Scrubs, serums, and lotions, oh my! If your bathroom cabinet looks like a drugstore beauty aisle, you're probably confused about which skincare product should be applied first, which should be used last, and what to do in between the two. Surprisingly, simplified skincare does make a difference.
The viscosities of various anti-aging creams and other products can prevent each other's absorption, meaning you should apply them in a particular order and at certain times of day for optimal effect.
First Things First
Cleansing should be the first step in a beauty routine because it removes adherent buildup and dead skin cells and optimally prepares the skin to absorb consecutive treatments.
Did you know your body works hard to renew and regenerate itself during the night and uses your skin to detoxify? This is why your skin is dirty in the morning.
You want to remove those toxins by gently washing your face in the AM and preparing it to protect you from environmental toxins. However, you must be more thorough at night, and remove your makeup and all of the environmental toxins that build up during the day.
Sometimes a double wash is recommended, starting with micellar water and then with your skin-specific cleanser. If you use an exfoliating scrub or acid peel, it's best to save these for nighttime because they can cause slight irritation or redness.
It is generally recommended to exfoliate at night 1-2 days a week and then nourish your skin for optimal regeneration. Exfoliating helps the pores open up to absorb future treatments. Piling more products on top of the already sensitive skin may worsen the situation.
Minimize and Multitask
Dermatologists recommend resisting the urge to apply several formulas at one time. Three is plenty. More than that can cause dilution of the products. Or worse, an interaction or neutralization of some of the ingredients in all of those creams and serums. Simplified skincare is best for many, including those with sensitive skin. Or an interaction or neutralization of some ingredients in all those creams and serums.
One way to get the desired effects without overdoing it is to use anti-aging skincare products that serve multiple purposes. For example, a moisturizer with SPF and antioxidants will fight wrinkles while hydrating and fending off the sun's harmful rays.
Anti-Aging Product Application
Order Matters: As a simple rule of thumb, always apply thinnest to thickest and be sure each layer dries completely before applying the next.
- Serums are first in line – these generally contain ingredients like peptides, growth factors, or hyaluronic acid, which work by sending cell signals deep into the skin to support the skin's function. Hyaluronic acid will often enhance penetration and avoid irritation from potent skincare ingredients. You will want these actives to penetrate as deeply into the skin as possible.
- Protective Vitamin C in serum or gel comes next in the morning, while renewing Retinol gel or cream comes next in the evening.
- The moisturizer comes next to lock in the serum and maximize effectiveness. This step includes an eye-specific moisturizer – many women prefer a serum for the day and heavier eye cream at night.
- Sunscreen is the final touch. You will want sunscreen that has some moisturizing properties if you are dry or it is winter. Some excellent sunscreens also have a tint to double as a makeup base. You can find these in oil-free and moisturizing versions. Always look for a product that is SPF 30+ containing zinc oxide for full-spectrum coverage without the chemicals.
Beauty Routine Exceptions
To minimize irritation, it's okay for those with ultra-sensitive skin to apply a light, gentle moisturizer with Hyaluronic Acid after your serum. While the lotion may slightly reduce the serum's potency, the tradeoff is worth it to keep skin calm.
Retinol is one of the best anti-aging skincare products available and is also available in prescription strength (as Retin-A). Suppose this youth booster is on your list of favorites; before bed is an excellent time to apply it.
Using a moisturizer before applying can minimize any drying effects of the treatment. Just make sure to use one that's more like a cream than a thin lotion. The thicker texture will seal the treatment more effectively without diluting it.
Once all of the components are in place, you may apply makeup. Unfortunately, neglecting the most delicate facial skin can be easy – the lips. Our SPF 15 Lip Balm is the perfect way to finish off your morning beauty routine. It ensures your lips are protected from the sun's harmful UV rays.
So many anti-aging products, so little time! Just remember that more isn't always better. Simplified skincare routines consist of three products or less. More products are often just more confusing and more irritating.
Keep it simple. Rotate your skincare routine as needed with your lifestyle and season changes.
About the Author
This article has been reviewed by Dr. Jen Haley, a board-certified dermatologist.
Skincare Facts Questions & Answers:
Every day, we get many questions about common skin problems. Here are answers to common issues and some fun facts. Sometimes just slightly adjusting your skincare routine can have a profound effect.
Q: I have dehydrated skin, and sometimes a regular moisturizer is not enough? What would give my skin the moisture it craves?
A: Consider adding beauty oil before your moisturizer for complexions that are overly dry due to age or climate. This added step will give your skin the hydration it needs and help it stay supple throughout the day.
Make a DIY mask from bananas and avocados once a week to restore your skin's natural moisture level. Try to avoid ingredients that can zap your skin of its moisture, like green clay and acids.
Q: What is my skin type, and how do I find products that will work for me?
A: Check out our facial care solutions section to determine your skin type. At the bottom of each page, you will find recommended products for your complexion.
Q: It is humid in the summer. Do I need to use a moisturizer?
A: Yes, you need to give your skin moisture, even in humid climates. However, there are alternatives. For example, instead of a traditional oil-based moisturizer, try a hydrator. Hydrators are Hyaluronic Acid gels that provide excellent moisture without oil.
For more skincare facts on common concerns, visit our skin-concerns pages.