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Pro tips on applying skin care products in the correct order

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As the beauty industry grows, it is bringing more products and hair to our homes, it is safe to say that our skincare routines have become more complex over the years. It’s not as easy as just washing your face and applying a moisturizer. The majority of daily skincare routines today, at least those we use in our office, include a growing number of tinctures and serums as well as toners and essences that each have their own set of skin-boosting benefits. You may not realize, however, that how you apply these products can make a big difference to your skin’s health. You could make your products ineffective by applying the wrong serum at the wrong times of the day or layering them incorrectly. This could cause severe irritation and skin damage.

According to Dr. Robert Anolik, a celebrity dermatologist, products should be applied in a descending order of thickness. A cream would apply second, while a serum would be applied before a cream. This is because thicker products will create a barrier for thinner products. If the thicker substance blocks thinner products from reaching the skin, they won’t be able to make contact.

Although it sounds simple, perfecting your night-time and daytime skincare routines can be difficult when you consider adding oils, essences, or toners to the mix. Is an essence more liquid than a toner Is an oil more heavy than a rich cream? We asked Dr. Anolik, celebrity facialist Georgia Louise Vassanelli and Dr. Anolik to help us determine the right skin care regimen and best products to use for each step. This is your ultimate guide to creating the perfect skin care regimen.

Day-time skincare routine

Step 1: Cleanse

The experts agree that the best cleanser for skin care should be a high-quality one. Anolik says, “It is important to cleanse your skin before you start the day, especially if your makeup was not removed completely the night before. It’s also important to clean your skin in the morning, as overnight sweating can cause more oil production and may lead to acne.”

Vassanelli says that cleansing is the first step to set your skin up for success. Among her clients are Emilia Clarke, Karlie Kloss and Jennifer Aniston. “You can’t paint on a soiled canvas so don’t expect serums to penetrate your skin if you haven’t cleaned and prepared.”

Vassanelli recommends that you choose a cleanser that suits your skin type to complete this step.

Step 2: Toner

Your skin should feel clean after cleansing. Toner is the right product to use after cleansing. What is toner? Anolik explains that toner is a step in your skin’s care regimens after cleansing. It is typically a water-based product that provides another cleanse. The toner may be more effective in clearing the skin of any residue or products that didn’t completely remove the cleanser.

Toners are best for those with combination or oily skin. However, they can be used on all skin types. Vassanelli is a big fan of toners, and recommends that her clients have at least three.

An AHA/BHA toner can be used as a daily exfoliant, to give your skin a more even complexion. BHA ingredients can also unclog pores and smoothen your skin. My Georgia Louise pH Perfecting tonic is a great choice. It is pH-friendly, soothes and does not cause inflammation. An essence toner is also helpful in hydrating, sealing, and allowing products to penetrate the skin. La Mer Treatment Lotion is my favorite. It is like liquid energy! It’s fast-absorbing and delivers a rush of hydration that instantly softens, nourishes, improves texture, and evens out skin tone. Hyaluronic acid is the best alternative to a treatment essence. It acts as a carrier and pushes other products into your skin.

Step 3: Treatment Serum

Next, you should apply a serum to your skin. Anolik advises serums to be thin, quick-absorbing liquids that deliver bioactive molecules to the skin. A New York dermatologist recommends starting the day with a vitamin C or hyaluronic Acid serum. The former will aid with pigmentation and smoothen the appearance of fine lines.

Vassanelli agrees with Anolik when it comes to creating the perfect skin care regimen, especially one that targets the signs of aging, and brightening the complexion. She says that serums are the first step in any skincare regimen, after cleansing your skin. They are the most effective and efficient way to treat any skin conditions. “My clients should have at least three serums to use daily. You need to ensure that they are protecting and hydrating.”

