Skincare simplified by a simpleton (me)

Here, have some slides

Hey so I did this presentation at a writing conference (lol for real) and since it’s a nice summary of How I Approach Skincare, separating out the necessary from the extra while also pointing at some of my fave products, I thought I’d share with the class.

There’s nothing much new here if you’ve been reading this newsletter from the beginning, but I thought a nice sum-up in one place might be more helpful than thousands of words over several newsletters. Consider it a brief refresher course, here we go.


I began, naturally, by explaining my qualifications.

I remind you that I am just another asshole on the internet with opinions and you should treat me as such, as in: you ain’t gotta listen to me.

But if you do listen to me, then my opinion is that there are some basic things that all skin needs to stay healthy (and as a result of the health, often more lovely) and then a lot of Other Stuff that is not necessary - but can maybe (1) change things about your skin you want to change, and/or (2) be super fun.

The key is learning to distinguish between the two.

Here is the related post

It’s really HARD to distinguish between the necessary and the extra, to say nothing of what does and does not actually work, because skincare is confusing as fuck. Never, ever feel bad for being hopelessly confused because (a) skin is an organ and it’s complicated, but also (b) there is a whole industry that spends milllllllions to purposely confuse you into spending money. You’re supposed to be confused! They work their hardest to confuse you! That’s where I come in, to help you navigate this capitalist nightmare hellscape when all you wanted was a decent moisturizer.

A good skin care routine should include cleansing, exfoliating, moisturizing, and SPF. Everything else is bells & whistles. So while you might ENJOY a $500 eye cream or a 12-step process every evening or the monthly sacrifice of a young goat under a full moon, those are generally not required for healthy skin.

To cover the basics, I went in order of importance, so here is the SPF slide:

Here is the related long-ass newsletter installment

I mean you all have heard me bang on about SPF forever, so let’s not belabor the point. Just wear it every day no matter what, make it a habit. Use enough. Find a good one that you enjoy using, because they exist and they don’t have to cost a fortune. Read the original newsletter on the topic for more detail and recommendations.

Next up is cleansing, which (I know I’m repeating myself here) is the most damaging thing that you have to do to your skin every day.

Here is the cleanser post

Basically, don’t use a harsh scrub and prepare to be bored. (I mean, cleanser is boring but the act of cleansing can be very very satisfying!) Keep in mind that the face wash and everything in it literally gets washed off your face and goes down the drain, so don’t fall for some hyped up anti-aging ingredients on the label of your cleanser. This is a piece of your routine where you can save money and still get great results. Don’t use make-up wipes if you can help it because they are an eco-disaster and a scam, and consider double-cleansing if you wear a heavy sunscreen or make-up, or if you have sensitive/dry skin - but remember the extra product/effort of double cleansing is not a requirement.

Then we have to discuss moisturizing, which the marketing world has largely decided must be represented in packaging of blue and white

All about moisturizing

I’m not gonna repeat myself because writing out the original newsletter on moisturizer was painful enough, frankly. Just remember there’s a ton of variety out there to suit what your skin needs/like and you need go no further than the drugstore to find a great one, so you do not have to hand over your next paycheck to La Mer in order to have soft supple hydrated skin, trust.

And then of course, we have my favorite step, the blessed realm of chemical exfoliation:

Here’s all about exfoliation and its important addendum

Exfoliation is where the magic happens. Do not be afraid of the blessed acids! If your skin won’t tolerate AHA and/or BHA, try azelaic. If you are using an AHA then WEAR SUNSCREEN OR I SWEAR TO GOD I WILL CHANT BLOODY MARY UNTIL SHE COMES THROUGH YOUR BATHROOM VANITY MIRROR TO KNOCK THE BOTTLE OF ACID OUT OF YOUR HANDS. Always remember to phase in an exfoliant, starting at using it a couple of times a week and then increasing in frequency until you hit what your skin can handle without getting sensitized or drying out.

And that’s it for the necessary! You never have to go past those steps (many of which can be combined, like using a moisturizer with SPF) if you don’t want to. With only the above you’ll be taking care of your skin just brilliantly, kudos and accolades all around, gold star performance!

But you might have other things you want to change about your skin’s health or appearance, and that’s where targeted treatments come in. That often (though not always) means things like serums and special creams and extra steps - basically, it means you gotta figure some shit out.

Adding in some kind of treatment(s) will often take your skin from “looks great” to “holy shit you have been kissed by angels.” What product to add into the mix really depends what you’re targeting, obviously - dark spots? chronic severe acne? fine lines? dehydration? redness? texture? The list goes on, and it’s entirely possibly you have more than one thing you’d like to work on. But there are two things that I recommend everyone work into their routine, if they want to go the extra mile and if their skin will tolerate it:

  1. Vitamin C (see here) which makes your skin more resilient, enhances sun protection, and boosts your glow like whoa

  2. Retinoids (here) which are the only thing clinically proven (in peer-reviewed studies for more decades than I’ve been alive) to reverse aging - as well as prevent it

Lots of the ingredients that are good for certain skin concerns (mostly an array of antioxidants) can be found in a dedicated product by itself, but can also increasingly be found in other products, like a serum cocktail or as an added bonus in a moisturizer. So adding extra good stuff to your routine doesn’t necessarily have to mean adding extra steps. (Note that Vitamin C is an exception to this, it works better as its own thing.)

So that’s it, all of the above, from washing your face to anointing it with magical-like potion. All the rest is just gravy - or, as I like to think of it, treats.

This is where you get into the realm of pampering yourself. It can be as cheap as your own homemade yogurt-honey face mask or as expensive as an at-home light therapy system, or a whole buncha fun stuff in between. One day, maybe it’ll be safe to pay some nice person to brush some mud on our faces and we can look as blissfully relaxed as that lovely lady in the picture there, but in the meantime we can all enjoy some soothing hydrogel eye patches, or put a couple of silk pillowcases on our holiday shopping list, ya know?

These things are fun and great and can even make a big difference sometimes, but they are not essential parts of a good skin care routine. They’re just the fun stuff.


As ever, I am here to answer whatever questions since you have to know by now that I Love This Shit and can talk about it forever. All the products pictured on the slides are ones I recommend. I mean, there are plenty MORE I recommend too, but I threw this presentation together like 2 days before presenting and just blurted out whatever came to mind, so it’s not what I’d call exhaustive by any means.

Also please know I put on makeup for this as it was on video (twas a virtual conference, fuck you covid) and realized how much concealer I needed because my skin is NOT DOING GREAT in this hot weather, what with the perpetual coating of sweat and sebum and despair. So please know that if your epidermis is registering its disapproval in unsightly ways, you are not alone. Let it be further incentive, if you needed any, to strap a mask over 2/3rd of your face.

Love and zitses,
EK