Updated: Jun 18
The order of operations of a skin care regimen can be confusing, especially when you start juggling several products. The proper order is as follows: cleanse, tone (optional), mask (optional), serum(s), moisturizer, and sunscreen.
Cleansing is the most important first step to every skincare regimen. To read my article all about how to properly wash you skin click here.
To tone or not to tone, that is the question many clients ask. Toning is really more of an optional step and I’ll explain why. The purpose of toning the skin is to remove excess product or debris left on the skin and to return the skin to its natural pH. These functions are not as necessary now that most skin care products are compatible with the skin’s pH, but the right toner can still benefit the skin.
For example, I like to recommend that my clients with acne-prone or sensitive skin bring a toner with them to the gym or maybe keep a bottle in their car to remove sweat and bacteria when they may not have the time or access to wash their face. Clients who do not have oily or acne-prone skin can substitute a toner in place of a morning cleanse if they need to save time.
It is important that the toner you choose does NOT contain alcohol. Toners that contain alcohol are called “astringents,” and they will feel irritating when applied and will leave the skin feeling tight. It is important to realize that effectiveness and harshness are not the same thing, and astringents do more harm than good. Alcohol overly strips and dehydrates the skin. Alcohol also causes inflammation, and inflammation in the skin contributes to acne and aging.
I prefer to use pure witch hazel as my toner.
Masks are more of a treatment than a necessary component of your daily routine. They can be a great way to address your skin concerns and conditions, but are more often used on a weekly basis rather than every day.
Be cautious of any mask that is painful during its application or removal. An intense stinging sensation during application is a sign to remove the mask, and an intense pulling sensation during removal can cause damage to the skin. Stay away from these masks!
When it comes to remodeling and improving the skin, serums are perhaps the most crucial part of the skincare regimen. Serums are designed to penetrate into the deeper layers of the skin where they can deliver their potent ingredients or stimulate change at a cellular level. This is why serums must be applied before moisturizers—if the moisturizer is applied first, it acts as a barrier preventing the serums from sinking into the skin.
The tricky part with applying serums is that sometimes you will have more than one serum to apply—what order do you apply your serums when you have more than one? I tend to recommend two options. The first involves applying your serums in order of thinnest to thickest. For example, the serum with more of a gel consistency that is absorbed quickly should be applied first, followed by the heavier cream serum. The second option involves applying the serums in the order of most importance to you. In other words, if your biggest concern with your skin is your hyperpigmentation and your second concern is wrinkles, then apply your pigment lightening serum first followed by the serum that addresses wrinkles.
In the evenings you will apply your moisturizer to seal in all of the other products and to lock moisture into the skin. In the daytime you will finish your regimen by applying sunscreen with at least 30 SPF. Dermatologists estimate that up to 80% of our visible signs of aging are caused by sun exposure. Therefore, applying sunscreen everyday is the single most important anti-aging step of any skincare regimen!