So you’ve found products perfect for your one-of-a-kind skin (woohoo!). Your work is done, right? Well, not quite. Though the first step to building an effective new skincare routine is choosing awesome products, the second step is figuring out the steps in your new regimen. In addition to providing the best results, using the right item at the right time will help maximize the superpowers of each product in your routine. (And since you already put in hard work to track down great formulas, why not make those formulas work their hardest?) Sound complicated? It isn’t—we swear!—and we put together this step-by-step cheat sheet to prove it.
Step 1: Remove Makeup
We’re firm believers that we should put as much care into removing makeup as we do into putting it on. Wipe off lipstick, gently lift away mascara, and de-smoke your smoky eye with a go-to like a classic makeup remover, cleansing wipes, or cleansing oil. Weird-but-true fact: Oil cleansers attach to the oil in your makeup, and then wipe it cleanly away.
Step 2: Cleanse
Serums, night creams, and anti-aging treatments may be luxurious, but fancy formulas won’t work their magic if they aren’t applied on a clean canvas. From frothy face washes to no-water-required (and non-drying!) cleansing waters, it’s easy to find a just-right partner in clean (our Cleanser Quest Sampler is a great place to start).
Step 3: Exfoliate (1–2 Times Per Week)
Most experts recommend exfoliating once or twice weekly to tackle built-up dirt and oil, reduce dullness, and sweep away dead skin cells (which promotes healthy cell turnover). Scrubs gently buff away dead skin, while chemical exfoliators and peels give pores a deep clean all on their own. When using a scrub, focus your exfoliating energy on areas with blackheads or flakiness (especially nose and cheeks), since those are the areas where clogged pores tend to crop up.
Step 4: Tone
This often-skipped step boasts tons of skin-boosting benefits, including balancing skin’s pH levels so your skin is in tip-top shape to absorb serums and moisturizers. Packed with reparative ingredients like fruit and flower extracts, toner helps restore skin after cleansing and provides the nourishment your complexion needs to look fresher (yes please) throughout the day.
Step 5: Apply Serums
Now to the heavy-lifters: serums and treatments. Since serums are chock full of powerful hero ingredients (think: antioxidants, ceramides, retinol, and hyaluronic acid), we want to apply them early in our routines so our skin can really soak up the good stuff. It’s important to pat serums into skin—rather than just slathering them on top—so they can penetrate and absorb. A good rule of thumb is to apply formulas with thinner consistencies first, and then apply thicker treatments over them (for example, a watery essence works best layered under a more syrupy serum).
Step 6: Tap on Eye Cream
The undereye area is the most delicate part of our complexions and the first to show signs of aging—which is why it deserves its own special step in your regimen. Gently tap on eye cream with your ring finger (be careful not to tug!) to keep the area smooth and bright.
Step 7: Moisturize
Almost done! Smooth on a moisturizer or night cream to give your skin a biiiiig drink of water (hydrated skin equals happy skin). Prone to oil and pimples? Moisturizers are especially important for you, since dry skin can cause our oil glands to go into overdrive (which just causes more oil and blemishes). Pro tip: For an extra shot of hydration, pat a facial oil on top of your moisturizer to seal it in. Not sure which moisturizer is right for you? Check out our Moisture Matchmaker Sampler!
Step 8: Protect
As SPF fanatics, there’s no way we’d skip this step. If you’re heading out into the sun, don’t forget to layer sunscreen on top where it can most effectively fight UV rays. Remember: Daily use can reduce the appearance of skin aging by 24%, making it one of the very best anti-aging treatments around. Whether you choose a superlight makeup setting mist, an SPF oil, or a lightweight lotion, there are endless innovative (and fun!) ways to add SPF to your routine.