The Daytime Skincare Formula I Always Follow

What is the right way order to apply skincare products? This is a very, very popular question and it took a while for me to sort out the best answer for my skin. While there is a clear trend in the answers provided by dermatologists and estheticians, no two complexions are alike. As you’ve probably figured out, we can’t all be Beyoncé. But damnit we try.

The truth of the matter is experimentation will help you determine which skincare products work best for you and how often/what time of the day to use them, but the basic formula for daytime is this: cleanse, treat, moisturize, protect. What each of those steps means will be different for everyone. Some [very lucky, non-shiny, clearly poreless] people cleanse in the morning with only water. Some have conditions like acne or rosacea that need daily treatments while others can skip that step and go right to hydration. For example, my skin can take some serious chemical exfoliation, like bring on all the acids, but too much physical exfoliation always means trouble.

As a 33-year-old with oily, acne-prone and dehydrated skin whose forehead now produces fine lines by afternoon to remind me to drink water, I follow the same routine all week to please the moody being that is my skin. It follows the Korean methodology but the products tend to be American or European (mostly French).

Here’s the product breakdown:

Cleanse — I have to cleanse in the morning because I wake up SHINY. If I’m working out in the morning I’ll use Collosol to wipe away any products from the night before. After that, or if I skipped the workout, I go right for a gentle foaming cleanser. One of my favorites is from Indie Lee but right now I’m loving this one from iS Clinical.

Tone — Monday through Friday, I like to use P50 1970 from Biologique Recherche for its exfoliating and hydrating benefits. It just makes all of my masks work better. On the weekends, I’ll reach for a more hydrating toner to give my skin a break.

Mask — Using a face mask is one form of daily self care that has kept me more sane during this weird time. I rotate a lot of masks in my routine to keep my skin clear, but generally I use a hydrating mask once a week, a clay mask twice a week and Masque Vivant, which is an all-in-one for balancing the skin, also twice a week.

Essence — Now to start putting moisture back into the skin. Hydrated skin absorbs everything else you apply better. In the past, I’ve use Beauty Water instead of an essence, which I adore, but I’ve been trying out Hydraphel Skin Supplement Lotion and I’m really liking the extra hydration I’m getting from this alcohol-free formula.

Extra: Eye Cream — I put this as an extra because there is a fair amount of debate about how effective/necessary eye creams are, but with an asterisk. For me, I’ve used one every single day since I was 18, usually going for a lighter formula in the morning and a richer formula at nighttime. I don’t have serious crow’s feet at this point or dark circles, so I’m glad I made that decision, but there are more and more serums and moisturizers out there now that can be used on the entire face, even the eye area so you can skip that step. Have I found my perfect daytime formula? So far it’s been hard to beat La Mer’s now discontinued gel. The quest continues.

Serum(s) — Typically, I use two serums: one for acne and one for brightening. I’m blessed with skin that breaks out easily and scars just as easily, so I need to cover both bases. My go-to duo for a long time included these two BR Quintessential Serums, but right now I’m testing out this one for acne and wrinkles from SkinCeuticals and this vitamin C serum from Ole Henriksen which is the first vitamin C I’ve used in a while that didn’t break me out. If my skin feels very dehydrated, I’ll add a third hydrating serum but too much hyaluronic acid can sometimes irritate my skin.

Moisturizer — I’m not a big fan of heavy moisturizers. Too thick, and the skin on my neck will get itchy and I feel like my pores are suffocating. Instead, I go for one pump of iS Clinical’s Reparative Moisture Emulsion and then I can add my sunscreen on top without feeling totally slathered.

Extra: Spot Treatment — If I have a pimple that needs some extra care, I’ll dab on Hexomedine if it’s under the skin or this Herbal Blemish Gel if it’s closer to the surface.

SPF — Now, I’ve used tinted moisturizers since college, but it wasn’t until I hit 30 I realized the amount I was putting onto my face was nowhere near enough protection. Thankfully, I have sun spots to remind me. This year I found a facial sunscreen I absolutely adore from EltaMD. It’s light, evens out my complexion and is packed with ingredients like niacinamide and lactic acid. I use it every single day, whether I’m leaving the house or not.

That’s the story! If my face is looking puffy or I want some extra pampering, I’l use some of these tools if I have the time, but they aren’t a daily thing. Same thing with hydrogel eye patches.

An interesting thing about being in a varying state of quarantine since March is I’ve really been paying attention to my skincare routine more and how I can maximize the benefits with less products when needed. It’s nice to luxuriate in a longer routine while I’m at home, but if I’m on vacation or visiting family and friends I certainly don’t want to spend all morning in the bathroom. When I used to travel, I would pack every single mask and serum I used during a regular week and it was a lot to lug around. Now, I’ve been experimenting to narrow things down so I have a more streamlined travel skincare routine that should (hopefully) keep things happy while I’m away from home. Such is the joy of complicated skin.

When will I be able to share that? Who knows right now but I have a feeling if everyone in the U.S. wore a mask we would be on our way. Call me crazy.

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