Best Order to Apply Skincare

Yesterday I posted a few of my favorite skincare products for winter and had a lot of you asking what specific products I used and when. I thought today I would follow up that post with my exact skincare routine. Here is that handy graphic that 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 of my skincare posts here.

The best order to apply your skincare products during your morning and evening routine!

Here is my current daytime and nighttime 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. However, I would say that I have found the best thing for my skin is using Tula with medical grade treatments. Here is how I do that.

My Morning Skincare Routine

CLEANSER // I use Tula’s cleanser. I have tried so many cleansers and Tula is my favorite. It has lactic acid to cleanse and exfoliate, chicory root which acts as a natural anti-inflammatory prebiotic, tumeric root that also reduces signs of inflammation, blueberries to protect from free-radicals and probiotics to hydrate and lock in moisture. You can save 20% with code CRISTIN.

TONER // I currently use this Obagi toner but also love this one by Tula. 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. I really love the Obagi toner because Vitamin C promotes natural collagen production and helps with hyperpigmentation (aka dark spots). 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!

If I have time I put on these eye pads when I drink my coffee after cleansing and toning because of the hyaluronic acid!

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. In a recent visit to Skin by Blair, I asked her the difference in the two most popular Vitamin Cs by Skinceuticals. She told me that I should use Phloretin CF because my skin is 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 also think that if you are going to invest in one item then you need to invest in a prescription grade Vitamin C serum. You can read about the benefits here. If you don’t want to spend money on prescription grade 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. But again, $85 is expensive so I would probably eat more Vitamin C and save my money for the heavy duty products.

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.

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. My go-to moisturizer is this one by Elta MD because it is a moisturizer, primer and sunscreen in one. I use it daily. However, if I need added hydration then I will use this Charlotte Tilbury Magic Cream or this moisturizer by Tula before the Elta MD. I also love this drugstore option with SPF.

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 wearing itCosmetics CC cream then I will use a moisturizer without sunscreen in it since it has sunscreen. If I’m not wearing a foundation that has sunscreen in it I always follow with this sunscreen.

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

Ok I just realized that this infographic needs to be updated now that my skincare routine is much needier. See below!

CLEANSER // At night I “double cleanse” meaning I remove my makeup and then I clean my skin. I love this balm to clean my makeup or this cleansing oil. 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 Tula’s cleanser to clean my face.

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 times a week or once a week depending on your skin. (I need to update the graphic to include this step!)

TONER // As in the morning, I use this Obagi toner! If you do a exfoliating treatment and you have sensitive skin you might want to use a calming toner.

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) and then any spot treatments. 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 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.

Retinoids / Tretinoin aka Retin-A

Tretinoin (generic name) is a synthetic form of Vitamin A, available by prescription only. (Retin-A is a brand name for tretinoin.) Unlike retinol, these retinoids are only available by prescription. You can get them in concentrations ranging from .01 to .1 percent, depending on your skin. The reason that Tretinoin works so well is because it is an active ingredient that starts working immediately once you apply it. Essentially this skin works to give you a mini chemical peel every night, speed up the natural exfoliation process and boost collagen production. If you are using tretinoin, you MUST exfoliate a couple times a week if you truly want to see results. Basically you have to get those old, dead cells out of the way if you want to see the new pretty skin cells. Jordan Harper taught me that!

Retinols are good but the catch with retinols are that they aren’t active ingredients. Those bottles contained entrapped retinol that only can begin to work once you apply them to your skin. This is because the enzymes in your skin have to convert it to start working. Your skin has to is not an active ingredient meaning you have to put it on your skin and let it sit for it to start working, and that’s best case scenario.


Retinol is good but it is not going to work nearly as well as a retinoid and that is because your skin has to take the retinol and convert it to retinoic acid for it to start working. Basically when you apply a retinol the enzymes in your skin have to convert it to something that actually works. That is why a retinol can sit on a shelf in Sephora and not go bad, because there are no active ingredients. Some people say retinols are great for people with sensitive skin and others say that they are a waste of your time because you don’t know how well your skin will convert it into something that actually works. I would say that something is better than nothing but I am team medical-grade when it comes to putting vitamins on my skin. If I were going to use a Retinol I would pick this maximum strength Skinceuticals version because even at maximum strength, it’s not going to be as effective as a retinoid.

MOISTURIZER // At night I use this moisturizer by Tula but I don’t put it on the areas where I have drying cream. I also LOVE this sleeping cream if you want something a little thicker!

EYE CREAM // Again, I love the combination of this eye serum and this eye cream. Lately I have been trying out this eye cream to see if I notice a difference from the Tula. 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.

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. This moisturizer by Tula has helped my skin immensely but, you know me, I want to try it all! I’ve used this one that I think is good and I really want to try this one!

Hope this helps! Feel free to ask questions in the comments and if I don’t know the answers I can help you find them!

morning skincare routine

nighttime skincare routine

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