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What order should you do your skincare in?

Black woman with healthy skin, hair wrapped in towel, white robe

This seems to be a heavily debated topic surrounded with much confusion. Is there a wrong and right way to do your skincare routine? Does skincare order matter? Is it serum before moisturiser, or moisturiser before serum? If you’ve been doubtful or confused about whether or not you’re doing this skincare thing right, read on.

Does skincare order matter?

Yes it does. A useful skincare routine is executed in steps. Each step should prepare your skin for the next so that products can work in harmony together and so that you get the full benefits of each formula. The biggest key is skin penetration. In order for products to do their job, in most cases, you want them to do something to your skin, absorb into the layers or get stuck into your pores. An exception would be ‘slugging’ where your aim would be having a thick, occlusive product like petroleum jelly sitting on your skin to lock in everything underneath, sort of like a protective barrier to go on top of the skin. But not only do occlusives lock products in, they can also lock products out, which is another reason to bear a skincare order in mind.

How to order skincare products

After cleansing your skin, the general rule of thumb is to apply your skincare products from the thinnest to the thickest consistency. It’s also good to remember that clean, damp skin is one of the best ways to apply your skincare in order to lock in hydration and moisture. The exception to this rule would come in to play when applying things like retinol and tretinoin.

The correct order of skincare products?

swatch or skincare cream, lotion

1). Cleanse

A healthy skincare routine always starts with a cleanse because you want a clean canvas in order to reap the full benefits of your products. If your skin is still dirty with oil, dirt, debris, makeup, sunscreen and so on, this means that your pores will be congested, your skincare products won’t be able to penetrate your skin as much and you will be likely to experience breakouts and irritation. A double cleanse (exactly how it sounds) or in extreme cases a triple cleanse is paramount to removing all traces of dirt and bad bacteria off of the skin.

We recommend double-cleansing (in the evening) with a cleansing balm or cleansing oil first, and then moving onto something else like a gel or cream cleanser. For the morning, a single cleanse will be sufficient.

2). Face mask

If you’re using a face mask, do it now. Face masks will usually work better on damp skin. Rinse off gently with lukewarm water if the directions say so.

3). Eye cream

If you use any eye creams, or just regular creams around your eyes, do this now while your skin is still damp to lock in the hydration. Skin is much thinner and delicate around the eye area and therefore requires a lot more love.

4). Toner

Want to use a toner? You would incorporate one at this stage, while your skin is still damp (not necessarily soaking wet). Work the toner into your skin generously. If your skin starts to sting, this could be a sign of sensitivity, due to a damaged skin barrier. Simplify your routine by removing harsher ingredients like retinols, AHAs and BHAs etc.

5). Essence

We know what you’re probably thinking…What is an essence?

Quite similar to serums really, only they are much thinner in consistency, delivering further hydration to the skin using active ingredients. Essences are often used as a way to prep your skin in between applying products, keeping it full of life. Essences are optional and can be added to your skincare routine if you like them.

6). Serums and facial oils

This is one of the most debated parts of the whole ‘skincare order’ topic. We, along with other reputable aestheticians and skin specialists would advise you to apply your serums before moisturisers, even if they are oil based. This goes back to the ‘thinnest to thickest’ rule that we mentioned earlier. Thick and thin skincare products how different molecular weights and penetrate the skin at different capacities. Serums are skin treatments that tackle specific skin concerns and won’t be as potent trying to fight through a barrier of thick creams and lotions. That’s why, when attempting to apply serums and facial oils after a cream, you kind of see them swimming on top of the skin because it’s harder for them to be absorbed.

7). Moisturiser

…That’s if you need one. If you have very oily skin, you may be content with just a light serum or facial oil, or opt for a very light moisturiser. On the other hand, if you have normal to very dry skin, this is a key step for you. If you’re doing your night time skincare, your routine ends here.

8). Sunscreen

If you’re doing your morning or AM skincare routine, you must apply your SPF! This is in hot weather or cold weather, it’s all year round regardless, as your skin needs consistent protection from harmful UV rays which are absorbed during daylight. Sunscreen should always be last in your skincare routine for effectiveness, unless stated otherwise on the packaging.

That’s it, that’s your skincare routine done!

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