Error: skincare overload! Skincare overload!
Remember when the mere thought of putting acids on your skin made you run in the opposite direction? Now you can’t get enough of them.
Glycolic acid. Lactic acid. L-Ascorbic Acid. You’re using all of them and then you’re wondering why your skin’s all dry and flaky all of a sudden… 🙄
Acids are powerful. They work. They give you results. Fast. It’s easy to get addicted.
But this is one case where more ISN’T better. Go overboard with acids and you’ll destroy your skin (literally).
Acids do have a place in your skincare routine. You just need to know how to mix and match them to get the best results without the irritating side effects.
I’m here to help. Here’s the complete guide on how to layer acids in your skincare routine:
- What Types Of Acids Are Used In Skincare?
- How To Layer Acids In Your Skincare Routine
What Types Of Acids Are Used In Skincare?
Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs)
A family of water-soluble exfoliants that work by dissolving the glue that holds skin cells together so they can slough off. With them out of the picture, your skin is softer, smoother and brighter. Plus, they hydrate skin, too. The catch? High concentrations can dry out and irritate skin. The most famous members of the family are glycolic acid, lactic acid and mandelic acid.
- Paula’s Choice Resist Daily Smoothing Treatment With 5% AHA ($33.00): available at Paula’s Choice and Selfridges
- The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution (£6.80): available at Beauty Bay and Cult Beauty
- The Ordinary Lactic Acid 5% + HA 2% (£5.50): available at Cult Beauty and Feel Unique
Related: Glycolic Acid VS Lactic Acid: Which One Should You Use?
Want to get the most out of your skincare products? Click on the image below to subscribe to my newsletter and receive the “How To Combine Actives Like A Pro” cheatsheet.
Beta Hydroxy Acid (BHA)
Salicylic acid is the only BHA used in skincare. Unlike AHAs, it’s oil-soluble. This means it does double duty: it exfoliates the surface of the skin AND gets inside the pores, unclogging them from within. Plus, it has one more trick up its sleeve: it has anti-inflammatory properties that soothe redness and irritations.
- Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Framboos Glycolic Night Serum ($90.00): (has both glycolic acid and salicylic acid) available at Cult Beauty, Sephora and SpaceNK
- Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid ($29.00): available at Dermstore, Look Fantastic and Paula’s Choice
- The Inkey List Beta Hydroxy Acid (£9.99): available at Cult Beauty and Feel Unique
Related: Why Salicylic Acid Is The Key To Spot-Free Skin
Hyaluronic acid is technically a sugar. A super hydrating one. Hyaluronic acid acts like a moisture magnet that attracts water from the air into the skin. It’s so powerful, it binds up to 1000 times its weight in water! All that moisture makes skin softer, plumper and brighter.
- La Roche Posay Heal B5 Hyaluronic Acid Serum (£27.75): available at Feel Unique and Look Fantastic
- Niod Multi-Molecular Hyaluronic Acid (£25.00): available at Beauty Bay and Cult Beauty
- Paula’s Choice Resist Hyaluronic Acid Booster ($34.00): available at Dermstore, Nordstrom, Paula’s Choice and Selfridges
Related: Hyaluronic Acid Skincare Benefits: Do You Need It?
A weak acid, L-Ascorbic Acid is the pure form of vitamin C. It fights free radicals, brightens skin and boosts collagen. But it’s unstable AF. It goes bad super quickly when exposed to light, heat and air. High concentrations also sting and irritate skin. That’s why lots of people prefer to use Vitamin C derivates. They’re less effective but gentler on the skin and last way longer too.
- Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum ($80.00/£67.00): available at Cult Beauty, Sephora and SpaceNK
- Paula’s Choice C15 Booster ($49.00): available at Feel Unique, Nordstrom and Paula’s Choice
- Skinceuticals CE Ferulic ($166.00): available at Blue Mercury and Dermstore
Related: 5 Anti-Aging Superstars You Should Add To Your Skincare Routine
Polyhydroxy Acids (PHAs)
A family of exfoliants that’s as effective as Alpha Hydroxy Acids but with a larger molecular structure. Translation: they exfoliate skin just as well but are less irritating. The most famous members of the family are gluconolactone and lactobionic acid.
- The Inkey List PHA Toner ($10.99): Available at Cult Beauty and Feel Unique
Retinoic acid is the only form of Vitamin A your body can recognise and use to treat wrinkles. It fights free radicals, speeds up the skin’s natural exfoliating process and boosts the production of collagen. But it’s super harsh on the skin. It can cause severe dryness, peeling and irritation. That’s why it’s prescription only. OTC forms of retinoids, like retinol and retinaldehyde, must be converted into retinoid acid to work their magic. They’re gentler but less effective.
- Osmosis Renew Level 4 Vitamin A Serum ($88.00): available at Dermstore
- Paula’s Choice 1% Retinol Booster ($52.00): available at Dermstore, Feel Unique and Paula’s Choice
- The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 5% In Squalane (£11.90): available at Beauty Bay, Cult Beauty and Feel Unique
Related: What Form Of Retinoids Is Right For You?
How To Layer Acids In Your Skincare Routine
Can You Layer Exfoliating Acids?
This is the number one mistake I see people make in layering acids. Everyone wants to use Pixi Glow or The Ordinary Glycolic 7% Toning Solution but then you’ve heard that lactic acid is the new awesome kid on the skincare block and, wait, I have a few blackheads so why not throw salicylic acid into the mix too?
