Skincare routine may appear to be a case of “Whatever works! You do you, boo!”, but guess what? It’s not. If you don’t layer your products correctly, or if you mix, for instance, the wrong moisturiser with the wrong serum, your products may turn ineffective or, worse, irritate your face.
Whether you prefer a quick 3-step morning routine or have time for a thorough 10-step nighttime regimen, the sequence in which you apply your products is what matters the most than the number of products. Most faces do far better with fewer products, so if you’re just a beginner, keep it basic: cleanser, moisturiser, sunblock. Below, we’ve broken down the correct order to apply your skincare products as well as the steps you can definitely skip.
Daily skincare routine: What is the correct order?
Step 1: Cleanser (A.M. and P.M.)
Before applying your skincare products, always remove your makeup and cleanse your face with a cleanser that suits best for your skin type. Clean skin that is completely free of oil and grime is essential for ingredients to absorb properly.
Step 2: Toner (A.M. and/or P.M.)
Toner is an entirely optional step in your skincare routine. They are essentially just priming your face for ingredients to be better absorbed later on. The ‘good’ toners include either soothing, moisturising ingredients to soothe dry skin or chemical exfoliants to cure acne and pimples. If your toner smells like nail polish remover or straight booze, get rid of it ASAP. These terrible alcohol-based toners leave you stinging and are extremely harmful. Choose you toners wisely!
Because there are so many toners on the market, here’s how to choose the ideal one for your skin type. Look for a toner that contains BHA (beta hydroxy acid, such as salicylic acid) or AHA (alpha hydroxy acid, such as glycolic acid or lactic acid), both of which work to unclog pores, limit breakouts, and remove blackheads over time. If you have dry skin, try AHAs; if you have oily skin, stick to BHAs.
Step 3: Serums (A.M. and/or P.M.)
Serums are basically concentrated doses of nutrients, hydrators, and antioxidants that immediately improve the health of your skin after application. They are the heavy lifters of your skincare routine. Serums are completely optional, although they are often a good step in stepping up your skincare regimen.
We recommend using vitamin C serum in your A.M. skincare routine to protect your skin from the irritation and damage produced by environmental harm over the day, while also brightening skin and lightening dark patches over time. For your P.M. skincare regimen, choose a serum containing hyaluronic acid, which draws water from the atmosphere into your skin to plump it up and keep it hydrated while you sleep.
Step 4: Eye Cream (A.M. and P.M.)
Because eye creams are lighter and thinner than face moisturisers, use them first before applying creams and oils. Since your under-eye region is the most delicate area, be sure to dab your under eye cream gently. We would recommend you to try a caffeine-filled formula as it temporarily constricts and tightens puffy under-eyes within 20-25 minutes.
Step 5: Spot Treatment (A.M. and P.M.)
Applying spot treatments whether for zits, scars, etc, at night is ideal because that’s when your body thoroughly restoring itself. However, if you’ve previously used an acne-fighting toner and/or want to use a retinol, consider spot-treating in the morning instead to avoid irritating your face with too much at once.
Step 6: Moisturiser (A.M. and P.M.)
Moisturiser is an essential step to your skincare routine. Whether your skin is really oily, prone to breakouts, having the worst day, it doesn’t matter, since it’s the only thing that’ll maintain your skin barrier—aka the very thing which is responsible for making your face seem like it has a healthy and happy glow. For your A.M., get a formula with a sunscreen of at least SPF 30 in it. At night, your skin enters into repair mode, working to heal damage and enhance regeneration. So, your night moisturiser should contain all of the ingredients that your body naturally generates and can use more of, such as hyaluronic acid, lipids, and proteins.
Step 7: Retinol (P.M.)
Retinoids, which include retinol, penetrate into your skin to speed up cell turnover, helping your body to produce fresher, smoother, less wrinkled skin over time. It might take four to six months of consistent use to give you results.
However, just because it may take a half-year to see your wrinkles smooth out does not mean you won’t get more rapid effects in other areas. Because retinoids stimulate collagen formation and cellular exfoliation, they will also remove dark spots, smooth scars, cleanse pores, reduce breakouts, and brighten skin. In essence, retinoids are dermatologists’ closest thing to magic. If you’re currently using (or intend to use) a retinoid-containing night cream, skip this step of the routine because doubling up won’t improve anti-ageing results—it’ll only exacerbate irritation.
Step 8: Face Oil (A.M. and/or P.M.)
Face oils are occlusive, which means that they seal in all of the ingredients and moisture you just applied to your face, preventing them from evaporating as rapidly. Oils do not hydrate your skin effectively on their own, but when you layer them over products, they can boost the efficiency of your regimen while also leaving skin soft and smooth. Just remember to always lather your oils last.
A common misconception is that oils are only for dry skin. Oils aren’t only for dry skin; rosehip and jojoba oils, for example, can help decrease excess oil in acne-prone skin, while marula and aloe oils can soothe sensitive, easily irritated skin.
Step 9: Sunscreen (A.M.)
Yes, we know we said oils come last, but sunscreen is technically the last step. Why? “Oils are still striving to infiltrate and treat your skin, which is why they should come last in your skincare routine,” explains a dermatologist, “but sunscreen isn’t trying to penetrate anything—just it’s there to protect your face and function as armour against the outside world.” “Basically, it’s not doing anything to your skin; it’s just protecting it.”
All Images: Courtesy Shutterstock