty Pie Super Retinol Night Renewal + C costs £8.93 (plus membership and delivery) here* and behaves like a product ten times the price. Or more. I can’t rate it enough – it’s powerful but there’s no downtime. The added vitamin C means you’re ticking more boxes (brightness, antioxidant protection, help with pigmentation) with no extra effort.

I’ve actually filmed a video version of this post – you can view that here or click the play button below.


  1. Love these posts, really helpful when trying to navigate through skincare products! Quick question though, can you use vitamin C in your morning routine and retinol at night time? Is there even any reason why you would do that?

    • Yes that’s fine! Lots of retinol products also contain vitamin c as a double whammy. x

  2. Which Body Shop cleansing balm did you want to mention?

  3. Any ideas on how to become a member of beauty pie if you’re not living in the UK or US? I’m living in Germany at the moment and I’m DYING to get a hold of some of these babies…

  4. Absolutely brilliant post!!!!!!!!!

  5. Loved reading this post! I keep seeing so many positive comments about Beauty Pie and I so badly want to subscribe but I just know I don’t need to right now as I have so many different skincare products. The cleansing balm sounds divine, though…

    • Yes I do wish you could just buy them, no strings attached, but it’s a very clever business model. x

      • Great, useful video and your makeup looks lovely here.

        Is it worth looking at Beauty Pie’s offering again? I recently bought the pressed powder (the one Nadine Baggott l-o-v-e-s) as a one-off, without subscribing. The price was comparative to a high-end high street brand.

        And I’d like to know about the Body Shop cleansing balm, please.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


Subscribe for free to get new posts and exclusive content, straight to your inbox. 

You have Successfully Subscribed!