Skincare Products Are Fun & All, But What Order Should You Apply Them In?
BACK HERE WITH SOME SKINCARE TIPS!
The general rule of thumb in skincare is to apply the most lightweight products first & to make your way upwards to the more thick, creamy, rich & heavy creams & moisturizers. It makes sense. Put it this way: If you’ve got a THICK AF moisturizer slathered all over your face, how do you expect a lightweight essential oil or serum to be able to penetrate through that layer of emollient moisturizer, seep & absorb into your skin & work its magic? You can’t. Anything water-based will sink into the skin easier without heavier products getting in the way.
Having good quality skincare products is one thing, but if you’re not applying them in the right order & using them without knowing which product ingredients work best together, what’s the use? One of the most important things when it comes to skincare is to really follow a proper order & sequence for application & knowing (& more importantly, understanding), why you are following said order (i.e. toners, serums & essential oils should always come before lotions or moisturizers). All this to say: proper sequence matters if you want the best results & benefits! And yes, that’s what I’m here for!
Concentrated treatments like retinol or prescription topical treatments should be applied at nighttime only since for the most part, they can cause sun sensitivity. Always put lotions and moisturizers on last.
Step 1: Cleanser!
The first step in my morning & nighttime skincare routines is always CLEANSING! Logically, you don’t want to be applying any of your other skincare products on a face that isn’t fresh & clean. You want to apply them to a fresh canvas, so that’s why it’s crucial to remove dirt & oil build-up before anything else touches your face!
In the morning, I prefer to use gel, scrub or water-based cleansers because they’re lighter, super hydrating, refreshing & literally wake my face (& me) up! It’s important that when you wake up in the morning, you’re not using a cleanser that’s going to over-strip your skin or dry it out! Keep in mind that even if you don’t wear a face full of makeup, odds are that in the morning, you will be applying some form of makeup to your face & if your cleanser dries out your skin, you run the risk of your makeup flaking & taking on the whole cake look. And I don’t know about you guys, but I ain’t down with that!
P.S. Some people avoid cleansing in the morning because they think that their face is still clean from having cleansed it the night before, but believe it or not, at night, since you’re using oils & more concentrated ingredients, overnight, your skin recovered, all the crap is being excreted & coming to the surface, which also means that in the morning, you have MORE dead skin cells to gently remove.
At night, I use oil or balm cleaners because they’re super nourishing & usually contain essential oils, which I like to let seep into & absorb into my skin overnight. Basically, oil cleansers prep the skin to revive itself while you sleep & I always wake up with soft & plump skin that feels super hydrated & looks radiant.
ALSO, from a more practical point of view, the oil binds with makeup & grease on the skin (obviously, when I wake up in the morning, I have no makeup on, so I don’t need something as intense, whereas at night, I’m literally washing off my day, taking off makeup & cleaning my face after a long day, sometimes in the kitchen, sometimes working & studying, exercising etc.). This brings us back to the whole scientific principle of how like attracts like or oil cuts through oil. Oil cleansers really help get the makeup/grease off thoroughly to prevent it from clogging my pores or making my skin look dull.
When using oil cleansers, it’s best to warm them up between the palms of your hands (BUT MAKE SURE YOUR HANDS ARE CLEAN) before applying them to your face to really activate all the ingredients & reap the full benefits from them. ALSO, when you rinse, make sure to use warm water so that you can really open up your pores & let all the dirt, sweat, toxins & makeup come to the surface & prevent any clogging &/or breakouts.
Step 2: Toner!
After cleansing, I apply toner with a cotton pad. A lot of people skip toner, but there are actually tons of benefits that they are missing out on when they do (Read about them here).
In a nutshell. toner removes dirt & residues that are more deeply embedded in the skin & sometimes left behind by cleaners. It helps prep the skin for serums, moisturizers & any other treatments. Some toners may even address certain skin concerns, including anti-aging, acne & sensitivity, for example: the Sunday Riley Martian Toner is specifically designed for those with acne-prone skin (& I LOVE IT, BTW!).
Step 3: Exfoliator (2-3x / week)
My go-to & all-time fave exfoliator is the Peter Thomas Roth FirmX Peeling Gel (Read all about it here: Beauty Product Review: Peter Thomas Roth FIRMx Exfoliator a.k.a. Buh-Bye Dead Skin, Hello Freshness!).
I like to exfoliate 2-3 times a week (usually on Wednesdays & then at some point on the weekend!). P.S. I have combination skin!
