There is a reason your skincare should be applied in a certain order. The proper way you should apply your skin care is based on the molecular structure of your products. The rule-of-thumb I like to go by is layer your products from lightest to thickest. Another rule I like to follow this rule with is always apply your SPF last before you leave in the morning. At night, always apply your facial oil last in the evening before you go to bed. When all of your products are in the right order, you will notice a huge improvement with your skin's hydration levels, texture and your skin care products will work much more efficiently.
This blog post includes the importance of each skin care step, the proper skin care steps listed in order, and how to add in an exfoliating product or a mask into your skin care routine. This blog post also contains affiliated links.
Step 1: Cleanser
Cleansing takes up about 50% of your skin care routine. The way you cleanse and what products you choose to clean your skin with is more important to your skin health than the beauty community stresses. Makeup wipes don't cut it. Cleansing your facial skin removes dirt, makeup, oil, sweat, and pollutant build-up from the surface of the skin. Cleansing off these impurities everyday, twice a day, is an essential part to your skin's health. If the skin isn't properly cleansed from these impurities everyday twice a day, these impurities can cause premature aging and can contribute to some skin conditions such as hyper-pigmentation. Your skin is an organ, and it is constantly regenerating itself 24/7.
The Importance of Cleansing in the Morning:
When you wake up in the morning, you have a layer of build-up on the surface of your skin most likely consisting of last night's products and collected impurities. Cleansing in the A.M. removes this layer of build-up and creates a clean surface and base for all the other products in your morning routine. When your skin is clean and free of impurities, it can absorb products much better. Cleansing your skin before makeup application will improve your makeup's longevity, appearance, and it balances your oil production throughout the day. I always recommend using a gentle creamy cleanser in the morning even for all skin types. Gel cleansers can be to drying in the morning because most strip the skin from its natural oils. Creamy cleansers only remove what needs to be removed.
(Click here to buy my favorite morning cleanser.)
The Importance of Cleansing at Night:
If you aren't already cleansing at night every night, start TONIGHT. You can't achieve healthy skin with dirty skin. Throughout the day you are exposed to pollutants in the air, cleaning chemicals, makeup preservatives, and dirt. Your skin collects these impurities everyday and if you don't wash off these impurities before bed, your skin will age at a faster rate. If chemicals and impurities were left on the skin overnight, they will cause free-radical damage. Free-radical damage leads to all aging problems and conditions like wrinkles, sagging, and hyper-pigmentation. If you applied a moisturizer over dirty skin, then the moisturizer will only end up moisturizing the dirt instead of your skin.
Makeup wearers beware, most makeup is full of toxic chemicals that will age you every time you wear it so never leave it on while you sleep. Your skin regenerates itself every night and you do not want makeup sitting on the skin's surface overnight. Makeup prevents your skin from naturally exfoliating. Wearing makeup to bed overtime will cause major skin issues like dehydration, black heads, and clogged pores. Also, wearing makeup for long periods of time can stretch your pores causing them to enlarge.
The Importance of Using a Proper Cleanser:
It is important that your cleanser does not make your skin feel tight, irritated, or uncomfortable after you cleanse. Some people describe this sensation the "squeaky clean feeling" which may sound intriguing but this sensation can be a possible indication that your skin was stripped from its natural oils. If your skin feels that way after cleansing, your skin won't allow your toners, serums, and other skin treatments to work properly. Your skin needs to be hydrated and healthy to accept products effectively. I highly recommend switching to a hydrating creamy cleanser if you experience this. Also never use bar soaps on your facial skin.
Find my creamy cleanser recommendation here.
Click here for a chemical-free healthy skin foundation option.
Why Double Cleanse?
You only need to double cleanse at night. One cleanse removes oil, SPF, and makeup. Your first cleanse should be a micellar water or oil cleanser. The second cleanse removes impurities and dirt and should be gel based. This ensures your skin is clean and prepared for the rest of your routine.
Click here for a great gel cleanser.
