Things have come a long way since the oft-repeated adage of “cleanse, tone and moisturise” that many of us grew up hearing. Now, with everything from retinoids to serums making a regular appearance in our daily skincare routines, how is anyone supposed to know the correct order in which to apply? Luckily, we’re here to help with a quick and simple guide.
As it turns out, the first two steps remain the same as they have done for generations: cleanse and tone. After all, there’s no point in lathering all your expensive products on top of skin that’s still covered in makeup. So whether you’re just getting up in the morning or going to bed at night, make sure that your skin is thoroughly cleansed before continuing with your routine.
Next, you’ll want to apply your toner. The key here is finding a light, hydrating formula that doesn’t sit too heavily on your skin. If you like to keep things simple, you can use natural products such as witch hazel or rose water for this step. Or, if you have problem skin, choose a toner that will tackle issues such as acne or dry patches.
Then, it’s on to serums. Although many people skip this step, it’s actually serums that do the heavy lifting where hydrating and anti-ageing is concerned. This is also the perfect step to focus on if you’re looking to upgrade your skincare routine but are unsure where to start. In the morning, pick a formula with vitamin C to protect against free radicals, then switch to one with hyaluronic acid at night to plump up skin while you sleep.
If you’re using an eye cream, that’s what you should apply next. Because these formulas tend to be thinner, they need to go on before any thicker creams or moisturisers, giving them a chance to sink into the skin. But unless your eyes are a real problem area, you may well be able to skip this step altogether – as long as you ensure that your moisturiser and sunscreen are suitable for use on the eye area as well.
Next, comes another optional extra – spot treatments. Ideally you should apply these at night, but if you’re already incorporating retinols into your evening routine then you’re best off switching to the morning instead. And if you’re using any products to lighten and fade old acne scars, now’s the time to apply those too.
After that, it’s time for moisturiser. If you’ve just applied a spot treatment, make sure that you don’t add a heavy cream or lotion directly on top – simply work around the area. But whatever you do, don’t skip this step. Twice a day – once in the morning and once in the evening – you should be applying moisturiser, even if you forget everything else. As well as hydrating the skin, this layer will also seal in all the other products, helping them to get to work.
The next stage of your routine, if you’re using it, should be your retinoid. Considered something of a miracle product by both dermatologists and beauty lovers alike, these formulas are great for smoothing out fine lines, clearing pores and eliminating scars. The best time to apply retinoids is last thing at night, so add them to your evening routine after your moisturiser. In the mornings, skip this step and move on to the next stage – face oils.
Although they’re definitely not a necessity, face oils can be great for boosting the efficacy of your existing routine and giving your skin a hydrating, plumping boost. But because it’s difficult to apply anything else on top of an oil, this will need to be the last stage in your routine. In fact, the only thing that you should add after it is a layer of sunscreen every morning. Unlike other products, this doesn’t need to penetrate your skin – simply sit on top and protect you from the sun’s damaging UV rays. According to the experts, SPF30 is the minimum that you should be using on your face.
Of course, you don’t need to complete each step in this process if you want healthy, glowing skin. But this guide should help you decide which products are right for you – and the order in which you should apply them.