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Daytime vs. Nighttime Skincare Routines and Why You Need Both

September 06, 2021

Daytime vs. Nighttime Skincare Routines and Why You Need Both

Seems convenient to use the exact same products in your daytime and nighttime skincare routines, right? Turns out good skincare is about more than just choosing the right products. It’s also about using them at the right time. Confused yet? No worries, we’re here to help! 

We’re breaking down everything you need to know about your daytime vs. nighttime skincare routine. Read ahead to learn the differences and why you need both!

The Benefit of separate daytime and nighttime skincare routines 

During the day, your skin is exposed to dirt, makeup, pollution, sunlight and bacteria. Your skin’s primary role during the day is self-protection and defense.

During the night, on the other hand, your skin works hard to repair itself and prep for the next day. The lack of sun and time spent sleeping means skin cells are able to repair and replenish.

In order to support these two very different functions, you need a separate AM and PM skincare routine.

Certain products like sunscreen and antioxidants work smarter during the day. However products with ingredients like retinoids, or AHAs leave your skin more sensitive to UV rays. You don’t want to use these during the day, or you risk damaging your skin. Your skin regenerates itself while you sleep, so repairative ingredients like retinol and niacinamide work smarter in your nighttime skincare routine. 

The order you apply your products also matters

In addition to using the right ingredients at the right time, you should also be using your products in the right order. The actives in your products could be canceling each other out if not layered properly. In fact, the order in which you apply your skincare products can make them work even harder.

The general rule is to layer your skin-care products based on weight. Products should be applied from thinnest to thickest to allow the heaviest products to penetrate through the lightest ones. Make the most of your daytime and nighttime skincare routines by following the step-by-step guides below.

Your daytime skincare routine…

is all about protection from the sun, dirt and pollution.

Step 1: Cleanser

Your morning routine starts with washing your face. You may be thinking this is pointless if you washed before bed, but you’re wrong. Sweat, sebum and germs from your pillow can build up on your face during the night. Washing in the morning gives you a clean canvas to start with. It also helps to awaken and refresh your skin. Splash your face with lukewarm water. Rub a small amount of cleanser into your hands to create and press it into your face. Massage it into your skin in circular movements, avoiding your eyes. Rinse your face thoroughly and pat it dry with a towel. If you have dry or mature skin, micellar water can be used as a milder morning cleanser.

Step 2: Toner or essence

Your second step during the day prepares your clean skin for the ingredients that follow. This happens in the form of a toner or an essence. These two skincare products serve the same purpose so you don’t need to use both. Essence tends to be more hydrating than toner, so if you’re looking for extra moisture, in addition to priming your skin, choose an essence. Soak a cotton pad in your toner or essence and gently pat it over your face. 

Step 3: Eye cream

The skin around your eyes is the most delicate on your face. This makes it one of the first places you’ll start to notice wrinkles. It’s also what makes eye-cream an essential step in your skincare routine. Regularly using an eye cream helps to reduce the visible signs of aging, including dark under-eye circles and puffiness. Use your ring finger to gently press the cream into the skin all around your eyes. Daytime eye creams ideally include de-puffing ingredients and hydrators.

Step 4: Serum

Next up is serum. Serums are super-concentrated active ingredients that address specific concerns. This step goes in both your AM and PM routines, but the actives differ for day and night. During the day, use a serum with antioxidants to protect your skin from daytime stressors like free radicals and pollutants. The most popular ingredient for this is a vitamin C serum. Hyaluronic acid serums work well for all skin types, too.

Step 5: Moisturizer with sunscreen or moisturizer then sunscreen

This is arguably the most important step in your skincare routine. Moisturizer helps keep the skin’s protective barrier functioning properly. And sunscreen helps prevent skin canceras well as sun damage. You can use a separate moisturizer and sunscreen or combine the two with a moisturizer with SPF.

Your nighttime skincare routine…

is all about treatment and helping your skin repair itself.

