This post was published in February 2019. It has been updated with expanded content on August 18th, 2020, as part of our Beauty Week. All week, I’ll feature new and “best of articles” to help inspire you to practice extra self-care, find new and effective products, and start the Fall feeling like the best version of you.
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 of the investment you are making in your skin.
You’ll see below; I use a combination of high-end and inexpensive products. There is a $7 serum and a $200 serum.
A few things to keep in mind: I use the products below every single day. They work for my skin, which is sensitive, dull, dry in areas, and acne-prone. I’ve dealt with cystic acne for years, and it killed my self-esteem.
One of the reasons I was so reluctant to put my picture on the blog was how terrible my skin looked.
Since landing on this specific regimen over the last three or four years, my skin has never looked better, and I’ve had no breakouts, so I happily spend the money.
Please remember that this post’s point is to share the order to apply your skincare and why.
Everyone’s skin and budgets are different.
Use the products that work best for you.
And, of course, you can eliminate any step that doesn’t serve you, just move to the next step.
The Best Order to Apply Skincare Products at Night
A good rule of thumb to follow is to layer your skincare according to the products weight, starting with the lightest and working your way to the thickest.
The most important note to remember is to be as gentle with your skin through this process as possible. Avoid tugging and pulling. When you exfoliate, be sure it’s not too rough, and always lightly pat your skin dry.
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 and transition to bedtime.
How 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 melts off your makeup without being harsh or drying out your skin. I’ve been using it for a few years now and there’ is no going back.
Depending on the day, my mood and the time I have, I’ll do a double cleanse, which means just that. Made popular in Korean skin care routines, you simple wash your face twice, once with an oil based cleanser, and follow up with a water based one. For that, I am so pleased with Drunk Elephant’s Gel Cleanser No. 9.
There are two products on this list that completely changed my skin. Goop’s exfoliating “mask” is incredible is the first. They call it a mask, but it’s more like a scrub.
After you cleanse, apply a small amount all over your face.
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, for sure, but the other day, I changed Vivi’s diaper and had poop on my forehead for an indeterminate amount of time, so I don’t care.
I use it maybe three times a week and am conscious of the other exfoliating I may be doing because the last thing you want to do is over-exfoliate your skin.
I’ve been using it since it came out and will never go without it.
Face Mask – Optional
I don’t do a mask every day, no one has time for that, but I will apply one once a week, before I do a photo shoot, or on a Sunday. I love to do one when my husband is traveling (remember those days?) and I can have a big glass of wine and watch trash TV by myself.
My favorite and most frequently used is this Claudalie Detox Mask, great for cleaning out your pores and brightening skin.
When I want something for fine lines and wrinkles I turn to Hanacure’s all in one facial kit. It’s wild, but it really does work.
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 maybe 10th 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.
Serums, in general, are essential because they have a higher concentration of ingredients. They absorb into the skin better, so a little goes a long way. 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
I use eye cream day and night because I am 40, I have three kids and I barely little sleep.
To apply, gently dab it around your eye area and, again, let it sit for a minute.It not only helps minimize wrinkles, it helps with tired, puffy eyes, something I know a little bit about these days.
For a fantastic drugstore option, Olay makes on that gets great reviews.
Retinoid for the Over 40 Crowd
If you are approaching 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 – at the most. 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 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, $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 (and incredibly expensive) one, I used Estee Lauder NightWear for a few months and was happy with that too .
Currently, I have two in my cabinet Juice Beauty Stem Cellular Anti-Wrinkle Overnight Cream and the new Goopgenes All in One Moisturizer.
I just started using Goop’s newest product and I have to say, it’s wonderful. I didn’t like their first attempt at a night cream at all but this new one is fantastic. You can wear it at night and during the day, which is great because the cold Northeast winters take all the hydration out of my skin. It absorbs quickly and leaves you with a pretty glow.
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