“You know skincare?” an eager esthetician once said to a friend of mine. “It’s not a bad thing.”

What at the time was a total brunch freak-out about skin aging, complete with wrinkle checking and “That lady’s craaazzzyy!” reassurances has become my new mantra. My friend’s skin was beautiful, no matter what that lady said at the time, but she had no skincare regimine to speak of and we were in our 20s. Now that we descend into our mid-30s, it’s crucial to care for our faces properly to keep it that way.

Skincare is not a bad thing—as long as you’re ready to drop your bad habits. Are you in the Lever 2000 it and let it go phase of life? Do you frequently wake up and look like the joker? Are you like “What the what is retinol cream?” Check out these tips for the basics.

1. Wash your damn makeup off. Every. Night.
Seriously, lady dudes—take off your makeup with wipes and do a quick cleaning before you go to bed. I don’t care how drunk you are. And take out your contacts while you’re at it. Sleeping in them “just this once!” can do damage.

2. Use a gentle cleanser.
Gentle cleansing (like Philosophy’s Purity or Laura Mercier’s One-Step Foaming Cleanser) is more than enough for the average person. Most folks don’t need crazy bananas, acid-based cleansers. If you have problematic skin with tons of breakouts, consult a dermatologist—don’t just grab a bottle of that celebrity-hawked, face melting cleansing system at CVS.

3. Add a toner in the summer.
Because humidity and oiliness. Unless you have dry skin—then skip this step.

4. Moisturize like your life depends on it.
“Moisturizers give me oily skin,” is the “flu shot will give you the flu!” of skincare. It’s a myth. In fact, the oilier your skin is, the more likely it is you need moisturizer. Opt for an oil-free version, which can mattify the shine while keeping skin hydrated.

5. Add other products sparingly.
It’s mega tempting to try all the shiny new products that hit shelves, but know that most promise much more than they return, though some are actually beneficial—like retinol creams, which is a vitamin A product (available both by prescription and over-the-counter) that helps unclog pores, battles fine lines, and increases collagen production. Before adding anything that promises to blast your wrinkles off or give you the skin of a 17-year-old French model, do your research and talk with your dermatologist.

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