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How to Build Your Skincare Routine: A Step-By-Step Guide

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We all have our rituals and habits—from where we grab our morning coffee to how we wind down before bed. Building routines into our day do more than help keep us focused, they also make sure we incorporate little bits of self-care into our daily lives. Your skincare routine is one way to show yourself some TLC and make sure you’re keeping your body’s largest organ (your skin) happy and healthy. If you’re new to skincare routines or looking to improve your current one, the vast number of skincare products, techniques, and ingredients out there can feel overwhelming. And then there’s the question of how and when you apply them? We chatted with licensed esthetician, Aziel Rodgers, LE, about how to build easy and effective morning and nighttime skincare routines for your best skin ever.


About the Expert:

Aziel Rodgers, LE, is a licensed esthetician and lead esthetician at The Things We Do in Downtown, Los Angeles.

Why Should I Even Have a Skincare Routine?

Building a skincare routine—and sticking with it—is sometimes easier said than done. We’re busy, life happens, and removing our makeup before bed is the last thing on our minds (trust us, we’ve been there). But sticking to a routine takes the stress and guesswork out of applying your products, so your routines can be easy and fun. In addition, skincare routines have important health benefits. “It’s important to have a skincare routine to keep your skin’s natural defense barrier functioning properly, and to work on preventing any extrinsic damage,” says Rodgers. A little motivation helps, too. In the morning, “say affirmations and set your intentions or plans for your day while applying products,” Rodgers says. At night, “try equating a proper cleanse at the end of the day to cleansing away any weird or embarrassing moments you may have had—it can feel refreshing!”

Which Kind of Products Should I Use?

The short answer: You’re unique, so your skincare routine will be, too. The long answer: cleanser, toner, moisturizer, serum, eye cream, night cream, and a product with SPF. (This may seem like a lot, but once you break them down into routines, it’s easy.) Furthermore, the type of skincare products that you use depend on your skin type and your skin’s specific needs. Dry skin, oily skin, combo skin—there are different products for each (and some that work for all!). If you’re not sure what skin type you have, take a peek at this article for tips and tricks on figuring out your skin type. OK now that you’re on board with skincare routines, let’s break them down for morning and night.

Your Step-by-Step Morning Skincare Routine

Your morning skincare routine should refresh your skin and protect it from outside elements you might face throughout your day, including wind, UV rays, and air pollution.

Step 1: Cleanser

Starting your morning skincare routine with a face cleanser is the best way to remove any impurities that may have entered or left your pores and settled on your skin. But you cleansed the night before, you say? According to Rodgers, it’s still important to do it again in the morning. “Some people do sweat while they sleep and it’s important not to let that stick to your skin and clog your pores. Also, if you applied a retinol the night before, it’s important to gently cleanse it off the next morning.”

LAVIDO Thera Intensive Oil Control Clarifying Gel Wash

Try this: LAVIDO Thera Intensive Oil Control Clarifying Gel Wash features powerful ingredients like salicylic acid, cinnamon, sage, and spearmint to help cleanse and balance oily skin. Plus, it’s the perfect pick-me-up thanks to its cooling effect, which leaves your skin feeling refreshed and invigorated.

Step 2: Toner

The efficacy and needs for toners is often debated—some swear by it, and some never use it at all. Toners can be very effective in exfoliating dead skin cells, tightening pores, and prepping your skin to maximize the benefits of products to follow. And if you’re having flashbacks to the harsh, astringent-like toners of the past—don’t worry. The toners of today are much more gentle, soothing, and (yup) less harsh-smelling than older formulas. You should always apply your toner after cleansing when your skin is clean, and before your serum. “Toners can help rehydrate the skin after cleansing, and will allow for proper penetration of serums afterwards,” says Rodgers.

PIXI BY PETRA Glow Tonic

Try this: PIXI BY PETRA Glow Tonic is made with aloe vera, ginseng, and glycolic acid to gently exfoliate while also soothing and hydrating your skin.

Step 3: Serum

There are tons of serums on the market—and no matter what your skin type or concern, one of these highly-concentrated formulas can probably help address it. “Serums have a smaller molecular weight than moisturizers and are able to help target certain concerns you may have,” says Rodgers. Think of them as mighty molecules that dive deep into your skin to treat and defend your skin throughout the day.

