Skin Streaming: The Skin Care Trend Your Face Needs

woman holding serum dropper in hands

What is skin streaming? She’s the new girl in beauty circles and, yeah, we wanna be her friend. She goes by the name skin streaming – a buzzy term for a super simple idea: Creating a go-to cache of essentials that will become the building blocks of your 2023 skincare routine. We’re here for it!

Like so many buzzy beauty trends, we can thank social media for its meteoric rise in the ranks of daily do’s. While we love the term “skin streaming” – it sounds fresh and lean, right? – you can also file the trend under, “Back to Basics,” “Less is More” or “My Desert Island Picks.” They all take you to the same destination: a faster, more efficient morning routine.

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There’s some speculation that the pared down routine is a response to our slumping economy. Sure, cutting back from 10 steps to four may save you a few bucks, but we prefer to think of skin streaming as a smarter way to practice self-care. Fewer products can be kinder on your skin and by concentrating your spend, you can afford better products, too. More bang for your buck all the way around.

How to skin stream in 2023

With good reason, the pillars of skincare have always focused on basics like cleansing and hydrating. What’s exciting about skin streaming is that we have so many more options available to create a truly bespoke experience, and that’s key, according to Dr. Rahul Shukla, lead dermatologist with DRS Skincare, Hamilton, Ont. “Bespoke skincare, or skincare customized to your skin and concerns, is the best strategy when designing a new skincare routine,” he says.

Skin streaming, step 1

The initial step in your new streamlined system is cleansing, and you want to get that right. I mean, it’s the basis for everything! The wrong formulation or ingredients can wreak havoc on your skin – leaving it too oily or too dry. So, while there are many formulations to chose from – creams, foams, balms, oils and micellar waters – don’t randomly pick. Dr. Shukla, who is also an assistant clinical professor (adjunct), in the department of medicine at McMaster University, says it’s important to choose with care. For instance, “if you have oily, acne prone skin you may want to select a cleanser that contains salicylic acid – an ingredient that helps clear pores – in a gel formulation in efforts to reduce oil,” he says.

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Likewise, if you have dry skin, you may want to look for something that offers a moisture boost, with ingredients like glycerin or ceramides. And, if you’re unsure about what your skin type is, start by choosing a cleanser that includes words like “gentle” or “non-irritating.”

Skin streaming, step 2

Once you’ve cleansed your skin, you’re ready to hydrate it. So, should you use a serum? A moisturizer? Both? Start by looking in the mirror.

“It really depends on your skin,” says Dr. Shaklu. “Serums are lightweight products that usually have active ingredients targeted to a particular skin issues. Moisturizer’s primary function is to prevent water loss from your skin.” For those who want to use both, which is very common, Dr. Shaklu recommends serum first followed by a moisturizer.

And what should you look for in a serum depends on what you want to get out of it, he says.

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“When selecting serums you may want to consider your skin concern and then finding the right mix of ingredients.”

Here’s his cheat sheet:

HydrationHyaluronic acid
Wrinkles, fine lines, sun damageVitamin C, retinol
HyperpigmentationNiacinamide, arbutin, resorcinol
AcneSalicylic acid, glycolic acid, zinc

As for the key ingredients in moisturizers, Dr. Shaklu recommends looking for products that contain ceramides, petrolatum, urea, and hyaluronic acid.

Skin streaming, step 3

OK, if we’re paring back, do we need separate products for eyes and lips?

“Surprise – it depends! Do you have very dry lips and eyes?” asks Dr. Shaklu. “If so, you may want to find an occlusive moisturizer that may not be suited for the remainder of your face, if oily. In this scenario it makes sense to have two different products.”

Another situation where it might make sense to use separate products is if you’ve chosen a powerful serum as your base product. “If you are using a serum with an active such as retinol, you may want to avoid this around your eyes or gradually build tolerance as can be very irritating areas of thinner skin.”

Skin streaming, step 4

Use sunscreen. This skin-streaming step is non-negotiable. One of the best ways to maintain healthy skin and prevent future skin cancers is to use SPF, every damn day.

What’s the best method of delivery? If we’re streamlining our skincare routine, do we need to use a separate product, or can we achieve similar efficacy using a moisturizer that includes SPF?

“Technically, you can achieve similar efficacy with a moisturizer with SPF versus a stand-alone SPF, however, it is often not the case,” says Dr. Shaklu, adding, “When people use SPF moisturizers, they are less likely to be as meticulous and will often miss areas such as the eyelids and neck. As well, they are less likely to reapply as they see the product as a moisturizer and not a sunscreen. Additionally, sunscreens often include ingredients to help protect against blue light which can exacerbate skin conditions.”

Bottom line, it’s probably best to include applying SPF as its own step.

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Streamlining leads to new thinking around skin care

So, we’ve simplified skincare to four easy steps, saving time and a few extra bucks on unnecessary products. Which begs the question: Whatcha gonna do with all that extra money?

Maybe it’s time to invest in higher-end products. If you’re new to that concept, putting your money on medical-grade products versus luxe cosmetics might be a good bet. As Dr. Shaklu explains: “Medical-grade products are scientifically designed and they often have some evidence showing they are effective for their intended purpose whereas as ‘high-end’ cosmetic products may not be held to similar standards.”

All the steps aside, there are a few other things to know about this skin streaming to make it work well. For instance, pay attention to the seasons. What works in the summer when the air is thick with humidity, may not serve you well in the cold, dry air of winter.

“You don’t need to change every product you use, but you should switch to heavier creams when it’s cold outside,” says Dr. Elizabeth Kiracofe, a dermatologist in Chicago. “I recommend that my patients cut back on products that have alpha hydroxy acid or beta hydroxy acid, which can reduce the signs of aging by smoothing fine lines and wrinkles. In the winter months, these products can be irritating for the skin even when combined with moisturizing creams.”   

Other basic products that help you get, and keep, healthy skin include incorporating a few steps beyond your new skin streaming ones. Staying well hydrated, eating a balanced diet, exercising and adequate sleep all contribute to good glow. And don’t forget sleep!

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“Adequate sleep is such an essential component to maintaining healthy skin, and that uninterrupted time in the night is the perfect opportunity for the skin to recover,” said Dr. Kiracofe. “This is why, in winter, I recommend patients consider adding a filtered, cool-mist humidifier in their bedrooms. Not only can this help treat dryness, but it can be an effective tool for prevention. You don’t need to wait until you get irritated or cracked skin to make an improvement to your environment.”