The Absolute Beginners Guide to Skincare in 5 easy steps

The Beginners Guide to Skincare

5 Easy Steps to get your started!

written by dermatologist, Dr Kesiree Naidoo


We often get asked how to use skincare products and what the most essential items are. Although there are many items to choose from, not all skincare items are necessary, at least not all at once.

Before we get into the Skinsmart 5 step skincare guide, designed by dermatologist Dr Kesiree Naidoo herself, we thought we would provide you with some clarity and answer some frequently asked questions we receive regarding skincare. 

As well as give you an opportunity to ask a question or few, yourself.


Cleansers :

SkinCeuticals Cleansers

How to choose the best cleanser for my skin?

There are various factors to consider when choosing a suitable cleanser for your skin. What is your skin type and also what skin condition is at hand? What is the main objective and what is your personal preference? If you, for example, have an oily skin type that is prone to breakouts, blemishes and congestion then a gel cleanser would be most beneficial with a possible added active ingredient like salicylic acid, glycolic acid or even aloe vera, tea tree or willow bark extract. Some of our favourite cleansers with the above mentioned ingredients is the Neostrata Clarifying Cleanser , the Obagi Clenziderm Daily Care Foam Cleanser and the Rites Skin Solution Foam Fighter  However, if your skin is oily, prone to breakouts, blemishes and congestion but is extremely inflamed, has a weakened barrier and is sensitive, a more gentle yet effective formulation of a gel cleanser like the La Roche Posay Effaclar Gel Cleanser or the Neostrata Restore Facial Cleanser might initially be recommended.

A more sensitive or dry skin would ideally benefit from a softer, gentler and hydrating milk cleanser that still has the ability to remove dirt and debris, balance the Ph and increase natural desquamation. Examples of these would be the SkinCeuticals Gentle Cleanser , the Obagi Gentle Cleanser and then one of my new favourites, the Team Dr Jospeh Daily Milk Cleanser. Each one of these milk cleansers are packed with a combination of effective, nutritious and calming ingredients like Vitamin A, C, E and orange oil that are highly beneficial for the skin, whether sensitive or normal/combination.

For more mature skin, that is sun damaged with a sluggish immunity from ultraviolet induced oxidative stress, or for skin that is used to active exfoliants and aesthetic treatments like chemical peels, an active gel or milk cleanser could be recommended. These would serve to increase regeneration and cellular turnover, increase exfoliation and aid in anti-ageing while correcting previous skin damage and possibly preventing further skin damage. These cleansers however need to be used with caution and the daily use of an SPF is non-negotiable. They are generally scripted by dermatologists and doctors or recommended for a specific function by skincare professionals. We do not recommend self-diagnosis when it comes to skincare, especially when it comes to active ingredients.

Some great examples are : Neostrata Exfoliating Wash Neostrata Foaming Glycolic Wash or the SkinCeuticals Glycolic Cleanser

Please note that all of these cleansers come highly recommended and have a particular function and niche in skincare. The trick is finding which one is best suited for your skin and your lifestyle.

What is the best cleanser for an oily skin?

For an oily skin without sensitivity, the Clarifying Cleanser from Neostrata or the Clenziderm Daily Foam Cleanser from Obagi, would be our first recommendation. You could also take it a step further and incorporate the Oily Skin Solution from Neostrata or the Clenziderm Pore Therapy which are used as oil reducing treatment toners. Please note however that an oily skin needs hydration, especially when using active, oil reducing ingredients. In order to decrease your sebum(oil) production, you need to increase your hydration.

Why does my cleanser burn my skin?

There could be various reasons why you are feeling a burning sensation when you are cleansing your skin. The first step however would be to differentiate between burning and stinging. Burning is an ongoing, very uncomfortable, heated and sore sensation. If this is what you are experiencing then discontinue the cleanser and seek advice from your dermatologist or skin therapist. Burning could be the result of a damaged skin barrier that needs repair. If, however your skin is feeling slight discomfort, stinging and perhaps an itchy sensation then this could be due to an active ingredient in the cleanser that your skin needs to get used to, dehydration or product/ingredient irritation. Try a gradual introduction to the cleanser ie once daily use or alternate it with something gentler. If the discomfort persists, discontinue use.


