With the beauty aisles basically overflowing with supposed “must-haves,” deciphering a skincare routine is harder than ever. Packed shelves and too-good-to-be-true claims often make beauty and skin shopping more confusing than helpful. I mean, how many must-haves does one person really need?

We all know caring for your skin is necessary for both your overall health and diminishing signs of aging, but with so many new products and wild beauty trends popping up everywhere, finding a simple skin skincare routine, let alone sticking to it, seems near impossible.

But even if you’re committed to keeping your skincare routine as simple as possible, there are still a few rules to follow. In order to get to the bottom of the skincare puzzle, we spoke to a few skincare experts to figure out exactly what you need to do—at the very least—to take care of your skin.

1-Use a Gentle Daily Cleanser

From the moment you wake up to the moment you go to sleep, your skin takes a major beating. Exposure to harmful UV rays pollution and from routine activity both damage and age the skin.

“Wash your face before your go to bed. You must get the days grime off your face to help your skin repair itself and prep for another day while you sleep,” says Dr. Heather Rogers, dermatologist and founder of Modern Dermatology and Doctor Rogers RESTORE Skin Care. “Creating this habit will make taking on the other steps easier.”

 

2-Always Wear Sunscreen

UV damage affects skin all year round, not just in the summer. You have heard it over and over again, but it remains true: SPF is necessary when it comes to your skincare routine. Not a moisturizer with SPF or a foundation that includes SPF—you need to apply an actual sunscreen product.

“The sun is responsible for 90 percent of skin’s aging, so SPF (between SPF 30 and SPF 50) is the best anti-aging product money can buy,” says Alex Serron, skin therapist at Heyday. “It must be worn every day, no matter the season or if you’re going to be inside. Don’t forget that UVA rays, which cause skin aging, can penetrate windows.”

Dr. Shereene Idriss, a dermatologist at Union Square Dermatology, understands the confusing nature of the beauty world. “A plethora of skincare products can definitely appear intimidating, but just remember that the basics are the most vital when it comes to good skin like a strong sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 30. You’re fooling yourself if you think the SPF 15 in your foundation is enough,” Dr. Idriss says.

3-Moisturize Twice a Day

Your skin loses hydration throughout the day, hydration that keeps your skin plump and youthful. Apply moisturizer twice a day, once in the morning and once at night. “This routine makes sure you’re cleaning your skin, aiding in moving along your skin cells’ life cycle for healthier skin, hydrating, and, most importantly, protecting it,” Serron says.

4-Exfoliate Occasionally, Not Every Day

After a while, leftover gunk and grime can build up on your skin. Exfoliating frees your skin from dead skin buildup that can cause irritation, dullness, and acne. While you shouldn’t exfoliate shouldn’t be done every single day, make it a part of your skin care routine a few times a week.

“Once you’re comfortable enough with your basic skin routine, I would recommend exfoliating a few times a week with a chemical exfoliant as it speeds up the removal of superficial dead skin cells, allowing the active ingredients in your skincare products to penetrate better, ultimately leading to healthier, smoother looking skin,” says Dr. Idriss.

5-Add an Anti-Aging Product

Adding the first three steps here is necessary for establishing and maintaining healthy skin. However, to optimize even the simplest skincare routine, include an anti-aging product to help prevent wear and tear generated by environmental aggressors.

“Retinol (a less potent, over-the-counter version of a retinoid) is a star ingredient as it’s one of those rare ingredients that can get deep into your dermis to stimulate collagen production right at the source,” Dr. Idriss explains. “Over time, it’s been scientifically proven to help even out texture, fine lines, wrinkles, and even pore size.”

6-Don’t Overthink It

Skincare is supposed to be fun, so don’t let yourself get stressed out by all the beauty noise. The basics of good skincare remain the same. Plus, once you feel comfortable in your current routine, you can always add something new.