daytime vs night skincare routine

Daytime Skin Care Routine vs. Nighttime Skin Care Routine: The Basics 

Though the first step to building an effective new skincare routine is choosing the right products for your skin type, the second step is figuring out the order 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.

Your daytime skincare routine is all about protection from the sun, dirt and pollution and your nighttime routine should be all about treatment and giving your skin what it needs. In other words, daytime skincare is about protection and preservation while nighttime skincare aims to address skin issues before the regenerative process of sleep begins.

skin regimen trio

Why Your Skincare Routine Order Matters

Between eye creams, serums and night versus day moisturizers, your skincare routine can quickly turn if you’re not applying your products correctly. The order in which you apply your skincare products can make them work even harder. The general rule is to layer your skin-care products based on weight. Dermatologist Michele Farber, MD of Schweiger Dermatology says products should be applied from thinnest to thickest to allow the penetration of heaviest products through lightest ones. Make the most of your skincare routine by following our step-by-step guide to layering your products.

Here’s the best order of skin care products to make sure you get the most out of them.

Your Daytime Skincare Regimen

Step 1: Cleanser

daytime routine

You might think cleansing your skin before bed is all you need to wake up fresh-faced, but another rinse in the morning is a good idea.

Germs from your pillowcase can move to your face as you sleep. But even if you wash your pillowcases often, an A.M. cleanse is best practice.  “While you’re tossing and turning at night, bacteria from your saliva and oils from your hair are easily transferred to your face and eyes,” explains Rachel Nazarian, M.D., dermatologist at Schweiger Dermatology Group in New York and New Jersey. And the truth is, none of your skincare treatments would work if you didn’t have a clean canvas to start with.

Good skin care maintenance starts with the daily use of a gentle non-drying cleansing cream. Splash your face with warm water, mix a small amount of cleanser with water in your hands to create a soft foam. Massage it into your skin with gentle circular movements, avoiding the area around your eyes.

Step 2: Exfoliate (once or twice 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. Some exfoliants, like an enzymatic powder, turn into a creamy, cleansing foam when mixed with water to exfoliate deeply, ridding the skin of pollutants and dead cells for a brighter, smoother complexion. 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 3: Essence

essence texture close up

This often-skipped step boasts tons of skin-boosting benefits, including balancing the skin’s pH levels so your skin is in tip-top shape to absorb serums and moisturizers. While the exact origin of Essence isn’t known, documentation in Japan can be traced back to a centuries-old geisha beauty rituals.

An essence is a highly concentrated lotion that recharges and hydrates the skin with its cooling serum-like texture. Essences are packed with reparative ingredients like fruit and flower extracts to help restore your skin after cleansing, and provide hydration and cellular renewal for a more compact and luminous skin, ready to absorb the products you will apply afterwards. Using an essence provides the nourishment your complexion needs to look fresher throughout the day.

Step 4: Topical acne medications 

If you’re suffering from breakouts or have breakout prone skin, acne medications like salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide should be applied now, directly onto clean, dry skin. This allows the medications to be absorbed into the skin and to work in the most effective manner possible.

The exception to this rule is with retinoids, which can sometimes be applied after moisturizer is applied, in order to prevent the development of dryness and irritation on the skin. If you’re looking for a booster that targets imperfections, enlarged pores, and pimples, reducing their appearance and ensuring a smooth, clean and even complexion try a concentrate that combines Tea tree and Mandelic Acid.

Step 5: Antioxidant Serum

Serums are super-concentrated, nutrient-dense treatments that address specific concerns, so it’s better to keep them as close to the skin as possible.

Using an antioxidant concentrate with Vitamin C for daytime not only improves the appearance of dark spots, uneven tone and enlarged pores, but also provides a variety of benefits—from blunting your skin’s inflammatory response to neutralizing damage from UV rays and environmental pollutants.

Step 6: Eye Cream

lift eye cream close up

The skin around your eyes is the thinnest and most delicate on your face and the first to show signs of premature aging.

Regular use of eye cream over time will keep the eyelid skin elastic and can improve or prevent against some fine lines or collagen loss. Dab a small amount of eye cream under and around your eyes, on the upper eyelid and just below the arch of the eyebrow using your finger pads. Stash your eye cream in the fridge for an extra-cooling factor.

Step 7: Moisturizer with Sunscreen

Moisturizing your skin with SPF is the most important step of your skincare routine.

Moisturizing not only hydrates your skin, but seals in all of the products in steps one through six above. The CDC recommends using sunscreen on a regular basis before going outside, even on cloudy or cool days. Moisturizing with a high sun protection factor rating protects your skin from harmful UV rays, and shields it from the stress and aggressions of city life, such as fine particles and heavy metals, that accelerate skin aging. The World Health Organization reports that up to 90% of visible changes attributed to aging may be caused by sun exposure.

Your Nighttime Skincare Regimen

Step 1: Remove Makeup

Many makeup brands are waterproof so basic cleansers will not remove them thoroughly. For this reason, you should put as much care into removing makeup as you do into putting it on.

