For the first 29 years of my life, I did nothing more than wash my face with water. I never had severe acne or other skin conditions, so it never crossed my mind to invest in skin care. It seemed unnecessary, expensive, and very overwhelming. With countless products, brands, ingredients, routines, and tutorials at my disposal, where would I even begin?

But, when I turned 30 last year, I decided to give it a try. Although I don’t have any bad skin conditions, I do have dry, sensitive, and fair skin. And this new decade got me thinking about aging! Since I started a simple skin care routine, my skin has become healthier, smoother, and more hydrated. I’ve learned why skincare is so important and actually enjoy the daily process.

Before we get into my starter tips, please know that I am absolutely not a skin care expert by any means. These suggestions are based on my own experience and research. If you have serious questions or problems, you should probably see a dermatologist for expert advice. But this is what’s worked for me!

Keep it simple

A simple routine makes it sustainable and affordable. Renee Rouleau, a celebrity aesthetician, told the Today Show, “A lot of time people are wasting products and money layering on all these things thinking it’s better. Normally, it’s the first two products that are the ones making the biggest difference.” There’s no harm in experimenting, but don’t let it get out of hand. Start with the basics for your morning and evening routine:

  • Cleanser: Cleansers remove dirt, oils, dead skin cells, bacteria, and other unwanted things that clog your pores to freshen and brighten your skin.
  • Serum: Serums include antioxidants, retinols, and other ingredients to even out your complexion and target specific issues such as wrinkles and pigmentation.
  • Moisturizer: Moisturizers soften and hydrate your skin to prevent dryness, often including SPF to help protect your skin from sun damage.

Once you’re comfortable with these three steps, you can expand to other products like toners (meant to balance your skin tone and open your pores), eye creams (to decrease puffiness and brighten the skin under your eyes), and face mists (to help hydrate and absorb moisture).

To avoid choice paralysis, choose a single brand or get a customized skincare kit to get started. One of the biggest reasons I never got into skin care was that there were way too many options! Then I saw an Instagram ad for Curology’s custom kit—its simplicity, personalization, and affordability drew me in. There are many other similar kits that include custom products by other brands such as BareMinerals, SkinCeuticals, Drunk Elephant, and Dermacare.

Do your research, but not too much

Any skincare search on Instagram, Google, YouTube, or Pinterest returns thousands and thousands of results. It’s easy to get sucked into the vortex of videos, photos, articles, and how-tos. It’s fun to browse, but it can also become overwhelming and frustrating. You’ll find contradicting advice and loads of opinions about what you should and shouldn’t do.

Try not to buy into gimmicks or fads. I know, I know, I got into skin care through an Instagram ad, but I vetted the brand beyond that. On the other hand, I recently bought a blackhead remover tool that I’ve used twice and am pretty sure didn’t do anything. There are plenty of products and tools that promise results but don’t deliver. That’s why it’s so important to analyze reviews from various sources.

If you decide to go with a skincare kit, read reviews and testimonials on multiple websites (sometimes brands curate positive feedback). If you see consistently good ratings across the web, then you can probably trust the brand. When looking at skincare brands and customized kits, seek out the credentials and experience of the founders and partners, endorsements from dermatologists, and unsponsored reviews by skincare YouTubers.

Every woman’s skin is different

Just as each woman is unique, so is her skin. Sure, people can have similar skin types, but don’t assume that what works for someone else will work for you. You can get ideas from friends, but you probably shouldn’t copy their routine exactly. Celebrity tutorials are entertaining to watch (I’m a big fan of Vogue's Beauty Secrets series), but more often than not, the cost of the products are out of reach or their routines are over complicated.

Even among similar skin types, there are differences based on skin health and history. For example, if you’re wearing daily makeup, you might want an oil-based cleanser in addition to a regular cleanser, while if you go makeup-free, you might want to prioritize a daily moisturizer with SPF. Again, this is where getting a customized formula or consultation with a dermatologist helps. You may need to try a few products or combinations before finding your go-to ritual.

Skin care goes beyond blemishes

This was a surprise to me. Like I mentioned, I’ve been lucky to have (mostly) clear skin, so I never felt a strong need to care for it. But there’s so much more to skin care than just getting rid of blemishes. Skin care does a lot of good that isn’t really visible. Consistent and thorough skin care balances facial oils, removes dead skin cells, clears your pores, and hydrates your skin. A great skincare routine is also preventative, helping you avoid wrinkles, sun damage, and the onset of skin conditions.

Skin care also includes your scalp. The dryness of my skin affects my scalp more than my face; I’ve dealt with dandruff and flakes since middle school. Moisturizing shampoos and conditioners helped, but never totally healed it. Then I discovered scalp treatments, formulas you massage onto your scalp and let sit for a few minutes before washing out. The product that really turned my dry scalp around is Tea Tree Hair and Scalp Treatment. Flakes, be gone.

It takes time to see and feel the benefits of proper skin care. It’s not an overnight fix. It took about a month before I started to see and feel the results on my face: soft and hydrated skin. Dermatologist Dr. Rachel Nazarian told the New York Times, “Results are only seen through consistent use.” If you want to see results, the piece continues, “generally, aim to use a product over at least six weeks, once or twice daily, to notice a difference.”

Intentional skin care is important!

Take it from a former skeptic: skin care is a must. Whether you keep it simple or get complex, find a routine that suits your lifestyle, skin, and budget . . . and keep it up. It might evolve over time, so pay attention to your skin and adjust. As Dr. Paul Jarrod Frank, an assistant professor of dermatology, explains, “What worked for your skin years ago—or even six months ago—can change. Good skin care means being attuned to your skin’s needs. So don’t resist mixing up a routine that’s always worked for you if it no longer does.”

Even if you have a perfectly balanced complexion (lucky you!) or don’t think you need skin care (like me), effective skin care will help preserve the quality of your skin. Like me, you just might end up enjoying it!