The Best Skincare Routine

Having high-quality skincare products is just the first part of having a great skincare routine. The second part is applying these products in the best order to maximize effectiveness. This combination will ensure you have the best skincare routine possible.

Applying your skincare products in the correct order is important for these two reasons:

  • Full product effectiveness: When putting certain products on top of each other, you can create barriers on your skin. This would mean that other products cannot penetrate deeply into your skin as they should (for example-putting water-based products over oil-based products). You would then lose the intended effects of the product and be wasting it each time you apply it incorrectly.
  • Potential harming of your skin: Many skincare products can contain active ingredients intended to treat specific problems. These active ingredients can have different pH balances and therefore must be put on in the correct order. If not put on correctly, your skin could have a reaction to the chemicals like creating a rash or drying your skin out. This can easily make you think it is the product you are reacting to, but in reality the issue is the application of the product.

Now that we know why the application is important, let's walk through the best order for applying your skincare products. I will also throw in some recommendations of high-quality products you can implement into your skincare lineup. Let's get into it!

Please note that this post contains affiliate links and any sales made through such links will reward me a small commission – at no extra cost for you.


Daytime Routine

Step 1: Cleanser

Many people do not need to use a cleanser in the morning to wash their face. You can simply use some warm water and pat dry. For others that tend to have more oil-producing skin or have oil left over from your night products, use a foaming cleanser in the morning to start the day off with a fresh face. It is also best to gravitate towards sulfate-free cleansers.

I recommend: Glossier Milk Jelly Cleanser

Step 2: Physical Exfoliant

Exfoliating your skin will help to buff away dead skin cells and increase fresh skin cell turnover. Other benefits of exfoliation are the evening of skin tone, boosting circulation, and helping your other skincare products work better. Those with acne or blemish-prone skin should also focus on exfoliation of their skin.

It is recommended that you only use a non-abrasive scrub to exfoliate 2-3 times a week. You can use a silicon cleansing brush/device daily.

I recommend: PMD Beauty Clean (I use mine every night!) or FOREO LUNA Play Plus

Step 3: Toner

Toners often get a bad rep of being harsh on your skin due to formerly being associated with their astringent properties. With advances in skincare, toners now have many uses and can be very helpful within your skincare routine.

First, toners can help to ensure that all of the cleanser you used is removed. This is more important if you wash your face in the sink instead of the shower. Second, toners can also help to deliver antioxidants to your skin. With so many types of toners, there is definitely one in the market to fit your skin type and needs.

I recommend: Boscia Resurfacing Treatment Toner (really great for acne-prone skin)

Step 4: Eye Cream

There is a stigma that eye cream is only to be used after a "certain age", but it's actually important to start in your twenties. There are no oil glands in the eye area to help keep it moisturized. This results in the eye area being one of the first areas to show aging. The skin around your eyes is 10 times thinner than the rest of your face, therefore increasing the need for hydration.

Eye creams should also reflect your needs for the day. In the morning, an eye cream with SPF should be used. You could also use an eye cream that targets brightening or has Vitamin C in it. At night, use an eye cream with soothing effects like lavender or rose oils. This will aid in the natural repair process your skin performs while you sleep.

I recommend: RoC Retinol Correxion Anti-Aging Eye Cream Treatment (affordable and wears well under makeup!!)

Step 5: Treatment Serum

Serums are nutrient-rich, concentrated formulas. They help to target specific treatments needed for your skin. There are many different types of treatment serums that serve various purposes like reducing age spots or dark circles, providing increased antioxidants, or even brightening skin.

Serums often have active ingredients in them, so it is best not to layer too many onto your face. Do your research and figure out which serums are best for your skin type and don't be afraid to try them out!

I recommend: DRUNK ELEPHANT C-Firma™ Vitamin C Day Serum or Summer Fridays CC Me Serum (both amazing for brightening)

Step 6: Spot Treatment/Acne Medication

Acne spot treatments and prescription medications can be a vital part of many people's skincare routine. Whether you are a teenager that is experiencing regular blemish struggles, or an adult that deals with acne-prone skin, these products can help immensely.

Acne medications have active ingredients as well, so there is a delicate balance to what other products (like serums) you should use in addition. When in doubt, ask your doctor or dermatologist for recommendations.

One other thing to note is that certain acne medications can dry out your skin, so moisturizer is key. If you are specifically using a spot treatment, be sure to only use it where needed, as to not cause unnecessary dryness on other parts of your face.

I recommend: Mario Badescu Drying Lotion or Murad Rapid Relief Acne Spot Treatment

Step 7: Moisturizer

Do I need to moisturize even if I have oily skin? YES! The answer is always yes. Everyone needs a good moisturizer. Even though your skin has a natural oil-creating system of glands that secrete oil (sebum), your skin is still prone to losing hydration from the sun or harsh chemicals. Without sufficient hydration, your skin is susceptible to a weakened skin barrier which can then lead to advanced aging.

You should use a dime-sized amount on your skin as the (almost) final product in your skincare routine. I recommend avoiding moisturizers with heavy fragrances and silicons.

I recommend: it Cosmetics Confidence in a Gel Lotion Moisturizer or Cetaphil Daily Hydrating Lotion

Step 8: Sunscreen

Using sunscreen should be the last part of your morning skincare routine, no matter what your plans for the day are. It should be worn every day, all year round. By using a broad-spectrum SPF 50+ sunscreen, you will help to prevent sun damage. This will help combat aging as well as the prevention of skin cancer.

From what I have researched, and tried myself, I recommend using a physical sunscreen over chemical or mineral. Physical sunscreens sit on top of your skins surface and reflect light. They do not absorb into your face and bloodstream, which could cause hormone imbalances. Be sure to give your sunscreen a few minutes to dry down before applying any makeup for the day!

