Here’s the Exact Order Your Skincare Routine Should Follow Day and Night

Ah, skincare. For some of us it’s a mandatory ritual. For others, it’s an occasional luxury. Whether we like it or not, following a good skincare routine is essential for all of us. A good skincare routine is crucial to balancing the pH and overall health of our skin, and it has the added benefit of helping us feel more “put together.” But does your skincare routine follow the right steps?

I’ll give you a hint – it probably doesn’t. Skincare is a tricky beast. Our skin is incredibly absorbent and it’s so crucial to make sure you’re applying the right products in the right order, so they fully absorb into your skin. Sound overwhelming? That’s why we’re here! Keep reading – one of the most important and most misunderstood routines is about to get a little easier.

There are a few general rules of thumb to keep in mind when it comes to your skincare routine. One helpful tip is that you generally want to apply products in order of consistency, from thin to thick, and you want to apply the products that are most important for your skin to absorb first. Your day and night routines (yes, you need to do both!) will follow most of the same steps, with just a couple important differences. And since it’s almost cold weather season, you’ll want to take that into account with your beauty and skincare routine — you can find some great tips on winter skincare and beauty here!


Step 1 (Day and Night): Cleanser

This is really a no-brainer: you must always always ALWAYS remove your makeup as the first step of your skincare routine. All the product in the world won’t do a thing for your skin unless it’s applied to a clean slate.

Luckily for you, makeup removal products are abundant and easy to find. Just make sure to stay away from the ones with harsh chemicals (ahem, makeup wipes) as they can be too harsh for your skin. We recommend a cleansing balm or micellar water instead. These products are much gentler and will leave your skin supple. Once your face is totally makeup-less, follow up with a gentle cleanser designed for your skin type.


Optional Step (2-3 Nights/Week): Exfoliate

This step is optional because it’s not necessary to do this every day — in fact, it’s better to not exfoliate at all than to overdo it. The purpose of exfoliation is to remove dead skin cells to renew the skin, but overdoing it will strip your skin of essential oils and protection and cause more harm than good. Exfoliation products also tend to be harsher for the skin so make sure you are using a gentle one designed for everyday use. The most you should exfoliate is 3x a week.


Optional Step (2-3 Nights/Week): Face Mask

Like an exfoliator, face masks don’t need to be an everyday part of your skincare routine. Consider this step to be a special one when you need to pamper yourself or a pick-me-up. A face mask can serve many purposes depending on what kind you choose. There are at home chemical peel masks that should be used sparingly (and make sure you actually need it!), clay masks that are used to exfoliate and clear pores, sheet masks that are soothing and hydrating, and even DIY masks that are packed with nutrients. If you are already exfoliating with a scrub (see previous step), don’t exfoliate again with a clay/mud mask. Instead, add back hydration with a homemade honey mask for example.


Step 2 (Day and Night): Toner

Toners have gotten kind of a bad rep because they used to be laden with chemicals that were super harsh on the skin. Fortunately, that’s no longer the case! Modern toners are gentle and function to prepare your skin to absorb all the nutrients you’re about to feed it by balancing the pH. Toners are also designed with several different skin types in mind, so make sure you pick the toner that’s best for your skin.

Tip: DO NOT use a toner with alcohol in it! This is harsh and will dry out your skin instead of balance it.


Step 3 (Day or Night): Spot Treatment

You shouldn’t apply spot treatments too often because they tend to be strong and can irritate your skin if used frequently. If you do have sensitive skin and you use retinol at night (we’ll talk about retinol later!) try applying your spot treatment in the morning.

Spot treatments should be dabbed sparingly only on problem areas of your face – areas with acne, scars, or dark spots. Check the ingredients of your spot treatment and don’t be afraid to consult a dermatologist if you aren’t sure what to use, especially if your skin is very sensitive. Most spot treatments are formulated with salicylic acid to combat acne. After you dab your spot treatment on those pesky areas, let it dry fully before moving to the next step.


Step 4 (Day and Night): Serum/Essence

By now, your skin is probably thirsty and begging for some nourishment! This is when a good serum or essence will come in handy. Facial serums (especially ones rich in antioxidants) deliver vital nutrients to your skin to help keep it in tip-top shape. Serums and essences can be interchangeable. Both serve the purpose of hydrating, brightening, and rejuvenating. Essences are typically lighter and thinner in consistency, and should be applied before a serum if both are part of your skincare routine (although this isn’t necessary).

Serums are incredibly concentrated treatments rich in nutrients, which is why you should apply your serum just after cleansing and prepping your skin – you want to absorb all the nutrient-rich goodness you can! If you’re confused about what kind of serum or essence to incorporate, we highly recommend ones that contain Vitamin C and/or Hyaluronic acid.


Step 5 (Day and Night): Eye Cream

Wait, I need separate moisturizers for my eyes and my face? Hate to break it to you, but you do. Eye creams are a little lighter and thinner than face creams, and are specially formulated to help retain elasticity in the skin around your eyes. If eye puffiness is a problem for you, you can keep your eye cream in the fridge – the lower temperature will help reduce swelling.


Step 6 (Day and Night): Moisturizer

If you want anything you just did (which was a lot!) to have any lasting effect, you have to moisturize. Contrary to popular belief, moisturizer will not make you break out and will not make your skin oily. Actually, a good moisturizer acts as a barrier between your skin and the harsh, unforgiving outside world: it locks in all the nourishment you just gave your skin and keeps foreign particles from staking claim to your face.

Moisturizers are especially important after exfoliating as that can leave your face feeling tingly and dry (you know that tight feeling?). These days a lot of moisturizers are formulated with SPF as well, so you’ll get extra sun protection. We recommend a water-based or gel-based moisturizer for oilier skin types as these creams are lighter and fast absorbing.


Step 7 (Night Only): Retinol

Retinol is super cool – it helps speed up skin cell reproduction, and will result in smoother, fresher skin when used over time. It also helps to smooth out the general complexion of your skin (goodbye, dark spots!), prevent breakouts, and brighten your skin. If you’re new to retinol, ease this step into your skincare routine slowly. We recommend starting once or twice a week until you know how it affects your skin.

Retinol, retinoids, and AHA’s are concentrated chemicals that produce amazing results when used correctly. Too much of each ingredient and layered with the wrong ingredients can create adverse effects. Check out this article to get a better understanding of how to use these 3 products.


Step 8 (Day and Night): Face Oil

Face oil is the luxurious finishing touch to your skincare routine. It provides the final seal over everything you’ve just done, and prevents moisturizer from evaporating from your face too quickly. Face oil is another product made with skin type in mind, so make sure you buy one based on the particular needs of your skin. This step isn’t essential but it feels GREAT and will leave your skin glowing!

Tip: This is a good time to do a facial massage exercise since the oil acts like a lubricant so there will be no tugging or pulling. You can also use a beauty tool to massage in your serums and oils.


Step 9 (Day): Sunscreen

I lied – there’s actually one more step to your daily skincare routine. Sunscreen is a bit different from the rest of the products on this list because it doesn’t contain nutrients that your skin needs to absorb. Instead, sunscreen protects your face from harmful UV rays. Make sure you’re using at least SPF 30 on your face daily. Even if your moisturizer has SPF, we still recommend using sunscreen as the final step.



And there you have it – a foolproof skincare routine for flawless skin! What are your holy grail skincare products? Have any questions? Let us know below!

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