The Best Order to Apply Skincare Products at Night

I’ve spent a ton of time researching the best order to apply skincare products at night, for purely selfish reasons. As my arsenal of products has grown, I started to wonder if I was using them correctly, and, as it turned out, I wasn’t. There is more to skincare than just slapping on some cream. Each layer has a purpose. Some products work best on damp skin; others require skin to be dry. All should have a minute to absorb for maximum effectiveness.

I’m sharing what I found with you today. Because, the correct process will ensure you are getting the most out the investment you are making in your skin. You’ll see below, I use a combination of high end and inexpensive products.

A few things to keep in mind: I use the products below every single day. They work for my skin which is sensitive, dull and acne prone. I’ve dealt with cystic acne for years, and it killed my self-esteem. Since landing on this specific regimen over the last three years, my skin looks fantastic, and I’ve had no breakouts, so I happily spend the money. It’s why I don’t publish many beauty specific posts because I’m so loyal to the products I use, there’s not much to talk about.

The point of this post is to share the order to apply your skincare and why. Everyone’s skin and budget are different.  Use the products that work best for you!

The Best Order to Apply Skincare Products at Night

 

The Best Order to Apply Your Skincare at Night

A good rule of thumb to follow is to layer your skincare according to weight, starting with the lightest and working your way to the thickest. 

My process seems like a lot but it only takes about 10 minutes at night, and after a long day, it’s a lovely way to mentally prepare to sleep. 

Best Order to Apply Skincare Products at Night

Wash your face

Oil Cleanser, $48

Start with a gentle cleanser. I love this oil cleanser from Tatcha. It’s light, odorless and it just melts off your makeup without being harsh or drying on your skin. I’ve been using it for a few months now and am completely in love.  For years, I used Eve Lom’s melting cleanser, another excellent option that goes from a solid to an oil by rubbing the product in your hands. Both are wonderful; the Tatcha is a bit more affordable and lasts me three months. 

Exfoliate

Exfoliator, $125.

There are two products on this list that completely changed my skin. This is the first.  Goop’s exfoliating “mask” is incredible. They call it a mask, but it’s not really. After you cleanse, apply a small amount all over your face, gently scrubbing away.

Let it sit for about three minutes, until it feels a little tingly, and then wipe it off with a clean cloth and warm water. Your skin will glow and feel like a baby’s bottom. It’s a splurge, and using a little every day lasts me about two months. I’ve been using it since it came out and will never go without it.

Face Mask – Optional

 Mask, $39.

I don’t do a mask every day, no one has time for that, but I will apply one a few times a week.  My favorite and most frequently used is this Claudalie Detox Mask, great for cleaning out your pores and brightening skin. 

Tone

 Toner, $11 

Use a toner after you cleanse and before you moisturize. It helps to remove any excess dirt, makeup or left over product from a mask. It also helps with acne and restores your skin’s Ph. Thayers Witch Hazel in Rose Petal is my favorite. It’s affordable, effective and there is something nostalgic about the scent. Every time I smell it I feel happy. 

Then Use a Serum

Vintner’s Daughter, $198

Listen, the price of this serum is bananas, I know.  I’m also on my 5th or 6th bottle. It’s the single best product I’ve ever used on my skin.  You can read all about it’s complex goodness here

What I can tell you is since using it I don’t have any breakouts and my skin looks more youthful. I use it day and night. 

To apply gently push the serum into your skin.  I use my jade roller for an added bit of massage.

Serums, in general, are essential because they have a higher concentration of ingredients that allow for better results. They also absorb into the skin better, so you don’t waste any product.  It’s important to remember to let them absorb for a minute or two before you move to the next step. 

Add a Moisture Boost

Hyaluronic Acid, $7.

The term “acid” turned me off for a long time, until I learned that it’s not an acid at all.  Rather, it’s a gel like water substance that helps plump your skin and lock in moisture. 

It’s important to put this on damp skin so the gel has something to hold on to and is activated. So I apply my serum, let it sit, and then spritz my skin with this hydrating mist by Juice Beauty, then layer on the hyaluronic acid and let that sit for a minute or two. Also, I don’t spend here, at all. I use The  Ordinary’s Hyaluronic Acid for $7

Don’t Forget Eye Cream

Eye Cream, $140

I use eye cream day and night, with a newborn at home it’s essential. To apply, gently dab it around your eye area and, again, let it sit for a minute. This eye cream by Dr. Barbara Strum is no joke. It not only helps minimize wrinkles, it helps with tired, puffy eyes, something I know a little bit about these days. A small jar last me about three months. 

Retinoid for the Over 40 Crowd

Retinoid, $10

If you are approaching (me) or are over 40 you need a retinoid or retinol. Retinoid is a stronger version of retinol and helps turn over your cells faster. While hyaluronic acid is activated by damp skin, you want to apply your retinoid product on totally dry skin

Start by using a tiny amount, a few times a week as it can be drying and even burn your skin (happened to me)  if you don’t use it correctly. Because my skin is so sensitive, I only apply it two times a week. I apply on problem areas like the wrinkles on my forehead and some age spots on my cheeks. Do not rub it all over your face. 

