I’ve recently started taking skincare more seriously and now I have an exfoliating cleanser, a vitamin A serum, a serum with hyaluronic acid, a moisturiser, an SPF and a night cream. I feel very confused about which order to apply them in. What would you recommend? — Joan, Skibbereen
Delighted to hear that you’ve upgraded your skincare routine and we understand your confusion.
What I find about the skincare industry is that many tend to give very good advice on which ingredients to use, or which type of products to use, or which order to apply things in, but it is difficult to find all of this info in one place.
You’ll be glad to hear that there are some general rules that will make it easier for you to know what comes when, no matter what you add to your routine over time.
I can promise you it will be easy like a Sunday morning in no time.
You’re always going to start with your pre-cleanse and cleansing step to remove makeup, oils and debris and prepare your skin for the hard-working ingredients that come after. You have to “take the day off” so to speak.
One thing I’d note — I usually suggest alternating an exfoliating cleanser and a milder cleanser because using an exfoliating cleanser all the time can be far too much for skin.
Over-exfoliated skin is essentially skin going through a bit of a moment as it won’t be able to maintain its own protective barrier, meaning your hydration will leak out and your skin may become irritated more easily.
Over-exfoliation is to be avoided at all costs. Exfoliation is a short-term benefit usually, whereas we’re after long-term skin health and ensuring we give back to the skin as opposed to always taking away.
The general rule for applying products is to go by the order of thinnest consistency to heaviest consistency, for example, your super light, more liquid-y serum through to your heavy, thick, whipped night cream.
A thicker consistency will stop thinner serums from penetrating into the skin, so this is why we order from lightest to heaviest.
The rulebreakers are vitamin A products, vitamin C products and your SPF. In your case, you will apply your vitamin A serum first thing after cleansing because you want your potent vitamin A as close to your skin as possible.
With vitamin C, you want this close to your SPF in your ordering, as it is a shield of antioxidant protection. SPF is always to be your last step prior to makeup, if you wear it, as applying anything after SPF can affect how it works in reflecting and absorbing light. Once your SPF has dried, your makeup won’t stop it from working though.
Although your hyaluronic acid serum will nearly definitely be more lightweight than your vitamin A serum, it will come after it because of the vitamin A rule but you can also “cheat” and mix the two serums together if it is handier.
Following the consistency rule, your moisturiser will come next, then your SPF in the day or your night cream at night. Important to note: many SPFs act as your moisturiser or your day cream!
If you were to add an eye cream to this mix (even though I believe your vitamin A serum can act as your eye cream), it would either go directly before the vitamin A serum or directly after.
If you’re doing a leave on overnight masque, you’d apply it in lieu of your night cream after your usual skincare routine and if you’re doing a wash-off mask, you’d do it directly post-cleansing and follow it up with your serums and other products.
If you wanted to add in an exfoliating toner a few times a week, you’d apply it directly after cleansing (even before your vitamin A serum, as it would help your vitamin A serum to penetrate).
To be honest, if you’re following this type of pattern even semi-closely, you’re not going to miss out on the skincare results you deserve from a well-rounded routine. It’s not worth worrying about in this respect, but I’m always here if you ever need more advice on how to order your skincare routine!
Vitamin A, retinols and retinoids, sounds inaccessible to many hoomans but they couldn’t be anything but.
Retinol is an amazing, clinically-proven ingredient. However, it can only be used at night rather than during the day as it is deemed too irritating and light-sensitising.
I rate the fat-form of vitamin A, retinyl palmitate, as it allows for very easy vitamin A usage AM and PM.
In Skingredients Skin Protein, we added retinyl palmitate in a mild to moderate dosage so that you can introduce it to your skin without the OTT effects of flaking and irritation that many skin’s see when it comes to retinol.
It’s your eye cream too as I made sure it was testedfor use around the eyes (not the eyeballs though!). It’s not recommended that you use moderate amounts of vitamin A during pregnancy.
Skingredients Skin Protein (€42 skingredients.com and selected salons, pharmacies and department stores nationwide)