Is there a correct order to apply skincare products?
The answer is a big YES. After a lot of confusion and a little research, I recently discovered the importance of layering your skincare products correctly.
1 There isn’t much point in having a skincare routine if your products don’t get to penetrate your skin effectively. Your skin won’t get the full benefits.
2 I was applying mine all wrong! Sunscreen first, oil before moisturiser … I was breaking all the rules.
To save you from randomly applying skincare products in the vague hope of achieving miraculous results, I have broken down the correct order to apply your skincare below. It doesn’t matter if you have the world’s best 10-step skincare regime or use two simple products. The wrong order of application could leave your skin irritated or dehydrated and let’s face it … it is just a waste of product and money.
Just to be clear, I am not a dermatologist. I have simply done the research to provide you with this step by step guide for your morning and evening routine. If you want to use skincare products and get results, you want to apply them, so they have the best chance of working their magic.
Advice from the Dermatologists I’ve visited has always been that morning skincare is all about sunscreen and protection from the sun. I try and keep things quick and simple (about 5 minutes) and leave my main treatment products for the evening.
STEP #1: Cleanse
Cleaning skin gently, without stripping the skins natural oils is vital. Whether to cleanse in the morning as well as the evening seems to be up for debate with skin-care experts. Some believe it is over cleansing already clean skin, whilst others believe it’s vital to remove the pollutants and irritants that our skin is constantly exposed to – even in sleep. In the mornings, I simply splash my face with water, and you should do what feels right for you.
STEP #2: Tone
Toner is meant to replenish the skin after cleansing and prime it to absorb the nutrients in the products you will apply next. Different toners either hydrate, balance PH or exfoliate so if you want to use one it’s important to look for a product that compliments your skin type. Keeping your skin damp after cleansing also allows your products to be readily absorbed.
Applying a gentle chemical exfoliant at this step can be a great way to remove excess dead skin and prepare it to receive makeup. My evening retinoid acts as an exfoliant, so I don’t find that I require any additional exfoliation in my routine. I’ve got to come clean and say that I generally skip this step altogether.
STEP #3: Treatments
This is where the most active products in your routine come in. They may include eye cream, spot cream and serums. If you feel that you need an eye cream, apply this first. This will ensure that other potent ingredients are not pulled into the eye area.
If I’m applying make-up, I love to use a moisturising serum with hyaluronic acid to hydrate and plump up my skin. During the day, I’ll also add a tiny amount of powdered vitamin C to my serum which acts as an antioxidant to help my body repair damaged skin cells and to brighten my skin. These two active products are safe to combine and provide better anti-aging results than if you choose just one.
STEP #4: Chemical Sunscreen
Chemical sunscreen should be applied before (or instead of if you prefer) your daytime moisturiser. These sunscreens work by absorbing into your skin, so you don’t want to dilute its absorption and reduce your protection.
After applying sunscreen, I get dressed and do my hair. This gives my sunscreen a good 10 minutes to properly absorb and dry before the next step in my routine.
STEP #5: Moisturiser
During the day, particularly If you have normal to oily skin, your sunscreen could double up as your moisturiser. If you’re like me and have dry skin, the added hydration of a simple moisturiser is a must.
STEP #6: Physical Sunscreen
Physical sunscreen (containing titanium or zinc oxide) forms a barrier on your skin, so should be applied as the last step in your skincare routine (before your primer or foundation). This will allow your other skincare products to be absorbed and to work to their full potential.
It’s also important to allow physical sunscreen a good ten minutes to properly absorb and dry before moving on to the next step in your routine.
STEP # 7: Primer & Foundation
If you use primer, it will act as a buffer between your skincare and foundation. Finally, you are ready to apply foundation (if you wear it) with the knowledge that your skincare regime is working at its best.
Your skin naturally repairs itself at night, so this is the time for key treatments. Dermatologists I’ve visited have recommended a gentle cleanser, moisturiser and retinoid are all I really need. With the constant bombardment from the beauty industry and media it’s hard to stick to this and not get sucked in by the promise of less wrinkles and younger looking skin. I do try other products from time to time and have a small arsenal of favourites that might not be ‘necessary’ but really make my skin feel its best, particularly during the drying winter months.
STEP #1: Remove Make-up & Cleanse
None of your skin care products will work effectively if you don’t have a clean base to start with. In the evening, I always double cleanse by removing my makeup and washing my face before applying any products. My favourite cleansers are cleansing oils which make my dry skin feel baby soft and nourished.
STEP #2: Tone
If you use a toner, it should either hydrate, balance PH or exfoliate your skin but not leave it feeling dry and stripped of your natural oils. As per the morning routine, at night I skip this step altogether.
STEP #3: Treatments
It can be so confusing trying to determine which products will give your skin the most benefit. I haven’t found any benefit in layering lots of ingredients. In reality you’re more likely to cause irritation.
Any treatments should be selected to target specific skin concerns you have. My main skin issue is dryness (especially in winter), so on alternate nights when I don’t use my retinoid, I use a moisturising serum that hydrates and plumps my skin.
STEP #4: Retinoids
Most dermatologists recommend retinoids as a key ingredient that their clients should have in their skincare regime. Retinoids have been shown to reduce fine lines and wrinkles by increasing the production of collagen amongst a host of other benefits. It takes around 3 to 6 months of use to notice a difference. Because retinoids break down in sunlight and increase your sensitivity to the sun, they should only be worn in the evening. Always use them as per a dermatologist’s recommendation.
I use my retinoid 3 nights per week before my moisturiser. You can also use your retinoid after your moisturiser (or between two layers of moisturiser) to further minimise any irritation and help sensitive skin tolerate it better.
STEP #5: Moisturiser
A simple moisturiser will not only hydrate your skin but will also seal in any treatments you’ve applied. It creates a protective coating on the skin to prevent water evaporation while you sleep.
With dry skin, a good moisturiser in the evening is a non-negotiable for me. I look for a hydrating and nourishing moisturiser with key ingredients such as glycerine or hyaluronic acid to counteract the drying effects of my retinoid.
STEP #6: Face Oil
Oil acts like a barrier locking in the hydrating benefits of other products. If your skin is particularly dry, an oil applied over your moisturiser in the evening will help lock in the hydrating benefits of the moisturiser. No products penetrate oil, but oils can penetrate moisturisers, serums and treatments so apply them after your moisturiser or retinoid.
I hope this helps clarify the layering of skincare products for you. On most mornings, I simply apply my sunscreen and moisturiser onto damp skin. It helps to know that even if your routine is simple, your products are going on correctly to ensure you get the most out of them.
When in doubt apply your products in order of the thinnest to the thickest or from liquid to oil. Anything light will penetrate bare skin easily, while thicker creams and oils should be saved until the end.
Most importantly, listen to your skin. Remember that you are unique and no one else has your skin. It doesn’t matter how many reviews a product receives if it’s doesn’t feel right for you, don’t use it. Find a skincare routine that works for your budget and lifestyle and makes your skin glow.
Be good to your skin. You’ll wear it every day for the rest of your life.
I’d love to hear your thoughts and find out what makes your skin sing!