Does Your Skin-Care Routine Need A Makeover?

Designed by Sarah Quatrano.
Most of us use our skin-care products the same way we did when we were 15 — face wash, moisturizer, maybe (ideally) some sunblock, then we’re out the door. If it ain’t broke, why fix it, right?

Wrong. Oh, so wrong. You see, there’s actually some serious science backing up the proper order in which to use your products, and even a few more effective ways to apply them. “Products should always be applied based on their consistency, with thin products first and then heavier or thicker ones on top,” advises Jessica Weiser, MD, of New York Dermatology Group in NYC. “This allows the active ingredients of each product to absorb into the skin appropriately — a thin product would not be able to penetrate a more occlusive one.”

Now that you’re a bit older, perhaps a little wiser, and in need of a more involved skin-care routine, we teamed up with Olay Regenerist to share pro advice on how to apply grown-up products for the most effective regimen, from your cleansers to your oils.

After all, we're not 15 anymore.
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Designed by Sarah Quatrano.
Step 1: Cleanser
If you’re not double cleansing yet, you might want to consider it. As the name suggests, “double cleansing refers to two-step skin cleaning,” says Weiser. “The first step is removing makeup from the skin using a cleansing oil.” Apply the oil to a dry face, massaging in a circular motion to most effectively remove makeup and impurities. Make sure to focus on heavier eye makeup in particular — a quality oil cleanser won’t burn or irritate eyes.

Once your skin’s prepped, “the second step is to target the skin to remove [any remaining] debris and dirt from the surface,” says Weiser. This is where your trusty foam cleanser comes in. Apply it in small circles, giving extra focus to your T-zone. After a final rinse, pat your skin dry with a soft towel.

So, who is this practice ideal for? “I recommend this to my patients who wear significant amounts of makeup — primer, foundation, concealer, powder,” says Weiser. “For those who keep their morning routine light, with products like serum, moisturizer, sunscreen, and minimal makeup, I typically find one-step cleansing to be adequate.” Double cleansing is also great for oilier skin types and, for everyone, on days that are extra muggy.
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Designed by Sarah Quatrano.
Step 2: Toner
First off, put down that harsh, alcohol-based toner; you’re much better off going with water-based. “Some argue that water-based toners that contain antioxidants, vitamins and minerals such as niacinamide, and skin-repairing ingredients such as glycerin and ceramides may help to calm irritation and restore the barrier function of the skin,” says Jennifer Chwalek, MD, of Union Square Laser Dermatology in NYC.

In layman’s terms, toners can be remarkably beneficial if they’re water-based and packed with the above skin-loving ingredients. If that’s the case, even those with sensitive skin can benefit from their ability to quell irritation and prevent the skin from further inflammation and infection. It’s as simple as applying toner to a cotton pad and spreading lightly over skin after washing.
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Step 3: Essence
Now that your skin is at its cleanest, add on an essence. This Korean beauty staple has the consistency of water and is highly enriched with ingredients that’ll absorb into the skin quickly, says Weiser. Want to focus on brightening your skin and evening your complexion? Try an essence loaded with vitamin C. Skin’s super dry? Look for one with hyaluronic acid. Hoping to mattify skin? Set your eyes on an essence featuring clay. Because essences are so highly concentrated, they’ll help you correct a number of skin issues way faster.
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Designed by Sarah Quatrano.
Step 4: Prescription Topicals
There’s one exception to the “apply thinner products first” law: topical prescriptions. No matter the consistency of your prescription gel or cream, you’ll want its active ingredients to be able to absorb into your skin without being hindered by other products.

“Prescription treatments, such as acne medications [or retinoids], should go on before serums,” Weiser says. You’re laying down the cash for a dermatologist visit and a prescription treatment, so make sure you don’t waste a dime diluting it with OTC products first.
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Step 5: Facial Oils Or Serums
At this point, it’s in your best interest to apply a thin-consistency product that’s packed with a number of benefits. One option: ever-moisturizing facial oils. No matter your skin type, hydration is absolutely necessary — oil can even aid those prone to acne by rebalancing the skin’s sebum production, ensuring that the skin doesn’t overcompensate for dry skin by producing excess oil. Try Olay Regenerist Luminous Facial Oil, which is loaded with nine natural oils, from coconut to grape-seed, for balanced, hydrated skin.

As for serums, there's about one (or a few) for just about every skin issue imaginable. “Antioxidant serums should ideally be applied on clean skin to enhance absorption and help prevent environmental skin damage,” advises Chwalek. A few other options: Retinol serums tend to be the most effective at banishing wrinkles while, again, vitamin C is a superstar for brightening purposes. If your skin’s got a rougher texture than you’d like, pick up one with salicylic acid — this baby’s not just for acne anymore. Tap serum onto the skin using just a finger or two to avoid wasting pricey product on the palms of your hands.

And, don’t just stop at your face. For both your oils and serums, Weiser says to “extend your products from your face to your neck and chest. These skin areas are similarly sun-exposed and age in a similar manner [as your face].”
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Designed by Sarah Quatrano.
Step 6: Moisturizer
If you need an extra kick of hydration, one size does not fit all. In fact, our dermatologists recommend using a separate moisturizer for day and night. For daytime, make sure your moisturizer includes an SPF of at least 30 to help protect against sun damage and even skin cancer. Consider this a nonnegotiable! The best way to maintain the health and youthfulness of your skin is prevention with sunscreen.

For night, you’ve got more options, says Chwalek. Focus on products that target specific skin-care concerns. Got under-eye circles? Pick up an eye cream with retinol. Acne-prone? Try out a moisturizer infused with tea-tree oil.
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