Wipe off lipstick, gently lift away mascara, and de-smoke your smoky eye with a makeup remover or cleansing wipes —especially when removing long-wear makeup.

Step 2: Cleanser

cleanser close up

Similarly, cleansing your face with your makeup remover alone is not good enough, experts warn. Although they remove makeup and dirt, they also leave behind a residue. Use them first to remove makeup if needed, then rinse away residue and residual oils and bacteria with a cream cleanser effective in removing make-up, SPF, dust and residues that deposit during the day. This leaves your skin fresh and perfectly prepped to absorb your nighttime skin care products.

Step 3: Exfoliate (once or twice per week)

Whether you exfoliate in the morning or at night is dependent on your individual habits and lifestyle, says dermatologist Harold Lancer, MD. If you wear makeup, exfoliating at night helps to lift any remaining makeup particles from the skin and ensure that your products are penetrating properly, he adds. Pour a teaspoon of your enzymatic powder exfoliant in the palm of your wet hand, adding a little of warm water. Rub your hands together until obtaining a foamy cream. Apply your exfoliant to your face, avoiding contact with your eyes, massage and then rinse your face thoroughly.

Step 4: Essence 

You should be using an essence every time you wash your face, especially before bed. Think of your essence as injecting a first round of moisture into freshly-cleansed skin. Notably, using an essence before bed also helps your skin absorb other products in your nighttime skincare regimen, rendering products like serum more effective. Gently apply the essence with the palm of your hand through tapping movements.

Step 5: Topical acne medications 

tea tree booster

Even though it’s tempting when dealing with breakout prone skin, slathering on topical acne medications numerous times throughout the day won’t clear acne faster. But it will leave your skin super dry and irritated. Use multiple acne treatments at once (for example, salicylic acid lotion, on top of benzoyl peroxide cream, on top of Retin A gel) and you’ll also run the risk of over-drying and irritating your skin.  Don’t layer products on your skin. Instead, space applications throughout the day — like using your salicylic acid cleanser in the morning, benzoyl peroxide lotion at night.

Step 6: Eye Cream

Because the skin around your eyes is thin and you use the surrounding muscles all day long (blinking, squinting, etc.), use your eye cream both morning and night. In the evening, apply your eye cream after your essence, about an hour before you go to bed. This gives the product time to absorb before you lie down on your bedding. Aside from addressing crow’s feet and dark circles, eye creams can also serve to protect your delicate eye area from your other skin care products. Generally, you’d want to apply your eye cream before your serum to protect your eye area against potent ingredients, which could potentially cause irritation.

Step 7: Serum

vitamin c with hands

Combat the effects of the day’s pollution and brighten up your complexion, by layering your treatments and skin care boosters next. Using an antioxidant rich serum with Vitamin C at night will help your skin regenerate as you sleep, countering fine lines and imperfections. Like the rest of the body, skin does the bulk of its repairing, restoring and regenerating as we sleep. This is why most targeted skin care treatments—like prescription meds (tretinoin, acne and rosacea creams), retinol creams, exfoliative treatments (peel pads and masks) and anti-aging serums (infused with peptides, growth factors and other biologically active ingredients)— are better used at night. If you’re using multiple boosters, the same rules apply: go from thinnest product to thickest.

Step 8: Moisturize

During sleep, the skin’s trans­epidermal water loss is increased, meaning moisture is pulled out of the skin while we snooze. Using a  tripeptide cream with palmitoyl tripeptide-5 and dandelion extract before bed protects your skin from dehydration. To maximize the effects of your moisturizer, dot it on and rub into your skin in gentle circular motions from the center outwards. This daily massage will reduce puffiness, boost circulation, energize your skin and release muscular tension in your face.

Step 9: Mask

Night masks typically contain hydrating or remodeling agents such as hyaluronic acid and retinol, and their consistency is thick but non-comedogenic, meaning they let the skin breathe without clogging the pores. A leave-on mask with gluconolactone and alpha-glucan yeast can help revitalize your skin from impurities and build up, and reveal a radiant morning complexion. Night masks are best applied as the final step — layered on top of a complete regimen — ideally just before bed according to Dr. Craig Kraffert, a board-certified dermatologist. Massage your mask into your skin with movements from the center outwards. Sleep with your mask overnight and face the following morning.

night detox mask

The change of seasons can mean making a few tweaks to your skin care routine, but it shouldn’t require any major overhaul. In the winter, it’s all about extra moisturizing. The cold weather contributes to dryness and wind can chap skin too. You may want to shift to a more moisturizing cleanser to supplement your daily moisturizer. Conversely, in the summer, your skin may be oilier and you can turn to an oil-free cleanserSunscreen is a staple for all seasons, but it’s fair to adjust to a lighter weight for daily use in the summer months – just be sure to bring out the heavy-duty stuff for any concentrated time spent in the sun.  And if your skin changes – due to the environment, hormones or anything else – you should adjust your routine accordingly.

When it comes to skin care, following the rules makes all the difference. Make the most of your products by following this basic advice. We promise your skin will thank you!

by Jaclyn LaBadia – feature contributor