When it comes to establishing a skincare routine, it’s not always straight forward. Long gone are the days of simply cleansing, toning and moisturising. We often hear words like peptides, retinol, vitamin C, acids and serums. But what do they all mean? But more importantly which product goes first?
One rule of thumb to guide you is to apply skincare products in order of their consistency, the thinnest first finishing with the thickest. But, it’s not just about knowing which order to apply them, it’s also important to know what products you need to use and how often to use them.
According to Dr Anita Sturnham, who specialises in dermatology, our skin has a 24-hour circadian rhythm, meaning that its anatomical and physiological needs change from AM to PM. In the day your skin needs protection from external factors like sunlight and pollution, in the evening it’s repairing itself. Which is why you need different products at different times of the day.
It’s also important not to mix certain ingredients like exfoliating treatments and vitamin C together, otherwise, they can counteract one and other.
To save you some serious head-scratching, we have put together this clear, step by step guide on which order to apply your skincare products to take out the guesswork for you.
As you’ve removed your makeup the night before, begin by using a light cleanser to clear the remnants of any skincare products or excess oils left on the skin. Your morning cleanser should be gentle, hydrating and non-abrasive.
Next, use a water-based toner to help rebalance the skin’s PH levels and prepare your skin for your serum and moisturiser.
Follow by using an eye cream. It’s important to use a separate eye cream because the skin around the eye area is a lot thinner and more sensitive than the rest of the face. This is why it’s more prone to ageing over time, so using a hydrating eye cream rich in ingredients like hyaluronic acid and peptides help to boost collagen levels in the under-eye area.
Hyaluronic acid serum
Hyaluronic Acid is a key skincare ingredient which can be used by all skin types, according to Dr Sturnham: “hyaluronic acid helps to provide structure to our cells and supports our skin’s hydration barriers. This extra hydration, therefore, helps to plump to the skin, minimising the appearance of fine lines.”
In order to reap the maximum benefits, Dr Sturnham recommends applying hyaluronic acid in small layers throughout your morning and evening skincare routine, as well as using as a separate serum.
A serum is designed to penetrate the deeper dermal layers of your skin and nourish it with a variety of skin-protective ingredients. Layering serums can also be effective to adapt your skincare routine to your specific skin needs.
Dr Sturnham recommends layering serums that have these key ingredients to promote healthy skin throughout the day:
Vitamin C - Vitamin C is an essential nutrient-rich ingredient that should be used daily in your skincare routine. “Our skin has built-in receptors for Vitamin C,” says Dr Sturnham, which is why it is key to ensure we get our daily skincare fix of it. Vitamin C has many benefits such as improving skin tone, protecting the skin against pollution and UV damage, boosting cell repair and giving the skin a radiant look.
Panthenol (Vitamin B5) - Panthenol otherwise known as Vitamin B5 is an ingredient that helps to soften and soothe the skin by helping (repetition of skin) protect against irritation and water loss.
Ferulic Acid - Ferulic Acid is an antioxidant which helps to boost the effects of other antioxidants used in serums. It also helps to reduce signs of ageing like fine lines and wrinkles.
Once you have applied your serum and given it time to absorb into the skin, it is then time to apply a moisturiser. This helps to hydrate your skin throughout the day and creates a smooth base for makeup. Dr Sturnham recommends non-pore-clogging ingredients like safflower, apricot kernel and squalene.
Finish by using an SPF (Sun Protection Factor) to protect your skin against UV damage. UV damage causes signs of premature ageing such as wrinkling and pigmentation. Experts recommend using an SPF30 or higher on your face to deliver optimal UV protection.
For your evening cleanser use something with more active ingredients that has an exfoliation to it and that is deep pore cleansing. If you are wearing makeup and SPF during the day, we recommend double cleansing: using a balm or oil-based cleanser first to breakdown the makeup and excess oil and following with a gentle, hydrating gel cleanser.
Once again follow with a toner to balance your skin’s PH levels and prep your skin for your serum and moisturiser. You can also opt to use an acid toner two to three times a week depending on your skin type. Look for ingredients like glycolic acid, lactic acid and mandelic acid which will exfoliate the skin and even texture.
If you are really invested in fighting signs of ageing and those pesky fine lines, retinol is the way to go. Otherwise known as vitamin A, retinol is a rich ingredient which helps to fight signs of ageing at a deep cellular level. It helps to promote the production of collagen and elastin, reduce pore congestion, regulate the production of sebum and work against inflammation.
There are many options for retinol on the market, but Dr Sternham recommends using retinol into your skincare routine in the form of a serum. Look for words like granactive Retinoid or hydroxypinacolone retinoate which are less harsh on the skin.
Use it in small doses every night after cleansing and toning before applying your moisturiser and built up gradually. Make sure that you always use an SPF in your morning routine, as retinol will make your skin more photosensitive.
Like your AM routine, follow up with an eye cream to the orbital bone area. We recommend saving yourself some money and opting for the same, morning and night.
Add a serum to your PM skincare routine as you would before a moisturiser in the day. Dr Sturnham advises looking for ingredients that support your skin’s physiological needs at night. Pay attention to how your skin is feeling, is your skin dry? Is it showing signs of pigmentation? Is your skin feeling congested? Look for serums that will address the particular needs of your skin and that ideally have a variety of skin-benefiting ingredients. Dr Sturnham recommends ingredients like alpha arbutin, hyaluronic acid and plant-based stem cells.
For your evening moisturiser use one with a slightly richer, thicker consistency than you would during the day to hydrate dehydrated skin.
-Avoid using exfoliating or foaming cleansers followed by alcohol-based toners, as this will dry out skin, making it prone to sensitivity.
-Take your time to apply each product, allow each layer to absorb into the skin before applying the next one.
-Use your treatment products in order of their consistency from lightest to thickness.
-Avoid mixing water-based and oil-based products in your same skincare regime.
-Keep your cleansing routine simple on a daily basis and reserve the more intensive exfoliation routine for once a week.
-Avoid using intensive exfoliators with Vitamin C.