The world of skincare and beauty can be daunting when you don’t know exactly what you’re dealing with.
From moisturizers, to face masks, toners, cleansers and night creams, it can be hard to understand what goes where and in what order.
Luckily for any lost souls out there, Cosmopolitan.com beauty editor Chloe Metzger has put together a guide revealing the proper order that you should follow when using skincare products.
Routine: Skincare experts have revealed the best order in which to apply your products in both the morning and evening, in order to make them as effective as possible (stock image)
A study carried out by Statista in 2017 revealed that 52 per cent of U.S. consumers surveyed used skincare products every day.
Additionally, 65 per cent of women said they use products every day compared to just 37 per cent of men.
Another survey revealed that 54 per cent of U.S. respondents reported that they use skincare products every single day.
But with so many different products available, it can be hard to know where to begin when it comes to taking care of your skin.
Step number one, for both morning and night, experts agree, is cleansing.
Toning comes second, and is followed by serums. It is then recommended to apply an eye cream and spot treatment, if necessary.
Up next is moisturizer, followed by face oil and sunscreen with a high SPF for the day time, or retinol and face oil in the evening.
The exact order you should apply your A.M. skincare
4. Eye cream
5. Spot treatment
7. Face oil
The exact order you should apply your P.M. skincare
4. Eye cream
5. Spot treatment
8. Face oil
Cleansing the skin is the first step in removing any dirt, makeup, or grime that has gathered on your skin throughout the day – as well as helping to remove any oil that has built up overnight.
Begin by splashing your face with water before going in with your cleanser of choice and lathering up to leave your skin feeling fresh, clear of dirt, and ready for the next steps in your routine.
One note though; taking off makeup and cleansing should really be considered as two separate steps, in order to ensure you’re really getting the most out of your cleanser. For example, try using an oil-based cleanser – like the Dermalogica PreCleanse ($45) – to break down any makeup, before going in with a cleanser of your choice.
Dermatologist Dr. Susan Cox, a partnering derm at Higher Education Skincare, recently told DailyMail.com that you should aim to wash your face for 30 seconds in the morning and the evening to rid your skin of ‘dirt and impurities’.
In terms of the best times to cleanse, Dr. Cox explained that you should really make sure to wash your face every morning and evening, because the process removes different dirt each time.
‘In the evening, cleansing the skin removes makeup, oil, bacteria and pollution while your morning cleanse will remove bacteria from saliva, your pillowcase and built-up oil,’ she concluded.
Our favorite for all skin types, including those with a sensitive complexion, is the First Aid Beauty Face Cleanser ($21), however if you want something more refreshing, try the Garnier SkinActive Clean+ Invigorating Daily Scrub ($7.99) to really perk you up in the morning.
When it comes to toners, which can work for protecting dry skin or treating acne, experts recommend investing in a [product that is specific to your skin type.
Essentially toners are a key linking step in the skincare process, helping to get your complexion ready for the rest of your routine after you’ve cleansed.
Dr Gohara, a dermatologist at Yale University, told Cosmopolitan.com: ‘[Toners] are essentially just priming your face for ingredients to be better absorbed later on.’
When it comes to picking the best product for your skin type, anyone with acne-prone skin should consider choosing a toner that contains BHA or AHA (beta hydroxy acid or alpha hydroxy acid) in its formula, both of which prevent breakouts, dissolve blackheads and help to unclog pores.
When it comes to all other skin types, opting for a hydrating toner is your best bet.
If you want something refreshing in the morning, try a spray toner, like the Heritage Store Rosewater & Glycerin Spray ($10), which helps to hydrate the skin, while also giving it a bit of a morning boost courtesy of the spritz. Bonus points if you keep it in the refrigerator.
According to Dr. Gohara, serums are ‘essentially just shots of extremely concentrated nutrients, hydrators, and antioxidants’, and they are aimed at delivering these ingredients directly into the skin.
This makes them great at targeting specific skincare concerns, whether it’s a lack of hydration – in which case you might want to choose a serum that contains hyaluronic acid – dull skin – try something with vitamin C – or acne – pick a serum with AHAs or BHAs.
On the whole, this concentrated collection of ingredients can make serums one of the more expensive products in your skincare line-up, however it is well worth finding and investing in at least one that will truly tackle your skincare woes.
4. Eye Cream
According to New York City-based dermatologist Shereene Idriss, there is a trick for remembering which order your skincare products should run.