Because too much exfoliation is gonna strip your skin raw and irritate it as hell. Dead cells are there for a reason: to protect the newer cells that aren’t ready to come to the surface yet. Removing the most superficial layer makes your skin smoother and brighter. Removing all the layers leaves it red and sensitive.
For the love of your skin, stop adding all the “cult” exfoliating products into your skin. Just pick the one acid that works for you and stick to that:
- Dry and sun-damaged skin: glycolic acid
- Oily and acne-prone skin: salicylic acid
- Sensitive skin: lactic acid or PHAs
But let’s say that your skin could really benefit from more than one type of acid. Maybe you have oily but sun-damaged skin that needs both glycolic and salicylic acids or it’s dry and sensitive and a combo of AHAs/PHAs suits it better than a high concentration of glycolic acid. What do you do in this case?
I recommend you pick a product that has both types of acids. Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Framboos Glycolic Night Serum ($90.00), for example, has both glycolic, lactic and salicylic. These products are formulated so the overall ratio of acids does the exfoliating job without irritating skin.
Layering 3 acid products from The Ordinary may be cheaper but more risky. You may get an overall concentration of acids that’s too strong for your skin, destroy its protective barrier and be left with a red, flaky, painful mess.
When it comes to exfoliation, less is more.
Related: AHAs VS BHA: Which One Should You Use?
Can You Layer AHAs, Vitamin C and Retinoids?
So many of you are worried that layering AHAs, vitamin C and retinoids can make them ineffective. This isn’t really an issue. Even when these ingredients work best at different pHs, they never deactivate one another completely to make them useless.
Nope, the real risk here is irritation. If you have sensitive skin, layering AHAs, vitamin C and retinoids is a sure way to get an irritation. But even if your skin is more resistant, it’s best to start slow and introduce these superstars into your skincare routine slowly.
I recommend using vitamin C in the morning under sunscreen (it boosts its effectiveness) and alternative AHAs and retinoids at night.
Another trick is to use products that contain two or more of these superstars. Some reason as the acids. They’re formulated to give you the most benefits with the fewer side effects.
Related: Mix And Match: The Skincare Ingredients You Should Never Use Together
Can You Layer Salicylic Acid With Benzoyl Peroxide Or Retinoids?
Benzoyl peroxide is a powerful acne fighter. It kills P.Acnes, the bacteria that causes acne. But it’s harsh on the skin (it’s a killer, after all). It can cause redness, flakiness and peeling. That’s why it’s best to use it as a spot treatment only.
As it’s so harsh on its own, it’s not a good idea to use it together with salicylic acid or retinoids. But, that doesn’t mean these two can’t be part of your anti-acne routine, as well.
Just use them at different times. I recommend you put on benzoyl peroxide in the morning and use salicylic acid and retinoids at night. Or you can use salicylic acid every morning and alternate benzoyl peroxide and retinoids at night. Whatever works best for your skin.
Related: Benzoyl Peroxide VS Salicylic Acid: Which One Should You Choose?
Can You Layer Hyaluronic Acid With Other Acids?
Yes! Yes! Yes! You can layer hyaluronic acid with everything. In fact, I recommend you do. Especially if you’re using anti aging superstars like retinol, glycolic acid and Vitamin C.
These antiaging superstars are harsh on the skin, leaving it dry and sensitive. Adding hyaluronic acid to your skincare routine helps counteract their drying effects.
Hyaluronic acid deeply hydrates skin, leaving it softer and smoother. If your retinol is leaving your skin feeling tight, reach for a hyaluronic acid serum pronto!
What are your thoughts on alternating acids? I do 30% GA peels most Friday nights (six weeks on, two weeks off) and have really liked how they’ve evened my complexion. I also use face pads with SA most Saturday-Thursday. Recently, one of my favourite beauty sites had a sale on Nip+Fab products and I picked up some of their GA pads, which I’ve started using instead of the SA pads on Sundays and Tuesdays. Don’t worry, I also use 1/4 teaspoon of SPF 50 on my face which gets reapplied if I’m outside for too long! Thoughts on the routine?
K, I think you may be overdoing it. 30% GA once a week is enough to remove dead skin cells and boost collagen so there’s no need to exfoliate on other days. You don’t want to risk removing too many layers or you’ll dry out your skin and exposed the raw skin that’s not ready to come to the surface yet.
Also, do you suffer from blackheads/pimples? If so, applying salicylic acid only on those acne-prone areas. If not, salicylic acid is totally redundant in your skincare routine.
When it comes to exfoliation, less is more. 🙂
Hi, I’d like to find a way to incorporate Vitamin C into my routine: I use Benzaclin (benzoyl peroxide/ clindamycin) in the morning & Retin-A at night, but I’ve read that Vit C doesn’t mix well with either.
Any suggestions? Thanks 🙂
A, you could use them together. The only problem is that this combo may be too harsh and irritating for your skin. If that’s the case, use vitamin C and retin A on alternate nights.
Thank you for the response. Sorry if I bombard you with more questions, but…
1. I know benzoyl peroxide is an oxidizing agent, so it’s counteracted by Vit C (an antioxidant). Skinceuticals claims that their CE + Ferulic serum stays active on the skin up to 72 hrs after applying… could this interact with my BP if I apply one at night and the other in the morning?
