Nighttime Skin Care Routine: What Order You Should Apply Product

what order to apply nighttime skincare routine

To get the most benefit from your nighttime skincare routine, you must be using the right products and apply them in the right order. This will give you the best results to create the most improvement in your skin while you sleep at night. It’s called “beauty sleep” for a reason!

In this post, I’ll guide you through the perfect nighttime skincare routine along with reasons why each step is so important in your quest for healthy, glowing skin.

First, Some General Guidelines for Your Nighttime Skincare Routine

  • After you wash your face, you have a sixty-second window to get your toner on before moisture evaporation starts to occur.
  • Your nighttime skincare routine is all about repairing your skin while your morning routine is mainly about protection.
  • Are you guilty of getting lazy at night and not tending to your routine? Try to do it earlier in the evening, just after the sun goes down.
  • Never skip using moisturizer at night thinking that your skin needs to “breathe”. Your skin does not have a respiratory system so this is a myth. Plus, omitting moisturizer will result in water loss for your skin cells. (Not good!)
  • Use products for your nighttime skincare routine that are made for your unique skin type. I believe there are nine different types of skin.

Did You Know Your Skin Function Changes in the Evening?

At Night When It’s Dark Outside:

  • The water content in the cells is the lowest due to transepidermal water loss
  • Your skin’s protective barrier function is decreased so there is more permeability (which is why you always want to add a serum to your nighttime skincare routine)
  • Your skin’s detox enzymes are released
  • Cell division is increased
  • Mitochondrial energy is renewed overnight
  • DNA repair and renewal is active

Read what’s happening with your skin during daylight hours here.

In What Order Should I be Applying Products for My Nighttime Skincare Routine?

Step 1: Use a Cleanser (Preferably a Cleansing Lotion)

At night, your skin has special cleansing needs because:

  • You have been wearing sunscreen and/or makeup all day.
  • Your skin has secreted sebum (oil).
  • You’ve been unknowingly touching your face all day transferring bacteria to your face. It’s thought that the face is the dirtiest part of your entire body.

To remove face makeup at during your nighttime skincare routine, I always suggest using a cleansing lotion (not a foaming gel) since it does a better job of properly removing makeup. There is a very specific way to remove face makeup to ensure it gets properly removed. Read how to wash your face at night. (You’ll need to scroll down in the post to read the nighttime cleansing directions.)

NOTE: If you use a cleansing oil, cleansing balm, or do the double cleansing method, you might be doing something wrong and you need to know what it is. Read about it here.

Step 2: Treat Your Skin to a Mask (Optional)

Many people, including myself, like to do a mask as part of their nighttime skincare routine. A mask is very beneficial for resetting the skin, especially if you’ve been on an airplane, wearing more makeup than usual, had one too many cocktails, been out in the sun and pollution, or are getting blemishes.

After cleansing at night, you’ll apply a facial mask and leave on for 5-20 minutes. Rinse and proceed to the next step.

What kind of mask is best for my skin type?

  • For calming breakouts and stressed skin: Rapid Response Detox Masque
  • For repairing dehydration, sensitive and redness-prone skin: Bio Calm Repair Masque
  • For pore-clearing and refreshing oily/combo skin: Energizing Cleansing Masque
  • For moisturizing dry skin: Pure Radiance Creme Masque

You can read more about the different types of facial masks and their benefits.

Note: A mask can give even better results if you’re exfoliating the skin after cleansing and before applying a mask. The Triple Berry Smoothing Peel is incredible for smoothing the skin and also increasing the effectiveness of your nighttime products.  If you’re using an exfoliant prior to using the mask, be sure not to use any other exfoliating product on the same day.

Take The Skin Type QuizStep 3: Apply an Alcohol-Free Toner

Wipe over the entire face and neck. Leave damp (don’t let it dry!) and immediately proceed to the next step.

Learn five reasons why you need to use a toner.

Step 4: Use a Serum for Your Skin Type

If you want to increase the results from your nighttime skincare routine, using a specialized serum at night will go a long way. Since your skin’s permeability is enhanced at night and serums have a small molecule to penetrate through the cell membrane, you really should be using one. One that you get from reputable and ingredient-focused skincare brands should have effective percentages of active ingredients to create positive change in your skin.

It’s best to apply the serum and let it absorb for sixty seconds before applying moisturizer.

What kind of serum is best for my skin type?

  • For calming breakouts and stressed skin: Skin Correcting Serum
  • For repairing dry, sensitive and redness-prone skin: Redness Care Firming Serum
  • For delivering hydration to thirsty skin: Skin Drink Concentrate
  • For improving firming processes for aging skin: Firm + Repair Overnight Serum
  • For exfoliating the skin: See all of these serum exfoliants
  • For resurfacing aging skin (with retinol): Advanced Resurfacing Serum

You can take this Skin Type Quiz to find your perfect serum.

