Your skincare routine: what should you apply when?

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I like to think most people who read posts like this are doing their best to look after their skin, but if you’re anything like me maybe you also get really confused by what goes where and when when it comes to your skincare.  Yes we all know we need to cleanse and moisturize and use SPF, but when you have more than 3 products it can become a daunting task applying all of them before you’ve even deciphered which one is meant to go on at what stage of your routine.  Here is what I have learnt with a little bit of research:


First things first, when you wake up in the morning your skincare routine should start with cleansing.  Even if you cleansed before you went to bed your skin accumulates bacteria overnight from your pillow, your hands, your partner and the air which should be removed to prevent congestion and allow your expensive products to do their job without hindrance.  You also need to cleanse away your night time products since they probably (should) contain Vitamin A, which sensitizes your skin to the sun and need to be completely removed before you go out in the day.  Whether you have dry or oily skin may determine the kind of cleanser you choose, but having dry skin doesn’t make cleansing optional.

Next up is your toner which removes excess oil and preps your skin for your products.  This is a gentle swipe or spritz of an alcohol-free product; scrubbing at your face with an alcohol soaked cotton pad dries your skin out and can actually promote breakouts.

Next in line is your antioxidant of choice.  These should be applied before any other products so that as much of them soaks into your skin as possible.  Your antioxidant should protect your skin from the sun as well as from heat, infrared and pollution so it’s a pretty essential step if you want your skin to look amazing forever.  After you’ve applied your antioxidant give it a little time (30 seconds to a minute at least) to sink in before applying another product.  This seems ridiculous and time-consuming in your time-pressured morning, but try take the time to drink a glass of water or peruse your wardrobe to maximize your productivity!

Serums are the 4th layer to your skincare routine.  If your antioxidant is your serum that’s great, but if you’re using additional serums they should be applied after your antioxidant.  These may include hyaluronic acid containing products or pigmentation correctors and they should usually be warmed in your hands before patting them onto your skin so that their active ingredients can really get in there!  After applying your serum you should give it a little time to skin in before applying your next product, which gives you another minute or two to choose a lipstick or browse your Instagram for our latest post!

Next is sunscreen.  NEVER skip sunscreen.  I highly recommend using a product that has a minimum SPF of 30 (better yet is to use SPF 50), and not relying on moisturizer with built in sunscreen.  In fact, using a moisturizer with a built in SPF as well as a separate SPF is actually the best plan since it is incredibly rare to find someone (including myself) who actually applies enough sunscreen to actually get the advertised SPF out of it (read more on that here).  As with all your products your sunscreen should be applied not only to your face but also to your neck, chest and the back of your hands.  Once again in an ideal world you should allow your sunscreen a few minutes to settle into your skin before applying your next product; go make yourself a cup of coffee or something!

Your final skincare step is your moisturizer.  This layer gives your skin a dewy glow, prevents it from drying out and also seals in all the other precious products you’ve applied.  After you’ve applied your moisturizer you should allow it to settle before starting on your make up for the day, which I have no business giving you any advice on!

During the day:

Depending on your lifestyle, your daytime skincare needs may vary wildly.  Obviously if you spend a lot of time outdoors you should be reapplying sunscreen during the day, and occasionally a spritz of a vitamin C mist can pep up your skin and make it look brighter for your afternoon engagements.


Your night time routine is much more likely to change than your day time one since we sometimes have loads of time to titivate and steam and apply masques and on some nights we can barely remove our makeup before falling into a coma, so you really need to know which steps you can skip and which you can’t.  Your steaming and multi-masking routine is obviously not a nightly must, but the steps you should do your best not to skip are these:

The first step in your night time skincare routine needs to involve removing your makeup.  Whether you do this using your cleanser or a separate make up remover is up to you, however if you are going to use your cleanser then it’s wise to cleanse twice, with the first round being a makeup removal round and the second to deeply cleanse your skin.  If you’ve used a separate makeup remover then you shouldn’t consider that a cleanser too, you need to cleanse afterwards to remove any residues as well as bacteria and pollution that have accumulated throughout the day.

Next up is your alcohol-free toner again, for the same reasons as you used it in the morning.

You can follow this up with a night time antioxidant if you’re using these, however if you’re using a daytime antioxidant this isn’t really necessary.

Your most important night time product is a retinoid or vitamin A product.  EVERYBODY NEEDS to be using vitamin A and if you do one thing to your face today (besides applying SPF, and only if you’re not pregnant), let it be using a vitamin A product.  There is a vast variety of these products available, and they range from drugstore products to prescription only.  Depending on your skin’s needs you may need a higher or lower percentage of vitamin A, but if you don’t have acne or scarring then using a good quality over the counter product is generally sufficient.  Don’t forget that if you’re just starting to use a vitamin A product your skin may need a little time to acclimatize to it, so if you see any redness or flaking try using it alternate nights until your skin becomes tolerant.  Also remember that this sensitizes your skin to UV, so you need to wash it off well in the morning and as always, use SPF.

Eye cream or serum should be your next layer to strengthen the skin that has a tendency to become more delicate and crêpey as time goes on.  If you’re young and not into spending loads of money on tiny jars of product you can actually use Vaseline or something like Eight-Hour Cream to protect and moisturize your eye area at night.  And no, Vaseline does not clog your pores.  In fact coconut oil is much worse for your skin as a topical agent than Vaseline is in terms of causing breakouts! #fact.

Lastly your night cream will seal in moisture for the night.  You should wait at least a few minutes after applying your products before laying your head to rest, since by hitting the hay immediately after applying your products you will land up with gorgeous pillow slips full of expensive and glorious products, but not much of the good stuff going into your skin.

There are an immeasurable number of different skincare products and ingredients and there is no way you can use them all.  If you don’t have time for looking after your skin you should at least be using SPF and you’ll never regret using a vitamin A product at night!  No matter how young or old you are, you only have one face and if you’re at all keen on presenting your best self you’ll find that spending 10 minutes on skincare in the morning and 5 minutes on it at night will go a long way to making visible improvements to your skin.

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