What should a skincare routine consist of?
We've asked skincare experts what order you should use your skincare products. Does it matter? Well, as it turns out, it does, and it's very important!
The spacing of your facial routine is important. Using skincare products in the right order ensures that your skin gets all the benefits of each product.
The order of facial treatments is very important. The skin's job is to keep external agents out, but many of the skincare products contain ingredients we want to incorporate. Only small amounts of these key ingredients can penetrate the skin, even if they are perfectly selected and applied. If you don't apply products in the right order, you won't see the best results from your skincare regime.
How to use skincare products correctly: a step-by-step guide
That's why we ask, which product goes on top of which? A simple rule is to apply products from the thinnest to the thickest consistency or from liquid to cream in a facial.
In general, consider going from thin to thick. Still, you should also use the products with the most important ingredients, penetrating the skin first (such as antioxidants in serums) and using the products that should sit on the skin last (such as emollients and moisturizers). One exception to this is retinol, which can penetrate all other ingredients - and may be applied last.
The day's facial order
The morning treatment is designed to protect the skin from the sun, impurities, and external factors, so any products that involve exfoliation, or therapeutic products, such as retinoids, are saved for the evening. The steps for daytime face care are as follows.
Step 1: Facial Cleanser
Washing your face with warm water, or using a gentle cleanser designed for your skin type, is the first thing to do in the morning. This first step of the routine is the most important, as it removes all dirt and impurities. But since you've just woken up (and likely washed your face before bed) you don't need a deep cleanse - like exfoliation for example.
Our pick: warm (hot hot!) water and a clean, soft washcloth.
Step 2: Toner
Most people prefer not to use toner, partly because people believe that most toners are harsh and can irritate the skin.
Fortunately, this is no longer the case. While they don't physically get rid of pores, the new generation of toners can perform various functions, such as acting as antioxidants, vitamin B derivatives, and even tonic acid delivery systems. In addition, each type of toner is designed for a different skin concern, so it's important to use the right type for your skin problem.
However, if you have never used a toner and your skin looks healthy, you don't need to start using one. Toners are designed for one reason: to restore your skin's pH and prep for the application of other products. Toners are particularly helpful in dampening the skin before applying waterless products like an oil based serum.
Our pick: hydrating toner
Step 3: Antioxidant Serum
Facial serums are ultra-concentrated, nutrient-rich products that target specific issues, so it's best to keep them close to your skin.
There are a variety of serums on the market today, but for daytime use, use an antioxidant serum, which has a range of benefits, from reducing skin inflammation to neutralizing damage from UV rays and environmental pollutants.
Our pick: vitamin c serum (it's the most active vitamin c treatment on the market!)
Step 4: Contouring the eyes
Experts say it is vital to use an eye cream starting at age 25. This is when collagen production starts to slow down. It's all about maintaining healthy and thick eyelid skin. Improving the quality of the skin in this area as early as possible will ensure that the eyelid skin is less likely to lose its smoothness later on.
Consistency is important to achieve the best results. Regular use of eye creams over time can maintain the elasticity of the eyelid skin and improve or prevent the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles or loss of collagen.
Remember, nothing is magical. Results do not appear overnight. You can further protect the delicate skin around your eyes by choosing an eye cream with antioxidants or an SPF.
You should also be wearing sunglasses when outdoors to protect yourself from harmful UV rays and the wrinkles that can appear in the corners of your eyes when you squint.
Our pick: hemp eye cream
Step 5: Topical treatments
According to Diana De Fiori, a rosacea clinic dermatologist, prescription and spot acne treatments should be applied to the skin next to achieve maximum results.
Since the active ingredients of acne spot treatments vary, check the product's packaging or consult a dermatologist for the best way to use it. According to cosmetologist and acne expert Ashley Wiley, benzoyl peroxide, which is typically used to treat acne, lasts one to three hours. Any cream that comes in contact with it before it has finished its job may prevent the active ingredient from working to its full potential.
Remember that acne spot treatments dry out the skin, so be sure to use them only where they are needed.
Step 6: Moisturizer
Yes, everyone needs moisturizer, even if you have oily skin. While your body has its natural lubrication system consisting of glands that secrete oil (or sebum) to maintain a protective layer against infections and harsh external conditions, most of us need extra hydration after the sun, weather, and harsh chemicals take a toll on our skin.
The best time, in our opinion, is to apply moisturizer when your skin is still damp, so the sooner you apply serums and treatments, the sooner you can lock in much-needed moisture with moisturizer.
Are you using an acne treatment? You may want to skip these areas when applying moisturizer to ensure that its ingredients do not interfere with the active ingredients in the product in this area.