EARTH HARBOUR NATURALS MARINA Biome Brightening Ampoule

Try this: EARTH HARBOUR NATURALS MARINA Biome Brightening Ampoule is teeming with spirulina, blue tansy, and highly-concentrated adaptogenic oils that help to nourish and even out your skin tone.

Step 4: Eye Cream

Applying eye cream helps the delicate skin on your eye area maintain elasticity and firmness to minimize fine lines. It can also feel so soothing on tired eyes. (We love keeping ours in the fridge—the cool temp helps with puffiness and wakes us up on sleepy mornings). How do you apply eye creams? According to Rodgers, “Eye creams are best applied with light pressure. The skin around the eye area is thin and sensitive so constant tugging can cause damage. Tapping gently as you go around the eye area also feels great!”

GLOW RECIPE Guava Vitamin C Bright-Eye Gel Cream

Try this: GLOW RECIPE Guava Vitamin C Bright-Eye Gel Cream is powered by 10% encapsulated vitamin C, antioxidant-rich guava, a tone-evening niacinamide blend, energizing green caffeine, and plumping peptides to help brighten up your entire eye area.

Step 5: Moisturizer and SPF

While there are many effective moisturizers that contain SPF on the market, there’s also nothing wrong with applying the two products separately if you prefer. “SPF is the best thing you can use to help prevent showing signs of aging,” says Rodgers. “During the winter, choosing a more hydrating SPF can be helpful because the constant temperature changes most people endure (from the cold to hot and dry building air) can impact the skin.” If you’re using moisturizer and SPF separately, just remember to apply your moisturizer first, followed by your sunscreen.

COCOKIND Resurrection Polypeptide Cream

Try this: COCOKIND Resurrection Polypeptide Cream helps instantly restore moisture levels and give your skin a healthy dose of plumpness. With its dreamy, cushion-like texture, it hugs your skin, helps improve radiance, and works its magic to help with those pesky fine lines and wrinkles.

PURLISSE Blue Lotus Essential Daily Moisturizer SPF 30 protects your skin while it hydrates, and ingredients like soy proteins and algae extract keep your skin supple.

Step 6: Lip Balm

It may be easy to forget about them, but your lips need just as much protection as the rest of your skin. Swiping on a lip balm is an easy way to keep your lips from drying, prevent flakiness, and boost hydration to minimize fine lines. Think of applying lip balm as the last step in your skincare routine, and the first step in your makeup routine—let your lips soak up the moisture, so when you swipe on your lipstick your lips will already be smooth and hydrated.

MOROCCAN MAGIC Pure Coconut Lip Balm

Try this: MOROCCAN MAGIC Pure Coconut Lip Balm uses the hydrating goodness of organic argan and coconut oils and vitamin E to offer long-lasting moisture regardless of the season.

Your Step-by-Step Nighttime Skincare Routine

Nighttime is your skin’s natural time to repair itself, so think of your nighttime skincare routine as time to prepare your skin for the coming day.

Step 1: Double Cleanse

The first step to any skincare routine always starts with clean skin. It’s especially important to cleanse at night when your skin’s been exposed to air, pollution, sweat, and other elements throughout the day. And if you wear makeup, cleansing away every bit of it is important to keep your pores clear and unclogged. The secret to making sure your skin is clear for the rest of your routine? Double cleansing. “Double cleansing is cleansing the skin twice,” says Rodgers. “The first removes any makeup, SPF, or residue on the skin, while the second actually cleanses the skin. I love using oil cleansers first because they can really melt the day off and even pull up any hardened sebum (like blackheads). The second cleanser you use would depend on your skin type.” One thing to avoid? “No matter your skin type I’d recommend avoiding cleansers with sulfates in them as they are over drying,” says Rodgers.

DEWYTREE The Clean Lab AC Dew Foam

Try this: DEWYTREE The Clean Lab AC Dew Foam lifts away dirt, makeup and impurities, and helps nix breakouts and congestion with salicylic acid and white willow stem extract.

