Skin Care Routine Breakdown: How Much? When? And in What Order?

Image reposted from Biolements Professional Skincare

Hello and welcome back for more skin care talk here on the i {heart} skin blog! Today I want to give you a little rundown on skin care products that I hope will answer some of your common questions. I promise there are no stupid questions in skin care, but when it comes to basic product usage, I know some clients won't ask because they're too embarrassed or think they should already know the answer. Fear not! Questions about how to use a product, when and how much are incredibly common. So if you've ever been curious, let's jump in!


So cleanser is kind of a no brainer. This should always be the first step in your routine. There's not really a wrong time to cleanse, but I recommend first thing in the morning and at night before bedtime. You can use the same cleanser day and night, or occasionally swap out an active cleanser - something with glycolic or salicylic acid for example - a couple of times a week if you struggle with breakouts.

You want to use roughly a dime size portion of cleanser for each wash. Using too much cleanser is really only a problem in that you'll use it up a lot faster, but use too little and you might not remove all of the dirt, makeup and bacteria sitting on the surface of your skin.

If you wear a lot of makeup, cleansing is especially important. I recommend using a bit of gentle makeup remover prior to cleansing and even cleansing twice to remove heavy foundation and eye makeup. Another time you might want to do some extra cleansing? Right after the gym. It's a good idea to cleanse your skin after a sweaty workout, so that sweat and bacteria don't stick to your skin.

Scrub: Exfoliation is a wonderful thing for your skin, but take heart: you don't need to do this step every day. I really only recommend that my clients use an exfoliating scrub (or device such as a Clarisonic) once or twice per week. Anything more than that may irritate or inflame your skin. A couple of times a week is perfect for keeping your skin fresh and preventing breakouts. You will want to use about a quarter-sized dot of scrub, immediately following cleansing. If your skin is sensitive you can even try diluting your scrub a bit by mixing in just a spot of cleanser.

Toner: If you've been reading the i {heart} skin blog, you know how much I love toner. Toner should be the second step (or third if you used a scrub) in your routine after cleansing. This will ensure that your toner works in tandem with your cleanser, removing any additional surface debris that may have gotten missed. It also helps re-balance your pH and prep your skin for the next steps in the routine.

Since toners sometimes come in a spray bottle, a good general rule is to give your face a couple of spritzes and then wipe off any excess. If your toner doesn't come in a sprayer, you can get a cotton round wet with about a nickel-sized portion of toner and use it to wipe your face clean. Different toners do different things, so your usage may be daily or maybe just a couple of times weekly. If your toner is hydrating, it can be used on its own throughout the day to freshen up without cleansing or doing any additional steps.

Serums: The world of serums is vast and extremely diverse. Serums tend to be liquid elixirs geared at specific concerns. Everything from aging to brightening to hydrating - you can likely find a serum for it. Because they are thinner and lighter weight than a cream, you'll want to apply serum before your moisturizer or any thicker products. The light formulation in a serum allows it to quickly penetrate your skin and get absorbed more easily. Putting it on after a cream will make it much harder for the serum to get to work within your skin. For this reason, products should always go on thinnest to thickest, allowing each one time to absorb before applying the next.

There is one exception to this rule that I'll throw out there, however. If you have a hard time using serums because they don't quickly penetrate your skin, you can cocktail your serum with your moisturizer. This is actually my favorite skin care hack. My skin tends to get sticky when I apply a serum first, but mixing it in with my cream allows for smooth application and even makes me feel like my moisturizer is working better. Your mileage may vary, depending on your skin. I recommend trying it both ways and seeing which works best for your skin. Serums also tend to be highly concentrated, so you only need about a pea-size dollop for each application.

Now, depending on the serum, you may want to only use it once a day or even just a couple of times weekly. Serums can be extremely potent, so once per day is typically enough. Certain serums such as those containing antioxidants are meant to be used in the AM, as they can have some protective benefits against UV exposure. Some serums for hydration or spot treatment may be okay to use any time of day. Yet other serums - such as those containing retinol - should only be used at night. You should always consult the directions specific to your product.

Eye Cream

If you use eye cream, you probably already know that the under eye area is very delicate and important to care for. When using eye cream, there are a couple of things you want to be aware of to protect your eyes. First, you'll want to check the instructions to see where the cream is meant to be used. Some eye creams are safe to use up to the lash line or around the entire eye, whereas others are too potent to apply directly near your eyes. Either kind is fine, but just be sure you know which kind you are using to avoid irritating or damaging the undereye tissue.