Team Dr Joseph Toner

Are toners necessary?

Toners are great. Are they a must have in your product regime? Not necessarily. Are they recommended? YES! Toners are recommended especially if you have an oily skin, are blemish and acne prone or wear lots of make-up. Toners are mainly used to further clean, purify and remove any debris that was not removed during cleansing.  They also help balance your skins Ph and have the added benefit of refreshing the skin. What this means for you is better skin function, better product penetration, a better and more balanced acid mantle that provides you with better protection from bacteria and promotes better hydration. This is of course if your toner doesn’t contain any stripping agents or harsh ingredients that can be damaging to your skin.

For instant hydration and refreshing boost, have a look at the Team Dr Joseph Neroli Toner. For a more gentle boost have a look at the Team Dr Joseph Rose Toner, that is if you do not mind the scent of beautiful roses. For a more functional approach like removing left over debris and dirt and aiding in product penetration, have a look at the SkinCeuticals Equalizing Toner. For mature skins that are prone to blemishes, the Skinceuticals Blemish and A.G.E Skin Solution is a great fit.

My skin is dry, should I use a toner?

This mainly depends on whether your skin in lipid dry or dehydrated. Either way, unless your toner is extremely hydrating and has a hyaluronic base, I would not advise using a toner. I would recommend you rather focus your attention to increasing hydration instead, and once your hydration or oil levels are high enough, should you still want to use a toner, you could then incorporate something gentle like the Team Dr Joseph Rose Toner.

What is the best toner for an oily skin type?

For an oily skin without sensitivity, the Oily Skin Solution from Neostrata or the Clenziderm Pore Therapy from Obagi, are highly recommended. Please note however that an oily skin needs hydration, especially when using active, oil reducing ingredients. In order to decrease your sebum (oil) production, you need to increase your hydration.


SkinCeuticals Serums

Are serums essential?

YES! Serums are often the ‘wonder product’ of most skincare brands, and the go-to product for most dermatology and specialist skincare clinics. With so many different options, it isn’t always easy to know which product to choose or even how these can fit into your skincare regimen.

Serums are best applied after cleansing and toning when the product can achieve maximum penetrance into the skin without being hindered by other products. There may be exceptions to this rule.

Serums may be used morning or night depending on the product. Remember that serums do not always give enough moisturise or hydration so you may still need to apply a moisturiser after the serum especially if your skin is dry.

Serums are often used to target specific skin types or skin concerns. A product range may have a variety of serums with different concentrations of active ingredients to suit different skin types. For example, an oily skin may benefit from a higher concentration of Vitamin C while a dry sensitive skin may only be able to tolerate a low concentration. Serums may fall under the ‘prevent’, ‘treat’ or ‘hydrate’ categories of a skincare brand. Antioxidant serums containing combinations of Vitamin C, E and other ingredients will help prevent and reverse damage caused by sun exposure. Various skin concerns like hyperpigmentation, acne, rosacea and dryness are targeted by appropriate ingredients found in different serums. Since most serums contain superior active ingredients either alone or in power combinations, you may find a single serum effective for numerous skin concerns.

Why are  serums more expensive?

Serums are lightweight liquids or gels containing the highest quality, highest concentration of active ingredients specially formulated to enable the product to penetrate the epidermis to reach the deeper dermal layers of the skin. The sophisticated delivery systems ensure faster and efficient absorption of the product and consequently less wastage.

To be able to guarantee stability of these high-quality ingredients while they are on the shelf, to ensure maximum benefit when the product is applied, is nothing short of scientific genius and the reason why serums are often more expensive.

In fact, serums are generally the most expensive part of a skincare regimen and this is often the reason most patients are hesitant to use them.

