The general rule is to layer your skin-care products based on weight. “Typically, products should be applied from thinnest to thickest,” she says. Keeping that in mind, here, Dr. Farber and Joshua Zeichner, MD, another NYC dermatologist help me to suss out the right order in which to apply skin-care products. If you don’t tend to use a particular product, just skip over it to the next one, to build your ultimate, personalized regimen. Keep scrolling for the order you should layer on your products.
Literally none of your skin-care treatments would work if you didn’t have a clean canvas to start with, which is why cleansing in the morning and at night is essential. The first rule: Choose a face cleanser that benefits your skin type, says Dr. Farber. “Those who have dry skin should look for a face wash with ingredients like ceramides and glycerin to boost the barrier, and if your skin is extra dry, opt for an oil-based cleanser,” she says.
“Women with oilier skin should look for a gel-based formula, while sensitive types can even get away with just using micellar water,” says Dr. Zeichner. And although washing twice a day is ideal, the most important time to cleanse is at night. “You need to remove dirt, oil, makeup, and pollution from the skin that accumulate during the day,” he adds.
After you’ve cleansed, it’s time to tone—but not with those harsh formulas you grabbed from the drugstore aisle as a teenager. (Just me?) “With the exception of the most oily patients, I recommend that everyone use alcohol-free toners,” says Dr. Zeichner. “Astringent toners, including witch hazel, for example, effectively remove oil from the skin but can potentially cause irritation, which is why I reserve them only for patients with extremely oily skin.” The key to finding success with a face toner is to be mindful about how much you use. Dr. Farber adds that they’re great at prepping skin for a serum, but if you use too much, you can dry out skin.
3. Eye cream
You want to apply your eye cream prior to any treatment products, so that potent ingredients like glycolic acid or retinol aren’t accidentally pulled to the eye area. Because the skin around the eye area is more delicate than the rest of your face, it requires its own pint-sized bottle of gel or cream. (They’re all just so cute, right?) Again, choose based on your skin type: If your lids are oilier, opt for a gel-based formula, says Dr. Farber. Otherwise, look for a hydrating formula for parched skin or one laced with caffeine to lessen the appearance of under-eye bags. It really just comes down to what your eye area needs. Apply it with your ring finger (which puts the least pressure on skin!) by gently tapping.
Think of serums as specialty treatments for your specific skin needs, as they’ll help target any issues you may have like dryness, dark spots, dullness, or acne. “Essentially, they’re delivery systems for specific active ingredients,” says Dr. Zeichner, and he adds that you can utilize different formulations and ingredients for different times of day. For example, in the a.m., reach for a serum that’s packed with antioxidants to help ward off the effects of pollution, he says, adding that a vitamin C-based serum is one of the most well-known and potent antioxidants.
At night, Dr. Farber recommends using a serum with retinol to help skin regenerate as you sleep. “Evening serums tend to provide skin with reparative ingredients and stimulate collagen production,” she says. The result: a soft, revitalized complexion come morning.
Perhaps your most important step, moisturizers help to not only hydrate the skin, but seal in all the ingredient goodness that you’ve applied prior, says Dr. Farber. During the day, opt for a lightweight lotion, and save your heavier face oil for nighttime (remember, you can’t use your face oil under any foundation). When it comes to the ingredient label for your face cream—day or night—Dr. Zeichner says its imperative to find a complementary formula to your serum to maximize their efficacies.
No, you don’t need to put on sunscreen before you go to bed, but you should consider it an absolute essential in the morning—and the final step of your skin-care routine during the day to ward against UV damage, proven to increase the aging process and lead to skin cancer. “Don’t forget sunscreen,” warns Dr. Farber. “Apply it every single morning, religiously.”
Now that you’ve got your skin-care routine on lock, read on for how to layer your makeup properly, then check out why sunscreen is so important to apply 365.
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