Sticking to Your Skincare Routine – Tips from an Esthetician with ADHD | ADDA


by Nicole Carollo

I’ve been in love with all things beauty for as long as I can remember. It was thrilling when I discovered there was an Esthetics License. I could go to school for skincare and makeup!? Sign me up! Except, thanks to my then-undiagnosed ADHD, it took me several years to take the leap. Once I did, I threw myself into it!

The Struggles of an Esthetician with ADHD

In school I learned the right way to care for my skin. It looked better than it ever had, and I was proud of my dedication. But post-graduation, I found myself unable to keep up. An unexpected feeling bubbled up around my skincare routine: guilt. On top of struggling with my executive function, I beat myself up for not trying hard enough. This is a story ADHDers know all too well.

Skincare has become a huge industry. It is also now on the never-ending list of things we’re ‘not doing well enough’. Here’s the thing: skincare is self-care. It’s something we do to take care of ourselves. Self-care should not make you feel bad about yourself. It shouldn’t even be an obligation. I’ve been where you are, so I’d like to share some helpful tips to make your routine work for you.

What’s Your Motivation?

In all my struggles with HOW to stick to a routine, I realized I was missing an important piece: the WHY. Who am I doing this for? The simple answer: myself. I imagined an outside pressure, but in reality, it’s important to me that my skin is well-cared for. I know I don’t feel good in the morning when I wake up in my makeup from the night before (and neither does my pillow case.) I know that my dry skin feels better when it’s moisturized, especially in winter. I relish the feeling of a clean face layered in nourishing ingredients.

If you’re reading this, I suspect you have your own motivations for wanting to take care of your skin. Take a minute to think about what drives that desire. I’m a big fan of Post-Its for reminding myself of things. Write your motivation on a Post-It and stick it where you can see it often.

Challenges and Solutions

Once you’re clear on your why, you can address your specific challenges. One of my personal skincare struggles is washing my face at night. I set up my cleansers and a towel next to my sink as a reminder and a motivator. It’s harder to procrastinate when everything is ready! I also try to do my nighttime routine before I get cozy on my couch for the evening. Although I’ll admit it’s much harder to stick to that in these stay-at-home pandemic days.

Another common challenge for ADHDers is the “out of sight, out of mind” phenomena. If my products are in a closed cabinet, they may as well not exist. If possible, keep your products out where you can see them. Think about what stops you from achieving your skincare goals. Now, find ways to combat your specific challenges. Write yourself notes or set timers. Like all things with ADHD, it’s important to work with your brain rather than against it.

Simplify Your Routine

Healthy skin doesn’t depend on 10 steps or trendy ingredients. In fact, that may be too much for your skin. Plus, it’s difficult it is to keep up with. The best skin care routine is the one you stick to. Be realistic about the time you’ll spend on your skin and the number of products you’ll use.

You can already guess what the three most important steps are:

  1. Cleanse: It’s important to cleanse your skin at least once a day to get rid of any makeup, sunscreen, dirt and bacteria. Good news if your skin is on the drier side: one cleanse before bed may be enough for you. Cleansing balms make cleaning your face and removing your makeup easy. And they’re available at all price points.
  2. Moisturize: This is essential for all skin types. Skin moisturizing protects your skin barrier, the protective outer layer of your skin. A compromised skin barrier leads to all sorts of skin issues, from irritation to acne. If you’re oily, you don’t get to skip this step! Skin moisturizer helps it produce LESS oil, since it won’t go into overdrive to protect itself.
  3. SPF: Use sunscreen to protect yourself from harmful UVA and UVB rays. Make sure your product provides protection from both! This is also true if you have darker skin. Even if you don’t burn, the sun will damage your skin cells. I recommend always using a separate sunscreen as your last step in your routine. You can’t get the necessary amount of SPF from a moisturizer. As an added benefit, I like using a tinted SPF so I get my sunscreen with a side of coverage.

There’s good news if you want to introduce more skin-benefiting ingredients. Some of the most effective ingredients for acne, fine lines, and wrinkles are only meant to be used a few times a week. Use retinoids and acids on days where you feel most up for your routine. Keeping track of which days you use what products can be helpful. A weekly checklist might make this easier.

Make It Enjoyable!

Turning your routine into something you enjoy will help you stick to it. Use products that feel good. If you can, be present in the moment and engage your senses. Massage your skin as you apply your products. Light a candle, play some soft music, whatever you want!

Another proven way to form a habit is to pair something you want to do with something you don’t want to do. Listen to your favorite podcast. Play the latest tv show you’re binging. Call a friend. Taking care of your skin doesn’t have to be boring.

Be Kind to Yourself!

Skincare is a personal experience. Set realistic expectations for yourself based on your own life. When you feel obliged to do something, you can start to dread it. Think of skincare as something you do because you want to, not out of obligation. Your mental health is important, so try not to beat yourself up if you forget a step or don’t have the energy. One face mask won’t give you perfect skin and skipping your moisturizer once won’t destroy it. Do your best, and be gentle with yourself when you struggle. Remember, stress shows up on your skin! Beating yourself up about your skincare routine is counterproductive!


Nicole Carollo is a licensed esthetician and beauty enthusiast in the Chicago suburbs. You can find more about her work and contact her through her website at

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