Skincare 101: Which Skincare Products Do I Put on First?

hands holding skincare products with purple backgroundUse Your Skincare Products in this Order to Get Your Best Skin

Before you go outside in the cold, do you put your tank top on over your sweater?  How about your socks over your shoes? Of course, not! That would be ridiculous. To make sure we’re staying warm and protected from the elements, we put on layers of clothing in a certain order to make sure we get the most benefit from them.  

When you’re taking care of your skin, especially in the winter months, the layering of your skincare products is equally as important as making sure your raincoat is the last thing you put on when you walk outside in a downpour.  

In today’s skincare 101 lesson, we provide a quick how-to beauty guide on the correct order to apply your professional skincare products to ensure you’re making the most of them.

So Fresh and So Clean

Beautiful young woman washing her face splashing water in a home bathroom

The first step in the process is to make sure that you have a clean face.  To achieve this, you want to ensure that you’ve removed everything on your face you’ve accumulated throughout the day, this might include makeup, sunscreen, dirt, and debris.  This is an important first step in order to get your skin ready to be cleansed - yes, these are two separate steps.

You can use your favorite makeup wipes or an oil-based makeup remover, but make sure that you thoroughly go over your entire face - including eyebrows, the crevice between the nostril and cheek, back to your ears and hairline.  Dirt has a funny way of hiding and especially when it’s hot, your makeup will move from where you originally applied it!

If there happens to be an evening when you fall asleep without doing taking this step (we know it happens), then just make sure to do this step at the beginning of your morning routine.

Next, you’ll cleanse your face.  Ideally, you want a facial cleanser that is lightweight and won’t dry out your skin.  While you want to make sure that your face is clean, you don’t want it to strip away your natural moisture.  Our Gentle Cleanser has a unique blend of moisturizers and vitamins designed to clean, soothe, and soften the skin without upsetting skin’s delicate moisture balance.

Together, these two steps give the skin a clean slate so you can avoid irritations and breakouts before applying the workhorse skincare products to your face.  It will also ensure that the products you put on next are able to fully get penetrate into the skin and do what they were designed to do.

Prep the Skin

mature woman applying skincare to her face 

Now that your face is clean as a whistle, you want to prep the skin by exfoliating and using a skin toner.  The purpose of this step is to clear the skin of dead skin cells that can be on the surface of the skin and similar to not removing your makeup, can inhibit your skincare products from doing their work.  

These dead skin cells come up to the surface of our skin and slough off in their natural four-week cycle but as we get older, it doesn’t happen as easily and can create a barrier between your workhorse skincare products and your skin.   

Exfoliation is a skin care recommendation that has been around for a long time and can be somewhat controversial as it relates to method and frequency.  The traditional method of exfoliation is manual where there is something physically scrubbing off the dead skin cells from the new skin. This could be using a washcloth, a product with rough pieces of foreign objects inside of it such as walnut pieces, beads, salt, etc.  If done too frequently and too aggressively, this method can be more harmful to the skin than beneficial. However, if done gently a few times per week, this method can still be effective.

Another method to prep the skin that serves a similar purpose is a facial toner that contains helpful acids in it that will break up the dead skin cells so that they aren’t able to hold on to the new skin and come off on their own.  These acids are alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) and beta-hydroxy acids (BHAs). When you look in your ingredients’ list, common AHAs are glycolic and lactic acids. Salicylic acid is a common BHA.

If you’re new to this step, just keep an eye on your skin for any irritation or redness which will be a sign you may need to reduce the frequency or find a more mild product because you may have overdone it.

Heal and Correct

ALASTIN Skincare Renewal Retinols

I know you’re probably thinking, OK my skin is stripped down to the bones, when do I get to start building it up again?! The answer is now.

Now that your skin is down to its purest form, you can add products to help correct and heal.  If you’re using any products to treat skin conditions from acne or skin tone, applying these products to your skin in this state is going to allow you to get the most bang for your buck.  The skin is prepped, your pores are ready, let’s get started.

Some of our favorite treatment products are our dermatologist-recommended Renewal Retinol and our five-star rated Restorative Eye Treatment.  In fact, our eye cream was recently featured in the New York Post as a skincare secret for women over 50.

Check out the New York Post article >

Let’s dive into these customer favorite workhorse skincare products...

