One of my favorite things to discuss when it comes to skincare is the order of which to apply the products! Everyone has some sort of opinion on this but as a whole, we all agree that there is definitely an order to stick to; lightest to heaviest. If you’re thinking it doesn’t really matter, it does. Not applying your products in the correct order can lead you to waste product, can cause the products to not be as effective or work at all, it can cause you to have a reaction and worst off all … not applying your products in the right order will waste your money!
So let’s talk about it! First and foremost, please be aware of the ingredients in your products. That is the first thing to determining the order of application but even more than that, if you layer or mix the wrong stuff you could seriously damage your skin. So, when in doubt, Google it out!
STEP 1: CLEANSE
This is the first product you should always use! Morning and night! I love to mix up my cleansers every month or have a few to cycle through because your skin is going to need different ingredients as things in life affect it. So it’s always a good idea to have a myriad of products to be able to address all those needs.
In the AM I like to use an energizing or invigorating face wash to help wake my skin up so it’s brighter and more radiant. My favorite AM cleanser is Jan Marini’s Bioglycolic Facial Cleanser.
I love this cleanser in general because it has glycolic acid in it so every time you use it, your skin is getting some resurfacing which helps with cell turn over and overall evenness and tone of the skin. Now, you’re probably thinking, “But glycolic acid is too intense for everyday use!”
That’s what I thought until I attended a Jan Marini cluster class and they explained that even though it is glycolic acid, which is one of the stronger chemical exfoliators, their formula is gentle enough for everyday use, and it is. I like this cleanser particularly in the AM because it can give off a slight tingle that wakes me up and makes my skin alert and ready for the day. Also, since it’s resurfacing and exfoliating, I always notice my other products have a greater effect because they’re able to penetrate the deeper layers of the skin. Glycolic acid is also super ideal for acne prone skin and for addressing dark pigmentations and brightening scar tissue. I do use this cleanser A LOT around my period because I notice my acne scars get a little darker around that time and of course, I break out so this cleanser takes care of it all for me. I don’t recommend this product if you have deep cystic acne as the “tingle” might turn to pain, but consult with a dermatologist or aesthetician if you have any concerns.
I am a HUGE fan of double cleansing, especially at night or after wearing makeup for a long time. I know there’s been some stigma around double-cleansing but I love how clean my skin feels after. Double-cleansing just helps get all the dirt, oil, sebum and grime out of your pores plus it gives your skin another chance to soak up some great ingredients.
Double-cleansing isn’t just for before bed. I’ll double-cleanse if I’ve just come from an event where I had to wear makeup for a long time, after the gym, or just whenever I’m feeling a little grimerier than normal.
My favorite product to use when I need to feel a little extra clean is Dermalogica’s PreCleanse. I am not lying when I say this stuff is the GOAT! I first started using this when I worked at Massage Heights and the first time one of the aestheticians was telling me about it, I was really skeptical. I had never heard of a precleanse or double cleansing and I certainly didn’t know anything about putting oil on my face. However, my face never felt so clean and so good after using it and from that moment I was sold.
You just apply the oil directly to your face and it immediately starts melting away all the dirt, makeup, sweat, oil and pollutants from your skin. Then, once you’re ready, just apply a small amount of water to turn the oil into a smooth milky emulsion that wisps away all the surface grime. It has borage seed oil in it which is a little known-about ingredient that hydrates and smoothes the skin and is soothing to certain skin conditions like eczema. It also has rice bran which, like the borage seed oil, promotes hydration among other things like reducing pigmentation, reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles and has a super high amount of vitamin E as well.
STEP 2: TONE
Some people will tell you that toning isn’t necessary, specifically if you have a really great cleanser, however, I am a fan and I think it makes a difference. Toning can deliver more great ingredients for your skin to feast on and if toning in the AM, can give your skin a little extra smoothness making makeup application easier or you may not even need to use makeup.
I keep it simple with my toners and use a general toner like the Nutrient Toner by PCA. I love this toner first, for it’s amazing smell and LET ME HAVE MY BASIC MOMENT! It’s made from pumpkin wine so it smells like pumpkin spice and fall. ALL. THE. TIME. and it is glorious. Secondly, the pumpkin enzyme does wonders for the skin! It’s a very effective proteolytic, or rather, it will digest keratin and protein making it an amazing chemical exfoliator that can smooth, soften and brighten skin. LASTLY, it has lactic acid in it which helps minimize pores and helps the skin from being dull and lifeless.
I will issue a warning here, unless your skin is accustomed to the use of AHA/BHA’s I don’t recommend using the product with any other product containing vitamin A or any derivatives (RetinA), Retinol or use it with another chemical exfoliator. In general, it’s not recommend to mix AHA/BHA’s with another other exfoliant or Retinol containing products but I digress.
My other favorite toner is from my favorite skincare company Murad and it’s their Clarifying Toner. This is my favorite for when my skin is breaking out. I’ll use this toner day and night after cleansing if I see any breakouts coming. I also use it on a cotton ball as a spot treatment for individual pimples since it’s formulated with witch hazel to tighten pores and reduce breakouts, algae to help regulate sebum production, and vitamin E to help protect and nourish the skin. It also has a cooling effect so if you use this on a particularly painful pimple, it will help soothe it; at least temporarily.