2. Vit C is really difficult to stabilize (and keep stable). Retinol is also de-stabilized by the pH levels of BP. So are Vit C & Retinol both stable/ most effective at the same pH level?
3. How many times a week do I need to use Vit C to see actual results? Is it worth using at nighttime since it’s supposed to work against free radicals during the day?
4. Can BP be used together with gentler acids like like the lactic acid?
A, you’re welcome and no worries. To answer your questions:
1. BP works by killing the bacteria that causes acne. It just generates free radicals in the process so it’s recommended you use it with antioxidants to get results without side effects.
2. Nope, pure vitamin C and retinol work best at different pH. But they’re not completely deactivated if you use them in the same product so you’ll still get results.
3. I use it every day but if your skin is sensitive, start with two or three times a week and build up frequency gradually.
4. As your skin is acne-prone, I’d use it with salicylic acid.
Hi, how about Malic Acid?
Elle, it’s a Alpha Hydroxy Acid so the same rules apply. 🙂
Okay so I have super-oily skin, like its out of control, but anyway. I also have some wrinkles and a really yucky skin texture. Lots of pores and just an uneven, bumpy appearance, not smooth. Typical of oily skin. Ive been using salycylic acid every morning for decades, to clear oil before applying makeup. Ive also added witch hazel in the am and a oil absorbi g powder which have helped me be less of an oil slick by the end of the work day.
Ive recently purchased the Pixi Glow serum, (which ive been using at night) and I also have a skin therapy oil which contains retiniods, which ive also used at night but never sure if I can use them together. I also have the pixi hyaluronic milky mist. Not sure I like it in the morning, as my priority is oil control under my makeup, (SA, with hazel, mattifying powder, powder foundation) so I may switch it to night as well. I also have a vit c serum which feels stingy sometimes but I love it under makeup because it feels sooo matte. But i think im supposed to use it with moisture and I dont want to add moisture to my morning routine…
So my question is can I use the GA serum at night with the retinoid oil or alternate nights? Should I use the HA milky mist at night?
Also, should I use the vit c in the am under makeup, or should I add moisutre to that with the HA milkly mist as well? In which order?
Hi Kelsey, use retinoid and GA serum on alternate nights. Then apply the mist.
You can use your vitamin C in the am under makeup. If it stings, it means it’s too harsh for your skin type so cut back to a couple of times a week and build up frequency gradually. Also, have you tried The Ordinary Niacinamide + Zinc? It helps keep the oil under control too.
I have just stumbeled upon your blog and WOW! I have only recently found my interest for the science behind skincare rather than beautiful packaging and great claims alone. Your site is of so,so much help!
Now that I turned 25, everyone likes to remind me that from now on the aging is kicking in 😀 Maybe you have some helpful tips and recommendations for me, as I’m currently trying to turn the little skincare knowledge I gained so far into a skincare routine.
I guess I have combination skin – neither extremely oily nor very dry patches (often even leaning a bit dry I think) but laarge pores and impurities. I thought of implementing the following steps to start out:
1. CLEANSE (clinique redness solutions soothing cleanser – as I still have that at home)
2. TONER/EXFOLIATER (same AHA/BHA as in PM routine (=would be done twice a day), no benzoyl peroxide (duac) & clindamycin Phosphate (dalacin) though)
-Really unsure wether that is needed/helpful/appropriate or what other skincare could make a good second AM step..?
3.VITAMIN C (Vichy Liftactiv Vitamin C Skin Brightening Corrector – found the best price/review/recommendations ratio for my student budget)
4. MOISTURIZER (clinique moisture surge – love this light gel and find it works great, esp. for day-time)
5. SUN PROTECTION (la roche-posay anthelios – alternating spf 30 and spf 50 depending on my day/sun ect.)
1. 1st CLEANSE (garnier micellar water & clinique take the day off cleansing balm to take off makeup – still have these at home)
2. 2nd CLEANSE (clinique redness solutions soothing cleanser again)
3. TONER/EXFOLIATER/SPOT TREATMENT (the ordinary lactic acid 5% + HA2%/dalacin T/duac acne gel)
-What is actually the difference between the toner and exfoliater? im confused..
-My thinking was to start out with a gentle, low % acid as I’ve never used any before but maybe BHA makes more sense than AHA in my case? Cant really wrap my mind around it for my skin type but would like to use only one rather than two on the different zones of my face..
-Dalacin T & Duac acne gel Icurrently use as spot treatments for whenever i feel skin is getting worse. If that’s not the case I was thinking of just use the acid toner
-I see a lot of sources useing retinoid at this point in the routine (and AHA/BHA in the morning instead) but idk wether or not that makes sense for me, esp. since I’m only starting out, dont wanna overdue it and still want to keep useing my harsh benzoyl peroxide (duac) & clindamycin Phosphate (dalacin) as spot treatment at least until they’re used up).
4. MIST (Lumene Nordic Hydra [Lähde] Arctic Spring Water Enriched Facial Mist – giving in to packaging just once :D)
-solely added this step as I read moist/wet face draws in the next step deeper.. probs not even necessary?
