When it comes to establishing a skincare routine, it’s not always straight forward. Long gone are the days of simply cleansing, toning and moisturising. We often hear words like peptides, retinol, vitamin C, acids and serums. But what do they all mean? But more importantly which product goes first?
One rule of thumb to guide you is to apply skincare products in order of their consistency, the thinnest first finishing with the thickest. But, it’s not just about knowing which order to apply them, it’s also important to know what products you need to use and how often to use them.
According to Dr Anita Sturnham, who specialises in dermatology, our skin has a 24-hour circadian rhythm, meaning that its anatomical and physiological needs change from AM to PM. In the day your skin needs protection from external factors like sunlight and pollution, in the evening it’s repairing itself. Which is why you need different products for different times of the day.
It’s also important not to mix certain ingredients like exfoliating treatments and vitamin C together, otherwise they can counteract one and other. Confused much?
To save you some serious head scratching, we have put together this clear, step by step guide on which order to apply your skincare products to take out the guess work for you.
As you’ve removed your makeup the night before, begin by using a light cleanser to clear the remnants of any skincare products or excess oils left on the skin. Your morning cleanser should be gentle, hydrating and non-abrasive.
1-Glossier Milky Jelly Cleanser, Glossier.com, Dhs68
2-CeraVe SA Smoothing Cleanser, Feelunique.com, Dhs54
3-L'Occitane Gel-To-Foam Cleanser, Debenhams.com, Dhs85
4-La Roche-Posay Toleriane Dermo-Cleanser, Feelunique.com, Dhs56
Next, use a water-based toner to help rebalance the skin’s PH levels and prepare your skin for your serum and moisturiser.
1-Dr Barbara Sturm Balancing Toner, Cultbeauty.co.uk, Dhs203
2-Neal's Yard Rejuvenating Frankincense Toner, Feelunique.com, Dhs90
3-Fresh Rose Deep Hydration Facial Toner, Cultbeauty.co.uk, Dhs95
4-Caudalíe Beauty Elixir, Lookfantastic.com, Dhs55
Follow by using an eye cream. It’s important to use a separate eye cream because the skin around the eye area is a lot thinner and more sensitive than the rest of face. This is why it’s more prone to ageing over time, so using a hydrating eye cream rich in ingredients like hyaluronic acid and peptides help to boost collagen levels in the under eye area.
1- Vichy Minéral 89 Eyes, Feelunique.com, Dhs90
2-Clinique Moisture Surge Eye Concentrate, Lookfantastic.com, Dhs125
3-Avène Soothing Eye Contour Cream, Lookfantastic.com, Dhs43
4-Drunk Elephant C-Tango Multivitamin Eye Cream, Cultbeauty.co.uk, Dhs245
Hyaluronic acid serum
Hyaluronic Acid is a key skincare ingredient which can be used by all skin types, according to Dr Sturnham: “hyaluronic acid helps to provide structure to our cells and supports our skin’s hydration barriers. This extra hydration therefore helps to plump to the skin, minimising the appearance of fine lines.”
In order to reap the maximum benefits, Dr Sturnham recommends applying hyaluronic acid in small layers throughout your morning and evening skincare routine, as well as using as a separate serum.
1-The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5, Lookfantastic.com, Dhs27
2-SkinCeuticals H.A. Intensifier, Lookfantastic.com, Dhs384
3-Evolve Organic Beauty Hyaluronic Serum, Feelunique.com, Dhs55
4-The Inkey List Hyaluronic Acid, Feelunique.com, Dhs27
A serum is designed to penetrate the deeper dermal layers of your skin and nourish it with a variety of skin protective ingredients. Layering serums can also be effective to adapt your skincare routine to your specific skin needs.
Dr Sturnham recommends layering serums that have these key ingredients to promote healthy skin throughout the day:
Vitamin C - Vitamin C is an essential nutrient rich ingredient that should be used daily in your skincare routine. “Our skin has built in receptors for Vitamin C” says Dr Sturnham, which is why it is key to ensure we get our daily skincare fix of it. Vitamin C has many benefits such as improving skin tone, protecting the skin against pollution and UV damage, boosting cell repair and giving the skin a radiant look.
Panthenol (Vitamin B5) - Panthenol otherwise known as Vitamin B5 is an ingredient that helps to soften and soothe the skin by helping (repetition of skin) protect against irritation and water loss.
Ferulic Acid - Ferulic Acid is an antioxidant which helps to boost the effects of other antioxidants used in serums. It also helps to reduce signs of ageing like fine lines and wrinkles.
1-Decree Peptide Veil +, Cultbeauty.co.uk, Dhs519
2-Paula's Choice C15 Super Booster, Lookfantastic.com, Dhs207
3- Medik8 Hydr8 B5, Facethefuture.com, Dhs145
4-The Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2%, Cultbeauty.co.uk, Dhs23
Once you have applied your serum and given it time to absorb into the skin, it is then time to apply a moisturiser. This helps to hydrate your skin throughout the day and creates a smooth base for makeup. Dr Sturnham recommends non pore-clogging ingredients like safflower, apricot kernel and squalene.