The NYC-based facialist says that a lightweight formula with concentrated ingredients such as antioxidants, proteins, and hydrating elements is the best thing to look out for when looking for a daytime cream. Target serums are meant to be applied to specific areas of concern such as melasma. She suggests using a vitamin A formulation such as the C Quence 1. She recommends the Dr. Lara Devgan Vitamin C Serum as an antioxidant serum. This is your daily skincare supplement that helps fight against free radical damage. Your final serum is the last. Vassanelli says that this is the most important layer of your skin. It heals and protects it and acts as a shield to keep the bad things out. “The Concentrate by La Mer is extremely soothing, calming and hydrating.”

Vassanelli recommends Biologique Recherche’s Leit VIP 02 if you want to improve your skin’s appearance. It contains the French beauty brand’s patented oxygenating compound. It’s designed to brighten, firm and protect your skin, leaving you with a healthy, glowing complexion.

Step 4: Moisturize

After your serums have had time to absorb, you can seal them with a moisturizer. This will help to keep your skin hydrated, balanced, and plump. There are many moisturizers out there, and not all moisturizers work for everyone. You should look for a thicker cream if you have dry skin. For those with oily or combination skin, you should opt for an oil-free cream or lightweight cream.

Vassanelli also has a New York atelier located on the Upper East Side where you can create custom-made face creams with her Georgia Louise Bespoke Cream Machine, an IST lab machine. She explains that the machine customizes creams based on your pH level, your hydration, and your sebum readings. “This is a clinical skin diagnostic device I created in Germany. It can create over 50 billion combinations! It’s hard to find anything that is as potent and customizable as this product.”

Step 5: Apply eye cream

Although it is often neglected, the eye area can be one of the most crucial areas to treat. It is delicate and often the first to show signs that you are getting older (thanks, Crows feet). Vassanelli says that the eyes are the most delicate and should be treated with light touch and clean fingertips. To give sensitive areas more attention, leave them at the end. However, if your moisturizer is thicker or denser than your eye cream, apply it after. Apply it before your serum if it is lighter than your serum.

She recommends that you choose a cream that is richer during the day and lighter at night when choosing your formula. “Charlotte Tilbury Eye Rescue Cream is my favorite because it is soothing and plumping. It also contains time-release retinol which is great for wrinkle treatment. Biologique Recherche’s Creme Contour Des Yeux MVP O2 is also a great choice. It’s a moisturizing and oxygenating formula that does wonders for dark circles.”

Step 6: Sunscreen

Apply sunscreen as the final step in the skin-care routine. It is one of the most effective tools for preventing wrinkles, hyperpigmentation and fine lines. You should not skip applying sunscreen, even if your foundation or moisturizer has SPF. Anolik says that it is sufficient to apply a moisturizer with sunscreen, but not if you are using a lot. You would need to use a lot of sunscreen, because it is diluted in moisturizer. People don’t usually use much sunscreen. “This is why I advise my patients to use separate sunscreens so they can be confident that they are protected.”

It is important to apply sunscreen last, after all other products have had an opportunity to absorb it into the skin. This is especially true if you are using a mineral-based SPF product. Vassanelli says that mineral-based sunscreens act as UVA/UVB blocksers and can block the effectiveness of other products if applied before serums and creams. “Nothing penetrates the pores. This is why many people complain about whiteheads and bumps in summer, since these products are mostly comedogenic.”

Vassanelli suggests the Barbara Sturm SPF drops to protect your skin. They are extremely light and leave no trace after application.

Night-time skincare routine

Step 1: Cleanse

Experts agree that cleansing your skin is an important step in any skin care regimen. However, it is especially important at night because it allows you to get rid of all the dirt and makeup that has built up over the day. Vassanelli suggests that you stick with the same cleanser in the AM, but she encourages clients to use an oil cleanser to pre-cleanse their skin. This is the best way to remove stubborn makeup, protect your lipid barrier function and add essential fatty acids to the surface to reduce trans-epidermal moisture loss (TEWL).

She suggests that you reach for Georgia Louise The Balm (which contains healing Roman chamomile, mango butter and La Mer’s Cleansing Oil), which can transform into a milking liquid when water is added to make it soft and gentle.

