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Best Order to Apply Skincare

It’s no secret I love skincare products. Many followers ask what specific skincare products I use and how to use them in a routine. Over the years the skincare products I’ve used have changed and evolved but the order I use them has not. Here is a handy graphic I created so that you can remember what order to apply your products in and if you want more skincare content, you can find all my skincare posts here. 

Order to Apply Skincare Products

Order to apply skincare products

Here is my current daytime and nighttime skincare routine. I don’t use a full line or a full kit because I have found a good combination of products that work for my skin. If you are looking for a one-and-done skincare kit I would recommend Tula or the Obagi Rx System if you deal with hyper-pigmentation. I have found that the best option for my skin is to find specific products to treat specific concerns using different brands.

My Morning Skincare Routine

CLEANSER // I use the Revision Brightening cleanser. I also really like Tula’s cleanser and used it for years. Now that my skin is evened out from hormonal acne post-babies, I have switched over to Revision. I still rotate with Tula when I travel, etc and think that they both work great! You can save 15% on the Tula cleanser with code CRISTIN. Other honorable mentions include Obagi Foaming Cleanser, BeautyCounter Countertime Oil if you’re looking for a clean option, and Aveeno Foaming Cleanser if you need a drugstore option.

TONER // I use the M-61 Power Glow Peels or Jordan Harper’s new Barefaced Glow Peel Pads II. A common myth is that toners are an extra step to clean your skin but your skin should be completely clean when you use them. I use a toner to balance the PH of my skin which helps control oil production and inflammation. Toner is definitely an added step that you don’t have to do. If you are going to use one I would recommend one of these high quality toners depending on your skincare needs, the Tula one if you want added exfoliation or this one if you are looking for a drugstore toner!

EYE PADS // I love eye pads. I even wrote a whole post about them. My favorite everyday eye patches are Pixi and can be found at Target. But I also love these. I wear them while I drink my morning coffee or even in the car!

Hydrating eyp patches

SERUMS // First let me admit that I could get carried away with serums. I currently use this Vitamin C serum and then will follow with this corrective gel if I’m experiencing breakouts since it helps to calm the skin. I was using Phloretin CF when my skin was more sensitive, combination oily and acne prone. Phloretin CF also helps with pigmentation because it does a better job or suppressing melanin, what causes dark spots. On the contrary, if your skin is more normal and/or on the dry side then you should use CE Ferulic. I am currently using this Obagi Vitamin C and I honestly think that the SkinCeuticals and 20% Obagi are great options and interchangeable. I think that if you are going to invest in one item then you need to invest in a medical-grade Vitamin C serum. You can read about the benefits here. You always want to put this on when your skin isn’t wet but isn’t totally dry so that it seeps in to your pores. You press it into your skin on your face and then down your neck and chest. I even put on the back of my hands! It helps your SPF work better and honestly, I would bathe in it.

If you don’t want to spend money on Vitamin C then I would look for something with a high concentration of lipid soluble vitamin C, aka something that your skin can absorb. I’ve never used this product but I’m impressed with the ingredients in this Sunday Riley serum. While Skinceuticals and Obaji has been my go-to Vitamin C serum for some time, I also really like the Revision C Complex.

SPOT TREATMENT // I don’t use spot treatments in the morning but if you were going to treat a breakout this would be where to do that. I have been using Beauty Counter’s spot treatment. Tula also has a good spot treatment that I used prior to trying Beauty Counter’s.

MOISTURIZER // There is a big debate about when to apply moisturizer, before or after eye cream. I for one use a lightweight moisturizer and a heavy eye cream so that is why I do my moisturizer before my eye cream. Also, I don’t apply my moisturizer on my under eye. I love the Elemis Pro-Collagen Marine Cream.

Elemis Pro-Collagen Marine Cream

EYE CREAM // My under-eyes are needy. Or maybe I just coddle them. I love the combination of this eye serum and this eye cream. You could definitely do this step before moisturizer. It doesn’t really matter the order unless you are layering. In that case whatever is the thinner product goes first. As I mentioned before I will use these eye pads before I start with the serums if time allows.

SUNSCREEN // If I’m not wearing a foundation that has sunscreen in it I always follow with this EltaMD sunscreen or Revision Intellishade Matte.

DAY CREAM OR FOUNDATION // My two favorite foundations right now are itCosmetics CC cream (wearing light medium currently) for everyday wear and this Charlotte Tilbury foundation in shade 5 for a thicker coverage.

My Evening Skincare Routine

Over the years my evening skincare routine has become much needier. The order in which I apply my products varies at the end of my routine, and there is some wiggle room depending on which skincare items you regularly use.

CLEANSER // At night I “double cleanse” meaning I remove my makeup and then I clean my skin. You could absolutely use just this step if you don’t wear a lot of makeup and/or aren’t crazy like I am. I usually remove my makeup, go take a shower and use the same Revision Brightening cleanser as my morning routine.