Step 1: Makeup remover

Removing your makeup should always be the first step in your nighttime skincare routine. Use a makeup remover that’s strong enough to melt away waterproof mascara, but still gentle on your face—like micellar water

Step 2: Cleanser

Once the layer of makeup is gone, it’s time to wash your face. A cleanser washes away any dirt, oil, dead skin cells, and pollution built up on your skin from the day. Follow the same cleansing routine from your AM routine. If you prefer, you can use a deeper cleanser with exfoliating acids in the evening. 

Step 3: Exfoliant 

Twice a week, your third step should be exfoliating your skin. Exfoliating is the process of removing dead skin cells from the surface of your skin. Your skin naturally sheds dead cells. Sometimes, they don’t shed fast enough, or completely. This can result in dry, flaky patches and clogged pores. Exfoliating can help prevent this.

You can do this with a chemical or mechanical exfoliator. Chemical exfoliators are solutions that gently loosen dead skin cells from living ones. Mechanical exfoliation uses small grains or a brush. aid in cell turnover. Whether you use a chemical vs. mechanical exfoliator is up to you. Exfoliating at night gives your skin time to recover from redness or sensitivity.

Step 4: Toner or essence

It’s toner time again. Or essence- remember, they’re both  just priming your face for the ingredients after to be better absorbed. Wait a few minutes before applying anything else or you’ll accidentally neutralize it before it gets a chance to work.

Step 5: Eye cream

Another repeated step from your morning skincare routine is applying eye cream.  Eye creams tend to be lighter than other moisturizers, so they go on your heavier creams and oils. Look for ingredients like peptides (which help tighten and depuff your skin), hydrating hyaluronic acid, brightening vitamin K, and ceramides to lock in moisture. In the evening, you can benefit from the richer creams that may not combine well with daytime makeup.

Step 6: Serum

Now it’s time for the serum with your nighttime ingredients.  In your PM routine, opt for a serum with niacinamide to reduce redness or AHAs and BHAs to even out skin texture. If you have acne-prone skin, try a serum with retinol or green tea. For dehydrated skin, look for serums with lipids, hyaluronic acid, and peptides. If you’re using more than one serum, apply them in order from thinnest product to thickest.

Step 7: Spot treat

The two most common over-the-counter ingredients for spot treatments are benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid. Benzoyl peroxide helps kill acne-causing bacteria, while salicylic acid gently exfoliates and dries out your oil glands. You should spot treat active breakouts only. Wait for your serums to sink in, then carefully pat over the affected areas. 

Step 8: Night cream and facial massage

Next up is night cream. These formulas simultaneously hydrate and seal in hydration, so they tend to be heavier than the daytime versions. Massage a simple, hydrating night cream into your skin to repair your skin barrier overnight.

Spending a few minutes massaging the cream into your face is a great way to enhance product absorption. It’s also a nice way to de-stress and relax any areas where you hold tension before bed. Not sure how to give yourself a facial massage? Try the one below!

DIY Face Massage

Dispense a dime-sized portion of product into your palms. Rub the formula to evenly distribute over hands and fingertips.

  • Press your fingers between brows and slide up your forehead, repeating several times to cover the entire area.
  • Then, massage your fingertips from the center of your face out past your cheeks and to your ears.
  • Drop one level lower and repeat the same sliding, up-and-out motion across your jawline as needed.
  • Finish with your neck. Gently use vertical strokes from the collarbone upward.

Step 9: Face oil

The very last step in your nighttime skincare routine is face oil. Oils can easily penetrate moisturizers, serums, and treatments, but water-based products can’t easily penetrate an oil. This means oils need to be applied last. And face oils aren’t just for dry skin. Oils like rose-hip seed can decrease excess oil in acne-prone skin. While tamanu oil can soothe sensitive, easily irritated skin

The time of day and the order in which you apply your skincare products matters to your skin. Have you been doing it the right way? If not, it’s time to make some tweaks. With our step by step daytime and nighttime skincare guides, you’ll be on your way to your very best skin in no time! 

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