It’s important to remember that very little product is required as the delivery systems are often superior to creams and lotions. With proper use and correct storage most serums actually end up lasting longer than creams or lotions and are ultimately more cost effective in fact because of the complexity of serums, most serums contain superior active ingredients either alone or in power combinations, you may find a single serum effective for numerous skin concerns.

I am a newbie at skincare, what serum should I use?

Serums are often used to target specific skin types or skin concerns. A product range may have a variety of serums with different concentrations of active ingredients to suit different skin types. For example, an oily skin may benefit from a higher concentration of Vitamin C while a dry sensitive skin may only be able to tolerate a low concentration.

Serums may fall under the ‘prevent’, ‘treat’ or ‘hydrate’ categories of a skincare brand.

Antioxidant serums containing combinations of Vitamin C, E and other ingredients will help prevent and reverse damage caused by sun exposure.

Various skin concerns like hyperpigmentation, acne, rosacea and dryness are targeted by appropriate ingredients found in different serums.

Since most serums contain superior active ingredients either alone or in power combinations, you may find a single serum effective for numerous skin concerns.

Perhaps take a look at our serums by clicking here and take our complimentary skin assessment  for extra guidance.

If you still feel unsure, feel free to pop us an email at [email protected] and we will happily assist you.


What is the purpose of a mask in your skincare regime?

Masks fall into a similar category of skincare as toners. They are are often under estimated and overlooked. Skincare masks can provide a potent treatment boost, often targeting various skin concerns at once. In this way they are highly beneficial and definitely recommended. Most product houses like Skinceuticals and Team Dr Joseph put an extensive effort into developing their masks. A suitable mask can target sensitivity, hydration, decrease inflammation, provide some form of exfoliation, reduce blemishes and instantly boost and soften the skin with a single 10-15-minute application. If an additional serum is not within budget after starting a basic skincare regimen, a treatment mask can be included 1-2 times a week. The added benefit is that masks always last longer due to the less frequent usage.  Have a look at the incredibly popular and highly recommended Team Dr Joseph Masks, as well as the amazing SkinCeuticals Phyto Corrective Mask, which is ideal for a dry and sensitive skin. It calms acute flare ups of Rosacea and gives a boost of moisture after a long flight.

Do masks really work?

Yes, they do. First decide what you need from your mask. Check your ingredients and make sure it is adding to your regimen and upping your skincare game, rather than being harsh or damaging. Masks are great to add on to a well-considered skincare routine. Please note however that the basics of skincare need to be correct first, in order for add-ons to function optimally.

Could I use a mask instead of a moisturiser?

Masks tend to have a complex combination of ingredients and are advised to be used 1 – 2 times a week. They are not generally intended for daily use. Some masks can be left on the skin on the days/nights that they are applied. The rich consistency and ingredient complexity make daily use perhaps ‘too much’ for the skin, especially in warmer seasons. I would recommend using a mask as advised by your dermatologist or skincare professional, which at first is generally 1-2 times a week.


skinsmart exfoliators

I do not know what exfoliator to choose?

The main purpose of exfoliation is to increase cellular turnover, remove dull, dead skin cells and promote healthy cell regeneration.

There are 3 main ways in which you can exfoliate your skin. These are daily skin care containing chemical exfoliators, physical scrubs and skin peels. Ingredients in skincare products like glycolic acids and salicylic acid exfoliate the skin gradually on a day-to-day basis increasing epidermal turnover. Physical scrubs have granules in them that are best for weekly or less frequent use. These would be too harsh to use every day. Chemical peels and enzyme peels exfoliate the skin and are administered by a doctor or skincare professional. The general difference between the two types of peels is the ingredient derivative and the strength, but also molecule size, pH and penetration. Chemical peels are known to be stronger in formulation with lower pH concentrations and enzyme peels are generally known to be less harsh and are gentler. These peels need to be prescribed on an as-needed basis. A course of treatment over a few months is generally needed, with the appropriate home care and aftercare as maintenance. In the correct hands, and for the correct indications either one of these peels, whether enzymatic or chemical can be used to achieve great results. Generally, all three forms of exfoliation can be incorporated into a healthy skincare regimen.