I recommend: La Roche-Posay Anthelio AOX Daily SPF 50 Sunscreen or Supergoop Unseen Sunscreen

Nighttime Routine

While you are sleeping, your skin naturally repairs itself. Therefore, you should target the treatment side of your best skincare routine at night and give your skin what it truly needs. Your daytime and nighttime routines should be very similar in steps, but certain product types should vary since you are less likely to "wear off" your nighttime products as easily.

Step 1: Makeup Remover

Even if you were not wearing makeup over your sunscreen, it is important to double cleanse your face before applying any other products. This involves using a cleansing oil, cream, or even micellar water prior to a foaming cleanser. By using a cleansing oil first, you can dissolve any makeup, sunscreen, or silicon-based products you had on your face.

I recommend: Bioderma Sensibio H2O Micellar Water or Algenist GENIUS Ultimate Anti-Aging Melting Cleanser

Step 2: Cleanser

As in the morning, you should aim to use a sulfate-free cleanser. I often use the same cleanser morning and night (unless I am exfoliating at night...see step 3 below). Using a cleanser helps to fully remove all oil-based, makeup removing products (which can cause irritation or blemishes). This ensures that your face is fully clean and ready for any of your other nighttime products.

I recommend: Youth to the People Superfood Cleanser or Honest Beauty Gentle Gel Cleanser

Step 3: Physical Exfoliant

If you prefer to exfoliate at night, my recommendation is to do it instead of using your cleanser. After you use a cleansing oil or cream to remove makeup/sunscreen, you can go right in with your exfoliant.

Again, you can use a silicone cleansing brush or device for daily use. Otherwise, you can use a gentle scrub or warm, wet washcloth a couple times a week to help remove dead skin cells from the face. You can use the washcloth to help remove your makeup with your cleansing oil or cream.

I recommend: Tatcha The Rice Polish

Step 4: Toner

Toner can be a great part of your nighttime routine, especially if you wash your face at the sink at night. It will help to balance your skin's natural pH, remove any last impurities, and prep your skin for your remaining products.

I recommend: Pixi by Petra Glow Tonic (this is a great product to throw in your gym bag and use right after you workout to get all the sweat off before it clogs your pores!)

Step 5: Eye Cream

Eye cream should especially be worn at night when your skin is actively working to repair itself. Eye cream helps to prevent signs of aging, like crows feet, and reduce puffiness or dark circles. As a general rule of thumb, night cream should go on before other treatments. This helps block the thinner, more sensitive skin from harsher chemicals you might be using.

I recommend: Aveeno Absolutely Ageless 3-in-1 Under Eye Cream or Dermalogica BioLumin-C Vitamin C Eye Serum

Step 6: Treatment Serums/Creams/Medications

Since our body does the bulk of repairing and restoring while we sleep, it can be better to use treatment serums at night. Many prescription acne and rosacea medications are targeted for use at night for this very reason. Be careful on the layering of prescription medications and additional treatment serums. Also be wary of using treatment medications and serums after doing heavy exfoliation. This can result in skin irritation.

Also, if I am looking to buy a product for specific treatment of my skin, I personally prefer serums over creams. There is generally better payout in product quantity. Serums are more concentrated with the antioxidants needed, so a little goes a longer way!

I recommend: Sunday Riley U.F.O. Ultra-Clarifying Face Oil or L'Oréal Revitalift Derm Intensives 10% Pure Glycolic Acid Serum or iS CLINICAL Pro-Heal Serum Advance+ (very expensive but works wonders for acne, rosacea, and many other skin issues)

Step 7: Hydrating Mask or Serum/Essence

If your skin tends to lean more toward to dry side, it might be beneficial to add in some extra hydration. This could be from a hydrating overnight mask or hydrating face serum/essence. Products like these are often more mild but heavily concentrated, and can be used whenever an extra hydration boost is needed.

TIP: If you are using any face serums or creams that are heavy in silicones or oils, that will block the penetration of any hydrating mask or oil. Since hydration is key, it would beneficial to use these hydrating products before your treatment serums or creams.

I recommend: Neutrogena Hydro Boost Hydrating Serum or Glow Recipe Watermelon Glow Sleeping Mask

Step 8: Moisturizer or Night Cream

Many people prefer to use a different moisturizer at night with a thicker formula (since you can worry less about looking shiny/oily at night). Many night moisturizers and night creams have a thicker consistency as they are designed to be absorbed over a longer period of time. This also creates a seal to help retain moisture overnight.

One word of caution: if you have acne-prone skin, you might want to avoid thicker, heavier night creams or moisturizers. Especially if you have specific treatment for acne, you might want to stick with a lighter or dermatologist-recommended moisturizer that will compliment your night treatment.

I recommend: CeraVe Moisturizing Cream or Olay Regenerist Night Recovery Cream

Step 9: Lip Balm

It would be silly of me to not mention lip balm as being the last, but not least, product in the best skincare routine lineup. Applying a good amount of lip product before bed will help prevent chapped lips and restore your lips while you sleep. This is extra important if you are using lip products throughout the day that can aid in drying your lips out (like liquid lipsticks).

I recommend: Glossier Balm Dotcom or LANEIGE Lip Sleeping Mask or Lano The Original 101 Ointment Multipurpose Superbalm

So what are your thoughts? While I was researching more for this blog post, I realized I was even applying some of my products out of order. I've seen a significant difference in my skin since I started applying all of my products correctly!

Have you tried this order for your products? Are there any steps I missed? What is the best skincare routine you have?

Also let me know what your favorite products are within these categories. Thanks for reading! Check back next week for a new and exciting blog post!