Simple, Low-Cost Ways to Take Care of Your Skin (12-Step Routine Not Required!)

Think outside the bottle.

By Hannah Zahner

If there’s one thing the last year has taught us, it’s that less really is more. Gone are the days of the #shelfie hashtag featuring unattainable images of overcrowded beauty cabinets and expensive 12-step routines. So, this year it’s all about#skinmalism. We’re going back to basics and embracing a stripped-back, streamlined approach to beauty that enhances our inner glow just as much as the outer. First up, how to take care of your skin (that doesn’t involve expensive skincare).

While we love a good beauty haul and fancy beauty device, there’s a lot of emphasis on more when it comes to our skin, when in reality, products don’t solve everything. It’s easy to forget the beauty industry is still an industry selling us products, and it’s easy to feel lost in the endless cycle of product testing in the quest for glowing skin. If you’re tired of your exhaustive skincare routine—or just need a refresher on the easy (and free!) things that help your skin look its best—we’ve put together a list to serve as a little reminder that taking care of yourself doesn’t have to be complicated.

We’re taking it back to the basics with 12 ways to take care of your skin that don’t involve expensive skincare products at all.

1. Take off your makeup at night

No matter how tired you are, don’t head to bed without washing your face! Seriously, go wash your face. While this step technically does involve a product (face wash) it is really about the act of properly and consistently cleansing, more than the product. Heading to bed without properly cleansing can clog pores, cause breakouts and accelerate aging. Your skin (and your pillowcase) will thank you.

2. Sleep on a silk or satin pillowcase

A satin pillowcase can help reduce the friction on your skin while you sleep, and therefore reduce wrinkles (especially for side and stomach sleepers!). Silk allows your skin to “slip” minimizing the pull on your skin and chance of creating wrinkles. It’s also helpful for keeping your hair smooth and reducing breakage!

Slip Standard Pure Silk Pillowcase

KITSCH Satin King Pillowcase

Kitsch Body Positive Pillowcase

3. Change your pillowcase regularly

Since we’re talking about pillowcases, we couldn’t leave out this obvious, but often overlooked skincare tip. The busyness of life is real so we totally understand how this gets left behind, but dirty pillowcases can be a breeding ground for bacteria, dirt, oil, and debris that can all impact your skin’s health. Try to change it every two to three days and if you’re really organized, keep a replacement stack of clean pillowcases in your nightstand. Also, try to do it in the morning while you’re making your bed so that you don’t skip when you feel too tired at night.

4. Eat for happy, healthy skin

Focus on food and drinks that are actually proven to boost your skin’s health. The food we eat can have a major impact on our skin and can either be helping or hurting. If you’re noticing your skin becoming more vulnerable to sun damage, a loss of elasticity, an increase in breakouts and acne, and more wrinkles and fine lines, check-in with yourself: what’s driving your diet and where can you improve? At the very least, loading up on whole foods, healthy fats, and staying hydrated can make a world of a difference. Check out this post on the 12 best foods for nourished, strong, clear, and glowing skin.

water with lemon

5. Hydrate

While drinking water doesn’t directly place moisture in the skin, it does allow the rest of your body’s systems to function more smoothly resulting in more hydrated skin. For example, it supports kidney function which in turn lightens dark under-eye circles, and it aids the liver in eliminating toxins resulting in clearer and less puffy skin.

6. Hands off

My aesthetician always says, stay a sink’s lengths away from your face. Nothing good happens when you lean in and let’s be real, no one really is ever looking at your skin that close. It’s so tempting to pick, but that can cause more breakouts and usually creates a lot more lasting damage to the skin, like scarring or post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.

7. Wash your makeup brushes

Another easy one that is often neglected! Dirty brushes can cause inflammation, clogged pores, and acne, thanks to the makeup, bacteria, dust, and oil that can accumulate on your brushes—yuck. Aim for washing them weekly, make it a Sunday night ritual, or set a weekly reminder on your calendar. It only takes a few minutes and if you do it in the evening, they’ll be dry and ready by the morning!

I like Dr. Bronners castile soap, it only takes a few drops in warm water to create a sudsy wash, that easily cleans brushes. Rinse well, and prop on a towel so that the water isn’t running towards the handle as it dries (that can weaken the bond of the glue).

sleep week challenge

8. Prioritize quality sleep

While we sleep our bodies are busy, regenerating, recovering, and healing. Sleep increases the sleep hormone, melatonin, which is an antioxidant that acts to fight wrinkles, fine lines, and skin cancer. While we rest, we also produce new collagen and a large amount of human growth hormone which helps to repair the day’s damage. Not to mention, quality sleep decreases the stress hormone, cortisol, which can impact thinning skin, stretch marks, and discoloration.

9. Manage (and reduce!) stress

On that note, addressing and managing stress should be a top priority. We’re no strangers to the effects stress can have on our bodies, but it can particularly affect your skin as well. Reducing stress is easier said than done, but so worth it. High levels of cortisol can have a handful of negative effects on your skin:

  • Diminishes your skin’s ability to retain moisture causing dryness and dullness, which then can lead to an overproduction of oils which can cause clogged pores and acne
  • Can increase redness, puffiness, and inflammation
  • Result in thinning skin, premature wrinkles, and fine lines
  • Inflame skin conditions like psoriasis, eczema, and rosacea

best skincare tools

10. Turn down the water temp

I love a super hot shower, but hot water isn’t what’s best for your skin. Too hot of temps can strip your skin of essential moisture. Instead, opt for lukewarm water (cold won’t break down your makeup/dirt and oil as well), and be sure to give your face a nice massage as you cleanse—aim for 60 seconds!

11. Get moving

Getting your sweat on is good for so many reasons, but it boasts some incredible skin benefits as well. Movement and sweating boost our blood circulation which oxygenates and carries nutrients to all of our cells. This causes that amazing post-workout glow and also helps our skin repair itself faster. As a side benefit, it also reduces cortisol levels! Sweating opens your pores, so be sure to wash your face right after your workout to clear away any oil, dirt, or bacteria your skin released.

12. Skip the processed sugar and alcohol

Quality carbs are necessary, but low-quality sugar and alcohol can have a drying, inflammatory effect on your skin. Additionally, too much sugar and alcohol can cause your collagen fibers to break down and lose their strength and flexibility.