5. HA (NIOD Multi Molecular Hyaluronic Complex )
6. MOISTURIZE (clinique dramatically different moisturizing lotion – I find it way too thick and greasy for daytime or makeup on top but just wanna finish that bottle I still have, therefore at night)
o.o that made for a longer comment than I thought. Hope you have time to answer this one, otherwise just take my praise and gratitude at the beiginning and keep doing what you do, can’t say how much I appreciate your site!
Linda, thanks so much for your kind words and support. So glad to hear my blog is helping you.
An exfoliant is a product that removes dead cells from the surface of your skin, making your skin softer and brighter. A toner is a lightweight lotion that can do several things, like hydrate skin or soak up excess oil. Some toners can even exfoliate the skin. However, while an exfoliant (exfoliating toners count here) is an essential, a toner isn’t. If you’re on a budget and want to keep your skincare routine short and to the point, you can skip the toner and just exfoliate with BHA three or four times a week either in the morning or evening. You can use it daily but as you’re still so young, you may not need to.
I’d say 25 is the perfect age to start using retinol. But if you feel it’s too much for you, you can start with a gentler form of Vitamin A. For example, once you finish Clinique Dramatically Different Moisturising Lotion, you can get a bottle of rosehip, which contains a natural form of Vitamin A. You can also try hydroxypinacolone retinoate, a new form of Vitamin A that’s great for people prone to breakouts. It’s gentler for the skin too. You’ll find in The Ordinary Granactive 2% in Squalene and Mad Hippie Vitamin C Serum.
It also wouldn’t be a bad idea to use an antioxidant serum. For example, The Ordinary Resveratrol 3% + Ferulic Acid 3% layered after your vitamin C serum would enhance its effectiveness. Paula’s Choice and Skin Actives also make affordable antioxidant serums. Hope this helps.
Thank you so much for your help, Gio!
I‘m so excited to start this new journey and will for sure check back regularely, there is so much to learn!
Linda, my pleasure! So glad you find it useful. 🙂
This is a great post & has already answered a lot of my questions!
I just purchased The Ordinary Mandelic acid 10% + HA to address uneven skin tone & peeling patches over some congested pores on my cheeks & chin. I’m 35 & have been having good success at night with Alba Botanica acnedote exfoliating scrub (two or so times a week), Trader Joe’s facial cleansing oil, Asterwood Naturals Hyaluronic Acid & Andalou Naturals Revitalize Serum & Heavenly Night Cream.
The congestion/acne was present before I began this regimen. It hasn’t gotten worse, but it hasn’t gotten better, either. Which is why I thought the Mandelic acid might be a good option to rotate in.
Any thoughts on where or how I could make good use of this in my night time routine? I appreciate the time you’ve taken to help people address their skin concerns!
Rhiannon, use it at night after cleansing. Mandelic acid is so gentle, it can be used daily but if you find that’s too much for your skin, don’t hesitate to cut back to 3/4 times a week.
Hye can u plz suggest me how can i add
Azeliac acid n vit f
All from the ordinary
I. My skin care regime i have combination and pigmented skin
Hina, I don’t think the ordinary has a product with azelaic acid and vitamin F. Or did you buy two forms of vitamin C? Can you please write down the full names of the products?
I am currently using a 3% salicylic and aloe cleanser daily and a 5% daily acne peel which is like a serum (Salicylic acid) two to three times per week at night only for the past 10 months and bought The Ordinary 2% salicylic serum last week. My skin is quite tolerant and not sensitive at all. Do you think that I could layer the two products? Would it increase the effectiveness of the salicylic acid if I combine them? I also bought The Ordinary 7% glycolic solution. How frequently should I be using that ans should I avoid using the glycolic acud on days that I use the 5% and 2% salicylic acids.
Beanca, more acids doesn’t make your skin better, it makes it worse! Pick ONE salicylic acid product and stick to that. Don’t use two or three at the same time. One is more than enough. And NO glycolic acid. You’re already exfoliating with salicylic acid. The last thing your skin needs now is another, harsher, exfoliating acid.
So I have been using the glycolic acid 7% toner from the ordinary series the past month every other night (since I am also using a tretinoin cream some nights). Everything was great! I decided to buy their Lactic Acid 10% serum too for the different benefits it gives and since I read you can use both of them, just on different times of the day. I continued using the glycolic acid toner every other night and the lactic acid every morning along with super high spf sunscreen. I think I fell into the trap of overexfoliating my skin and after a few days I woke up with flaky skin and redness on certain areas on my cheeks and around my mouth. Do you have any recommendations? I’d rather not throw it away since I bought it! Would it be a good idea to use every other night the glycolic acid and the rest of the nights the lactic acid minimizing the usage of tretinoin to once or twice a week? I thought that maybe by giving 24 hours space after each one’s use might not be as irritating whereas using the one at night and the other the next morning is more harsh after just 8 hours. Thank you in advance!
Maggie, sorry to hear you overexfoliated your skin. I know you don’t want to throw it away but that’s the best thing to do. Lactic acid doesn’t do anything that glycolic doesn’t so you’re NOT getting any extra benefits. Why would you reduce tretinoin to gain no additional benefits? If you really want to use it, then finish the glycolic, then use the lactic and then go back to glycolic.
Hi! Loving this blog post! I am currently using cosmetic skin solutions vitamin c +e serum in the am and prescription tretinoin .05% in the PM. I just purchased The ordinary Hylaronic Acid 2% + B5 to add to my morning regimen as well as the Salicylic 2% to add to my pm…Is that a bad combo and can you help with the order of application? My skin is not sensitive at all…I’ve been using my tretinoin for years, but need some moisture for my oily skin! I am 41 and am ready to amp up my anti aging routine!