Step 2: Toner
Toning should be an essential part to your skin care routine. Toners remove cleanser residue, balance your skin's pH level, assist serums and moisturizers to penetrate deeper into the skin, and toners have additional skin care benefits depending on what they contain. Toners don't get enough credit for all the good they do for the skin. You can't really SEE the differences they make, but adding them into your routine will make positive differences to your skin's health. Your skin will feel more hydrated and will act healthier when you apply a toner on after cleansing consistently.
Why Regardless of Your Skin Type, You Need a Toner :
Did you know, water is a different pH level then your skin's pH level? Even if you use a good hydrating cleanser, the pH of the water you use to cleanse your skin can knock your skin's hydration levels off balacne. This can cause dryness to your skin and when your skin's hydration levels are off balance, it won't function properly and your serums and moisturizers won't penetrate efficiently into the skin. Using a toner will get your skin's hydration levels back on track.
There are two different methods for toning. One method is pouring a toner onto a cotton round, then wiping the cotton round over the facial skin. Another toning method is spritzing a toner over the facial skin and letting it dry. Spray toners tend to be more hydrating and nourishing. Cotton round toners tend to be more toning to the pores and remove cleanser residue. This isn't always the case though, pay attention to the ingredients.
It is necessary to use toners on a cotton round first to removed cleanser residue if you use a gel cleanser. Spray on toners aren't necessary, but have added hydration benefits and tend to contain essential vitamins for skin health. If you choose to do both, apply the cotton round toner solution first, then spray on your hydrating toner. You always leave toners on the skin.
Find a great cotton round toner here.
Purchase my favorite spray toner here.
Step 3: Serum
Serums are the most effective skin care product in your routine. If you were to only invest in one product, invest in a serum. They contain more concentrated skin care ingredients that are designed to target specific concerns. A true serum tends to have a more gel-like consistency and can leave a sticky feeling on the skin if you don't follow it with a moisturizer on top. This consistency is designed to penetrate deeper into the skin and then moisturizers and skin care oils lock in that hydration and treatment into your skin. The purpose of serums are to hydrate your skin at a deeper level and to target specific skin care problems (aging, sunspots, dehydration, acne).
How to Get the Best Results:
Wait until your serum dries before you apply your moisturizer to allow it to penetrate and work into your skin. Serums tend to be pricey because they are highly concentrated, so do this method to get the full effect of your product. Layering serums is okay as well. Remember, layer lightest to thickest.
To get the best results with serums, use your targeted serum treatment everyday consistently. It will at least take 3 weeks or more to see results from a serum. Results vary on how long you had your impurities for, age, other skin care treatments you include into your routine and your consistency.
When to Use Serums:
I always recommend using a serum every morning and night based on your skin's needs. Your skin regenerates itself all day (remember your skin is an organ) and applying a serum on the morning can add benefits to your skin. I would recommend a hyaluronic acid serum in the morning if you struggle with dehydrated skin. Its hydrating yet oil free so it can be used on the most acneic oily skin to the most dry sensitive rosacea skin. Or I would recommend an antioxidant serum to repair and prevent free radical damage all day long. If you want to add a serum in the morning, make sure it doesn't contain exfoliating acids like glycolic acid and salacylic acid.
Find a hydrating serum here.
Find a brightening serum here. (code "lauren10" for 10% off)
Find a tightening serum here.
Find an acne fighting serum here.
Step 4: Moisturizers
The purpose of moisturizers is to lock in the hydration into the skin, smooth the texture of the skin, soften the skin, and act as a protective barrier for the skin. Since moisturizers tend to have some sort of oil in them or a high molecular weight, they can't penetrate too deep in the skin. Moisturizers may say "brighten", "anti-aging" or "acne-fighting" and may just do that, but their main purpose it to be a moisture protective barrier to your skin, lock products in, and soften the skin.
**If you cleanse, you have to always follow with a moisturizer.
How everything ties in: Cleansing removes impurities but the pH of the water dries the skin. A toner balances the skin from its pH level, but it is mostly water based so it will evaporate if you don't apply a moisturizer on right after. Serums are not necessary, but can target specific skin concerns. Everything should be applied in this order to get the maximum benefits and absorption of your products and so your skin can function properly.
