Skincare order confusing you? Here’s the correct routine
Whether you prefer seven steps or a couple, we're here to make sure you're using your products in the right order
Daytime skincare order
First things first – wash your face morning (and night) as your first step, using your best cleanser and a hand-hot flannel or muslin cloth.
If you enjoy using your best toner and it your skin has no problem with it, do so after cleanser, but whether it’s necessary is widely debated. ‘I’m not a big fan of toners as they often irritate the skin,’ says consultant dermatologist Dr Justine Kluk.
‘Not all skin types need a toner,’ adds Kate Bancroft, founder of Face the Future. ‘Sometimes a hydrating spray is a better option.’
Toners that contain AHAs or BHAs (like glycolic acid or salicylic acid) are a different story, as they are an exfoliating step in your routine. These may help if you struggle with breakouts, clogged pores or slow skin cell turnover, depending on the acid.
In the morning, it’s a good idea to use something antioxidant-based, like vitamin C serums, as these will offer additional protection against pollution. Hydrating serums can be used at any time of day; skincare brand The Inkey List recommends using treatment serums first and hydrating serums (like hyaluronic acid) second.
Depending on your skin type, be sure to choose the best moisturiser for dry skin, moisturizer for oily skin or moisturiser for combination skin
Sun protection should be used every day, especially if you use acids and/or retinol in your routine; view our edits of the best SPF moisturisers and best sun creams for recommendations
Evening skincare order
Start by removing make-up and washing the day’s grease and grime away, double cleansing if you wish, again using your trusty muslin cloth or flannel.
A frequently asked question is, where do the best face masks fit into the cleanse-tone-moisturise shebang? The short answer is after cleansing, before all your other skincare steps, about twice weekly.
‘Masks, if used, can be applied once or twice a week,’ says Dr Kluk. ‘I would suggest applying a mask after cleansing in the evening, then following with the rest of your usual skincare routine.’
Retinol (not to be used with AHA/BHAs)
Retinol is known for being a pretty potent potion, so on the days you apply it, swap out any acid-containing products to avoid any reactions. It can make your skin more sensitive to the sun so always apply in the evening and use SPF the next day.
Depending on your skin’s sensitivity, you may want to avoid any acids at all on the days you’re using retinol (more on why later) and if you’re new to it, be sure to introduce it gradually and begin with a low concentration.
‘Following retinol with any other topical skincare will dilute the active ingredient, vitamin A, and reduce its effectiveness,’ Kate adds.
Again referring to The Inkey List’s earlier advice, apply treatment serums first – this includes retinol – and hydrating serums second.
Finish your nightly routine with your usual moisturiser or the best night cream for your skin type. And if your skin is particularly dry, layer an oil over the top to lock in moisture.
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