Skincare Cheat Sheet: Proper Order & Routine

Did you know that the order you apply your skincare in makes just as much difference as the skincare you use? You could be (unknowingly!) self-sabotaging your skin just by using your skincare in the wrong order. Not to worry though - we’re here to help. 

And there’s no need to be flustered if you think you might be using your skincare in the wrong order - sometimes, even brands aren’t necessarily telling you the right thing when it comes to skincare. Here’s our guide to the right order of skincare - let’s get started!

SK-II Facial Treatment Cleansing Oil product image on white backgroundSK-II Facial Treatment Cleansing Oil | $105
The first step in any evening skincare routine should be makeup removal - something this cleansing oil does effortlessly.

What’s the Right Order of Skincare?

One of the biggest secrets to knowing how to layer skincare like a pro is the guideline of thinnest to thickest. There are some exceptions to this (for example, skincare medication needs to be applied to clean dry skin - per your GP’s or derm’s orders). 

At first, this list is going to look huge - but we’re not saying that these are all the steps you need for a skincare routine! It’s just here to illustrate which order everything goes in. Think of it as a guideline for the right skincare product order!

Order of Skincare Cheat Sheet

For example, based on this order, an example morning skincare routine would be Cleanse, Tone, Serum, Moisturiser, SPF - see how all of those are in the same order in the list above? 

Or, let’s look at an example night time routine. It would go Makeup Removal, Cleanse, Tone, Serum, Eye Care, Moisturiser. This cheat sheet clears up any confusion about what should come first in your routine!

The best way to use this cheat sheet is to get all your skincare together and look at what you’ve got - put them all in order and take a photo so you’ve got the correct skincare product order to refer to.

Sisley grapefruit toning lotion product image on white backgroundSisley Grapefruit Toning Lotion | $130
A toner helps to rebalance the skin’s pH and sweep away any last traces of impurities before moving on to the next skincare step. 

Why Thinnest to Thickest Skincare Product Order?

The thinnest to thickest guideline makes sure that you’re not accidentally preventing your skincare from working properly - this is most important when you consider the difference in formulas from say, a moisturiser compared to serum. Here’s why! 

Most moisturisers, especially those formulated with oils, form a barrier that helps to lock in hydration to the skin when applied. While this is what gives moisturisers most of their fantastic benefits, it also means that not much that you apply over the top is going to reach your skin! 

For example, if you’re trying to apply an essence - a thin, water-based product - over your moisturiser, that moisturiser is going to prevent that essence from getting to your skin as easily. 

The thinnest to thickest guideline makes sure that you get all your water-based toners, essences, and serums on your skin before locking them in with your favourite moisturiser - and that you’re not locking them out instead with incorrect skincare routine order.

Lancome Hydra Zen moisturising cream gel product image on white backgroundLancôme Hydra Zen Anti-Stress Moisturising Cream Gel | $92
This gel-cream moisturiser locks in hydration and all the goodness of the skincare that you’ve applied before it for gorgeous, flawless skin. 

Applying skincare incorrectly is usually the number one reason that people think their skincare isn’t working - so double check your routine order if you feel like that new serum you got isn't making a difference!

Exceptions To The Guidelines

However, there can be an exception to the guideline - and that exception is retinol. As amazing as it is, retinol has a well-known side-effect of irritation and dry skin, especially in the first few weeks of usage. One of the ways to minimise this irritation as much as possible is to apply it after moisturiser - a technique called buffering

Now that we’ve established what’s the right order to layer your skincare, what about how often to use it? 

Eve Lom rescue mask product image on white backgroundEve Lom Rescue Mask | $114
This combination clay mask and exfoliator from Eve Lom is perfect for a once-a-week pick me up. 

How Often to Use Which Skincare Products

It can be tricky to know how often to use skincare products - instructions that come with skincare don’t always take account of your individual skin’s needs. For example, a clay mask formulated for oily skin might suggest that it should be used three times a week - but if you have oily and sensitive skin, this would be a no-go.

Knowing when to regular skincare for every day, and knowing when once a week usage is better. Skincare can be split into two general categories: skincare for daily use, and ones that you can use around once a week - so you’re not doing a crazy fourteen step routine every day! 

Which Skincare Can I Use Daily?

When you break it right down, daily skincare goals are mainly to cleanse, moisturise, and protect skin from the sun. These are the three things that will help you reach your skin goals faster (we’re sure of it!) and these skincare steps provide different ways to get there.

Skincare steps that are ideal for every day are: 

  1. Makeup Removal (Evening Only)
  2. Cleanse
  3. Toner
  4. Essence
  5. Face Mist
  6. Eye Care
  7. Serum
  8. Moisturiser
  9. Facial Oil
  10. SPF (Morning Only)

And again - it’s not that you need all of these steps for your routine. This list just makes sure that even if you’re only using three products (they had better be cleanser, moisturiser and SPF, by the way) you know which order to use them in.

Declare probiotic skin solution firming anti-wrinkle serum product image on white backgroundDeclaré Probiotic Skin Solution Firming Anti-Wrinkle Concentrate | $159
This probiotic skin serum is perfect for daily use, boosting the skin’s natural moisture barrier and fighting off the signs of ageing. 

What About The Rest?

Once a week is a safe bet - depending on your skin, you might find yourself using these more often than once a week or even less. Everyone’s skin is slightly different! However, once a week is a great starting point for all skin types - especially with products such as at-home chemical peels, clay masks, or exfoliants. 

Skincare products that are great as a weekly treat are: 

  1. Rinse-off Mask
  2. Exfoliator
  3. Sheet Mask
  4. Sleeping Mask 

la prairie cellular mineral exfoliator product image on white background La Prairie Cellular Mineral Face Exfoliator | $215
Even used just once a week, this gentle facial scrub can help boost the radiance and smoothness of your skin. 

Another thing that’s crucial to how often to use skincare products are the active ingredients, aka ‘actives’. When people say actives, they’re usually referring to ingredients such as Retinol, Vitamin C, BHAs, AHAs, and PHAs. Active ingredients come with their own set of rules for how often and when they can be used - and that’ll be the topic of our next blog post!

Looking for a quick way to create a skincare routine (in the right order) that’s just perfect for your skin? Try our skin quiz - it’ll create a routine tailored to your skin type and help you get to know your own skin a little bit better. 

Beauty Affairs Skin Quiz

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Alexis Adrienne

Alexis Adrienne

Alexis Adrienne is a passionate beauty writer with over 10 years of experience. She’s incredibly keen on all things skincare, makeup and cosmetics, with a fingertip on the pulse of the latest global beauty trends at all times.

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