How to Layer Skincare for Optimal Results: Morning Routine

It’s time to focus on sun-in-the-sky skincare…

Back in my uninformed youth, before I started to take skincare seriously (so like, three years ago?), I assumed there was no difference between what I put on my face in the morning and what I put on my face at night. Skincare was skincare…it didn’t matter what I applied when or in what order, right?

But then I learned that your skin does the bulk of its healing at night while you sleep, and so then I assumed my nighttime routine was more important than my morning one. I dutifully spent upwards of 20 minutes over the sink every night, double cleansing and facial massaging and serum pressing and eye cream dabbing. It was quite a bit of work (and quite a few products), but I noticed a difference in my skin almost immediately and so have kept at it all this time, much to chagrin of my very patient, very sleepy S.O.

I was spending so much time focused on my evening skin that I failed to recognize the importance of what I was using in the morning. And while I wouldn’t say my skin suffered for it — those 20 minutes really did work wonders — when I finally did start paying attention, things on and around my face got way better than I ever could have dreamed.

I’ve already walked you through how to layer your nighttime products for optimal results, so now it’s time to focus on sun-in-the-sky skincare. Without further ado, this is how to approach your AM routine:

Step 1: Cleanser

Truth be told, a morning cleanse is totally your call. Since all you’ve done since the last time you washed your face was apply restorative, soothing products and sleep, there’s no need to wash your face in the morning. It’s a personal preference, one you’ll have to figure out for yourself.

Personally, I like to cleanse in the morning as I feel like it starts my day off right and offers a clean slate for what I apply to my face next. But if you have dry skin and can’t risk the extra cleanse, by all means skip it.

If you do choose to cleanse, pick a product that’s gentle and non-foaming. You don’t need something with suds at this point in the day (like I said, you don’t really have anything on your skin that needs washing off), so opt for a cleansing milk or gel that will be soft on the skin. You can also use an oil cleanser here if you’re really intent on removing all traces of the previous night’s products, but be sure to remove all traces of the cleanser thoroughly or any makeup you apply later will slide right off your face.

Step 2: Exfoliate-ish

Proceed with caution here. Again, if you’re prone to irritation or dryness, skip the AM exfoliation and stick to doing it a few nights a week to keep dead skin cells at bay. If not, consider incorporating some very gentle exfoliation with a warm, damp cotton washcloth into your morning routine. Starting at your nose and working out toward your temples, forehead and chin in small circles will help slough away dead skin and massage the skin, stimulating blood flow and reducing facial swelling and post-sleep puffiness. When you’re done, splash some cold water over your face.

Step 3: Toner/Essence

No matter your skin type, this is a step you don’t want to skip. Not only does a facial mist deposit much-needed moisture into your skin, it also helps keep skin balanced throughout the day so you don’t have to deal with the dreaded 3 pm oil slick so many of us are familiar with.

If you are oily, opt for a pH-balancing toner. All other skin types would benefit from either a hydrating toner or facial mist to soothe skin and get skin nice and hydrated for what’s next. Be sure to spray liberally all over your face, neck and chest — this is one thing that you can really never use too much of.

Step 4: Serum

If you’re not using a daytime serum, it may be time to consider adding one to your routine. Since they’re packed with such powerful, skin-changing ingredients, there’s no reason why you wouldn’t want them sinking in throughout the day as well. Just be careful about what you choose to apply during the day vs. the nighttime: certain ingredients like vitamin C and retinoids can increase your skin’s photosensitivity, so wearing them during the day can leave your skin more vulnerable than usual to the sun’s rays.

Save photosensitive serums for your nighttime routine and instead look for ingredients that play nice with the elements, like rose, vitamin E and caffeine. That mist you helpfully spritzed in the last step is crucial for serum absorption: the serum will latch onto the water molecules of the mist and ride them deep into your skin.

Step 5: Moisturizer

Unless you have very dry skin, you shouldn’t need more than a light, daily moisturizer in the morning. That said, pay attention to the formula you pick as it 1) needs to last all day 2) stand up to what your face faces all day long and 3) get along well with your skin type. Prone to irritation? Choose a product with calming ingredients chamomile and rosehip. Oily? You’ll definitely want an oil-free moisturizer. Spend a lot of time outside? Double up with SPF moisturizer. Not big on makeup but want a little coverage? Tinted moisturizer for the win!

Applying moisturizer is another great excuse to massage your face in case there’s any residual puffiness lingering.

Step 6: SPF

As if I have to tell you again, but if you insist: WEAR SPF EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. I’m not kidding. Serums and toners aside, this is the single most important thing you can do for the health of your skin in both the short and long term. Since your face tends to get more play in the sun on a regular day and it’s also thinner skin, you’ll definitely want an everyday SPF that’s formulated specifically for your face. It’ll be less likely to clog pores and more likely to rub in without a trace. If you don’t want to add another product to your arsenal, find a daytime moisturizer that contains SPF.

Regardless of what formula you use, though, make sure it’s the last thing you apply before makeup. SPF forms a film on top of the skin to shield it and putting anything other than makeup on top of it can disrupt that coverage, opening it up to let the sun through.

+ Now that you got your morning routine, check out how to layer your nighttime routine

Photo by Jana Kirn

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I always find myself missing out the toner step. I should make sure to not to anymore!

Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog

6 years ago

I love that this is promoting a less is more approach to skincare. I feel like we are being bombarded with skincare products and it’s nice to see the message of only using what you need.

6 years ago
6 years ago

Thanks for the tips! Never thought about exfoliating as a morning routine before.

4 years ago

I really like your skincare routine. I would like to use these products in my skincare routine. Thanks a lot for sharing.