I also use The Ordinary’s Granactive Retinoid* 2% Emulsion. You could spend so much more, but after reading the reviews on Sephora I gave it a try and it does the trick!

Night Cream

Night Cream, $56

Your skin does all of its regeneration while you sleep, so layer on a rich night cream to help it along. I’ve used so many over the years. La Mer makes an incredible one, so does Goop, but  Estee Lauder makes my favorite and it’s not a small fortune

Related: The Beauty Tools I Can’t Live Without

Shop My Favorite Nighttime Skincare Products

 

 

How to Layer Skincare Products | The Best Order to Apply Skincare Products at Night
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Megan Kristel

Megan Kristel is an entrepreneur, working mom, and former personal stylist. Tired of the one-dimensional portrayal of women online, she founded The Well Dressed Life as a resource for other professional women.

11 Comments
  1. I also use The Ordinary hyaluronic acid. I use prescription Metrogel for rosacea after cleansing/toning (and I use that same rose toner). I wait about 15 minutes, then use the hyaluronic acid. My skin is dry when I apply it because of the medication and wait time. But right after I apply it, while it is still tacky, I spray on either Caudalie Beauty elixir or Caudalie Grape Water. The hyaluronic acid will draw in them in, along with whatever you apply after it. Sometimes I follow it with Caudalie Vinoperfect Radiance Serum, or Well People Bio Booster serum for the anti-inflammatory quality. For the redness from rosacea, I end with The Ordinary Azelaic Acid, on recommendation of my dermatologist. It is really saving my skin.

    I used to have an extremely minimal skincare routine, and it was fine. I am in my late forties now, and can no longer get away with that! And it’s okay. My skin looks good, and I see the routine as pleasure, not a chore.

    Kudos to you for keeping it up! And congratulations on the wee one. You have a lovely family.

  2. Thank you so much for this post… it is well-timed for me, as I just booked an appointment for a facial to get advice on my skin. I just turned 50 a year ago and I’ve noticed dramatic changes in my skin… mainly how large my pores are now. I didn’t notice until I used a new magnified mirror that my daughter got for Xmas! What an eye-opener that I need to do more. I’m a bit rushed in the morning and at night I tend to be tired after a long commute and evening… and I get lazy before bedtime. So, my routine is (and I know this is bad…) a Neutrogena make-up remover cloth, a quick wash with an over-the-counter gentle cleanser (CeraVe), and I sometimes – not always – apply Oil of Olay Regenerist micro-sculpting cream. This blog post has inspired me to make a change – one that I should have done a decade ago… so I hope that it is not too late for me! I’ve jotted down your recommendations and will discuss with my upcoming facial esthetician. Thanks again!!! ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Hello, this is such an enlightening post and clear to understand routine. Thank you for sharing. My question is regarding the order of the hyaluronic acid. If it is best to apply this step on damp skin would it make sense to apply after the mask? Or does this interfere with the order because of the consistency?

    Thank you,
    Netty

    1. Hi Netty, Best practice for applying product is to layer according to consistency from lightest to heaviest. You could certainly add it after a mask if the hyaluronic acid is your next product – and you don’t use a serum. So dampen your skin after a mask, add the HA and then finish with a thicker night cream.

  4. This post has the best skincare advice I’ve ever received. I had many of the products on hand and started following the order less than two weeks ago and there has been a tremendous difference in my skin (I’m 60). I am so happy I’ve already ordered the other items in your list that I didn’t have. I was wondering if there is a similar list for daytime skincare?

    1. Thanks Pam, that’s so great to hear. I don’t do much for daytime skincare since I take care of so many issues in the evening. In the morning I keep it simple with the same face wash, serum, moisturizer, eye cream and I add an SPF.

  5. Thanks for sharing. Your routine while extensive ,has a lot of informative areas. For example; not rubbing the retinoid all over, using a jade roller with your serums, and which serums like damp versus dry skin. These kinds of details make sense and no doubt make a big difference in the products effect.

  6. Are you going to follow this article up with your morning routine? LOVE Vintners Daughter!! Has really changed my oily skin, is smoothing out my acne scars from 40 years ago, and my complexion has never looked better!! Iโ€™m rocking the skin st 62!!
    Would love a simple am routine that is just as beneficial.

    Thanks for your downhearted simplicity. Love that you mix inexpensive with expensive and understand that we canโ€™t all buy La Met, do you give us options. You are very real!!

    Claire

  7. Meant La Mer, not La Met. LOL, darn spell check!!
    I see now your am routine above. I was wondering your thoughts about using a vitamin C & Hyaluronic Acid Serum in the am? I use one because Iโ€™ve heard that Vit. C helps with brightening the skin and with age spots. Your thoughts??

    Thanks again!!

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