Whether it’s freshman or senior year, taking those first steps back on campus is as exciting as it is terrifying. Your peers bounce between dorm buildings wearing new clothes, rocking a fresh cut — and with naturally glowing skin, too? It seems like everyone but you has perfected this college beauty routine thing! But if they can get glowing skin for back to school, you can too. (And I’m here to help you do it!) From dropping the hottest recommendations for the best affordable skin care products to outlining a low maintenance skin care routine for college girls you can stick to even on the busiest days — I’ve got it all. Read on for the best skin care tips for students and a back to school skin care routine! All the tips for healthy glowing skin and more.
Take Care of your Skin Before September
If you’re reading this in late August, it might be a little late to get perfect, glowing skin for back-to-school. You see, skin care is a lot like the classes you’ll take this fall! If you wait until the very last minute to do the readings and don’t keep up with homework, you might not get the “A” that you were hoping for. The same goes for skin care. I hate to be the one to break it to you, but your acne will NOT clear up overnight. (Understand that salicylic acid is a skin care product, not a miracle worker.) The best back-to-school skin care routine will require you to consistently put in the work over time to see serious results. All this means you have some homework to do this summer!
How to Get Glowing Skin for Back to School
So, you’ve decided you want glowing skin for back to school. If you’re not one of those lucky enough to have glowing skin naturally, then you need to work for it. and figure out how to start a skin care routine. Just know that throwing a bunch of products at your skin the week before the semester starts might actually have the opposite effect you want it to. Your products could be the best luxury skincare money can buy, but it takes time for these products to work. Going from barely washing your face once a day to a full-blown skin care routine — cleansing twice a day, using serums, layering treatments, finishing with moisturizer — is a big change, and your skin might react accordingly.
None of us particularly love change. Neither does our skin! So, don’t be surprised if your acne flares up or your skin becomes a little reactive when you start using a new product. In fact, some products do this on purpose — and I’ll talk more on that later. This reaction should calm down after a few uses unless you are allergic to one of your new products. (A potential allergic reaction is exactly why it is important to always do a patch test!)
Skin Care Tips for Students
Regardless, one of my biggest skin care tips for students is to make changes to your skin care routine at home over the summer break. You have that break where you can sit inside all day and aren’t required to see anyone. Use it! That way, if your skin reacts poorly to any products, you don’t have to feel insecure while walking to class with a reddened face or deal with the impact of the fall weather on your already irritated skin. Certain serums and treatments are generally expected to come with these side effects. Ever heard the phrase, “it always gets worse before it gets better?” Well, that applies to skin care too.
With ingredients like retinoids and salicylic acid, your skin goes through a process called skin purging. Skin purging refers to the tendency to encourage skin cell turnover. In this process, your skin produces new cells faster, and all the breakouts happening deep under the surface of your skin are pushed to the top layer. So, allow time for the treatments to work in the summer. Then, all you have to do is reap the reward of flawless skin in the fall.
So, How do I Even Start a Skin Care Routine?
If you read that last paragraph and are feeling a little lost, don’t fret! Maybe you don’t have a skin care routine. Possibly you don’t know how to start a skin care routine. Maybe your whole routine is a cheap, acne-fighting face wash from Clean & Clear. (And, honestly, that sounds exactly like mine before I became skin care-obsessed.) With all the products and brands out there, it can be confusing to build a back to school skin care routine from scratch. Cue the endless questions that fill your head when stepping into the skin care aisle. What’s the difference between a gel and a serum? What products are best for my skin? What does it mean for a product to have a good ingredient list?
Slow down! There are a couple of ways to answer these questions. You can do the research on ingredients, memorize their functions, and buy products that match your personal skin care needs. The basics of how to start a skin care routine is only three steps: cleansing, moisturizer, and sunscreen. If you’d prefer a low maintenance skin routine for the busy college girl that you are, then you can certainly stop there. However, you’re likely going to want a little something extra. Incorporate a serum into your daily routine and invest in a nice exfoliant to use a few times a week to really get that glowing skin for back-to-school.