1-Sunday Riley Tidal Cream Dhs270
2-Kate Somerville Goat Milk, Cultbeauty.co.uk, Dhs248
3-Clinique Dramatically Different Hydrating Jelly, Feelunique.com, Dhs140
4- Glossier Priming Moisturiser, Glossier.com, Dhs82
Finish by using an SPF (Sun Protection Factor) to protect your skin against UV damage. UV damage causes signs of premature ageing such as wrinkling and pigmentation. Experts recommend using an SPF30 or higher on your face to deliver optimum UV protection.
1- REN Clean Screen Mineral SPF 30, Lookfantastic.com, Dhs135
2-Kiehl's Ultra Light Daily UV Defense, Feelunique.com, Dhs126
3-Vichy Ideal Soleil Mattifying Face Fluid Dry Touch SPF30, Feelunique.com. Dhs75
4-SkinCeuticals Ultra Facial Defense SPF50+, Lookfantastic.com, Dhs167
For your evening cleanser use something with more active ingredients that has an exfoliation to it and that is deep pore cleansing. If you are wearing makeup and SPF during the day, we recommend double cleansing: using a balm or oil based cleanser first to breakdown the makeup and excess oil and following with a gentle, hydrating gel cleanser.
1-Emma Hardie Amazing Face Moringa Cleansing Balm, Lookfantastic.com, Dhs212
2-The Body Shop Oils of Life Cleansing Oil-in-Gel, Thebodyshop.com, Dhs54
3-Decree Deep Cleanse, Cultbeauty.co.uk Dhs249
4-DHC Deep Cleansing Oil, Feelunique.com, Dhs49
Once again follow with a toner to balance your skin’s PH levels and prep your skin for your serum and moisturiser. You can also opt to use an acid toner two to three times a week depending on your skin type. Look for ingredients like glycolic acid, lactic acid and mandelic acid which will exfoliate the skin and even texture.
1-Dr Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Ultra Gentle Daily Peel, Lookfantastic.com, Dhs394
2-Pixi Glow Tonic, Lookfantastic.com, Dhs82
3-Nip & Fab Glycolic Fix Daily Cleansing Pads, Lookfantastic.com, Dhs59
4-Paula's Choice 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant, Lookfantastic.com, Dhs127
If you are really invested in fighting signs of ageing and those pesky fine lines, retinol is the way to go. Otherwise known as vitamin A, retinol is a rich ingredient which helps to fight signs of ageing at a deep cellular level. It helps to promote the production of collagen and elastin, reduce pore congestion, regulate the production of sebum and work against inflammation.
There are many options for retinol on the market, but Dr Sternham recommends using retinol into your skincare routine in the form of a serum. Look for words like: granactive Retinoid or hydroxypinacolone retinoate which are less harsh on the skin.
Use it in small doses every night after cleansing and toning before applying your moisturiser and built up gradually. Make sure that you always use an SPF in your morning routine, as retinol will make your skin more photosensitive.
1-Medik8 Crystal Retinal 1, Facethefuture.com, Dhs175
2-Elizabeth Arden Retinol Ceramide Capsules, Lookfantastic.com Dhs190
3- Drunk Elephant A-Passioni Retinol Cream, Cultbeauty.co.uk, Dhs280
4- Disciple Dreamy Skin, Cultbeauty.co.uk, Dhs158
Like your AM routine, follow up with an eye cream to the orbital bone area. We recommend saving yourself some money and opting for the same one morning and night.
Add a serum to your PM skincare routine like you would before a moisturiser in the day. Dr Sturnham advises to look for ingredients that support your skin’s physiological needs at night. Pay attention to how your skin is feeling, is your skin dry? Is it showing signs of pigmentation? Is your skin feeling congested? Look for serums that will address the particular needs of your skin and that ideally have a variety of skin benefiting ingredients. Dr Sturnham recommends ingredients like alpha arbutin, hyaluronic acid and plant-based stem cells.
1-Kate Somerville KX Active Concentrates Ceramides & Omegas, Spacenk.com, Dhs380
2- Bybi Supercharge Serum, Feelunique.com, Dhs145
3-The Ordinary Alpha Arbutin 2& + HA, Cultbeauty.co.uk Dhs32
4-Glossier Super Bounce, Glossier.com, Dhs109
For your evening moisturiser use one with a slightly richer, thicker consistency than you would during the day to hydrate dehydrated skin.
1-Trilogy Replenishing Night Cream, Lookfantastic.com, Dhs108
2-Pixi Rose Ceramide Cream, Dhs108
3-Herbivore Moon Fruit Night Treatment, Cultbeauty.co.uk, Dhs216
4-CeraVe Moisturising Lotion, Lookfantastic.com, Dhs40
-Avoid using exfoliating or foaming cleansers followed by alcohol-based toners, as this will dry out skin, making it prone to sensitivity.
-Take your time to apply each product, allow each layer to absorb into the skin before applying the next one.
-Use your treatment products in order of their consistency from lightest to thickness.
-Avoid mixing water-based and oil-based products in your same skincare regime.
-Keep your cleansing routine simple on a daily basis and reserve the more intensive exfoliation routine for once a week.
-Avoid using intensive exfoliators with Vitamin C.