Skin-Care Tips

Here’s What Derms Have to Say About Skipping Your Morning Skin-Care Routine

Erin Bunch

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In the new normal of sheltering at home, everyday morning routines have been supplanted by the snooze button, attempts to cram in uninterrupted work time before the kids awaken, or by any number of other irregularities caused by these abnormal circumstances. As a result, the wider public is now testing a premise that we freelancers have been challenging all along: If a work-from-homer neglects regular hygiene and no one is around to see it, does it matter?

Of course, some parts of the morning routine are more clearly non-negotiable than others. You should definitely still brush your teeth, for example, whereas showers are kind of meh. But what about your a.m. skin-care routine? Do you really need to repeat the whole shebang if you did it the night before and aren’t planning on going anywhere besides your desk and couch?

While expert opinions are somewhat mixed on which parts of the routine are expendable, all generally agree that doing absolutely nothing to your skin in the morning is unwise. “For people who’ve adopted a cumbersome, multi-step regimen, skin may be crying out for a break,” says dermatologist Kenneth Howe, MD of Wexler Dermatology. “At the same time we don’t want to be too lazy—ignore your skin, and it may rebel.” 

Besides, morning products serve—or should serve—a different purpose than evening products. “The general difference between an a.m. routine and p.m. routine is that the morning products are geared towards protection from the elements and the nighttime routine is geared toward repair and rebuilding,” explains dermatologist Michele Farber, MD, of Schweiger Dermatology Group in New York City. “It’s therefore important to keep some aspects of a morning and nighttime routine.”

This doesn’t mean you have to manage your skin first thing in the morning, now that you have some leeway with your schedule. “If you are working out mid-morning, then I would recommend shifting your morning routine to after your workout,” says NYC-based dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, MD. “Some skin care products are quite expensive, so applying it for an hour before washing it off might be wasteful.”

As for which parts of your skin care you can skip if doing it all just feels like too much, it really depends. Below, a step-by-step guide from the pros on creating an abbreviated routine for quarantine (and beyond).

The lazy gal’s guide to an a.m. skin-care routine

1. Cleanser

While Dr. Zeichner sees no reason you can’t skip a morning wash if you cleansed your face well the night before and slept on a clean pillowcase, Dr. Howe recommends you play it safe by rinsing with at least water in the morning (that goes double for anyone using sun-sensitizing actives like retinol or glycolic acid). And if you have oily skin, Dr. Farber recommends sticking to using a cleanser twice per day. (Sorry!)

2. Serum

Surprisingly, this is one step the pros agree is mission critical, if you want best results for your skin. Dr. Howe offers that while serum application is technically optional, you obviously can’t reap their benefits if you don’t use them. “If it’s an anti-aging serum—one with vitamin C and E, for example—then skipping it means you’ll lose out on those anti-aging benefits,” he says. “Is that bad?  Well, yes, but as for whether it’s worth the trouble of applying it in the morning, that’s up to you—depends how lazy you’re feeling.”

Both Dr. Zeichner and Dr. Farber specifically recommend application of a vitamin C serum in the morning, even if you do nothing else for your skin. “I usually recommend them in the morning because they minimize free radical damage and even skin tone,” Dr. Zeichner says. 

3. Moisturizer

Moisturizer guidelines are opposite those outlined for cleansers. Dr. Farber says that it’s fine for those with oily or normal skin to moisturize once a day—though your skin will be, well, drier—but it’s not wise to skip this step if you have dry skin. “Let your skin serve as your own barometer to tell you what it needs,” agrees Dr. Zeichner. You should also make sure to moisturize if you have eczema. “Neglecting to moisturize may lead to a flare-up,” says Dr. Howe.

4. Sunscreen

Perhaps counterintuitively, the verdict on this one is a unanimous affirmative. “I recommend applying sunscreen every morning, no matter what,” says Zeichner. “Even if you are indoors, UVA light can penetrate right through window glass, putting your skin at risk for sun damage.”

ICYWW: Here’s a dermatologist’s actual skin-care routine:

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