Most eye creams are fine to use day or night. If you are just starting to use eye cream, once a day is probably ideal. I like using eye cream in the morning to help my eye area look fresher and more awake, but there could be equal benefits to sleeping with yours on. If you want to bump it up and use a little morning and night, that's okay too.

A small dot (about half of the size of a pea) is appropriate for the eye area. Use your ring finger to dab the cream lightly under the eye or along your orbital bone. The ring finger is your go-to because it is the weakest of your digits and therefore the least likely to apply too much pressure to the area. Be mindful not to tug or pull on the skin under your eyes, when applying. Just a little dab will do!

Facial Oils

Facial oils are all the rage these days, and with good reason. They can be a great addition or alternative to moisturizer. If you are dry, I don't recommend relying solely on facial oils, as you need water-based products to help really hydrate your skin. However, you can definitely throw a little oil on before your moisturizer (or cocktail it in, as we discussed with serums). If you are a little oilier, a facial oil can actually help balance out some of that natural oil production.

Like serums, oils are thin and usually more easily absorbed into the skin. That said, oils are well...oily. You only need a little so that your skin doesn't end up overly greasy or shiny. A dime size or even a little less, is a good amount. Give it time to get absorbed into the skin, otherwise too much product on the skin at once can cause it to ball up and then nothing is getting absorbed.

Moisturizer Everyone needs moisturizer! Even if you are oily, this is a step you don't want to skip following your cleanser, toner and any serums. Moisturizing is what hydrates your skin and protects it from aging or becoming irritated by the surrounding environment.(Pollution, wind, extreme dryness, etc.) Again, there are different moisturizers to support different skin types, so find one that is the appropriate level of thickness and moisture content for your skin. You may need to switch out your moisturizer for something lighter during the summer or heavier in the winter depending on climate. Once you've got that down, this step should be easy.

You'll want about a quarter size dollop of cream for day. If you use a thicker, more-concentrated cream for at night (Preferences on this vary. A blog for a whole other day, promise!) you can use less. Perhaps closer to a dime size. You can also use a bit less moisturizer if you are using other products like serums prior, since they may provide extra hydration for your skin.

Another thing to note - if you want to prevent signs of aging, toss a little extra moisturizer into the mix for your neck, décolletage and hands. These areas age just like the rest of us, but we often neglect them. You should technically be giving them all the love that you give your face, so go ahead and add an extra pump when applying the good stuff.

SPF Ah, the most important step of all! Your sun protection is not the product you want to skimp on. In a perfect world, an entire ounce of sunscreen is considered sufficient protection for each part of your body. That's about an entire shot glass of SPF, so you may have trouble getting all that product onto the surface area of your face. BUT the moral of the story is to apply liberally. As long as your sunscreen is designed for the face and is non-comedogenic, more is better.

Allow your other products a little time to absorb and then ideally, you want to apply your SPF about 20 minutes before going outside. Make sure you apply SPF last, but before makeup. Once you have makeup on, it's unlikely that you'll want to apply that extra layer, so slather it on first! You'll then want to reapply about every two hours to keep your skin protected. I've written on this subject pretty extensively already, so if you want to know more about the ins and outs of sun protection, I recommend reading this blog.

Anything else?

Hopefully this covers just about everything you could want to put on your face in terms of skin care. Using your product the correct way can be just as important to getting results as the product itself, so never be afraid to ask a skin care professional if you aren't sure how to correctly use a step in your routine. Establishing a daily routine is the quickest way to happy and healthy skin, but after a couple of months, if you're product doesn't seem to be getting you results, it might be time to try something new or swap something out. With many professional grade products a little goes a long way, but consistency is key to seeing a difference in your skin.

To recap here are a few easy rules to remember:

* When in doubt - apply thinnest to thickest

* You probably need less than you think

* Unless we're talking SPF - then go to town!

* Always give each product enough time to soak into your skin before moving on to the next step, so that it can be fully absorbed and work together with the rest of your products.

* Scrubs, serums and eye creams can be used once per day or a couple of times weekly

* Cleanser, toner, moisturizer and SPF should be every day staples.

Still have questions? Ask, ask, ask! Knowledge is power, so shoot me an email and I'll be happy to answer!

<3 Jenny

About the blog:

This is a blog about everyday skin health. As an esthetician I strive to provide comprehensive skin care advice and knowledge to anyone who wants to know more.

Read on and please don't hesitate to reach out! I love educating people about their skin and am always happy to respond to questions.

Recent Posts
Search By Tags
Follow Me
  • Google+ - Black Circle
  • Instagram - Black Circle
  • Pinterest - Black Circle
  • Yelp - Black Circle
  • Facebook - Black Circle