You have purchased all of the facial lotions and potions to maximize the chances that you’ll have glowing, blemish-free skin, but did you know that the order in which you apply them matters? Of course, you already know not to put on sunscreen and then wash your face right afterward as you go through your skincare routine order. However, if you are using many different products, you might find that you are not sure which order you should use them in. Here is your primer for getting through your facial skincare routine order in a way that makes the most sense.

STEP 1: Wash Your Face

The first step in any skincare routine order is to wash off the day’s grime or the night’s oil. It is essential to remove any makeup you have had before you go to bed; this will help prevent skin damage and acne. Even if you don’t wear makeup, you still should wash your face before bed to remove excess sebum (skin oil) and dirt like cooking oil, dust, and other debris that will stick to your skin throughout the day.

It is simple enough: Splash your face with lukewarm or warm water, use your fingers to lather up with a gentle cleanser, then rinse. Be sure to get between your eyebrows, along the sides of your nose, and under your chin. And make sure you have rinsed away all the soap, particularly near your eyebrows and hairline.

Then, pat dry with a soft towel. It would help if you used a gentle cleanser that is appropriate for your skin type at night. You can use the same cleaner in the morning, but you might consider just rinsing with water to avoid removing too much oil if you have dry skin.

STEP 2: Use a Toner

A toner refreshes your skin and prepares it for the rest of your routine. If any dirt or oil remains on your skin after washing it, it will remove those last few traces. It will also close your pores, which have opened due to being splashed and rinsed with warm water. Toner often contains soothing ingredients, like aloe.

There is also astringent, which is sometimes marketed as a toner, but the main difference is that it contains alcohol. If you have very oily, acne-prone skin, you might consider trying this, but the caveat here is that it can ramp up oil production due to over-drying the skin. If you are looking for a genuine toner, read the label to make sure it does not contain any alcohol.

STEP 3: Exfoliate Weekly

Once per week or so, you might use a mask, gel, or scrub to exfoliate your skin. These work in various ways: Some of them, you might smooth on, let dry, and rinse off. Others, you might smooth on and peel off. Either way, look for an exfoliating mask that is balanced for your skin type. You can also make your own with a variety of ingredients.

Some potential exfoliant ingredients that you probably have in your house already include honey, sugar, lemon, and oatmeal. Remember to rub gently and to rinse away all traces of the scrub after using it. Also, only use these once per week; you can irritate your skin by exfoliating too frequently.

STEP 4: Apply a Serum

Serums are sort of like moisturizers, but the molecules are smaller, so they do not sit on top of your skin, creating a barrier like a moisturizer does. Instead, they absorb into your skin, where they can benefit the deeper layers. Serums often contain ingredients like ceramides or hyaluronic acid, which can help slow down the aging process as far as your skin goes.

They can smooth out crow’s feet and fine lines, and they can keep your skin looking and feeling more supple. If you use an eye cream, now is the time to use that, too. You might choose to use your regular serum in the morning and then use just the eye cream as part of your nighttime routine.

STEP 5: Treat Acne Blemishes

Do you have pimples or other types of acne blemishes? A spot-treatment for these imperfections will go on now before you put on your moisturizer. You might choose a product containing salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide. Just dab it on the trouble areas, let it dry, then continue with your skincare routine order.

Or you might want to use something you already have in the house, like witch hazel, an over-the-counter cortisone cream, or a dab of aloe vera gel (from the drugstore or an actual aloe plant). Whatever you use, just let it soak in, then move along to the moisturizing step.

STEP 6: Apply Moisturizer or Night Cream

You will want to apply a moisturizer next. A moisturizer provides moisture and a barrier between your skin and the outside world (or your makeup). Even if you have naturally oily skin, using a water-based moisturizer that will not clog your pores will favor your skin. During the day, you will probably want to look for something light that will soak in quickly.

Look for a moisturizer that says “noncomedogenic” on the label, which means that it will not clog your pores. At night, a more decadent night cream will be useful if you have dry skin. This will soak in overnight, keeping your skin from drying out as you sleep. If you have oily skin, you can use the same moisturizer at night that you use during the day.

STEP 7: Apply Sunscreen

This step only applies during the day, of course, but you cannot skip the sunscreen. Ideally, you will have used a moisturizer that contains an SPF of at least 30. In that case, you do not need additional sunscreen. If not, though, look for a sunscreen made especially for your face, as it won’t clog your pores. Once your skincare routine order is done, you will be ready to apply makeup if you wear it or, if it is nighttime, you will be prepared to hit the sheets!

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