Step 5: Apply a Moisturizer

I don’t believe there is really such thing as a “night cream” as some companies like to promote. In my opinion, a moisturizer for nighttime use is simply one that doesn’t include sunscreen. They don’t have to be greasy or heavy (it’s a myth that the heavier it is the better it is for wrinkles), but it does need to be for your skin type.

I’m a skin type #2 so I like using Sheer Moisture Lotion but sometimes in the winter I need something with more emollient so I’ll use Hydraboost Rescue Creme.

Step 6: Apply Eye Cream (Optional)

I’m a huge believer in using a nourishing eye cream, especially as part of your nighttime skincare routine when you’re not having to deal with sun exposure or wearing makeup. After all, the eye area is the very first place on the face to show the signs of aging in the form of lines and wrinkles.

For removing dryness to make the under-eye area appear smoother, apply a thin layer of an exfoliant underneath your regular eye cream. Overnight Eye Serum is very gentle and safe to use and can make a big improvement in softening lines.

Step 7: Put on an Acne Spot Treatment (Optional)

Use the same way as in the morning by wiping away the area you want to treat before applying your favorite blemish treatment. Night Time Spot Lotion is a powerful one to use while you sleep.

Step 8: Pat a Facial Oil Over Your Moisturizer (Optional)

For dry skin types and for those in climates with low humidity, a skin oil can be a great way to provide a protective seal over the skin to prevent moisture evaporation. It’s essential that you use a facial oil at this point in your routine and NOT anytime before. Many people are using their facial oils wrong.

Step 9: Hang Your Head Upside Down for Three Minutes

Get details on my favorite three-minute nightly trick to ensure your skin glows. I do this faithfully and consider it an important part of my nighttime skincare routine.

Applying Your Products Morning Routine

FAQs About Skincare Routines

Can I Use the Same Cleanser Both Morning and Evening?

Yes, if you don’t wear makeup during the day, then you can use a gentle foaming cleanser twice a day. If you wear makeup though, I recommend using a lotion cleanser at night to properly remove everything.

When Should I Use a Home Skincare Device?

Generally at night is when people have more time to tend to their skin, so that’s probably best but it really depends on the tool. Follow the instructions for use or just apply some common sense. Read my review of 10 skin care devices.

In summary, if you use the right products, apply them in the right way during your nighttime routine, you should get the very best results for your skin. If you need expert advice, you can schedule a virtual consultation with an esthetician.

What should my routine be like in the morning?

Read my step-by-step instructions for the perfect morning routine.

Disclaimer: Content found on and, including text, images, audio, or other formats were created for informational purposes only. The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website or blog.


Day & Night



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  1. I think I’m between a skin type 4 and a 6 which is sort of confusing me….I’m sort of taking bits and tips from each section and using them if they apply to me. Do you recommend waiting 15-20 minutes after retinol and or acids are applied at night before putting on moisturizer? Also, do you put on toner before or after retinol or acids at night or not at all? I thought with retinol you were supposed to put it on dry skin….I use Shani Darden’s retinol reform.

    Posted By: ali  | 

    • Great question! We suggest applying toner before any serums, retinol included. It does help get the best benefits from your retinoid to wait at least three minutes before applying your moisturizer.

      Posted By: Ella Stevenson  | 

    • Great question! I suggest applying toner before any serums, retinol included. It does help get the best benefits from your retinoid to wait at least three minutes before applying your moisturizer.

      Posted By: Ella Stevenson  | 

  2. Hi! I have been using the Soothing Aloe Cleansing Milk since July 2009. It doesn’t completely remove makeup – at least, not on the first attempt. And, even on the second attempt, Soothing Aloe Cleansing Milk *still* doesn’t remove all of it. I don’t know about others, but, when I swipe my face with my toner, I expect the cloth to be virtually makeup-free. If one is wearing sunscreen, primer, concealer, color corrector, foundation, bronzer, powder, eye shadow, eyeliner, mascara, brow tint, and a setting spray, Soothing Aloe Cleansing Milk isn’t going to completely dissolve and remove all of that. One needs to use a good cold cream first, then, follow with Soothing Aloe Cleansing Milk.

    Posted By: teachermrw  | 

    • Hi! Sorry to hear the Soothing Aloe Milk isn’t fully removing your makeup. Make sure to massage it into dry skin first to break everything down, then wet fingers and continue to massage. If you’re wearing heavier makeup like primer etc., I recommend trying our Vitamin-Infused Cleansing Emulsion. It’s a bit richer and able to break through more heavy-duty products.

      Posted By: Renée Rouleau  | 


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