Step 2: Toner

It’s time again to apply your toner. A toner, as mentioned above, is a great tool to remove all makeup. A toner can prepare your skin for your other products and help you set your skin up for success. We also love the Biologique Recherche Lotion P50. Although the scent is strong, it is actually quite pleasant and works well on the skin. It is almost like a facial in one bottle. It is more than a toner. It purifies, detoxifies and exfoliates the skin and balances its pH. This will give your skin a radiant glow and gives it a clear complexion. Other favorites include Sisley’s Floral Toning Lotion and La Mer’s The Tonic.

Step 3: Treatment Serum

After your skin has been properly cleansed, prepped and dried, you can apply a combination of radiance-enhancing serums to your PM skin care regimen. Dr. Anolik suggests that you focus more on night-time antioxidants than your daytime ones. These are meant to protect and hydrate the skin but also help “assist the natural nocturnal healing mechanism of the skin.”

Vassanelli adds, “For night you always want to restore, replenish, and resurface your skin.” Both experts agree that you should replace the daytime vitamin C serum with the retinol. This is because it can cause sensitivity and skin burning. When it comes to applying your retinol of choice–whether it’s prescription-strength over an over-the-counter option like our favorite Chantecaille Retinol Intense+ serum–Anolik also advises avoiding applying any benzoyl peroxide treatments, as the ingredient can inactivate the retinol.

Anolik adds that for those who are already using retinol or benzoylperoxide, it is recommended to use the benzoyl-peroxide in the morning and the latter in the evening. “I don’t recommend peel agents such as alpha and beta-hydroxy acids (e.g. glycolic and salicylic acid) in the evening with your retinoids because they can be too irritating to our skin.”

Vassanelli suggests that you look for serums with growth factor and stem cell formulas. Her Hollywood EGF Serum is made with bioplacenta. She also recommends that you reach for a facial treatment device, such as her Pulse+Glo and Hollywood EGF Kit. They can enhance your skin’s overall results.

Step 4: Moisturize

Applying a moisturizer should be the next step in your PM skin-care routine. Although it is not necessary to use a different moisturizer at night, Anolik and Vassanelli both agree that you might benefit from a separate night cream if your skin is very dry. They tend to be more moisturizing and heavier than the AM moisturizer. Vassanelli explains that the skin is active when you’re asleep, helping to repair damage from the day.

The NYC-based facialist recommends that you choose the right product for your nighttime routine based on your skin type and age. If your skin is oily, or you have a tendency to get acne, then you should choose a lighter formula (think gels or fluids) or a more cleansing formula, such as the Biologique Recherche Dermopore. For those with dry skin, you can opt for a rich night cream such as the Charlotte Tilbury Magic Night Cream.

You may be able to achieve more balanced or normal skin types by considering your age and the needs of your skin at that moment. Vassenelli suggests that those in their twenties use a moisturizing cream to protect the skin from sunburns and lack of sleep. To help slow down skin aging and improve texture, opt for an anti-wrinkle cream like the Elemis Pro Collagen Marine Cream. This will restore your skin’s radiance.

You should follow your AM skin care regimen with an eye cream. This will help to protect and moisturize the delicate eye area. Vassanelli suggests that you choose a lighter option such as the Environ Eye Gel to “prevent puffiness.”

Step 5: Apply facial oil

A facial oil may be a good option if you prefer oil to a traditional moisturizing cream, or if you have extremely dry and dehydrated skin. Dr. Anolik cautions that facial oils might not be right for everyone. It’s important to assess your skin type before you add one to your skincare routine. He warns that facial oils should be avoided by people with oily or acne-prone skin. In those cases, it could just make the skin worse, clogging pores and encouraging more acne growth.

It is best to use oil as the last step of your skin care regimen. Make sure that your serums have fully absorbed it before applying the oil. Your serums can be trapped in the facial oil, which will help increase their overall skin care benefits.

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