The 5-Step Skin-Care Routine Everyone Should Be Following

Photographed by Sam Cannon.
As beauty editors, one of the top questions we're asked on the regular is actually pretty basic: "What should my skin-care routine look like?" And it makes sense — with all the talk of 12-step Korean routines, and whether or not certain products play well together, it can be incredibly daunting to figure out exactly what you should be doing to your face. Then there's the question of what order it should be done and how, exactly, should common products be applied?

Don't fret, because we're here to give you a beauty road map that answers all of these questions and more. Ahead, you'll find a basic skin-care routine anyone can follow, no matter your skin type, courtesy of celebrity facialist Joanna Vargas. It lays out the basics: makeup remover, cleanser, serum, moisturizer, and sunscreen. Bonus? It's done in GIFs to show you how to apply 'em like a pro. Also, GIFs are just more fun, right?

And it gets even better, because the following routine can be used in the morning and at night, with subtle tweaks. In the morning, skip the makeup removal; at night, don't apply sunscreen. It's as easy as that. If you're stumped on the products you should be using, we suggest a chat with your dermatologist or aesthetician.

By following these simple steps, you can be sure that your skin care goes on perfectly, every single time.
1 of 7
Photographed by Sam Cannon.
Step #1: Makeup Remover
It's a good idea to take a minute to remove your makeup before you wash your face — especially stubborn eye makeup. This ensures that you get every last bit off, and it allows your cleanser to really do its thing.

"When I use a wipe I actually use two," says Vargas. She advises to use the first one to remove face makeup — from the center out. Then she'll focus on the eyes, wiping until there is no more mascara. Finally, she'll use the second wipe to repeat the process, going over everything to ensure all residue is gone.

Not into wipes or have sensitive skin? Sub in an oil cleanser to gently emulsify away makeup on your dry face, then rinse.

Like we said before, skip this step in the morning!

Marigot Collection Lorient Block Print Robe in ice Green Starfish, $175, available at Marigot Collection.
2 of 7
Photographed by Sam Cannon.
Step #2: Cleanser
Vargas says not to skimp on the cleanser — use a generous amount on wet skin (splash face a few times to ensure it's wet, not just damp) to make sure you get your face squeaky clean.

"Apply it all over your face with both hands, but then massage it into the face starting at the hairline in small, circular motions," she advises. The reason behind this? A lot of women forget to wash their forehead and hairline thoroughly — and that's why we tend to break out up there.

"Next, massage the cleanser into your eyebrows, and then your eyes," she says. Work your way down your face from your cheeks to your sideburn area and then to your neck. Finish it all off by rinsing 10 times with tepid water. (Any less and you may leave product behind!)

Gently pat your face dry with a clean towel or washcloth so that it's damp, not wet, before you move on to the next step.
3 of 7
Photographed by Sam Cannon.
Step #3: Serum
Your serum is like a multivitamin for the skin — it gives it a bunch of good-for-you ingredients all at once. And since so many of these serums contain active ingredients, they may need a little release. Translation: Don't just smooth 'em on, push 'em in!

"Gently pressing serums into the skin helps to release the active ingredients," Vargas says. Plus, if your serum is oil-based, it ensures the skin absorbs the ingredients instead of just having them sit on top.

Always make sure to apply your serum on ahead of your moisturizer. If you swap the steps, the ingredients in your serum won't be able to penetrate the layer of your moisturizer — and then there's no use in using it! Give your serum about five minutes to soak into the skin before moving on.
4 of 7
Photographed by Sam Cannon.
Step #4: Moisturizer
Whether it's a daytime moisturizer or a night cream suited for your skin type, adding some hydration post-cleanse is vital for all skin types. But Vargas adds that applying your moisturizer should also act like a mini massage.

"Apply it in an upward motion, starting at the neck and ending with the forehead," she says. Use a hand-over-hand motion in upward strokes. "It's good for your circulation and great for your lymphatic system," she says. Bonus: It feels amazing and makes skin glow!
5 of 7
Photographed by Sam Cannon.
Step #5: Eye Cream
Everyone should be using an eye cream in the morning and at night — it helps keep the delicate skin under your eyes supple and soft. Vargas says to apply a touch of cream to your ring finger (it uses the least amount of pressure) and tap it around the eye in a small circle. If you need extra de-puffing, you can pinch both your brows.

You can apply your eye cream immediately after your moisturizer. Your face cream will have time to penetrate as you're working on your eyes.

One note: No need to press your eye cream right into your lashes, or you'll risk getting product in your eyes. The cream will naturally travel as it soaks in, so just tap it near your eye like our model does here.
6 of 7
Photographed by Sam Cannon.
Step #6: Sunscreen
Of all the so-called "anti-aging products" you can use, sunscreen is the most important — especially if you're using a serum with active ingredients that make your skin more photosensitive.

Wait until all of your other skin care has dried (about 10 minutes) before popping on your sunscreen. Apply this stuff the same way as your moisturizer, but start from the forehead down. And don't skimp — use enough to properly cover your face, neck, and chest.

No need to apply SPF at night, so skip this step in the evenings!
7 of 7
Like this post? There's more. Get tons of beauty tips, tutorials, and news on the Refinery29 Beauty Facebook page. Like us on Facebook — we'll see you there!

More from Skin Care


R29 Original Series