Mindy, well done for choosing the right products to amp up your skincare routine. You can use The Ordinary hyaluronic acid after vitamin C and salicylic acid before tretinoin at night.
I would just like to ask if it’s okay to layer Lactic acid and azelaic acid?
Dee, yes it is. But I wouldn’t use lactic acid every day. A couple of times a week is more than enough.
Don’t even know where to start but I am sure that I need to change my routine and add some acids to it. AM/PM washing face with Aveeno (I found this is the only one that does not dry out my skin afterwards). AM moisturizer is Neutrogena grapefruit oil-free, PM only grapeseed oil. I have used before buckthorn oil. Sometimes I use toner (whichhazel or Clean&clear deep cleaning astringent). Where should I start? I see some pigmentation from the sun and fine lines 🙁
I also wanted to ask where is a good start for premature skin(for my hubby)?
Thanks a lot! LOve your blog
Jenn, thank you! So glad you like my blog. 🙂
First of all, get rid of your toners. Skin doesn’t need astringents. If you see some pigmentation and fine lines, a glycolic acid exfoliant is a great place to start. I’ve written a guide about how to use glycolic acid and my fave picks here: https://www.beautifulwithbrains.com/complete-guide-glycolic-acid/
What do you mean with premature skin? Do you want to prevent premature aging? If so, an antioxidant serum is a great starting point: https://www.beautifulwithbrains.com/best-antioxidant-serums/ And sunscreen, of course!
I just came across your blog and am so impressed with it! I had a question about rotating The Ordinary salicylic acid and glycolic toning solution. I know you are not supposed to use them together, however, is it even too harsh to rotate them every other day? What do you suggest. I am 31 and have some cystic acne I am trying to manage. Thanks in advance for your help!
Kait, I don’t see the point in rotating them tbh. I know that glycolic acid is all the rage now and you feel like you’re missing out if you don’t use that. But you’re not missing out if you’re not using something your skin doesn’t need. If you have acne, salicylic acid is what your skin need. Don’t stray from that just because GA is cool now.
I use a drugstore Aha creme amost every night . sometimes I will micro needle my serums. (I actually got my hands on it in high school so that was great. I recently started using ity again a year ago) I cleanse with a glycolic wash daily. Twice a week I use a koji bar for my cleanse. If my skin is looking saggy I use retinol serum at night. I layer collgen creme and serum and spf every morning. I get a retinol peel every 6 months.
Felisia, glad you’ve found a routine that works for you.
Hi ! Thanks for writing this blogpost, its really educating. I noticed you didn’t really mention rosehip seed oil though, am I right in guessing this is a retinoid ? I have a skincare routine that is finally working for me, but since I don’t know that much about these acids, I’m scared it might not be good for my skin long-term ? I would be really grateful for any feedback. I’m 24 yo and have combination/oily skin and some roscea.
I use salicylic acid (Yes to Tomatoes Detoxifying Charcoal Cleanser) as a cleanser AM/PM. But when I run out of that I’ll go back to a more gentle hyaluronic acid cleanser I think. In the AM (after cleansing) I use The Ordinary Buffet, then The Ordinary Azelaic acid and then I’ll add sunscreen and make-up and go about my day. In the PM (after removing make-up and cleansing) I use The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% toner, (then a hyaluronic acid moisturizer in the wintertime) and finally I’ll wait around 15-20 minutes before I add The Ordinary 100% Organic Cold-Pressed Rose Hip Seed Oil.
Like I mentioned this seems to work for me, my face is way less red and sensitive also it seems to keep my acne-prone skin semi-in-check except for the occational hormonal break-out. Please lett me know if I’m just destroying my skin though, or if you know other ways I can combine these product. I really wanna finish what I’ve bought, I use way too much money on my skin. Thank you for any feedback 🙂
Sophie, this is a great routine for your skin type and age and it shows as you say it’s working, apart from the occasional breakout. Because of that, the only thing I’d change is the exfoliant. Instead than The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toner, use The Ordinary Salicylic Acid 2% Solution. While glycolic acid also exfoliates the surface of the skin, salicylic acid also exfoliates the pores, preventing and healing breakouts. It also has soothing properties that can tone down redness and irritations.
Your blog is super informative, thank you for all of this information! I’m completely new to acids, retinols/retinoids, vitamin c and a multi-layered skin care routine in general. So, in hopes of becoming more serious about my skin care, I’ve recently purchased some products from Herbivore and form The Ordinary. My skin is combination, oily/dry, and I have mild rosacea around my nose and cheeks. I tend to also get a few hormonal pimples here and there on my chin during my cycle.