Do not try to do this yourself! Please email us or take advantage of a free consult with our skincare professional.

What is the difference between a chemical peel and an enzyme peel?

Chemical Peels involve the use of AHAs & BHAs (Alpha Hydroxy Acids and Beta Hydroxy Acids) which are chemical agents derived from various natural sources. The most commonly used peeling agent is Glycolic Acid, derived from sugar cane. Lactic acid is derived from milk, Malic Acid from apples, Tartaric Acid from grapes and Mandelic Acid from Almonds. Each AHA has a specific function or added benefit, though all of them work by dissolving the inter-cellular lipids and proteins that hold dead skin cells together, promoting cell turnover and aiding in exfoliation. These are known to penetrate deeper as the molecules are smaller, offering  added benefit of increasing cell regeneration. The most common BHA used is Salicylic Acid and it is known to be extremely effective for acne, oily and blemish prone skins. Salicylic Acid has lipid-soluble properties making it great to dissolve excess sebum (oil) and dead skin cells. For a home-based peel, we highly recommend the Neostrata Smooth Surface Daily Peel Pads.

If this is your first time using AHAs, please introduce this product into your regime slowly. Start  once to twice a week, in the evenings. The daily use of an SPF of 50+ is essential when using active ingredients like AHAs.

Enzymes are also naturally derived active ingredients found in various fruits.  The most common used enzymes are Papain and Bromelain, derived from papaya and pineapple. These enzymes are highly effective in immediately dissolving dead skin, providing the skin with an instant glow and smoother texture. Enzyme peels are also great for clients who are sensitive to active ingredients like AHAs and BHAs. Our favourite is the Team Dr Joseph Gentle Clarifying Enzyme Peel.

I enjoy using facial scrubs, which one is the best?

When it comes to facial scrubs, you need to look for a scrub that isn’t too harsh or abrasive on the skin. Some granules within scrubs can cause microscopic abrasions when used incorrectly. If you enjoy physical facial scrubs then use something like the Obagi Microdermabrasion Polish + Mask or  Team Dr Joseph Facial Scrub. Both are packed with essential and beneficial ingredients and provide gentle exfoliation that will not harm you skin, when used correctly or as advised by your skincare therapist or dermatologist. Remember that facial scrubs should not be used every day. They are best used once or twice weekly

Sun Protection:

Sun Protection

I am never outside, why should I wear sunscreen?

A common misconception is that hyper-pigmentation and free radical damage is only caused by the sun. Recent evidence suggests that there is an expanding number of factors that can damage your skin. Cell phones, laptops, televisions, lighting and even ovens emit damaging rays that age the skin and worsen problems like hyper-pigmentation. Our current lifestyle gives each of us exposure to at least one of these. Physical sunscreens and those containing smarter sunscreen ingredients like fe oxide, antioxidants and DNA repair enzymes offer advanced skin protection against pollution and damaging environmental factors collectively known as the exposome.

Heliocare 360 range is an advanced sunscreen range giving you 360-degree coverage, from UVA, UVB, IR, visible light and pollution. For extra oxidative protection, you could consider the Neostrata Overnight Anti-Pollution Treatment.

Why is sunscreen so important?

Excessive sun exposure can cause damage to the DNA of skin cells leading to photo-ageing (fine lines, wrinkles and solar keratosis) and skin cancer. UVB (ultraviolet B), UVA (ultraviolet A) and visible light make up a small, yet significant portion of the electromagnetic spectrum of light entering the earth’s atmosphere. UVB causes us to burn while UVA, which has a longer wavelength, penetrates deeper into the skin. It does not cause sunburn, but is most significant in causing photo-ageing (ageing from the sun) and skin cancer. Photo-ageing and skin cancer are both consequences of excessive cumulative sun exposure and almost always occur together.