EXFOLIATING TREATMENTS // If you dermaplane at home this is where you would do it. I dermaplane every other week, and use the Dr. Dennis Gross peel pads twice a week. This is also where you would do any exfoliating treatment which you could do a couple of times a week or once a week depending on your skin type. (I need to update the graphic to include this step!)

dermaplaning at home

TONER // At night I use the Bioderma toner or this drugstore dupe from Garnier. If you do an exfoliating treatment and you have sensitive skin you might want to use a calming toner. Then I follow up with the I use the M-61 Power Glow Peels or Jordan Harper’s new Barefaced Glow Peel Pads II. If you are new to exfoliating pads, start off using them only in the am for 2 days a week, then do 4 days and then everyday and you can work your way up to using them twice a day.

SERUMS // After your face is clean and you have a fresh slate, you want to apply your serums and skincare treatments in order from thinnest to thickest consistency. Serums are thin so they go on first. I use the same Vitamin C serum as I do in the AM. You always want to put this on when your skin isn’t wet but isn’t totally dry so that it seeps into your pores. You press it into your skin on your face and then down your neck and chest. I even put on the back of my hands! It helps your SPF work better and honestly, I would bathe in it.

TREATMENTS // Ok so at nighttime is when you want to use your Tretinoin, aka Retin-A (the ingredient is Tretinoin and Retin-A is a brand name for retinol). Spot treatments should be applied during this portion of your skincare routine as well. I use the Obagi Tretinoin cream in .05% and it is a prescription. If I’m broken out I will use this drying lotion after the Tretinoin, applying on my breakouts only.

If you are very sensitive to Tretinoin start off my mixing it with your moisturizer and applying every couple of days. Then try to apply it every couple of days and follow immediately with a moisturizer. After that you could move to using it every day and following with a moisturizer. Once your skin is conditioned you should put it on and let it sit for a bit before you apply your moisturizer for maximum benefit.

For those looking for a retinol treatment to purchase without a prescription, I recommend the Obagi Retivance.

FACE OIL // Face oil is the area where I have the most to learn! I operated under the “my skin is oily, I don’t need hydration” mentality for far too long. Everyone needs moisturizer and hydration, ESPECIALLY people with oily skin. If you don’t give your skin the hydration it needs then it will just produce more oil. I love the Kiehls Midnight Recovery Oil and BeautyCounter’s Brightening Face Oil if I’m feeling extra dry or if I’m using a Gua-Sha

EYE CREAM // I love the combination of this eye serum and this eye cream. I also like the combo of this Elemis serum and this eye cream. Additional eye creams I like include BeautyCounter and Revision. This is where you have some wiggle room in the order you apply your skincare products. You could definitely do this step before or after moisturizer. It doesn’t really matter the order unless you are layering. In that case whatever is the thinner product goes first.

MOISTURIZER // At night I ALWAYS use moisturizer, even after using face oil. The Elemis Night Cream is meant to be used after a face oil and as the final step in your skincare routine because it holds everything else in!

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  1. […] To see the exact products I use in my morning & nighttime routine, visit this post. […]

  2. Shannon says:

    In the evening, at what point would I use a product for hyperpigmentation? (hydroquinone or another product like it)

  3. Laura says:

    I’ve been using retinA but didn’t know this about exfoliating also! Ah! What do you think is the best way to exfoliate your face? I’ve never done derma planing bc I have heard it causes breakouts and I’m sensative to waxing eyebrows and lip as I always break out. Any tips?

  4. Pam says:

    When you exfoliate in the evening with Dr Gross, do you still do toner after it? Or do you skip steps if you do that?

  5. Madi Bigott says:

    Omg this was so helpful! Love it!! Now I feel like I need all this haha! What does Zach do? Does he have a ‘routine’? My husband and I got a couples massage a few weeks and we didn’t’ realize it came with a facial.. now my husband suddenly wants to be into skincare and he’s asking me questions like I’m a dermatologist or something lol.

  6. […] post The Best Order to Apply Skincare has a helpful chart for both morning and evening skincare […]

  7. Karla says:

    Hello and thank you for this post. Quick question: under PM moisturizer, what did you mean by – where I have drying cream? I may have missed something, if so sorry about that! New follower here.

  8. […] ask me what things I feel truly have improved my skin I easily rattle off three items. First is the use of Retin-A which I have been using for over 12 years. Second is my friendship with Jordan Harper and getting […]

  9. Ann Risler says:

    Hi. I had read that you mentioned you’d been using retin-a since your 20s, I believe? I noticed in this post that you use .05 concentration, but noted it goes up to 0.1. Do you not use a higher concentration because you get the results you’re looking for at the present concentration or your skin cannot tolerate the higher concentration? I realize there’s a whole process of getting your skin acclimated to retin-a and was just curious (& have read other bloggers posts about it & they don’t address this either). Thank you. Really love the site and posts.

  10. Jessica says:

    I’m trying to find some good new products. What is your skin type? My skin is more on the oily side. Would these products be good for oily skin? Thanks!