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Skincare Steps: What’s The Correct Order?

Skincare Steps: What’s The Correct Order?

A breakdown of the correct order to apply your skincare

A dedicated skincare routine with all the holy-grail products is something most of us swear by. However, a subject that a lot of us are seemingly confused by is the correct order of applying these products. Active ingredients, formulation, texture, and type of product can impact where the product needs to be included in your routine. An incorrect order of skincare steps will not give you the desired results and greatly impacts the efficacy of skincare products. Moreover, an incorrect skincare step such as applying a thick creamy layer before a water-based one, may form a barrier that prevents the second product from penetrating, rendering it useless and inactive. Another effect of the wrong order of application of skincare steps is that they may lead to the rise of new skin concerns, for example, layering a serum or face oil on top of a sunscreen will disturb with its protective barrier and dilute it, leaving the skin unprotected and exposed to UV damage.

Numerous articles and videos on skincare perhaps have you feeling a bit confused. We have broken down the correct order to apply your skincare. But remember, every skin type is different so it is always best to consult your dermatologist and understand your skin’s concerns and needs.


  1. Cleanser: The first and foremost step in any skincare routine is to take off all the dirt and impurities and prepare a clean base. This skincare step is especially important as you need a completely grime and oil free face for skincare ingredients to properly absorb. For the day, use a hydrating and refreshing cleanser to wake up your skin. For dry skin, opt for a creamy cleanser that won’t over dry your skin or strip it of its natural oils.
  2. Toner: The next step is to use a gentle and light toner. These help prime your face for other products to be absorbed better. Toners also help restore your skin’s pH balance, which often gets thrown off due to the alkaline nature of soap. Moreover, they can help close pores and tighten cell gaps after cleansing, reducing the penetration of impurities and environmental contaminants into the skin. Lastly, they leave your skin feeling hydrated, refreshed, and ready for the next step.
  3. Vitamin C: An important skincare step that most often miss out on, is applying vitamin C in some way, shape, or form. This step is crucial in the morning as vitamin C is an antioxidant, meaning it protects skin cells from damaging free radicals caused by UV exposure. It also inhibits melanin production in the skin, which helps to lighten hyperpigmentation and brown spots, even out skin tone, and enhance skin radiance. Vitamin C also helps to repair damage from sun exposure and collagen loss by encouraging healthy cell turnover and regeneration.
  4. Eye cream: Eye creams tend to be thinner than moisturisers, so it is important to apply them prior to creams and oils. For the day, opt for a hydrating and refreshing eye cream. Caffeine is one ingredient that helps temporarily constrict and tighten puffy under eyes within 20 minutes. After applying the eye cream, you could even massage it in using a jade roller de-puff and help with fluid retention.
  5. Serum: Serums instantly amp up the health and glow of your face, as soon as you apply them. They are chock full of antioxidants, nutrients, and hydrators and an absolute must-have skincare product. For the day, opt for a hydrating and protecting antioxidant serum that has a weightless finish. You can also opt for a hyaluronic acid serum that is not only hydrating under your makeup but also oxygenates. For the night, you always want ingredients that resurface and repair. Ensure including ingredients that repair your skin while you are asleep, stimulate collagen production, and work to keep it hydrated as well so that you wake up with fresh and glowing skin.
  6. Moisturiser: The penultimate step in your daytime skincare routine is to apply an effective moisturiser. This helps to lock in all the products underneath and provide that additional priming and hydration that your skin needs before you head out. A moisturiser is largely responsible for keeping your skin barrier healthy and glowing. Make sure that the moisturiser you opt for is not too greasy or heavy. A light gel-based one is ideal for oily, acne-prone skin. Conversely, a gentle, creamy one for dry skin works wonders. Whichever moisturiser you choose, depending on your skin type, make sure that you let it stay on for at least two to three minutes before proceeding with your following skincare steps.
  7. Sunscreen: The importance of adding sunscreen to your daytime skincare steps cannot be stressed enough. Sunscreens act as a barrier that increasingly prevents and minimises UV damage. Regardless of the weather and how much time you are planning to spend in the sun, an SPF is essential to protect your skin from sun damage. Look for a sunscreen that is broad spectrum (the product will cover the shield against UVA and UVB rays), is water-resistant, and has a minimum of SPF 30.


  1. Cleanser: For the night, again, remember to go to bed with a completely clean face. It is essential to take off all makeup residue as well as dirt, sweat, and grime from the day. Skip the makeup wipes as they tend to be harsh on your skin and also leave behind substantial residue. Opt for a cleansing oil instead. These dissolve all makeup smoothly without irritating your skin or stripping it of its natural oils. If you have oily or acne-prone skin, opt for a gentle cleanser.
  2. Toner: Much like the importance of toner during the day, a toner at night will also help restore your skin’s pH balance which may have been disturbed with the makeup remover or cleanser. Soak a cotton pad with a toner of your choice, then swipe it over your entire face, neck, and chest. Wait for at least a minute or two before proceeding with the next step.
  3. Mask: When it comes to unwinding at night by following our skincare steps, there is perhaps no step more indulgent than face masks. They are designed to deliver high concentrations of active ingredients to your skin.They come in a variety of forms such as deep-cleansing clay, hydrating gel formula, serum sheet masks etc. Opt for a mask of your choice, according to your skin concern, and apply it twice or thrice in a week to give your skin the boost it deserves.
  4. AHA/BHA: Acids are chemical exfoliants that loosen and peel away dead skin cells. This gives an immediate brightening effect, since dead cell build up absorbs light instead of reflecting it. There are two types of acids, AHA and BHA. You can add this skincare step at night if you wish to gently exfoliate and deep-clean your skin.
    1. AHA or alpha hydroxy acids are water soluble exfoliants, meaning they exfoliate the surface of your skin while also keeping it hydrated by drawing in moisture. They come in a few forms, like lactic, mandelic, glycolic, and tartaric acid and are great for treating fine wrinkles, dryness, uneven skin tone, and acne.
    2. BHA or beta hydroxy acids are oil soluble, meaning they break down oil clogged pores to treat blackheads, whiteheads, and zits. Their most popular form is salicylic acid which helps treat acne.
  5. Retinol: Retinoids, the general term for vitamin A derivatives, like retinol and adapalene, sink into your skin to speed up cell turnover leading to fresher, smoother, less wrinkled skin over time. Add this to your skincare step to fade dark spots, smooth scars, clear pores, prevent breakouts, and brighten skin over time. If you’re new to retinoids, make sure to start slowly to mitigate the initial adjustment period.
  6. Eye cream: At night, use a hydrating and gentle eye cream to prevent dark circles and wrinkles. Eye creams also help repair and hydrate the skin around the eyes overnight so that you wake up feeling refreshed. Use your ring finger to apply a pea-sized amount of eye cream and gently massage in around your eyes.
  7. Night cream: The penultimate step in your nighttime skincare routine as well is to apply an effective moisturiser. This not only helps to lock in all the products underneath but also helps to repair and resurface your skin overnight. Choose a night cream depending on your skin concern and make sure the ingredients have anti-ageing properties to help minimise wrinkles.
  8. Face oils: The last skincare step in your nighttime routine is to apply face oils. Face oils are occlusive, meaning they seal in all the ingredients and moisture you just applied to your face to keep them from evaporating as quickly. Layering them over products help increase your routine’s efficacy while also leaving skin soft and smooth. Certain oils, like rose-hip and jojoba, can decrease excess oil in acne-prone skin, while marula and aloe oils can soothe sensitive, easily irritated skin.
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