Clear Skin Tip
At the top of my list of easy clear skin tips is to simply get someone else to do it. Someone — a dermatologist or aesthetician — can take care of all your skin care concerns for you! If you have the funds to see a doc, why not? Alternatively, you can get a skincare subscription. Companies like Curology (what I use every day) and Y’OUR Skin have you take a comprehensive quiz that asks about your skin concerns, habits, and environment to design a customized routine based on your skin care goals. These companies take the guesswork out of answering the question of how to start a skin care routine.
Personally, I’ve been using Curology for years, and can attest that it works. Better yet, I don’t have to think about replenishing my cleanser or moisturizer when I run out. Curology sends me all that I need — and it’s all on schedule! At around $40 per month, Curology doesn’t seem to have the best affordable skin care products at first. But, think about all the products you use. You might pay $13 for a facial cleanser and $7 for a serum. Maybe your moisturizer costs you $10, and your sunscreen costs $11. In total, that all comes to $41. So, it shouldn’t cost you any differently if you have Curology piece together a back-to-school skin care routine for you!
Still Dealing with Acne?
Any list of “skin care tips for students” almost always centers around clearing your skin of the pus-filled bumps we all know and despise. For the majority of us 20-something skin care fanatics, acne is our biggest skin care concern. The residual teenage skin problems have followed us into adulthood — and it is high time for them to go! It shows up on our skin in many different ways: period pimples, blackheads, whiteheads, clogged pores, bacne. So, what products are included in the best for addressing acne in a college beauty routine?
I’ve mentioned this one already — and for good reason! The easiest clear skin tip is to use salicylic acid. As a chemical exfoliant, salicylic acid goes deep into your skin to dissolve dead skin cells that would otherwise clog your pores and cause breakouts. Salicylic acid can be incorporated into your skin care routine without even adding an extra step! Swap your current cleanser with one that has salicylic acid in its formula, like CeraVe’s Renewing SA Cleanser. For an even better price point, try the Salicylic Acid Cleanser by the INKEY List — a brand known for creating some of the best affordable skin care products.
You’d be paying for a cleanser either way, right? So, you could argue that adding salicylic acid into your routine doesn’t have to cost you anything! But, higher percentages of salicylic acid can be a little harsh for daily use. If you have more sensitive skin, you might want to get salicylic acid in a serum or gel instead. That way, you can easily limit your usage to only a few times per week rather than every day.
Ah, the tried and true method for fighting acne! For the folks whose skin does not respond to salicylic acid at all, this one’s for you. Benzoyl peroxide is super effective because it kills acne-causing bacteria, Cutibacterium acnes. Sounds real science-y, right? Well, it is! Our face produces oils loaded with bacteria that sit on our skin for hours, and C. acnes is the main culprit of most pimple problems. Like salicylic acid, you can get benzoyl peroxide in different forms. But, I recommend benzoyl peroxide in a wash because an ingredient that kills bacteria simply makes sense in a cleansing step.
Try PanOxyl’s Foaming Acne Wash! Clean & Clear’s Continuous Control Acne Cleanser is another great recommendation — and at such a low price point, it’s among my recommendations for the best affordable skin care products. And here’s a bonus tip: benzoyl peroxide washes are known to help with neck and back acne too. So, use either of these products as if it were a body wash on those acne-prone areas. But, beware! Benzoyl peroxide is known to bleach fabric. So, use the old towels to dry off and wear your hair-dying t-shirt when washing your face.
Many of those who are in a constant battle with acne swear by Differin Gel. Although a retinoid is often thought of as treatment for acne scars, it also treats acne itself. Like salicylic acid, adapalene — the main ingredient in Differin Gel — fights acne by preventing clogged pores. But, the method is different. Adapalene increases skin cell turnover. Because your skin cells are being replaced faster, your pores don’t have the opportunity to clog and cause a breakout. Pretty neat, right? You’ll be treating acne scars and preventing acne at the same time!