Fun fact: Dermatologists recommend exfoliating 2-3 times a week if you have normal to combination skin & once a week if you have sensitive skin! Keep in mind that over-exfoliating can cause skin irritation & inflammation, which can actually lead to accelerated aging. AND NOBODY WANTS THAT, RIGHT?
You’ll know if you’re doing it too often if you find your skin is getting red, tender & sensitive OR: If you’re doing it too little if your complexion is rough & dull.
Another thing to consider that may have an impact on how often you need to exfoliate is the WEATHER. You may find that you can exfoliate more often during the warm & humid summer months & less often in the winter, when our skin is generally drier & easily irritated.
Step 4: Face Masks &/or Under-Eye Patches/Masks
I generally like to use a face mask on the nights that I exfoliate because you seriously cannot mask without proper exfoliation first! It makes sense when you think about it: how are all the nourishing ingredients in the mask going to penetrate if you’ve got a layer of dead skin cells on the surface blocking them?
Step 5: Essential Oils & Serums
Some nights or mornings, I’ll use essential oils or essential oil blends before applying my serum (or I’ll mix them with my serum), such as: Cocking Skincare chia seed oil, rosehip oil, sea buckthorn oil, Sunday Riley UFO oil or Biossance Rose & Vitamin C oil.
Serums are lightweight products that are nutrient-rich & contain very strong & potent ingredients in high concentrations. This is why it’s best to keep them as close to bare skin as possible to let them absorb into your skin & not overwhelm your skin with more ingredients found in moisturizers, before it’s had a chance to absorb the ones from your serum.
Like oil cleansers, when applying essential oils, blends or serums, it’s best to warm them up between the palms of your hands (BUT MAKE SURE YOUR HANDS ARE CLEAN) before applying them to your face to really activate all the ingredients & reap the full benefits from them. When applying them, make sure you aren’t rubbing them into your face in the same way you would rub a cream onto your hands or other parts of your body, but rather that you are gently patting them down onto your face.
I generally let my serum seep in to my skin for about 7-10 minutes before putting my moisturizer on; otherwise, it dilutes its benefits. During that time, I’ll get ready for bed, set my alarm, plug my phone in, brush my teeth or do any quick last minute things that I have left to do before bed. This way, I’m not standing around in the bathroom counting down the minutes until it’s eye cream & moisturizer time.
Step 6: Eye Care (Serums & Creams)
I used to apply my moisturizer before my eye care products, but after doing more research over the course of the past few months, I switched it up & I actually apply my eye creams before I apply my moisturizer.
Once my face serum has seeped into my skin, I go in with my eye serum & eye cream. I add a small amount of each one to the upper side of my hand & I blend them together. (At night, if I’m using my Kate Somerville Retinol Eye Cream, I’ll stick to just that & won’t do the eye serum). I apply my serum & eye cream concoction by gently patting my under-eye area until it’s fully seeped in & absorbed!
Step 7: Moisturizer
I’m a sucker for thick, creamy & rich moisturizers, whether it be in the morning or at night! I always apply my moisturizer in upwards motion, in the direction of my pores.
In the morning, I like to use water-based creams (but sometimes, I will use other creams such as Vitamin-C moisturizers or Egyptian magic, especially if my face is feeling overly dry). The reason I like to use water-based creams during the day is because they are very hydrating, refreshing & often contain ingredients such as hyaluronic acid (which really helps nourish your skin’s moisture barrier & retains up to 20x of your skin’s moisture!). While I still go for creams that are thicker & richer in texture, they are still somewhat more lightweight than other moisturizers that contain vitamin C, retinals or AHAs.
Another reason I like to use water-based creams during the day is because creams that contain vitamin C, retinols, hydroquinone, AHA’s or BHA’s make the skin more sensitive to sun (Obvi, I apply SPF either way, but if I can avoid knowingly increasing my skis sensitivity to the sun, why not?).
P.S. You can either apply your moisturizer & then sunscreen on top (OR to make your life easier, use a moisturizer with built-in sunscreen!).
At night, I like to use thicker, richer, more anti-aging moisturizers that would otherwise make my makeup slide right off if I wore it doing the day. These moisturizers usually contain stronger, more concentrated, potent & active ingredients, such as the ones mentioned above (vitamin C, retinas, AHA’s, BHA’s, etc.). But, it’s not as much of a concern because you can provide your skin with all the benefits of these powerful ingredients without having to worry about sun exposure!