Hyperpigmentation is a common problem accounting for a vast number of dermatology room consults. The sun is one of the single most important controllable factors leading to and worsening hyperpigmentation. Sunscreen is critical as part of any successful skincare strategy for hyperpigmentation

Why do sunscreens make my skin feel oily and shiny?

Oily or cream formulation sunscreens can occlude the pores and cause acne breakouts and an increase of sebum production leaving the skin feeling sticky, oily or shiny. We would recommend using an ultrafluid sunscreen or those advertised as “non-comedogenic” and oil free. Mattifying or dry touch sunscreens contain ingredients that absorb oil on the skin surface leaving a matte finish throughout the course of the day. This is perfect for those with an oily skin or a humid environment. We recommend:SkinCeuticals Physical Matte UV Defense SPF 50 which offers maximum broad spectrum protection in a comfortable oil absorbing base with colour adapting tint.
Or the Heliocare 360 Gel oil free  that contains an antioxidant formula Fernblock FC and Bioshield technology in a unique oil free dry touch formulation. It protects against damage from UVA/UVB, infrared and visible light.

If you would like to know more, Dr Kesiree Naidoo chats more in depth about sunscreens and how to trouble shoot yours, here.


La Roche Posay moisturisers

I have oily skin and am afraid if I use a moisturiser, it will make me oilier?

This is a common misconception. Often when our patients have oily skin, they avoid wearing moisturiser as they are afraid a moisturiser will make them oilier. This can happen if an inappropriate moisturiser is used, however we often find that when adding hydration to the skin, the sebum (oil) starts to normalise. The skin’s number one goal is to protect itself. If the skin is not receiving enough hydration, it often resorts to increasing its sebum production. The correct hydration will in fact make your skin less oily.

What is the quickest way to increase hydration in your skin?

Moisturisers help to keep skin supple, hydrated and comfortable by restoring the skin’s natural moisturising factors (NMF) and repairing or restoring the skin barrier function. If you need to increase your hydration fairly quickly, we would recommend using a Low Molecular Weight Hyaluronic Acid, that is preferably a serum, in conjunction with your moisturiser. Hyaluronic Acid supports many skin functions, including your skins own natural production of Hyaluronic Acid. It  helps keep the skin supple and hydrated and even assists in maintaining the health of elastin and promoting new collagen formation. The SkinCeuticals Hydrating B5 Gel is a wonder product. It instantly provides skin hydration and the more you use it, the more your skin will love it.

My skin often still feels tight after I apply my moisturiser. What does this mean?

This could mean various things, but a common reason could be that your skin is not only lacking hydration, but could also be lipid dry. This means it lacks the essential lipid component that makes skin supple and healthy looking. Try adding the SkinCeuticals Triple Lipid Restore . This product is typically suited for older skin, where the lipid balance deteriorates as a result of ageing. It is also super for restoring the optimal lipid composition in a dry tight skin.

Try adding an oil-based serum like the Age Repair Miracle Drops from Team Dr Jospeh, underneath your moisturiser or a really rich and intense hydrating moisturiser to your morning and night regime like the Team Dr Joseph Ultra Intense Moisturising Cream. If your skin is blemish and acne prone, we would advise seeing your dermatologist or skincare therapist before adding oils or intense hydrating moisturisers to the skin.


Look at the ingredients in the products that you are using and note if there are any harsh ingredients that could be stripping your skin of its NMF (natural moisturising factors). A common culprit causing dryness is sodium lauryl sulphate found in soaps and some moisturisers.

Consider consulting with a dermatologist before investing in more skincare products as intractable dryness may be a sign of a skin condition like eczema, which may require prescription treatment.

Now let’s dive into the Skinsmart 5 Step Skincare Guide:

This guide was developed by Dr Kesiree Naidoo to direct patients to the most effective order in which to apply skincare products. Dr Naidoo has found that patients at her practice value a personal step-by-step note, especially if using more than two skincare products, and when the regimen includes different steps in the morning and evening.

It is important to know that your product recommendations will depend on your skin type and skin concern.