But, it’s not all great. Although it’s one of my biggest tips for healthy, glowing skin, this is a product to start in the summer. Retinoids can be irritating to the skin — and overly drying. So, get familiar with how your skin reacts to it before you make it a part of your back-to-school skin care routine.
Easy Skin Care Tips
These are easy clear skin tips! Especially when we’re dealing with skin care tips for students, I try to focus on the best affordable skin care products too. We all know college isn’t always cheap! Even when your budget is limited, skin care should be accessible — and lots of brands believe that too. Another tip that won’t cost you a penny is to alter your diet! Cutting out dairy and gluten dramatically changed my skin. So, order soy milk in your coffee instead of whole milk. Couldn’t hurt, right? Seriously, you must try this before you spend a lot of money on products.
Skin Care On The Move!
Earlier, I mentioned all the homework that needs to be done in the summer to get your glowing skin for back-to-school. But, all that time and effort will go out the window once the semester starts. The busy college life will take over. You’ll skip the serums because you overslept for your 8 AM. (And if you’re really late, you’ll run out the door without touching any skin care altogether.) You’ll forget to wash your face when you stumble home after a night out at the bars and wake up in a full face of makeup the next morning. Whether it’s pure exhaustion or drunken laziness that motivates your sudden lax approach to skin care, there will be consequences.
So, how can you maintain that glowing skin you worked so hard to achieve? Well, I’ve got a low maintenance skin routine for college girls — actually, the lowest of low maintenance skin routines — to replace your full-blown college beauty routine outlined right here!
Sometimes a visual reminder is all you need. Maybe you can’t muster up the energy to wash your face before bed. Maybe you’re running too late in the morning for a full trip to the bathroom all the way down the hall of your dorm building. Either way, micellar water is a great alternative when you can’t get a full cleanse in. My advice? Keep a bottle of micellar water and cotton pads right at your bedside. When you see that bottle, you’ll have no excuse not to use it. (I mean, it’s right there, you have to!.) If you’re feeling extra lazy, you can even do it while laying down!
Moisturizer with SPF
If you’re looking to get glowing skin naturally, I recommend this Rose Micellar Cleansing Water by 100percentpure, a natural, gluten-free, and vegan product! You can also go for these eco-friendly Reusable Cotton Rounds by Paula’s Choice over the single-use cotton pads at the drugstore. (And cleaning them is easy — just zip them in their mesh bag and throw them in with your laundry!)
Suggesting a moisturizer with SPF completely contradicts advice in my pale girl’s guide to summer skin care, but I have a good reason for doing so! Although I’d prefer moisturizer and sunscreen to be individual steps, we are talking about a low maintenance skin routine for busy college girls. And if condensing your skincare routine means you will actually stick with it, then do it! Using a moisturizer with SPF is better than no moisturizer or SPF at all. Yes, protection from UV radiation should always be a concern, but it’s admittedly a lesser one in the fall. Especially if you’re spending the sunniest parts of the day in class, you can get away with minimal protection.
A few respectable brands combine moisturizer and sunscreen in products that I don’t particularly hate, like Paula’s Choice. So, I feel comfortable recommending the Ultra-Light Daily Hydrating Fluid SPF 30+ for oily types. This product uses a chemical sunscreen, which means the SPF actually needs to be absorbed into the skin. My advice in choosing a moisturizer with SPF? Never go for one that uses mineral sunscreen. The reason for using moisturizer and the function of mineral sunscreen are in direct contradiction. Moisturizer delivers hydration by being absorbed into the skin. Mineral sunscreen provides UV protection by sitting on top of the skin. So, it doesn’t do anything for you.
Pack it to Go!