P.S. At night, it’s best to use a moisturizer without sunscreen. (Chemical sunscreens, in particular, can be irritating.) This is also your chance to pull out all the anti-aging stops and use something richer that would otherwise make your makeup slide right off if you wore it during the day.
Step 8: Lips
Just like it’s important to care for your skin & under eyes, it’s also important to care for & hydrate your lips!
At night, I use the La Neige Lip Sleeping Mask, which is super rich, creamy & nourishing! I seriously cannot remember the last time I woke up with chapped lips ever since I started using this about six months ago!
During the day, I’ll apply a hydrating balm or lip serum; I’m not really picky about which one I use. I just really like to keep my lips hydrated throughout the day, especially during the cold winter months! (Check out my full post about winter skincare swaps here).
Step 9: Sunscreen
SPF, SPF, SPF! I know, you probably hear this ALL THE TIME, but I cannot stress enough the importance of a broad spectrum SPF in your everyday routine. The sun’s rays are the number one cause of premature skin aging. They can penetrate clouds, haze, smoke &their strength is magnified when reflected off snow or water.
You should use an SPF of at least 30, EVEN IN THE WINTER & EVEN ON CLOUDY DAYS! SPF of at least 30 should be used even in the winter and on cloudy days.
If you applied moisturizer before SPF, you will want to let your moisturizer dry for about 10 minutes before applying your sunscreen! BUT DON’T FORGET TO APPLY IT! It’s best to pat it on as opposed to rubbing it as sometimes the rubbing will cause it to pill or ball on the face.
When it comes to sunscreen, you want to look for MINERAL sunscreens as they are much safer for your health than chemical sunscreens & less likely to trigger skin reactions & heat-induced pigmentation. Zinc oxide & titanium dioxide work together by sitting on the skin’s surface to reflect away the light instead of penetrating into the blood stream (where chemical filters absorb UV energy). This means they’re ideal for sensitive, reactive or allergic skin types & they prevent the UVA &UVB radiation from penetrating the epidermis at all (since they REFLECT the sun’s rays as opposed to allowing them to PENETRATE). They also become effective immediately upon application.
- Mineral sunscreens sit on the surface, so they’re ideal for sensitive, reactive or allergic skin types.
- They reflect the sun’s rays so UVA and UVB radiation don’t penetrate the epidermis at all.
- They become effective immediately upon application.
When looking for a face sunscreen, KEEP THESE TIPS IN MIND & LOOK FOR THESE TYPES:
- High in ZINC. Zinc is the best & safest UVA & UBV filter. Sunscreens should contain at least 20% sins oxide, or 15% zinc oxide with 7.5% titanium dioxide.
- PUFA-free or low-PUFA. Polyunsaturated oils, a.k.a. PUFAs, oxidize with heat & light, generating harmful free radicals & cellular damage. Ideally, sunscreens should be PUFA-free, but if they are LOW in PUFA, you should be good to go! (How do you know if they’re LOW in PUFA? Check the ingredients label. If they’re not listed within the first 10ish ingredients, the product should only contain traces of them).
- AHA-free & vitamin A free. AHA & vitamin A derivatives may increase UV sensitivity (which is why it’s so important to apply SPF in the first place as a lot of moisturizers &/or serums will contain these ingredients), so they shouldn’t be present in your sunscreen in significant amounts.
- Silicone-free or low-silicone. Their film-forming action can be comedogenic (a product that has a tendency to block pores & potentially promote acne) & dehydrating & interferes with the skin’s natural regulatory process.
- Non-whitening. This is more of an aesthetic thing, but the sunscreen you look for should contain micronized forms of zinc oxide & titanium dioxide, because their smaller particle sizes are less likely to leave a white cast.
My go-to sunscreens are by:
- Jouviance SPF30 100% Mineral Sunscreen Cream
- Drunk Elephant Umbra Sheer Daily Physical Defense SPF30
- Clinique Broad Spectrum SPF 30 Sunscreen Oil-Free Face Cream
- AND… BEST BEST BEST: My Origins Tinted Moisturizer, which gets the job done at giving my face a beautiful dewy medium-coverage finish, while nourishing it with ginseng & caffeine, AND CONTAINING SPF40!!!!!!
Step 10: Face Mist
Last but not least, in the morning (& not really at night or before bed unless my skin is really dry), I’ll spritz a nourishing face mist that contains essential oils, vitamin C or collagen. This helps wake up my face (& wake me up!) & I let it seep into my skin (without rubbing it in).