Moisturizer for breakout prone and oily skin here.
Moisturizer for dry sensitive skin here.
Moisturizer for aging skin here.
Step 5: Oil (optional)
Oils aren't "necessary" but can have lots of added skin care benefits. Oils lock in moisture to your skin, so if you have hydration issues, oils can help maintain dry skin. Oils are always applied last, except in the morning where you SPF should always be last.
All Oils are Not the Same:
Applying coconut oil to your face is a bad idea. Most oils that you can buy at the grocery store have too high of a molecular weight for your facial skin. Not only is your facial skin no able to absorb these oils, most oils are clogging because of this reason. So I highly recommend to only use oils that are designed for your facial skin. Coconut oils and other oils are okay for body skin though because this skin tends to be thicker.
FYOB: Labs can take out the clogging properties of oils. This is why skin care exists and why I advise you to stay out of your kitchen for skin care. This is also probably why your facial oil costed you $50-80.
The Difference Between Hydration and Moisturizing:
Before you add a facial oil into your routine, you need to know the difference between moisturizing and hydrating. Moisturizing prevents moisture loss from the skin and locks in hydration. Hydration brings water to the skin. Oils don't have the ability to bring water to the skin or hydrate the skin at all. They only have the ability to lock in hydrating ingredients like hyaluronic acid and glycerin and prevent these ingredients from evaporating out of the skin. So don't skip out on your moisturizer and serum and go straight for an oil. Your skin can still be dehydrated and oily. A facial oil's purpose is to be an added skin care treatment that locks in the products you applied before for maximum hydration. Oils should always be applied last in your routine.
An oil that doesn't cause breakouts here. (code "estie" for $5off)
The skin around your eyes tends to be more dry because this skin doesn't produce oil. When the skin is dry, it ages at a faster rate and that is one of the reasons why the eyes wrinkles form first before anything. That is also why it is so important to apply and eye cream 2x a day, morning and night. The proper step on when to put on eye cream doesn't really matter as long as you do it before applying a facial oil and moisturizer.
Eye creams tend to be forgotten because it may seem like an unnecessary step or an unnecessary expense. Why not just apply your face cream around your eyes?
To be honest, that is better then nothing but the reason eye creams are important and exist is because they are designed for the skin around the eyes specifically. Eye skin is thinner and eye creams are so pricey because they are designed to penetrate delicate skin around the eyes properly.
Eye cream recommendation here.
Retin-A, Retinol, and Other Skin Prescriptions
If you have a prescription from your dermatologist and want to apply it to your skin care routine, here are some tips you can consider.
First ask your dermatologist first to see his/her recommendation or read the directions. Listen to what they say.
If he/she says it doesn't matter, remember the rule "lightest to thickest".
If you have a gel like or an exfoliating prescription (AHAs, BHAs vitamin A derivatives) , apply this before step number 3, serums. Try not to mix acids and Retinols.
You can layer serums and treatments. This doesn't effect their effectiveness, just allow each product to dry before applying on another product. About 30 seconds.
If you have benzoyl peroxide (often prescribed as a spot treatment), this can be applied between step 4 and 5, after moisturizer before oil. All spot treatments would be between 4 and 5.
Proper Skin Care Routine & Steps Summary
Moisturizer or BB cream that contains SPF protection
Night Time Routine
Prescribed treatment (or what your doctor's order was)
If you want to add in a mask or exfoliate, I only recommend doing this at night because treatments can make your skin sensitive to the sun and more prone to sun damage. I recommend always wearing sun protecting the morning after any treatments.
Exfoliate Skin Care Steps- Night Time Routine
Mask Skin Care Steps- Night Time Routine
Mask & Exfoliating Skin Care Steps - Night Time Routine
I recommend masking 1x a week at least. Exfoliating before a mask will make the mask work more efficiently. Click here to see why and how to properly mask in detail.
Thank you for reading! Be sure to check out the recommended blog posts for more skincare advice.