It’s easy to see how your skincare routine can be a little overwhelming – we are sold so many products these days – there is something for everyone – but if you have more than 2 serums what do you use first? And what about eye cream? And double cleansing and and..
Before we go in:
You’re going to need to buy some flannels (washcloths)
There is no mineral oil anywhere in this routine
No wipes unless you have no access to water (hospitals, fannies, flights, festivals – emergencies only, you get the idea)
All stages suitable for all skin types unless otherwise stated.
The main point of the morning routine is to prep your skin for the day.
Taking care of your skin in the morning is no different to having a shower before you put clean knickers on. You may think this is obvious, but I am contacted regularly by people who say, ‘Do I really need to cleanse in the mornings?’.
I don’t know about you, but I wake up with a lovely glow in the mornings – maybe you do too?
It’s called sweat. Please wash your face.
Sidebar: I have never put my face under the shower. It’s too hot for your face (well my choice of water temperature certainly is). You also have all the surfactants from your shampoo running all over your face. Stand with your back to the shower and your chin raised – like the shower has greatly offended you. Cleanse when you get out of the shower, not before.
Use a clean flannel.
Cleanse – any non-foaming cleanser is fine. Milk, balm (a little), gel – as long as it doesn’t turn your face into a foam bath – carry on. Yes, you can absolutely use the same cleanser as you do in the night-time if money is an issue.
If money is not your main concern have at least 3 cleansers on rotation. For example: a good pre-cleanse oil or eye makeup remover, a milk cleanser and a balm cleanser.
Exfoliating (acid) lotion – most brands make exfoliating/acid products that you use at the traditional ‘toner’ stage. To call them a ‘toner’ is to do them a great injustice. These are the ‘toners’ of the 21st Century.
This has the effect of blowing a trumpet in your ear. Your skin is forced into action.
Lower your skin’s PH.
Note: I always take my acidic toners around the eyes – full circle – upper brow to corner brow and under eye to inner eye – and reverse.
All packaging for anything with any acid in it will have to say legally ‘avoid eye area’. Unless you are using a prescription strength, dermatologist-prescribed hardcore acid, it’s fine. Try and alternate a couple of products here if you can. A milder version and a more ‘active’ one. Alternate them daily. If you can only afford one I would either buy a mild one and use it twice a day – or a stronger one and use it in the evenings only – but try and get one in each category. If you have sensitive skin, or you are just concerned about using acids, start by uing them twice a week and see how your skin reacts.
Spray hydrate – I personally love this step. It’s the start of the hydrating process and it wakes me up. You can use whatever hydrating flower mist/water that you like. You can also use your traditional ‘toner’ at this stage – as long as its main function is to hydrate – it would preferably have glycerin or hyaluronic acid in there somewhere but a good quality rosewater etc is fine. I mean good quality – i.e. the inci list is rosewater, not fragrance (parfum) and colouring. Check your ingredients labels. Decant it into a Muji spray bottle and keep it as a spray too.
Try and avoid alcohol at this stage.
Eye cream – don’t apply your eye cream last. No matter how careful you apply your serums/moisturisers you will always get some in the eye area and then your eye cream won’t absorb where you want it to. Pointless.
Eye cream first. Everything else afterwards (and on top if you like and it’s not a contra-indication).
Applying your eye cream last is like wearing knickers over your trousers.
Serum/Oils – this is what I am asked about the most. I use a mixture of oils and serums and application goes by texture.
Serums – especially water-based ones, are first. Next, a couple of drops of facial oil (if you are using one), topped off with your moisturiser. In the case of a heavily siliconed serum, I would probably skip the oil and go straight to moisturiser.
Take a couple of drops of serum on the end of your fingertips, pat them quickly on to the fingertips of the other hand and then apply immediately. Spending 20 seconds ‘warming’ your serum in your hands by rubbing them together is a complete waste of time, money and product, unless your intention is to have fabulously soft palms.
There will always be exceptions, so if what you are doing works for you – don’t change it on my account.
Moisturiser – choose your moisturiser by your skin type, not condition. Your moisturiser is your coat/protection.
People tend to spend far too long choosing their moisturiser and far too little taking care of what goes on beforehand. For example, using a quick swipe of a wipe, slapping on a £150 face cream and then wondering why their skin isn’t great.
Remember nothing ‘mattifying’. Skin is not designed to be ‘matte’. As above – your skin has plenty of time to be matte when you’re dead. If you know you are excessively oily, just go for light hyaluronic acid serums and oil-free moisturisers. No need to force the issue. Leave that to your makeup.
Whatever moisturiser you are using that is right for your skin, whack it on now. And how much? Aim for around a 10p size – a quarter for US readers. Adjust according to your face obviously… less is more.
Your skin should feel comfortable. not ‘wet’.
Beauty myth: ‘Warm product in hands before use.’
A good formulation will be ready to go – warming a product in your hands will only put most of the product on your hands. Oil doesn’t need to be warmed to absorb. If you want to rub it in your hands and inhale it before you apply, your choice. I prefer to put it on my face and smell it while it gets to work on my face – not my hands. It’s another ‘habit’ that brands have got into the habit of putting on their packaging.
If your product is such that it needs to be ‘warmed’ I probably wouldn’t bother. As always, there are some exceptions. Weleda Dry Skin Food for example, needs a little help.