My night time skin care routine for the past 3 weeks has been the following:
1. Herbivore’s Bamboo Charcoal Cleansing Bar (I use my Foreo Luna to massage that into my skin)
2. Herbivore Blue Tansy Resurfacing Clay Mask (about 2 times a week at night only)
3. Thayer’s Witch Hazel Aloe Vera with Lavender Toner
4. The Ordinary’s Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%
5. The Ordinary’s Salicylic Acid 2% (for spot treatment only)
6. The Ordinary’s Azelaic Acid Salicylic Acid
7. The Ordinary’s Rose Hip Seed Oil
My morning skin care routine has been the following for the past 3 weeks:
1. Herbivore’s Bamboo Charcoal Cleansing Bar (I’ll use either my Foreo Luna or hands to massage that into my skin or I’ll skip this step entirley in the morning and only use some cold water and then my Thayer’s toner)
2. Thayer’s Witch Hazel Aloe Vera with Lavender Toner
3. The Ordinary’s Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%
4. The Ordinary’s Salicylic Acid 2% (for spot treatment only)
6. The Ordinary’s Azelaic Acid
7. The Ordinary’s Natural Moisturizing Factors + HA or The Ordinary’s Buffet
So far I’ve really liked this routine. My skin is brighter than ever, so soft and feeling really rejuvenated. However, my skin is definitely going through a purging stage and I’m getting more blemishes than I usually do on my chin and nose. But, these blemishes are now really starting to clear up and I can see the light at the end of the tunnel! 😉
Here are my questions for you:
1. What are your thoughts on my current morning and night skin care routine?
2. Should I wait for my acne to completely clear up before incorporating The Ordinary’s Advanced Retinoid 2% into my routine?
3. Where should I incorporate the Advanced Retinoid 2% into my night time routine?
4. I’ve read that it is ok to use The Ordinary’s Ascorbyl Tetraisopalmitate 20% in Vitamin F underneath The Ordinary’s Azelaic Acid. Do you agree?
5. From your knowledge, is The Ordinary’s Ascorbyl Tetraisopalmitate 20% in Vitamin F a good enough Vitamin C derivative to use during the day time?
6. I tried for the first time last night The Ordinary’s Lactic Acid 5% instead of the Salicylic Acid 2%. Is it worth using the Lactic Acid only at night (a couple times a week) and the Salicylic Acid only in the day time or is it better to stick to only one acid?
7. Is it OK to use Lactic Acid all over the skin and Salicylic Acid for spot treatment only in the same routine, especially while I’m breaking out?
8. Is it OK to use Salicylic Acid every day for spot treatment of blemishes?
Thank you so much for all your feedback. I’ve really loved reading your blog and learning more about this crazy world of skincare!
Lauren, thanks for your kind words. So glad you like the blog.
1. I’m not a fan of the first two steps but the rest is pretty spot on. I’d get rid of the toner, lavender can be irritating for the skin. Also, I’m not a fan of soaps because they tend to be more comedogenic that cream or foaming cleansers. Foreo Luna is an exfoliant so don’t use it every day with your cleanser. A couple of times a week is more than enough. Saliyclic acid is a great spot treatment, but use it straight after cleansing.
2/3. No, you don’t have to wait. You can use it instead than niacinamide at night, straight after cleansing.
4/5. Yes, I agree. But since your skin is oily, MAP would be a better option for you. Use it after cleansing and before everything else.
6. Stick to only one acid. In your case, that’d be salicylic acid.
7. You can but then why not save some money and use salicylic acid all over?
8. Yes it is. You can use 2/3 times a day on pimples to make them disappear faster.
Thank you so much Gio for all of this information! I’m implementing your advice! I agree with getting rid of the Herbivore’s Bamboo Charcoal cleanser bar. I feel like it’s dried out my skin and can actually be very irritating if it gets in my nose.
I have some new questions for you…
1. Is toner not a good option for my skin type at all or just not the Thayer’s Lavender Toner? I’ve really liked Thayer’s toners in the past, so I’d definitely like to know your opinion.
2. Are you a fan of the Grown Alchemist Hydra Restore Cream Cleanser? I’ve enjoyed their exfoliators and moisturizers and thought maybe I should replace my Herbivore’s Bamboo Charcoal Cleansing Bar with their Cleanser.
3.What is MAP?
4. For Lactic Acid and Salicylic Acid, is there not a big difference between them in terms of the benefits they bring to the skin?
Thank you again Gio for all your advice and wisdom!
Lauren, glad my advice help. Switching to a gentle cleanser will make a good difference, I am sure. To answer your questions:
1. I’m not a fan of toners in general. They don’t really do anything for the skin, unless they contain salicylic acid. But you’re already using an exfoliant with that, so save both time and money and skip it.
2. I’m afraid I’m not a fan of the cleanser either because it contains fragrant oils that can be irritating. Check out this post for the best cleansers for your skin type: https://www.beautifulwithbrains.com/best-low-ph-cleanser-skin/
3. MAP is short for The Ordinary Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate 10%. Sorry for the confusion!
4. No, there isn’t. They both exfoliate the surface of the skin. The only difference is that salicylic acid exfoliates the pores and lactic acid adds some hydration. Your skin type needs the former, not the latter. There is a common misconception that, because different ingredients work slightly differently, you need them all. But that’s not true. The reason there are so many exfoliants is because there are different types of skin. It’s all about choosing the exfoliant that matches your needs, not trying to get all the benefits, because if you overexfoliate the skin, you don’t get any extra benefits. You just get a bad case of irritation!
Hope this helps
Thanks again for all of your help! I truly appreciate it.
I have a couple more questions for you… hopefully these are my last. lol 😉
1. I have decided to purchase the Kate Sommerville’s EradiKate Daily Foaming Cleanser as well as Kate Sommerville’s ExfoliKate Daily Foaming Cleanser. I just tried to look up its PH level, but didn’t find it on the list or elsewhere for the time being. What are your thoughts on this cleanser?
