Follow this step-by-step nighttime regimen for beautiful skin.
The evenings present a perfect opportunity for a wind down ritual that prepares us for sleep and sets us up for a good tomorrow. It’s a great time to calm our minds, practice some inner self-love, and take care of our bodies. That, of course, includes combing our hair and brushing our teeth, as well as washing away the day and nourishing our skin with ingredients that soothe, moisturize, brighten.
“While sleeping, skin undergoes a process of repair and rejuvenation. Having a nighttime skincare routine gives you the opportunity to provide your skin with the nourishment and care it needs before going into the repair process,” explains board-certified dermatologist Anna Chacon, MD, FAAD.
She adds that your night skincare routine helps maintain your skin's health, slow down the aging process, and combat the effects of daily exposure to environmental stressors including the most common one (that’d be the sun). Your skin will thank you for adopting the simple nighttime regimen we’ve outlined below.
A Simple, 4-Step Night Skincare Routine
The best evening skincare routines are actually quite simple—they cover the non-negotiable basics while allowing room for some personalization. This ensures your skin gets the treatment it needs and some extra TLC depending on your specific concerns.
Step 1: Wash Your Face With a Gentle Cleanser
The first step of your evening skincare routine is to wash your face. No matter your skin type, reach for a gentle cleanser and make sure to spend a good minute (or two!) lathering cleanser and working it onto your skin. “Cleansers remove the impurities of the day, including makeup, dirt and other environmental factors,” Dr. Chacon says.
If you have dry skin, select a moisturizing, oil-based cleanser such as Farmacy Green Clean Makeup Removing Cleansing Balm ($36, Sephora). For oily or combination types, opt for a gentle foam or gel cleanser, like Brightening Cleansing Gel ($19, Nordstrom).
Step 2: Follow Up With a Toner
A toner helps rebalance your skin’s pH level and replenish moisture that’s been washed away during the cleansing process. Even if you have oily or acne-prone skin, a toner is a good idea.
“Our skin's acid mantle is a protective barrier that wards off pathogens and regulates moisture,” explains Justine Kahn, esthetician and founder of Botnia Skincare. “Throughout the day, various factors disrupt this balance, making pH-adjusted products essential for restoring equilibrium.”
Step 3: Apply a Treatment Product (Pick Your Path!)
Allow your toner to set for about 60 seconds, then apply a treatment product. This part of the regimen allows for the most personalization because it targets your specific skincare goals.
Here, you can determine whether you want to focus on anti-aging, brightening, acne reduction, or dark spot minimizing, Dr. Chacon says. Because this treatment product contains an active ingredient, it’s important to only apply one per evening. You can change the product you use every other night (or every few nights) depending on your needs.
Anti-Aging: Opt for a retinoid, such as Matter of Fact Wrinkle + Texture Concentrate with .2% Encapsulated Retinol, Vitamin C, & Azelaic Acid ($98, Sephora)
Brightening: Apply an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA)-based or enzyme-based product that gently exfoliates so skin looks smoother and more vibrant. A good option is Good Molecules Overnight Exfoliating Treatment ($6, Ulta).
Acne: Target acne flare ups with either a beta-hydroxy acid (BHA) based product (also known as salicylic acid) or benzoyl peroxide. Check out iNNBEAUTY PROJECT Acne Serum Medicated Treatment for Acne & Blackheads ($35, Sephora).
Dark Spots: If sun spots or hyperpigmentation has you down, you can incorporate a product that helps minimize them, like Topicals Faded Serum for Dark Spots & Discoloration ($38, Sephora).
(If this treatment step feels overwhelming or unimportant to you, skip it for now and then work it into your routine later if you so desire.)
Step 4: Slather On Some Moisturizer
After you leave-on treatment has some time to settle in, finish your regimen by applying a moisturizer. “This step hydrates the skin and locks your serums and skincare products into place,” Dr. Chacon says. For this step, you’ll also want to pick a product based on your skin type.
Dry or combination skin types should stick to thicker, more emollient moisturizers with ingredients like shea butter, ceramides, and botanical oils. Sunday Riley ICE Ceramide Moisturizer with Vitamin F ($65, Sephora) is a good pick, as is SkinCeuticals Hydra Balm Moisturizer Ointment ($25, Dermstore).
Meanwhile, acne-prone and oily skin types—which absolutely need moisture, too—should opt for a water-based gel moisturizer. Try Bubble Level Up Balancing Moisturizer ($16, Ulta) or Laneige Water Bank Blue Hyaluronic Gel Moisturizer ($40, Sephora).
Tips For Your Night Skincare Routine
A key part in maintaining your nighttime skincare routine is looking forward to the process. That means using products you’re excited to slather and incorporating other rituals that make it more enjoyable.
Carve Out Time: Be intentional about your night skincare routine by giving yourself enough time to work through the steps. Board-certified dermatologist Noreen Galaria, MD, FAAD, says she starts 20 to 30 minutes before going to bed. “This allows me to apply my products before I’m exhausted but also gives them time to soak in before my head hits the pillow,” she says. “Exhaustion is the most common reason my patients cite for falling asleep without doing their night time routine.”
Put on a Podcast or Music: Remember: This is a moment for you! Make it more enjoyable by listening to some music, throwing on a podcast, or listening to an audiobook. Dim the lights and light a candle for some soothing ambient light.
Pamper Your Mind and Body: If time allows, consider an extra ritual that soothes both mind and body. “Consider deep breathing exercises, a warm bath, or a gentle facial massage to relax and unwind, preparing both your skin and mind for bedtime,” Dr. Chacon suggests.
Ask for Guidance: If your skincare routine doesn’t seem to be working, call in the pros. “Seek professional guidance from an esthetician [or dermatologist] to tailor your routine to your skin’s unique needs,” Kahn says. The goal is to love the products you use and the results you see. She adds, “This makes the process something you look forward to rather than a chore.”
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