What comes first, serum or toner? What about moisturizer? Finding the right skincare products is a challenge, but even once you’ve perfected your lineup, knowing what goes where, when, and why is a whole new ball game. Applying your products in the right order can mean the difference between a routine that produces results, and one that is ineffective, or worse, irritates your skin.
The correct order to apply skincare products.
The simple answer—and one that we hear repeated often—is to apply your products from thinnest to thickest, or from lightest to heaviest. While that is a great rule of thumb, we know that can still leave you with some unanswered questions. So, we’re here to let you know, once and for all, if you’re applying your skincare products in the right order.
Cleanser should always be the first step in both your morning and evening routine (and no, washing with water isn’t enough!). Throughout your day, and while you sleep, your skin is exposed to dirt, oil, debris, makeup, and more. In order for your products to properly absorb and perform effectively, your skin needs to be clean.
A wonder(ful) tip: Never use a washcloth to wash your face! They’re abrasive, and can lead to sensitivity over time. Your cleanser is formulated to effectively remove impurities without the extra help!
2. Facial scrubs (physical exfoliation)
A physical exfoliant is one that contains beads, granules, or crystals to manually remove dead skin cells. Typically, this is something that can be incorporated into your routine 1-2x/week, after cleansing, but before applying your toner or serum. Sloughing away these dead skin cells will create a better surface for your products to do their job.
A wonder(ful) tip: Ensure your facial scrub contains materials that are spherical, to avoid irritating or microscopically tearing the skin, which can lead to irritation or reactive skin over time.
Not everyone needs a toner, but it is an optional step for some. Whether or not a toner is recommended for you may depend on the pH of your cleanser, and whether you have any active skin conditions, like acne. Toners generally contain AHA (alpha hydroxy acid, like glycolic acid or lactic acid), BHA (beta hydroxy acid, like salicylic acid), and/or enzymes that help to further remove dirt and oil while providing a chemical exfoliation.
A wonder(ful) tip: For those with acne prone skin, a toner containing salicylic acid can be a nice addition.
If you have a few different serums sitting in your medicine cabinet, but you have no idea how to use them, you’re not alone. Serums are liquids or gels that (when formulated correctly) deliver active ingredients deep into the skin. For most serums, we recommend applying about 4-6 drops to the face and neck. They absorb quickly, so there’s no need to wait very long for the next step in your routine.
A wonder(ful) tip: Place your serum in the palm of one hand and use the index and middle finger of your opposite hand to apply. Most people place the serum into their palms, rub their hands together, and then apply to the face; when you do this, most of the serum is absorbed by your hands before it can be applied to your face!
5. Eye Cream
Yes, you need an eye cream! Eye creams are formulated differently than your facial moisturizer; they contain active ingredients, but the potency is adjusted to compensate for the thin tissue around the eye region. A rice grain size is all you need, applied to the orbital bone and brow bone.
If you’re using retinol (and you should be), apply a dime sized amount in the evening, after cleansing and drying your skin (retinol should always be applied to dry skin), and applying your toner (if you use one), serum, and eye cream. Retinol comes in many different strengths and formulations, so make sure you’re paying attention to specific instructions regarding use.
When using moisturizer, a little goes a long way. A pea to dime sized amount is all you need to give your skin the hydration and moisturizing boost it needs. In the evenings, moisturizer will be your last step before heading to bed, but in the morning you should follow it up with...
Last-but-not-even-close-to-least, SPF! We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again, you should be wearing SPF every single day. We’re exposed to ultraviolet radiation daily, and incorporating sunscreen into your daily routine is a must! We recommend using a pea to dime sized amount of a sunscreen with SPF 30 or more.
Whew! We made it! This may seem overwhelming, but these steps will become a daily ritual once you put them into practice. If you’re still confused, remember that advice is always free at Wonder Skincare, and our skin therapists are happy to help alleviate any skincare stress.