2. I have a question about skin purging. Before I started my new skin care routine, specifically with The Ordinary skincare products, I experienced the occasional hormonal acne breakouts on my chin during my cycle. For the rest of the month though, my skin would stay fairly clear. However, since I have started this skincare routine, I have had pimples everyday on my chin. Some very little, disappearing fairly quickly, some larger lasting a few days, and some cystic acne, also coming and going. I believe that my skin is purging and from what I’ve read this is a common occurrence when beginning a new skincare regime. I certainly have seen the benefits of the The Ordinary’s Salicylic Acid, Niacinamide, Azealic Acid, and Rose Hip Seed Oil to the rest of my face, and I have seen many different chin pimples come and go this past month. But, for whatever reason, my chin really seems to want to live, breathe and be one with all the pimples… So all of that being said, I’m feeling a bit discouraged and hope you have some advice on this. Should I just tough it out a bit longer?
So if I am using a GA toner (pixi), a HA and a retinol at night, what is the best orer to use them in?
Allison, alternate between GA and retinol and follow up with HA.
I do not want to use multiple products. I am aging, have rosacea, and get painful breakouts. Out of control hormones during perimenopause and menopause have had their way with my skin, including far too much sweating. I would like to use the Abnormal Beauty line because I am past spending exhorbitant amounts of money on this stuff.
Can you give me the simplest routine to help my skin shine? I am open to doing once weekly or monthly facial applications along with applying one product daily (not including sunscreen that I use regularly) in the morning, and one at night. I would love to get to a point where I don’t have to use makeup to cover the rosacea, but I am not sure that will ever be possible.
Thank you for using science. I am really tired of spending money on unnecessary products.
Pix, I think you’re wise in wanting to keep your skincare routine as simple as possible. It’s something I recommend to everyone, especially if their skin is sensitive.
In the morning, alternate between Salicylic Acid 2% solution and Niacinamide 10% + zinc 1% followed by sunscreen. In the evening, use Azelaic Acid 10% Suspension.
Hope this helps
Hello! I’m 35 y.o. with oily skin/large pores. I purchased The Ordinary Resveratrol & Ferulic Acid to mix with my Vitamin C but have run out of that Vitamin C and bought the Maelove Glow Maker, which already has the Ferulic Acid. Can I combine the Resveratrol/Ferulic with Retinol/Azelaic Acid/Niacinamide in my night time routine?
Vitamin C, The Ordinary Ferulic/Resveratrol
The Ordinary Niacinamide
The Ordinary Matrixyl
Curology mixture (Tretinoin 0.02%, Azelaic Acid 5%, Niacinamide 4%)
Also, any suggestions?!
thank you 🙂
Elisha, yes, you can later the ferulic acid with the Curology mixture at night.
This is by far the most informative skin care place I have ever encountered! Thank you so much!
I am 28 and quite new to the world of acids and retinoids and vitamin C but very excited as I have fair sensitive aging sun-damaged skin (aggressive crow’s feet). I have an oily nose and chin, the rest is dry – with seborrheic dermatitis on the sides of nose (have managed to control that but of course things flare up in the winter months) I also have very large pores 🙁
Can you please recommend a skin care routine?
On the acid front, which step should the acid come? Right after cleansing? Even if I use a cleanser that has an acid percentage, for instance?
On the retinoid front, same question – which step should it be? I have read that it is best applied after moisturizing, so does that mean that hyluronic acid should come before or after?
Thanks a lot!
Deena, ohhhh thank you fro your kind words!
It’s great that you want to take good care of your skin but venture into the world of anti aging slowly. Acids, vitamin C and retinoids can all help with wrinkles but they can be irritating, especially in high doses or used often.
Start with vitamin C. Use it in the morning right after cleansing and before moisturiser and/or sunscreen. If, after a month, your skin is happy with (no irritation etc), start with an acid.
As your skin is combo, something like Drunk Elephant Glycolic Night Serum, which has both salicylic acid, lactic acid and glycolic acid would be the best option. Or you can use salicylic acid on oily areas and glycolic acid (5%) on sun-damaged areas. Use them 3 times a week at night after cleansing.
If after one more month, your skin can tolerate this routine, add a retinoid. I think the safest option for you would be Granactive Retinoid, which you can find in The Ordinary range or Mad Hippie Vitamin A serum. Use it at night after cleansing on days you don’t exfoliate. Then, hyaluronic acid and moisturiser.
Hope this helps
Wow what an awesome blog! thanks for this informative and well-organized post.
I’m 28 I have combination skin, I don’t have any blackheads/pimples. my only problem is that my skin looks very dull and tired and very dehydrated. Iv’e recently started the following routine:
2. GA toner (Pixi )
3. Moisturizer With SPF (Eucerin Even Brighter Day Cream)
2. Essence Toner (Pyunkang Yul Essence Toner)
3. Alternate between vitamin C and retinol serum
4. HA (Cosrx Hyaluronic Acid Hydra Power Essence)
I also use glycolic peel every Friday, and Glycolic mask every Saturday (Andalou Naturals Pumpkin Honey Glycolic Mask).
I would love to hear your thought on my routine to help me get radiant skin!
