By Jen Larson
We’ve all been there. A drawer full of amazing products – SPF. Serum. Toner. Day Cream. Night Cream. Oil. But which one comes first, last, night or day?
If it’s confusing for me, an actual beauty writer, it’s actually confusing. I realized my lack of knowledge when I surprised my mom with an arsenal of products that ran the gambit. She was thrilled and instantly stumped. “What do I put on first…or does it not really matter?” I stalled her with wine and scampered off to do some research.
Turns out, it does matter. Applying things in the proper order helps skin get the fullest benefits from each product. Some products are designed to keep things out, while others are all about letting the nourishing ingredients in. And remember to let each step have its moment to settle in so products don’t pill.
Let’s break it down once and for all and put your skincare routine in order.
The Golden Rule is always lightest to heaviest, thinnest to thickest. Those that penetrate first and those that sit on top of skin last. That said…huh?
1. Daytime Routine
Step 1: Cleanse
Choose a gentle cleanser that’s right for your skin type. A clean slate is the best place to start.
I like… Peet Rivko Gentle Cleanser
Step 2: Tone
Toners have come a long way from the harsh versions we used to know, and they definitely help increase the penetration of serum (spoiler alert, that’s Step 3) and balance your skin’s PH after cleansing.
The kindest toner… Indie Lee CoQ10 Toner
Step 3: Serum
While skin’s still damp from your toner, apply your serum for maximum absorption. Serum should always be applied before moisturizer because they tend to be targeted toward specific skincare concerns – brightening, acne control, inflammation, etc. Let your serum do its thing before topping with your favorite next steps.
My go-to… Susanne Kaufmann Hyaluron Serum
Step 4: Oil!
Most of us assume that oil is heavier than moisturizer and should be applied later, but oils actually absorb into skin while moisturizers stay on top to protect. So, think oil before moisturizer.
Step 5: Moisturizer
These go on last(ish) to “lock in” moisture and create a barrier against the elements. These are also best applied while skin is still damp from previous step to lock in much-needed hydration.
My fave… January Labs Revitalizing Day Cream
Step 6: SPF
ALWAYS. The most important final step of your daytime routine should go on last to protect from harsh UV rays. Makes sense…now.
I love… Suntegrity (you choose which one)
2. Nighttime Routine
Your Nighttime Routine may differ slightly so let’s talk the perfect pre-zzzz routine.
Wash away every trace of your day. You can choose to use a makeup remover first or find a cleanser that does double-duty.
Every night… One Love Organics Vitamin B Oil Cleanser
Step 2: Tone
Everyone may not need a toner twice a day but if you choose to tone, apply just as you did in the am to prep skin for your nighttime serum
Smells amazing… African Botanics Rose Treatment Essence
Step 3: Eye Cream
Wake up with refreshed, smooth, puff-free peepers. Let your favorite eye cream regenerate the delicate eye area while you snooze. Apply these before any treatment products to protect skin from potential irritation.
Saves me… Goldfaden MD Bright Eyes
Step 4: Serum…aka, retinol.
Every dermatologist recommends this super ingredient to drastically improve skin’s…ummm, everything. Ours are uber-effective, yet gentle enough to make you forget what you’ve heard about irritation. Apply nightly or a few times a week as needed and get ready for your close-up.
Serious game-changer… Marie Veronique Gentle Retinol Night Serum
If you don’t want a retinol, try this… Kypris Moonlight Catalyst
Step 5: Moisturizer or Night Cream
Use the same daytime moisturizer, or choose a heavier product to prevent water evaporation as you sleep. Wake up with softer, plumped and hydrated skin. This can also the perfect place to add your favorite face oil. It’s ok to go to bed glowing.
Wake up like this… Alpyn Beauty PlantGenius Melt Moisturizer
Step 6: Overnight Hydrating Mask
We all love a mask, so if time permits (and there’s a Sex & The City marathon on), treat yourself to a deep dive into hydration with an overnight mask.
My indulgence… Tata Harper Hydrating Floral Mask
The good news
Once you nail the steps, your skincare routine is actually pretty simple…and logical. Be sure to use the rules of layering as your guide while also listening to your skin. It speaks volumes “I have a pimple.” “I need a heavier night cream tonight” “Mask please.” Answer accordingly and layer your way.
Mom’s wine glass is empty. Off to act like I knew it all…all along.