If you are not sure of your skin type or skin concerns, head over to our skin assessment section by clicking on the button below. This will take you to our FREE Skin Assessment that will help you get started.

Please take note of the following:

• Not everyone will require a product for each step at each time of day

• Steps 2, 3 and 4 may require different products in the morning and evening or rarely more than one product at each time

• Many of the high quality products sold on Skinsmart have ingredients that may be effective for more than one step in the 5 step process.

• Our high-quality anti-ageing serums in step 2 overlap as treatments (step 3) and may even offer sufficient hydration (step 4) for certain skin types.

• Moisturisers in step 4 may have a combination of ingredients allowing certain products to act as treatments.

• Some moisturisers contain high SPF sunscreen which may be sufficient for daily wear in winter, or if you are mainly in an indoor environment, and spend minimal time driving to work.

• Prescription treatment for conditions such as acne and pigmentation may be slotted into step 3.

The Skin Assessment recommendations are displayed in terms of these 5 steps:

Step 1: Cleanse and tone

The purpose of cleansing is to rid the skin of impurities, gently remove dead skin cells and restore the skin’s PH balance.
Cleansing and toning prepares the skin for a follow-up skincare regimen.
Dr Naidoo recommends cleansing the skin twice a day i.e. in the mornings and in the evenings before bed.
There are few toners in our recommended product ranges, as most of our face washes have exfoliating ingredients to effectively remove surface impurities and dead skin cells.

Shop our range of cleansers & toners and find the perfect one for you today.

Step 2: Prevent

Step two is an essential step in skincare to prevent damage caused by oxygen-free radicals which slows the process of photo-ageing, and reduces the risk of skin cancer.
Antioxidants such as Vitamin C and E are the primary ingredients in the products found in this step.
Antioxidants help prevent DNA damage caused by sun exposure.
Dr Naidoo excludes this step from the teenager skin assessment results.

Find the perfect anti-oxidant for you, here.

If you are still unsure of where anti-oxidants fit in, you can read more about them here, where Dr Kesiree Naidoo explains the “Ins and Outs of Anti-oxidants”

Step 3: Treat

This segment is to target specific concerns, repair existing damage and promote cell turnover as well as inhibit melanogenesis and stimulate the production of collagen and elastin.The products in this step provide intensive treatment for specific concerns, such as acne, pigmentation and ageing.
These treatment products are usually applied to the skin at night before your moisturiser.
There are some that need to be applied in the mornings or twice daily.
Please refer to the instructions for each individual product.

Shop our wide range of treatment options here.

If things still seem rather overwhelming, remember to take our online skin assessment designed to guide you on where to start.

Step 4: Hydrate

Nourish and restore natural moisturising factors for a healthy, radiant skin.
Moisturisers or emollients hydrate the skin, restore natural moisturising factors and repair defective barrier function.
Depending on your preference, you may use the same moisturiser in the mornings and evenings or choose different products.
Day moisturisers are, in general, lighter in texture and may contain sunscreen while night moisturisers may be richer formulations with higher concentrations of active ingredients.

Have a look at our favourite moisturisers and find yours today!

Step 5:Protect

Effectively protect against ageing, pigmentation and skin cancers.
Photo ageing results from progressive sun exposure over time. Sunscreen is your most important anti-ageing product.
Sunscreens help protect the skin from DNA damage and in this way reduce the incidence of skin cancers.
These products slow the development of fine lines, wrinkles and sunspots and are essential in the management of pigmentation.
Sunscreen should be applied in the mornings at least 15-30 min before sun exposure and reapplied during the course of the day as needed.
Make-up should be applied over your sunscreen.
Skinsmart offers tinted sunscreen compacts making it easy for women to reapply sunscreen during the course of the day.
There are numerous products that combine sunscreen and a moisturizer for ease of application.
It is important to note that the sunscreen in your moisturizer is not always enough and additional sunscreen needs to be applied.
An instruction note will be included with your order, and our trained therapist can assist with any queries to ensure the most effective use of your products.

We only stock the best sun protection, find yours today!