‘The rule of thumb when applying skincare is to apply the lightest first and the heaviest last, since thinner products can’t penetrate thicker products,’ she told Cosmopolitan.com.
Eye creams tend to be light in consistency, and for this reason should be applied before heavy moisturizers and face oils. Generally the skin around the eye should be treated with extra care and attention, because it tends to be one of the thinnest.
Therefore, think delicately when applying your chosen eye cream; if you’re using a serum or cream-based formula, use your ring finger to gently tap the product into the skin, while in the morning, using a product with a metal ball applicator can help to brighten the eye area, while providing a delightfully cooling sensation.
5. Spot Treatments
Spot treatments certainly aren’t for everyone, and if you are lucky enough to be working with fairly clear skin, this step can be skipped.
For those who have a few blemishes to zap however, this step should come after eye cream, but before moisturizers and face oils – which can come as a shock to some, because it is generally believed that spot treatments should be applied as the final step in the routine.
However, most spot treatments tend to have a lighter consistency than any retinol, moisturizer or face oil, and therefore need to come before any of those steps.
When applying a spot treatment, take care to only apply the product to the area where you have a blemish; these products can be quite drying on the skin, and are intended for targeted treatment, rather than an all-over application.
The next step in both the morning and evening skincare routines? Moisturizers, which are especially essential during the harsh, cold winter months during which skin can become dry and flaky.
Now, there are a world of options when it comes to moisturizers, so take the time to pick a product that suits your skin type.
And if you’re feeling in the mood to expand your product line-up, it’s worth thinking about adding a specific night cream into your routine; these products tend to be a bit heavier in consistency, allowing your skin to soak up plenty of hydration while you catch some much-needed zzz’s.
If you’re one of those blemish-prone people applying spot treatment in the previous step, don’t be tempted to miss moisturizer out – it’s a necessary step for everyone, not just those with dry skin.
Step six, moisturizer (AM): It Cosmetics Confidence in a Cream (left, $48), Rodial Dragon’s Blood Velvet Cream (right, $85)
Step six, moisturizer (PM): Laneige Water Sleeping Mask (left, $25), Tatcha Luminous Dewy Skin Concentrate (right, $110)
7. Retinol – PM
When it comes to your evening routine, the next step after moisturizer is a retinol – although most skincare experts agree this step is only really necessary if you are aged 25 and above.
Also known as vitamin A, retinol stimulates the production of new skin cells, and therefore works as a powerful anti-aging tool, as well as helping to reduce the appearance of dark spots and blemish scars over time.
Retinoids ‘sink into your skin to speed up cell turnover, causing your body to churn out fresher, smoother, less-wrinkled skin over time,’ Dr. Gohara explained to Cosmopolitan.com.
Depending on your skin type, you’ll need to choose a specific retinoid that works for your and your needs; retinol can cause irritation to sensitive skin, and to those who have only just started using it for the first time. This irritation can also occur if you use a formula that is too strong.
Speaking to Vogue.com, dermatologist Whitney Bowe suggested ‘starting off with a pea-sized amount of a low percentage over-the-counter formula’. She explained that you should use this product ‘two times per week’ to enable your skin to get use to it, then slowly increase that frequency over time.
Just ensure that your evening retinol has a morning partner: SPF. Retinoids make the skin incredibly sensitive to UV rays, and therefore it is essential to wear sunscreen on your face in the mornings, after applying a retinol in the evenings.
8. Face Oils
Step number eight for your evening routine – but step seven for the morning – is face oils, which can range from more expensive high-end oils to cheaper drug store finds.
While people on the oily-spectrum might feel intimidated by lobbing oil all over the skin, there are specific oils created for oilier skin that won’t clog pores and leave your face looking greasy.
Dr Gohara told the publication: ‘Oils can easily penetrate moisturizers, serums, and treatments, but no products can penetrate an oil, which means they need to be applied last.’
Dr Idriss added: ‘Face oils are occlusive, meaning they seal in all of the ingredients and moisture you just applied to your face to keep them from evaporating as quickly’.
9. Sunscreen – AM
Last, but certainly not least, is sunscreen.
No matter what time of the year it is, applying an SPF to your skin is absolutely essential in preventing it from being damaged by harmful UV rays.
Lightweight sunscreens that are ideal for wearing under makeup on a day to day basis include Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry Touch Sunblock, which ranged from SPF 35 to SPF 100+.
Another good option is the Skinceuticals Physical Matte UV Defense Sunscreen SPF 50.