The Best Order To Apply Your Skincare Routine: AM & PM

It seems like an extensive skincare and beauty routine is all the rage right now (hello, have you seen Vogue’s 38-Step Beauty Routine?) with the growing popularity of K-Beauty and other skincare products that encourage a multi-step routine. But did you know, less may actually be more when it comes to skincare? 

It’s true. While long skincare routines and tons of products get a lot of hype on social media, it’s actually the most basic skincare routines that have proven to be more effective in the long run.

At minimum, your skincare routine should include a cleansing step, a targeted treatment, and a hydration / moisturizing step, with an added step in the mornings to protect against sun damage, using sunscreen. 

Not all skincare routines are created equal, though. The order in which you apply your skincare routine matters too. Some ingredients shouldn’t be combined in the same routine, some need to be layered on top of one another for maximum absorption, and some simply should be used in the morning or at night only. 

Keep reading to see our thoughts on how many steps should be in your skincare routine and the correct way to apply them for maximum effectiveness!

How many steps should be in your skincare routine?

While a 38-step skincare routine might seem tempting if you love beauty and self-care, it’s not necessary, at all. As we mentioned earlier, at the very least, your skincare routine should have a cleansing step to remove dirt, grime and pollution, a treatment step to target your specific skin care concerns, and a final hydrating step to lock in hydration and moisture. And of course, we can’t forget to apply SPF everyday to protect your skin from sun damage!

That said, it can be fun to add in more steps to your skincare routine as needed - a beauty treatment here, a weekly mask there, and even skincare tools like a gua sha or facial roller can add to the overall experience. 

We suggest starting with less steps and building your way up to another step to your skincare routine as needed, which we’ll explore later in this post.

Why the order of ingredients matters

The order you apply your skincare routine matters for many reasons. Some ingredients don’t mix well with others. Some skincare steps, like cleansing, are essential prep steps for the rest of your skincare routine. Also, some skincare products, such as oils, should always be the last step of your routine because they act as a sealant, “locking” moisture into your skin, meaning nothing else put on top of the oil could penetrate the skin. And of course, you wouldn’t want to apply cleanser after moisturizer - it just wouldn’t make sense! It can be confusing at first, but once you get into the swing of your own skincare routine and understand why each product needs to be applied and at what point, it will be easy to remember. 

The ideal order to apply skincare products and what each step does

We’re going to break down each step of a skincare routine and where each product should go so you’re always applying them in the correct order. Not every step is necessary, of course, but it’s good to know so you can properly layer them and get the most out of your products.

Morning Routine

1. Cleanse

An essential step in any skincare routine. You should always cleanse your skin before doing the rest of your routine. Cleansing the skin is a way to remove any pollution, dirt, grime, makeup or SPF that’s been sitting on your face all day. Without cleansing, your skincare products won’t be able to penetrate deeper into your skin, making them ineffective.
2. Tone
A great step for oily and acne-prone skin types, a toner preps your skin for the rest of your skincare routine, removing any leftover dirt or grime that you might have missed in your cleansing step. It also helps condition and soften the skin for a clean, soft feel!
3. Treatment/Serum
A treatment that’s targeted for your specific skincare concerns is a must-have in any skincare routine. Experiencing acne or clogged pores? A chemical exfoliant or blemish treatment is a must-have. Dark spots or hyperpigmentation? An antioxidant such as Vitamin C can help. Or maybe you’re trying to treat signs of aging like fine lines and wrinkles? A firming serum will do wonders for you. We prefer to use an antioxidant serum in the mornings, like a Vitamin C and follow with a different serum in the evening routine.
As you can see, there’s a serum or treatment out there for any type of skin concern - you just have to find what works for you!
4. Eye Cream or treatment
Prep your under-eyes for makeup and brighten the area with a hydrating eye cream or treatment mask.

5. Moisturize and Hydrate

After you’ve applied your targeted treatment for your skin concerns, it’s time to hydrate your skin to leave it soft and moisturized. Oily skin types do best with a lightweight moisturizer, while aging and dry skin will appreciate a thicker cream. 

6. SPF

The last step in any morning skincare routine should always be an SPF. You’ll want to protect your skin from any sun damage or hyperpigmentation, or else there’s no point in even having a skincare routine! An SPF of 30 or higher is a must-have and should be reapplied as needed.

7. Primer + Makeup

If you wear makeup, the final step of your morning skincare routine can be a makeup primer if you use one, followed by your normal makeup routine.

Evening Routine

1. Cleanse

Use the same cleanser as you did in the morning and double-cleanse to remove makeup, SPF, grime and pollution.

2. Tone

Feel free to use the same morning toner in the evening to prep skin for the rest of your evening routine.

3. Treatment/Serum based on your skin concerns

As we mentioned in the morning skincare routine, you should use a different serum in the evenings. So, if you use a Vitamin C serum in the morning, you may want to opt for an evening serum that targets other concerns like acne, anti-aging, or dark spots.

4. Eye Serum

Use an eye serum at night to help restore the skin on your under eyes. 

5. Moisturize/Hydrate

Hydrate with the same moisturizer as the morning, and add more if needed. 

6. Oil (Optional)

In the winter months where you might be experiencing dryness, or if you’re looking to lock in your skincare routine, your last step in the evening could be a facial oil. Stick to natural oils like argan, olive, or jojoba oil to keep your skin soft.

So now that you know the correct way to apply skincare products for maximum effectiveness, we’d love to know what your current skincare routine looks like. Are you a simple skincare routine kind of person, or is your bathroom counter overflowing with products? Let us know in the comments. If you need help putting together your skincare routine, we’re happy to help!

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