First of all, it is hard to choose the products that are the most appropriate for our skin type and condition. Second of all, it is both time consuming and difficult to figure out the order in which we should use these products.
So I’ve decided to elucidate this mystery. Every day, I write comprehensive skin care regimens for my patients, so I will put these in writing here for everybody who is interested in learning how to layer correctly.
- Mild Cleanser. Generally it is recommended that you don’t strip your skin off of all the “good” oils that it naturally produces overnight. Therefore, it’s recommended that you use a very gentle milky cleanser to wash the face; my personal preference is to use room temperature water to wash my face. Hot water is dehydrating and drying for the skin. Skin Ceuticals Gentle Cleanser or Avene Clean AC are perfect for the morning wash.
- Toner. It’s not a must. However, if you love that squeaky clean feeling, after you wash your face you can use a toner or astringent. You have to make sure that your toner does not contain alcohol, as that would dry out the skin, and in time damage it, just like hot water. I personally don’t like to use toners too much, but it’s just my preference.
- Serum. This is one of the most important steps in skin care. It is as important as using a Retinoic acid at night, and using sunscreen during the day. I recommend a concentrated antioxidant serum every morning, in the form of a dropper or lotion. The reason we need to use an antioxidant serum every morning is because antioxidants help neutralize free radicals that damage our skin throughout the day. Think of free radicals for the skin and body in general, like cavities are for the teeth. They damage from the inside by breaking down the collagen and the elasticity inside the skin. My personal all-time favorite antioxidant serums are Phloretin CF and CE Ferulic from Skin Ceuticals.
- Moisturizer. The reason we apply moisturizer after the serum is because moisturizers have a different chemical formulation which does not allow them to penetrate into the skin too much. They create an occlusive layer which locks in the previous products and the naturally occurring moisture. Now in order to avoid too many steps in the morning, I generally prefer to use a moisturizer with an SPF 20 or 30 already included, like Avene Hydrance Optimale SPF25. But if you prefer a separate sunscreen, this would be your next step.
- Sunscreen. I am a big believer in physical/mineral sunscreen. I personally don’t like the idea of a chemical sunscreen, simply because physical sunscreen creates a protective “shield” which reflects away damaging sun rays, while the chemical ones neutralize the damaging sun rays once they have already entered the skin. Therefore, some of my favorite physical sunscreens are MD Solar Science Tinted Cream , Physical Matte UV Defense SPF50 from Skin Ceuticals, and Color Science Sunforgettable SPF 50 in case you have oily/acne prone skin and prefer a powder sunscreen.
- Cleanser. In the evening, it is important that we cleanse the skin very well, and wash off all the dirt, pollution, and residual products. If you use makeup, make sure you remove all makeup first, with a makeup remover like Micellar water. After removing all your makeup, you’ll want to wash the face with a foamy, possibly medicated cleanser.
- Exfoliation. I strongly recommend that you exfoliate your skin at home. If you have a Clarisonic Brush, you can use it every day (only once) because it provides just the right amount of exfoliation on a daily basis, without being too abrasive. If you like to exfoliate with other products, such as mild facial scrubs or exfoliating serums (like Blemish and Age Defense from Skin Ceuticals), this would be the time to do so.
- Treatment product. After exfoliation, I recommend that you use any medicated products you might have, such as Salicylic Acid, Retinoic Acid, or Hydroquinone, for acne, anti-aging, or brightening purposes. Generally if you have a good Retinol or RetinA product, I recommend that you use only a pea size amount at a time. Take one pea size amount of that product and spread it evenly all over the face, avoiding the area around the eyes and the mouth. Using it this way, you’ll avoid the unpleasant irritation and peeling that occurs almost every time a retinoic acid product is used incorrectly. One of my favorite Retinol products lately is the PCA Retinol.
- Serum. Now, you’ll want to apply a hydrating/anti-aging and replenishing serum to face, neck, chest, and hands. Or, you can also use the anti-oxidant serum from the morning. A little extra Vitamin C never harmed anyone! My favorite serum I like to use at night though is Metacell Renewal B3.
- Night moisturizer OR facial oil. In order to lock everything in and help with the repairing process over night, I recommend a good peptide cream or a replenishing oil like Jojoba oil, for the face, neck, and chest. I really like this Perricone MD Neuropeptide Firming Cream, but it is on the pricey side.
- Eye treatment. Last but not least, a good eye cream, eye serum, or even pure Vitamin E will help the sensitive skin around your eyes while you sleep. I usually apply the same treatment around my lips, to avoid those vertical fine lines. You’ll really like this Neocutis Lumiere eye treatment.