There is no shortage of skincare products and treatments that promise a healthy, glowing complexion. Picking the right products is important for your skin type, but the experts say that it is equally important to follow the proper skincare routine order rules.
Applying your beauty products in the correct order ensures your skin receives the full benefits of what you’re using. The most important thing about your skincare order is absorption. Applying a moisturizer before your serum will cause the serum to not be absorbed. This is a waste of money as your products will not only not work, but they may also create other skin issues. Think of it like getting dressed. Would you walk around having put your bra on over your top? Your beauty routine follows the same idea.
The general rule of thumb is to apply your products from thinnest to thickest. This is the case regardless of your skin type and how many products you’re using. Everything starts with a cleanser that primes your skin to absorb the rest of your regimen’s hydrating and nourishing goodness.
The most essential part of any skincare routine is cleansing. If you skip the cleansing, you’re leaving oil and impurities on your skin which will prevent any products from properly absorbing. Make sure to thoroughly cleanse your face with either a single or double cleanse (such as with an oil cleanser), but be sure to use products that won’t dry out your skin. You don’t want a “squeaky-clean” feeling as this indicates that you have over-cleansed and drawn out your skin’s natural moisture.
Patting your face with a towel is an easy way to ensure that you have removed all of your makeup.
Toners tend to be a polarizing beauty product. Women over 50 often ask whether or not this step is optional. It is really up to you and your skin concerns. Cleansers are now much more gentle and pH-appropriate and do not require a toner after cleansing. The main purpose of a toner is to balance your skin’s pH before applying the next products of your routine. Some toners can hydrate with hyaluronic acid or glycerin, brighten with antioxidants like vitamin C, exfoliate with fruit enzymes or chemical exfoliants, and treat skin issues like acne with essential oils or salicylic acid. If you do use a toner, you should apply it on damp skin right after cleansing.
3. Eye Cream
Applying eye cream is another optional step that varies depending on your preference and skin concerns. These are mainly used to treat conditions like dark circles and puffy eyes, and some work to hydrate the area. Look for ingredients like vitamin C and retinol for dark circles, caffeine and antioxidants to combat puffiness, and skin hydration like squalane, hyaluronic acid, and ceramides to moisturize.
The skin around the eye is thinner than the skin on the rest of your face. Apply eye creams before other actives as the skin around the eyes are more delicate and prone to irritation.
4. Serums & Treatments
After applying an eye cream (if that’s in your routine), start applying your serums from the thinnest consistency to the thickest. These are products that contain concentrated amounts of an active ingredient. Vitamin C serums are the most common serum found as the high Vitamin C levels help to improve your skin’s complexion and restore youthfulness. Anti-inflammatory agents like anti-oxidants, retinol, or peptides are also great serums for healthy skin. Depending on your skin’s condition and concerns, this step may consist of one or a number of actives — which is why it’s important to get the order right.
It is important for these potent ingredients to be in direct contact with the skin. They can effect change in the way that they need to by being absorbed into the skin. Applying treatment products on top of layers of moisturizer or over sunscreen for example would blunt their effect and defeat the purpose. If you’re using more than one potent ingredient, you may want to space them out in order to prevent overloading your skin and cause irritation. Stay away from Vitamin C and other acidic ingredients during your morning routine. They will react with the UV rays of the sun causing your skin to burn.
Hyaluronic acid products should be applied first. It helps your skin tolerate stronger active ingredients like retinol. If your routine consists of various serums or treatments with active ingredients, you can always consult your dermatologist. Do not use products that should not be mixed.
Seal your skin and moisture within it in with a moisturizer. A water-based formula (which is good for oily skin types), occlusive formulas, which are oil-based, or an emollient formula, aka thicker creams and balms. Moisturizers usually have occlusive properties like certain oils in the formula, so applying them before serums can slow the penetration of the active ingredients in your serums. If your skin is feeling extra dry or dehydrated, a thicker cream in the evening to help prevent water loss overnight.
For a daytime routine, a moisturizer should be followed by sunscreen, or you can combine the two steps by using a moisturizing SPF. Whichever route you choose, this last step is non-negotiable. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, dermatologists recommend using a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 and reapplying every two hours.
That said, the order of application varies if you’re using a mineral (those with zinc or titanium dioxide-based formulas) or chemical sunscreen. A mineral SPF goes on last as these are like shields, and just block and bounce light away from your face.
I’m a big advocate for staying in and practicing self-care. During the winter months when it’s too cold to do much of, well, anything outdoors, take care of yourself. One of my favorite wintertime self-care practices is soaking in a bath. They’re simple, they’re accessible, and yet, they have the ability to feel like the MOST indulgent thing. High levels of anti-oxidants and salts draw out stress and toxins.
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