For those of us who pay attention to our skin (which is to say, most of us), we may find ourselves filling our bathroom cabinets with all kinds of creams, lotions and moisturizers that all claim to clean our skin and make us look and feel younger.

But there is a dirty little secret that you won't often hear from the companies that peddle these products: while a couple of them can be beneficial, there is a law of diminishing returns in play when you use too many of these products at the same time or in a short period of time.

Yet, many of us have gotten into the habit of using one or two products in the morning, maybe a sunscreen in the afternoon, and some other moisturizer or night cream in the evening, with assorted products at certain points each day. Some of these products, when used in conjunction with some others, might actually do more harm to your skin than leaving it alone.

With that in mind, we'd like to offer what we think are the five essentials that you need for everyday skin care. If you have these, you are covered; anything else just might be overkill.

Cleansing. You should do this before you add anything else - clean skin allows for other items to penetrate better and be more effective. But don't use products with soap, as soap is too rough for your face. And avoid alcohol if you have dry skin, use a creamy cleaner if you're very dry, and use an acidic cleanser for oily skin (maybe something with alpha hydroxy, for example). Massage the cleanser into your skin for at least 20 seconds.

Water. To keep your skin hydrated as much as your body, it's a good idea to drink at least a half-gallon of water every day. Hydrated skin resists dirt and oil better, takes in nutrients better and looks better overall.

Essential fatty acids. Known as EFAs, fatty acids like omega-3 (found in salmon and sardines, for example) and omega-6 (poultry, grain, cooking oils) give your skin cells a protective barrier against UV ray exposure and particulates.

Sunscreen. This can either be sunscreen itself or any skin product with as SPF of at least 15 (30 or more if you are in an intense-heat climate or environment). To help the UV protection ingredients kick in and be more effective, it's best to apply the sunscreen at least 15-20 minutes before exposure.

Antioxidants. There are several, but two to focus on are Vitamin C (builds up collagen in the skin) and Vitamin E (protects the outer walls of skins cells and improves the skin's ability to defend against UV exposure). Try to get 75 mg a day of the former (found in fruit, veggies and seafood) and 15 mg of the latter (almonds, peanut butter and wheat germ oil).