Step 2: Exfoliate

Exfoliating can be a super-satisfying part of your skincare routine, and has many benefits for your skin. According to Rodgers, “Exfoliating is important for clearing away dead skin cells and unclogging pores, smoothing skin’s texture, and more. Plus, it helps serums and other skincare products penetrate your pores by removing dead skin cells that block their entrance. Furthermore, it can help refine overall texture, boost collagen production, and make skin appear brighter.” To learn more about how often you should be exfoliating, check out our complete guide on everything you’ve ever wanted to know about exfoliating here.

SKIN & CO ROMA’s Truffle Therapy Face Gommage

Try this: SKIN & CO ROMA’s Truffle Therapy Face Gommage is a luxuriously scrub that uses grounded apricot kernel to gently exfoliate skin without stripping away moisture.

Step 3: Mask

This is one of our favorite (and most relaxing) skincare steps. Face masks come in a variety of formulas to target your specific skin concerns, or just give an overall boost of hydration and glow. Two formulas we swear by: Sheet masks and clay masks. “When using sheet masks, make sure to use every drop that’s inside the packet,” says Rodgers. “You can apply extra essence to your neck and décolleté, your hands, and even elbows. (For more info on sheets masks, click here. “Clay masks help detox your skin because they can help draw out excess sebum.” The best part? You can multimask (apply different clay or cream masks to different areas) to treat specific areas of your face—just don’t physically combine formulas to preserve their effectiveness.

HEY HONEY Show Your Glow - Colloidal Gold & Honey Beauty Mask

Try this: HEY HONEY Show Your Glow Mask real with this luxurious honey and colloidal gold mask. Honey nourishes and hydrates your skin, while colloidal gold helps diminish the look of fine lines and prevent wrinkles from forming.

INNISFREE Pore Clearing Clay Mask with Super Volcanic Clusters is on a serious pore-clearing mission. Powered by absorbent Jeju Volcanic Clusters™ (finely ground hardened volcanic lava) and lactic acid, it helps clear pores while it exfoliates. Its deep-cleansing properties make this mask perfect for anyone targeting enlarged pores, excess sebum, and texture.

REN Glycol Lactic Radiance Renewal Mask uses a blend of glycolic, lactic, citric, and tartaric acids to help smooth skin texture and reduce the appearance of fine lines, pores, and dark spots. Hello, glow!

Step 4: Night Serum

Nighttime serums come in a variety of formulas that help target skin concerns while you sleep. We love a nighttime serum because it gives your skin time to really soak in its benefits (plus, your skin’s already in repair mode while you snooze). Smooth on a serum with your fingertips and let it soak in for a few moments before moving on to your moisturizer.

KAT BURKI Retin-C Treatment Complex

Try this: KAT BURKI Retin-C Treatment Complex helps promote cellular turnover, fade hyperpigmentation, and leave you with plump, hydrated skin that glows from within.

Step 5: Moisturizer or Face Oil

Just like in the A.M., moisturizing at night is key to keeping your skin hydrated, nourished, and happy. There are many types of moisturizers out there, and you should choose one depending on your skin’s needs. For example, drier skin types can benefit from a richer, creamier formula while oily types can benefit from a lightweight or gel formula. Another option we love? Face oils. Face oils are a nice way to soothe and indulge your skin after a long day. You can also use them for a mini facial massage to melt away your stress. Whether you use face oils or moisturizers, it’s important to make sure your face, neck, and chest are covered. “When applying moisturizer, apply up and out,” says Rodgers. “Apply a decent amount of pressure, but don’t pull or drag on the skin. Always include your neck and décolleté (that goes for your other products as well!)”

SUNDAY RILEY C.E.O. Vitamin C Rich Hydration Cream
Courtesy of SUNDAY RILEY

Try this: SUNDAY RILEY’s C.E.O. Vitamin C Rich Hydration Cream for instant hydration and skin-brightening effects.

Ready to start your skincare routines? Soon you’ll know them inside and out, and you’ll be on your way to brighter, healthier skin.

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About the author
pia-bhattacharya-headshot
Pia Bhattacharya
Pia is a New York-based beauty editor at IPSY with over 10 years experience including editorial, public relations, and copywriting. Her work has appeared in SELF magazine, in beauty and branding for Bloomingdale’s, and others.
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Article Last Updated August 21, 2023 12:00 AM