SPF – I always recommend a separate SPF for reasons previously mentioned on the blog – I just don’t think a moisturiser with added SPF is going to do much benefit-wise to the skin. I mean, it’s better than nothing, but wouldn’t you rather be safe than sorry?
SPF – both chemical and physical – is a dominating ingredient and if you load a skin cream with it – that’s the benefit. I.E. – I would never buy a £200 anti-ageing moisturiser with SPF. You’re paying for an expensive SPF. If you can afford it, and you love it, carry on. You’re not getting the best out of your moisturiser. Buy a good moisturiser and a perfectly reasonably priced SPF. Job done. Equally – an anti-ageing moisturiser with SPF15 – to my mind – gives a false sense of security.
If you apply a moisturiser with SPF15 in the morning and sit out in the sun at lunchtime I guarantee you – you will not be covered enough. If you want to be in the sun, if you have to be in the sun, use SPF. A dedicated SPF.
And no, you cannot use an SPF instead of a moisturiser. That’s like going out all day with a raincoat on and only bra and knickers underneath. Unless that is your everyday outfit of choice, I suggest you wear actual clothes (moisturiser) underneath your raincoat (SPF).
The main point of your evening routine is to help your skin help itself. Repair and correct.
Beauty myth: ‘Your skin repairs itself at night’ is the biggest old wives’ tale out there about beauty.
It’s nonsense. And please don’t get me started on ‘your skin sleeps at night’. No. YOU sleep at night.
Your skin does not have an on/off switch like your heating. Your skin is repairing itself 24 hours a day – the reason you use treatments etc while you sleep is because you have the full attention of your skin.
Your face is not being bombarded with sunlight, dirt, aggressors etc so you get the treatments in while they actually have a better chance of them being effective.
‘Your skin repairs itself at night’ is like ‘closes your pores’. Doesn’t happen.
‘Do I need to double cleanse?’ is my most asked question about evenings.
The only time I don’t double cleanse is if I have been indoors all day and have applied neither SPF nor makeup. If you wear SPF you need to double cleanse. A lot of people who think they are allergic to SPF because it breaks them out are simply not taking the time to wash it off properly. (Please don’t take it personally if you genuinely are allergic to SPF – I’m clearly not talking to you.)
SPF is designed to stay on your face. Take the time to remove it.
Makeup is designed to stay on your face. Take the time to remove it.
Using the flannel from the morning is fine.
I usually do 2/3 of the below.
Pre-cleanse oil or eye makeup remover – quick swipe around the eyes either with the oil via fingertips or a dedicated remover on cotton if I’m wearing lash extensions or a lot of mascara.
Oil/balm cleanser – I go straight in with oil to hit the oil and dirt and makeup and general gunk on my face after a day in Central London. Straight on the eyes first, then spreading out across the rest of the face. Off with flannel held under a running tap, no filling the bowl with water.
Milk/gel cleanser – If I haven’t used the pre-cleanse, I finish with a quick going over of something lighter – any regular milk/gel cleanser for your skin type is perfect for this. Straight on to the skin, off with a flannel as per usual.
Note to micellar water users: if you prefer to take your makeup off with a micellar water before you cleanse, that is your first cleanse. But if you are wearing an SPF or heavy makeup you still need to go a couple of rounds with a flannel. Don’t be lazy. Your skin will thank you.
Acid tone – as above, unless you are planning on using a vitamin A product now.
Spray hydrate/tone – this is the one step you don’t have to do at night. I do because I love it – and I’m a firm believer of sandwiching moisture in wherever possible. But it’s up to you and you can absolutely save on your budget at this stage.
If you are using vitamin A, apply it after cleansing onto dry skin. Leave for about 20 minutes and follow with your eye product. If you need it, apply your moisturiser afterwards.
Eye cream – as above. If you suffer from puffy eyes use a serum/gel, not creams.
Treatments (serums) – my favourite step. This is where you can really go to town.
This should be your main expense skincare-wise. Again, try and have at least 3 products you can mix up and use depending on your skin’s needs.
A good facial oil, a good serum/treatment, whatever you need for your skin. And before you ask me what you need, really think about it. You know your skin and what it needs.
Whether or not you use a night-time moisturiser is dependent on what treatment you use. If your treatment is IN your moisturiser, you’re done. If you are using a lovely night-time oil you may not want/need anything else.
Personally, I am a fan of the ‘piling it on lightly’ approach. All this ‘cleanse and then just let your skin breath’ is daft. Your skin is always breathing. If it wasn’t, you’d soon know about it. In the morgue.
Your skin will breath regardless of whether you put product on it or not.
My PM routine is literally: pre-cleanse, cleanse, acid, hydrate spray, eye cream, oil/treatment (serum) and night treatment/oil/cream (not all 3!). If I’m using a retinoid, it’s pre-cleanse, cleanse, retinoid, (wait) eye cream, any other serum that I’m using/facial oil/moisturiser (depending on needs).
Sometimes less is really not more. Having one cleanser and one moisturiser is like having one pair of shoes or one bra. If you can afford more than one pair of shoes you can afford more than one cleanser and more than one moisturiser.
And don’t forget, put your flannel in the wash!
Looking for a full routine to target a specific concern or skin type? Check out The Boxes on Skin Rocks.