Pores, be gone!
If you have the time and energy to do just one thing every day: Wash 💦 off 💦 your 💦 make-up.
My mom always taught me that sleep is your skin's cheapest miracle worker, and the only way to take full advantage of it is by going to bed with a completely clean face. This means removing all your makeup using a makeup-removing oil or towelette AND using an additional foam cleanser to get rid of whatever oily or chemical-ey residue your makeup remover has left on your face. TBH, I personally don't use much face makeup so I skip the makeup remover step, but the process of “double cleansing” is huge among Korean ladies who want to maximize the efficacy of all their expensive lotions.
Whatever the weather — and even if you’re planning on seeing the light of day for one minute walking from your car to your office — put on a layer of sunscreen.
We've all heard it, but Asian moms LIVE by this truth: Sunscreen is the most important product you'll put on your face all day, and it really only works if you stick to it every day, without fail. It prevents sun damage, scarring, and preserves elasticity. The trick to making SPF application a habit is finding a lotion that won't leave you sticky and that'll pair well with other products you might layer on top. I personally like Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunscreen. It's a bit pricier than the other drugstore stuff, but a single bottle (which I use every day) lasts me a year, and I don't dread putting it on because it has an instantly drying matte finish that actually makes makeup application even easier.
Start using eye cream as early as you can afford it.
Okay, I know what you're thinking: “Eye creams are hella expensive, and do I ACTUALLY need it?” And the answer is yes and no. The most important thing to understand about all the elaborate Asian skincare regimes you've read about is that they're designed with preventative care in mind. So, instead of trying to treat sun-damaged, dehydrated, or otherwise neglected skin with harsh, chemicals-filled products, Asian skincare products seek to protect, hydrate, and strengthen your skin before it's damaged. (It's the same philosophy that applies to diet — invest your time in healthy, homecooked meals instead of fast food NOW and your body will thank you in the long run.) So even if you don't have wrinkles, under-eye bags, or red spots now — and if you have any room in your budget — show your eyes some love now so you won't have to splurge on expensive “repair serums” later.
Make every night a spa night with sheet masks.
Sheet masks among Asian women (as well as men!) are as much a part of their skincare routine as lotion. Instead of “saving” sheet masks for a special night, many use them after their cleansers on the reg — some even on a nightly basis! Pro tip: Though most sheet masks advise you to take them off after 15 minutes, it's perfectly okay to fall asleep with them on. On especially hot NYC nights, I'll put one of these babies on, crank up the fan, and fall asleep dreaming about my supple, post-sheet mask skin.