The Renewal Retinol delivers the critical benefit of retinol, which is universally recognized for its ability to combat the signs of aging.  It can be used every night to diminish the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, smooth skin texture, calm sensitive skin, and protect against skin dehydration.  

If you are new to retinol, it is recommended that you integrate it slowly and gently. We recommend starting with a pea size amount two times a day, two days a week. After three weeks add a third day and continue to add a day each week if well tolerated. Remember not to forget your daily SPF when using retinol as well.

Our Restorative Eye Treatment is made specifically for those areas around the eyes that are crucial to looking refreshed. Using this best-selling eye cream morning and evening will lessen the appearance of puffiness and help improve skin firmness around the eye. It also promotes even skin tone and helps reduce the appearance of dark circles.

Talk to your favorite skincare expert about what skincare treatment products are right for you. If you need help finding an aesthetician or dermatologist, you can use our handy skincare expert locator tool >

Hydrate and Moisturize

woman applying a hydrating skincare serum to face

Hydrating your skin post-treatment with a facial mist or hydrating serum is the best next step in your skincare regimen. Look for a lightweight formula, particularly if you have normal to oily skin, that can help bring hydration back to your skin. Facial mists are nice, particularly during summer months (try popping it in the fridge) for a nice refreshing feel that can also help lay the groundwork for the final step.  Just make sure to avoid ingredients such as alcohol, ethanol, silicone/polymers, polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), and artificial fragrances. These can be drying, cause build up, or irritation.

Depending on the time of year and your skin type, like if you have dry skin or if it’s the middle of winter, moisturizer is likely a must.  However, you don’t want to use a moisturizer that’s too heavy because it can cause breakouts for those with oily skin prone to acne. You might consider our Ultra Nourishing Moisturizer which nourishes, hydrates, and calms the skin.  It’s also fragrance and oil-free, bonus! 

ALASTIN Skincare Restorative Neck Complex

One important note here is that the skin below the chin, known as the decollete, faces unique challenges, often different from your face, and therefore requires a product designed specifically for this area. The ALASTIN Restorative Neck Complex is the next generation of neck and decollete skincare that offers an elegant formulation to support the skin’s natural ability to produce elastin and collagen among other anti-aging benefits.

Arguably the Most Important Step in Your Skincare Regimen

Dark-skinned woman applying moisturizer

We would be remiss if we didn’t mention the importance of sunscreen in your morning routine.  Protecting the face from harmful UVA/UVB rays as well as environmental pollution is crucial for long-lasting, healthy and younger-looking skin.  For those days you’re wanting a more natural look, our HydraTint Pro Mineral Broad Spectrum Sunscreen SPF 36 is a great option to have your skin protected while also adding a little tint.  If you’re looking for a tint-free option, our Broad Spectrum SPF 30+ Sunscreen is a great choice that is water resistant for 80-minutes and formulated to be moisturizing and used daily.

Once you’re properly moisturized & protected from the elements, it’s time for your makeup.

So a quick recap of the proper order for applying skincare products:

  1. Remove makeup, sunscreen, dirt, and debris
  2. Cleanse the skin thoroughly
  3. Remove dead skin cells with exfoliation and/or a skin toner (2-3 times per week)
  4. Correct and heal skin based on your skin concerns and skin type
  5. Hydrate and moisturize
  6. Protect with a UVA and UVB sunscreen

So, were you putting your boots on before your socks?  Now that you know the correct steps, are there changes you need to make to your skincare routines?  Let us know or ask your skincare questions on Facebook or Instagram!

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Article Reviewed by Wendy Johnson
Wendy Johnson//

Vice President, Marketing

Wendy Johnson brings to Alastin Skincare over 22 years of pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and aesthetics industry experience in various sales, training, marketing and thought leader development roles.

After spending 10 years in gastroenterology at Tap Pharmaceuticals and Prometheus Laboratories, with sales and marketing oversight for in-line and pre-launch products, Mrs. Johnson transitioned to an aesthetic career at SkinMedica in 2004. While there, she was responsible for marketing one of the top 2 branded prescription hydroquinones, launching a leading branded low potency steroid, and oversight of the acne franchise line extensions.

In 2010, Wendy joined Merz North America where she developed and managed the Physician Relations department in support of injectable, topical and device business units under Medical Affairs, before transitioning into managing a Regional Aesthetics Marketing team.

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