We get it: Sticking to a new routine is hard. We'll start a clean-eating program and swear we'll never touch a bag of Doritos again. Or we'll go for a morning run once and convince ourselves that henceforth, we're going to start training for a marathon. (Obviously, that has yet to happen.) The hardest of them all may just be starting and, more importantly, sticking to, a skincare regimen. But there's no more important time to get in the habit of caring for your skin than when preparing for your wedding. And if the wedding thing isn't motivation enough, here are a few tips to make it easy (or at least easier) to treat your skin right.
Have realistic expectations.
There's no miracle product (yet, at least) that will transform your skin overnight, but if you know when products are supposed to work, you'll keep using them for at least that amount of time. Here's what you can expect: If you have dry skin and you're using products that will hydrate, you'll start to see more moisturized skin in a week, says New York City-based dermatologist Whitney Bowe. If you want to decrease acne, you'll start to see improvement within a month. To lighten dark spots and even skin tone, you'll need about two months, and, if it's plumper, lifted skin you're after, you'll need three months, since it takes collagen that long to rebuild itself. So don't stop using products because you don't think they're working—most likely, they are.
Start with the essentials.
If you're not skincare-obsessed, you don't need a ten-step regimen—you can keep it simple with one that can be completed in five minutes. The products that Bowe says everyone should use, regardless of skin type, are a gentle, pH-balanced cleanser, like CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleanser, a skin-protecting antioxidant serum (we like Joanna Vargas' new Rescue Serum), and sunscreen. In the evening, after cleansing, use a retinol a few times per week (or as often as your skin can tolerate it—Bowe herself uses it just once a week) and an antioxidant or age-preventative peptide serum on top. If you have dry skin, finish with a rich moisturizer. Done and done.
Stay within your budget.
"The biggest problem my patients have is that they're using products that they can't replenish, because they're too expensive," Bowe says. You can get great cleansers at the drugstore, and now, you don't even have to spend a lot for a quality serum (which is usually the most expensive product in a regimen, since it contains the highest concentration of active ingredients. But that means it will also makes the most difference in your skin, so it's an important step.) "Today, there are so many companies that have incredible research behind them and they're able to create effective serums that are also affordable," Bowe says. "I love No7—they're the number one skincare brand in the UK and they came to the States about a year ago. They're sold at Walgreens, Target—their line is awesome."
Use products you like.
It seems like a no-brainer, but it's important. When you're at the store, ask for samples to try to ensure you like how it feels on your face, how it smells, that it's easy to use—otherwise, it will sit in your medicine cabinet waiting for its expiration date.
Now that you've got your new regimen, get rid of anything in your medicine cabinet that you don't use. Present and organize your new products in a way that feels luxurious—put them on a mirrored vanity tray, put out a pretty candle—anything that will make the experience more fun and indulgent. (After all, it's the little things.)
Don't leave it to the last minute.
Unless you're going out that night, apply your skincare regimen when you get home, or at least before you get settled on the couch with a movie. Because if you're like us, nine times out of ten you'll fall asleep on the couch and it's over—the skincare regimen doesn't stand a chance. Don't set yourself up for failure. And if that doesn't work, we'll scare you into doing it by leaving you with this quote from Bowe: "One of the worst things you can do is fall asleep with your makeup on. It's not just that the makeup can clog your pores, but we're learning that tiny microscopic pollutant particles stick to your skin during the day and, if you don't wash your face, can cause free radical damage all night long—and causes premature wrinkles."