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On a Budget? Here's How to Improve Your Skincare Routine Without Splurging

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Polishing up your skincare routine doesn't need to involve spending more time at the sink or money at the store. Before we get to the good stuff, let's quickly make sure you understand why you do what you do to your face. By understanding what each step of your skincare routine is trying to achieve, you'll understand how just slightly improving the step will make a big impact on your regimen's results. After all, we want to get the most out of those 5 minutes at the sink each morning and night, right?

Here's the nitty-gritty:
1. Cleansing is doing just that; it's rinsing and washing the day's makeup, oil, dead skin and grit off your face. If left on your skin overnight, it would clog your pores and create build-up on the skin's surface forming a rough texture, dullness and potentially breakouts. Cleansing is the first step in getting your skin prepared to receive your treatment serums.
2. Toning is important because it helps restore your skin's pH balance and also removes any cleanser residue, remaining makeup, dead skin cells, oil and dirt. Think of it as an extension of cleansing; again, you're preparing your skin to accept the next steps of your routine.
3. Applying treatment serums are critical to achieving any goals you may have with your skin (think: aging gracefully, lightening hyperpigmentation, clearing acne, calming rosacea, etc.). Serums are loaded with active ingredients and formulated in a way that they can be carried into the skin to go to work.
4. Moisturizing replenishes moisture that's been lost and also seals in the moisture that's already in your skin. Adding moisture is key for leaving your skin feeling soft and looking hydrated.

And on to the good stuff:
1. Cleansing: Use warm, never hot, water while cleansing. Hot water can dry out your skin. Also, be careful not to use too much water with your cleanser, it dilutes your cleanser making the active ingredients less effective. What I suggest is to either use a makeup remover to remove your makeup first or splash the majority of your makeup off just using water. Once the water is running fairly clear, grab about a nickel sized amount of your cleanser in your already moistened hands. Create a lather (if your cleanser lathers) and apply it directly to your dampened face. Move the cleanser around for at least one minute in gentle circle motions. By letting your cleanser sit on your face for at least a minute, it gives the active ingredients in the cleanser time to work their magic. Otherwise, you're just rinsing the money you spent on the cleanser down the drain.

Another cleansing improvement you can make that won't affect your long term budget, but will cost a bit more upfront, is to use an active cleanser in the P.M. (this will prepare your skin more effectively for your next skincare steps) and a gentle cleanser in the A.M. (this will leave your acid mantle -- your skin's natural barrier against environmental elements -- in place to help protect you during the day).

2. Toning: Use cotton pads or gauze, as opposed to cotton balls, with your toner. Cotton pads remove remaining dead skin, dirt and oil, and this better prepares your skin for your treatment serums. Using cotton pads or gauze also prevents excess product usage, thereby saving you money every time!

3. Applying Treatment Serums: To get the most out of your treatment serums, make sure you're using them correctly. Apply your anti-oxidant serums in the A.M. to protect your skin during the day and then apply your exfoliating and peptide-rich serums in the P.M. to nourish and renew your skin overnight. Also, always remember to apply treatment serums them in order of thinnest consistency, first, to thickest, last. If you do it this way, you'll be sure to get the best results. Otherwise, the thicker serums will block the thinner serums from penetrating your skin -- which would just be waste of your hard earned cash.

4. Moisturizing: Apply your moisturizer using upward, lifting motions. This will help fight the effects of gravity. Additionally, to make your moisturizer more effective, let it sit for a few minutes prior to applying makeup so that it can fully penetrate. Don't be afraid to use your moisturizer with SPF both morning and night if you only have one. Another suggestion to improve the health of your skin, is to switch out your daily body lotion with one that contains SPF when it runs out. By doing this, you're sure to be protected daily from sun exposure on your body as well as your face.

Overall: To ensure you keep your neck and décolleté looking as good as your smiling mug, always start at your forehead and work downward all the way to your neck and then décolleté. No one wants a wrinkly, aged neck and décolleté.

Now that you know how to better your already existing routine, here's an insider tip to help you improve your routine even more by having it customized to your skin and goals: Set up a skin consultation with a licensed aesthetician in your city. Spas typically offer this service complimentary. Expect a 15 minute discussion while the technician analyzes your skin under a magnifying lamp and then gives recommendations on the types of products you should be using. That way when you run out of the products you're currently using, you can change over to products that are perfect for you.