Keep your moisturizer right beside your micellar water at your bedside for that visual reminder. A bonus tip? Fill a travel size container with your moisturizer and throw it in your backpack along with some hand sanitizer. We all have mornings where we’re rushing out the door. This way, you’re able to apply moisturizer while you’re on-the-go — and with clean hands too!
Easy Two-Step Skin Care Routine
Yes, that’s it — a two-step routine. This is the barest of bare bones routine, but it’s a savior when it comes to skin care tips for students. In college, there’ll be days when you’re too busy to eat breakfast. Forget skin care! But, if you want some kind of skin care, any kind of skin care, use this routine. Minimize those stress pimples you’ll inevitably get during midterms and finals. But, this routine is NOT made for skin care in the long-term.
Hot N Cold
Look, I get it — it’s hard to create a back-to-school skin care routine with weather inconsistencies. If your goal is to get glowing skin for back-to-school, you’re going to need to fight the weather. The day briskly greets you with 50-degree temperatures in the AM, then turns into 80-degree heat when you get out of class in the PM. Should you layer on a thick, heavy cream in the morning and suffocate your pores later in the day? Or should you go for a light gel-cream suited for the afternoon and suffer through the cold?
Here’s an easy clear skin tip! Although it may seem like there is no right answer, you should always err on the side of hydration. Even if you end up with a few clogged pores because you layered on the moisturizer, it’s better than your skin getting too dry. When your skin gets too dry, you get breakouts anyhow! Because the skin tends to overcompensate in dry weather by overproducing oil, the likelihood of encountering a clogged pore or two is very high when you’re dealing with a lot of oil. So, think of the same motto you use as a reminder to drink water on Friday nights. I know you know it — hydrate or diedrate, baby! You might be laughing, but it truly does apply to skin care too.
If you want a tip for healthy, glowing skin, here it is… Hydration is key to getting glowing skin for back-to-school. In the fall, humidity levels plummet, which means that the air is dry. And dry air means dry skin. And dry skin means itchy skin. If you regularly deal with skin conditions like eczema or psoriasis, this is why you might notice a flare up at the change of seasons. Try to get ahead of the dryness — and hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! And yes, this means you need to drink water too. It’s not going to cure your acne, but general hydration helps to get that glow. Snag a cheap water bottle from Amazon and stick it in the side pocket of your backpack. You’ll be sipping on it without even realizing.
If you’re looking for yet another way to combat dryness and help get glowing skin for back to school, I suggest you invest in a humidifier. Take a look at this light-up, cloud-shaped Cool Mist Ultrasonic Humidifier by Pure Enrichment or the little higher-end the H3 Hybrid Humidifier by Objecto. (Yes, this is yet another piece of advice stolen from my summer skin care article. What can I say? I’m a strong advocate for using a humidifier year-round.) It can take your college beauty routine to the next level! Use hyaluronic acid in conjunction with your humidifier. Because hyaluronic acid pulls moisture into your skin from the environment, you’ll get glowing skin naturally from the air-bound hydration. But, what makes this one perfect for the back-to-school season? Your roommates will freaking love you. After all, they’ll be reaping the benefits from your humidifier too!
So, there you have it! Those are my tips for healthy, glowing skin this back-to-school season. I hope with this advice, you’re able to put your best face forward on your first day. May you ace all your classes and suffer minimal breakouts. Good luck this semester!
Let me know your tips for healthy glowing skin or your picks for the best affordable skin care products. You can learn so much by asking about how others handle their back to school skin care routine.
Bella Bucchiotti of xoxoBella is a storyteller, food lover, dog mom and adventure seeker living on the Pacific coast. She shares her passion for recipes, dogs, sustainability, adventures, travel and philanthropy, in hopes of encouraging followers to run the extra mile, try new recipes, visit unfamiliar places and stand for a cause. Bella lives with Type 1 Diabetes and Celiac Disease.
Bella Bucchiotti is a freelance food, travel, and lifestyle writer for MSN and the Associated Press Wire.