STEP 3: TREATMENTS
So you’ve cleansed and toned … now what? It’s time to apply your treatments. This is more or less an optional step but you should at least always be applying an eye cream as your step 3.
You’ll want to apply your treatments the same way we apply the rest of our products; lightest to heaviest. Most of your treatments will be a gel or cream but you might have an oil as well. Regardless, you’ll want to apply gel, oil, cream, if you’re using one of each but if not, apply them in the order that makes the most sense. So for instance, if you’re using two gel treatments; one for acne and one for pigmentation, apply the one you want to make the biggest difference first. So if you’re breaking out, apply the acne treatment first but if you want to target the pigmentation, apply that one first.
If you’re going to be layering product make sure you let them fully dry in between applications or your face will be sticky and/or your product will rub or roll off and that’s just a waste of both product and money.
One of my favorite treatments is PCA’s Acne Gel, it is simply incredible. I can say for almost certainty that this product is the reason my acne is minimal these days. I started using this when I was 22 and working at Massage Envy. I used some from a tester and after applying a little bit on a section around my mouth for a few days in a row, the break out was gone and I immediately bought some. I now only use it when I feel I need to but I always have some around just in case.
If you have a retinol or vitamin A product, this is where you would apply those, assuming you didn’t use anything that could interfere and be careful not to get any near your eyes. Retinol can be especially damaging to the delicate skin under your eyes causing irritation, sensitivity and redness. Retinol, if you didn’t know, is a very strong ingredient that targets fine lines and wrinkles. I don’t yet have a need for retinol on a regular basis but I bought the Jan Marini Age Intervention Retinol Plus for my mom and she swears by it! It’s one of the strongest and most effective retinol treatments on the market that really does diminish the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
STEP 4: SERUM
So now we’re going to apply your serum of choice. Singular. I’ve had clients tell me they put two or three serums on every night and they swear by this method. I’m here to tell you, this won’t work or it won’t work as well as you want it to. Serums are super concentrated so when you apply them to the skin you spread a nice layer of the product over the surface of your skin. This layer makes it harder for other products and ingredients to penetrate the skin hence why it is one of our last steps.
So in the above example, those women were really wasting product because the serums they were applying after the first one really weren’t as effective as they could’ve been. If you’re trying to target multiple issues with different serums I would recommend alternating them every week or so. You’ll want to alternate no less than 5 days in between or you’re not giving the product enough time to work. Sometimes it depends on the product and your skin in order to determine this but discussing this with an aesthetician would be best.
However, it’s totally O.K. to have a morning serum and night serum! In the AM I love using a vitamin C serum because it protects your skin from free radicals by rebuilding the skin cell barrier and the vitamin C helps with pigmentation issues. The best vitamin C serum money can buy is the Obagi Medical Vitamin C Clarifying serum, which you can only get through a dermatologist’s office or at your local Massage Envy – no membership required. This is one of the best because it’s not just a vitamin C serum, it has 10% L-ascorbic acid which is a potent antioxidant that works with the vitamin C to help lighten the skin tone and even it out and it has 4% hydroquinone which is a brightening and lightening agent. I recommend this product even for those with darker skin tones!
Yes, I am recommending an HQ product for darker skin tones because Obagi stands by their product and claims that the HQ in this product will not cause any hyper-lightening or anything. In fact, I was the only one at the Obagi cluster class who asked about this so I heard directly from the horse’s mouth that this product is safe for darker skin tones. This product is too good to for everyone to not be able to use it. It’s for sure one of the more effective brightening serums I have.
At night, I prefer something a little more relaxing or something more focused on my current needs. Dr. Kiehl’s Midnight Recovery Oil is one of my go-to’s when my skin is needing a little extra love. It’s a lightweight facial oil that your skin is just going to soak up and you’re going to love how your skin feels after. It has lavender essential oil in it so your relaxation starts as soon as you open the bottle and catch a whiff of the lavender, evening primrose oil that’s known for giving the skin a deeper hydration and keeps it elastic warding off fine lines and wrinkles, and lastly this amazing product has squalene in it. You’ve probably not heard of this ingredient because it’s not widely used but it is effective for addressing dull, lifeless skin. Squalene is derived from olives and is great for hydrating the skin and keeping it soft and supple.
STEP 5: MOISTURIZE
You’re almost done! This is it, the last step (or two if you need to apply an SPF). Have you noticed a theme with all these products? They all hydrate the skin, or have some component in them that helps with hydration and that’s because hydration is vital for skin health. If you’re not properly hydrating your skin, you’re setting yourself up for lots of wrinkles in the future. Having a good moisturizer is really important and I would say one of the most important parts of a skincare routine.
I’ve already spoken about my favorite moisturizer, Murad Nutrient Charged Water Gel, because it’s that amazing. It does everything you could ever want it to and you can use it morning and night. What’s not to love …. except that it doesn’t have any sunscreen in it. Which means, when I use this product in the AM, I have put another product over the top.
This is only a mild inconvenience for healthy skin. So when I do decide to use the Nutrient Charged Water Gel my go to for sun protection is Dermalogica’s Oil-Free Matte SPF 30 Lotion. I love this product because I do have oily skin and this keeps me shine free without over drying my skin. Definitely a must-have for your skincare arsenal!
So now you know when to apply your products, go out there and have beautiful skin! Be sure to follow on Twitter and Instagram for more great content!
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