Our pick: holistic hydration daily moisturizer
Step 7: Sunscreen
If you use a physical or mineral sunscreen, sunscreen should be the last step in your daytime skincare routine, and its role is to physically block UV rays.
This step is more complicated when using chemical sunscreens.
Chemical sunscreens need to be absorbed into the skin to be effective, so applying them after moisturizer delays and complicates the process. However, if you apply a chemical sunscreen before a moisturizer, the moisturizer won't work as well because the skin is covered with the chemical sunscreen.
Use a physical sunscreen with zinc and apply it after the moisturizer to avoid this. Zinc is safe and effective and provides the broadest protection against UVA and UVB rays.
For those who prefer to use chemical sunscreens, try to find a formula with moisturizing properties that provides daily hydration while protecting the skin.
Nighttime Facial Routine
As your skin naturally regenerates, your nightly routine should include caring for and giving your skin what it needs. If your skin is looking dull, exfoliate it. If it's irritated, moisturize and protect. Here's the best place to put your skincare products, so you get the most out of them. Your nighttime face care routine includes the following.
Step 1: Cleanser (double).
Some experts recommend removing makeup with a special makeup remover and then washing your face with a gentle cleanser to get rid of daytime dirt, oil, and makeup. A better approach is to try a deep facial cleanse, which involves dissolving makeup with cleansing oil. And then washing your face again with a regular cleanser.
Our pick: hemp oil cleanser
Step 2: Toner, serum, and booster
If you use toner, use it the same way you would in the morning.
Some people also like to use various skincare products at night, which can be in the form of sprays, serums, toners, or moisturizing serums. They contain various active ingredients, but their main purpose is to moisturize and nourish the skin.
Since these products are lightweight, almost all water-based formulas, they should be used after washing the face, just like a toner. If you use both, apply the toner first and then the serum. Toners are more cleansing; serums are more therapeutic. If you use more than one enhancer, the same rules apply: apply from thinnest to thickest.
Step 3: Eye Contouring
In addition to correcting contour lines and dark circles, eye creams can also protect the delicate eye area from other skincare products.
Eye creams are generally best applied before treatment to protect the eye area from active ingredients that may cause irritation.
Step 4: Treatments, Serums, and Peels
Like the rest of your body, your skin mostly recovers, repairs, and regenerates while you sleep. That's why most specific skin treatments - such as prescription products (tretinoin, acne, and rosacea creams), retinol creams, exfoliating treatments (exfoliating pads and masks), and anti-aging serums (with peptides, growth factors, and other bioactive ingredients) - are best used at night.
However, dermatologists recommend not combining all therapeutic serums and creams but rather choosing a one-night treatment based on the skin's needs at the time. It's like your wardrobe -you don't wear every piece of clothing every day; you pick what you need each day.
Too many steps increase the risk of irritation and decrease the likelihood of getting the results you want.
Choose your evening facial based on what your skin needs that day, not what you have available. Sometimes it may just be washing your face, moisturizing, and sleeping. There will always be a tomorrow to give your skin more love.
Choose between prescription products (for acne or rosacea) and exfoliating treatments (such as AHA/BHA peels, peels, or detoxifying masks). Be careful if you use both products on the same night; you can greatly increase the risk of skin irritation.
Also, don't use retinol creams (over-the-counter or prescription) on the same night as your exfoliation treatment.
For exfoliating treatments, use sparingly, 1 to 3 times per week.
Step 5: Moisturizer or Night Cream
Some people use the same moisturizer day and night. However, nighttime moisturizers or night creams are usually thicker and designed to absorb for hours.
Emollients, especially the heavier ones used at night, form a protective layer on the skin that prevents moisture from evaporating while you sleep. The secret ingredient is maintaining high water content in the skin to ensure that you heal and maintain healthy skin.
Using the right moisturizer should be your last step because nothing is more important than that. Do you have dry skin? You may want to add a facial oil before applying your night cream.
Timing is also important.
In addition to the order of application, some experts believe it's important to consider the amount of time it takes for your skin to absorb the products in your facial routine.
What's our advice?
Keep skincare simple.
Many products say to wait for 5 to 30 minutes before the next step to ensure proper absorption, but who has the time? If you have a lot of steps, pause and let each product react with your skin.
Another tip? Listen to your skin. Remember, you are unique, and no one has skin like yours. No matter what the experts say, the important thing is to find what works for you and always treat your skin well. Your beauty care is unique.
Need a place to start? Not sure what products to use together? Try empyri's 3 step ritual - it's a simple, clean routine that really works!