Rawan, I think you’re using too much glycolic acid. I know you want glowy skin but too much exfoliation isn’t the answer! Depending on the concentration of the peel, that alone may be enough. Or you can use GA toner 3 or 4 times a night before the Essence Toner.
I’d still use retinol every other night, but vitamin C should go daily in the morning after cleansing. You may also want to use HA afterwards.
Thanks for your informative blog. Can I just check this skincare routine for oily, acne skin please? The products are a mixture of The Inkey List and The Ordinary.
2. Hyaluronic Acid
3. Salicylic Acid
4. Niacinamide Acid
5. Azelaic Acid
6. Vitamin C
7. Zinc Oxide
8. Squalance Oil
2. Glycolic Acid (every other night)
3. Hyaluronic Acid
4. Salicylic Acid
5. Niacinamide Acid
6. Azelaic Acid
7. Retinol (every other night)
8. Rosehip Oil
Do I need to add a moisturiser to the steps above please?
Many thanks for your help.
Bethan, I love The Ordinary and The Inkey List but the problem is that you tempt you to buy way more than you need.
For example, you have 3 exfoliants in your skincare routine: salicylic acid, glycolic acid and azelaic acid. That’s way too much, especially daily. Get rid of glycolic acid straight away. I know it’s popular but this is for dry skin types. If you are oily, salicylic acid is all you need.
Also, it’s very important to apply exfoliants, vitamin C and retinol on clear skin. By applying as the 5th or 7th step, you won’t get much benefit from them.
Try this instead:
2. Vitamin C
3. Hyaluronic Acid
4. Zinc Oxide
5. Squalene (optional – only if you feel like your skin is getting drier during the day if you don’t use it)
(you can add azelaic acid after vitamin C if you feel like it’s helping your acne but it’s not a must)
2. Salicylic Acid
4. Niacinamide Acid
8. Squalance or rosehip oil (optional)
Hope this helps
i chanced upon your blog entry while searching “acid toner vs acid serum”. would like to know your opinion about my skincare regiment.
i am using acid toner, retinoid as well as vitamin c in my routines, although not together. i am not sure if i am overdoing it, or should be simplifying things abit. below are my AM and PM routines. I have two PM routines in order to alternate BHA and retinoid.
2) Acid Toner (BR P50 lotion, to bring the PH level down)
3) Vit C (The Ordinary ascorbic acid 8 + alpha arbutin 2%)
….wait time 10 mins
4) Hydrating Toner
7) Sun block
1) 1st cleanse
2) 2nd cleanse
3) Acid Toner (BR P50 Lotion)
4) BHA (PC 2% Liquid)
…wait time 20 mins
5) Hydrating toner
7) Sheet Mask
1) 1st cleanse
2) 2nd cleanse
3) Hydrating toner
4) Sheet Mask
5) Retinoid (Jordan Samuel Retinoi Oil or ROC Retinol Serum)
7) Eye Cream (ROC eye cream with retinol)
My questions are:
1) Acid toner vs acid serum. What is your opinion on this? Should I stick with the acid toner or switch to a acid serum?
2) Is it necessary to have a wait time after applying Vit C and before the rest of my morning routine?
3) Is an acid toner necessary to bring PH level down in order for the Vit C to work better?
4) I avoid products with niacinamide in the AM when I am using Vit C. I heard that they mix badly together. But alot of products have niacinamide in them these days and it had been a pain to make sure my AM products don’t clash. Is it true that these two should not mix?
5) Are my routines too complicated? Should I cut down the number of products?
So sorry for asking so many questions, but I really need some advice. Thanks in advance!!! 🙂
AI, I’d definitely simplify things a bit especially on the exfoliating front. You’re using two exfoliants on some day and that’s not good for skin. But I’ll get into that while answering your questions.
1. The vehicle is irrelevant. What matters is that you use an exfoliating acid. Whether that acid is in a toner, serum or moisturiser, your skin doesn’t care. At the moment, you’re using BR P50 lotion and PC 2% Liquid. They both have salicylic acid so you don’t need to use them both. Pick the one you like best and stick with it.
2. I’d just wait a couple of minutes to make sure the vitamin C is absorbing well but nope, you don’t need to wait 20 minutes or so.
3. A good vitamin C serum is already formulated at a low pH that allows it to work better. If yours isn’t, you need a better serum, not an acid toner. Besides, this is a concern only with L-Ascorbic Acid. Derivatives of L-Ascorbic Acid usually work well even at a higher pHs. So, no, you don’t need a toner, unless you prefer your acid to come in a toner rather than serum form.
4. No, it isn’t true. For the full explanation, check out this post: https://www.beautifulwithbrains.com/use-vitamin-c-niacinamide-together/
5. This depends. It’s not about the number of products, it’s about what your skin needs. For example, if you have oily skin, a moisturising sunscreen may be enough and you can skip the moisturiser entirely. Or do you see a difference when you use a sheet mask every day compared to when you use one once a week? You need to find out what your skin types/concerns are and look for products that can address them, not add a toner, serum, moisturiser, etc because you’ve read somewhere that you need all these products.
Hope this helps
thank you so much for your detailed reply!
you have given me clarity and how to go about sorting out my routines.
i am enjoying your other posts as well, they are very informative.
AI, you’re welcome. Glad to help. 🙂
What a fantastic article, so informative and easy to understand. And the fact that you are replying to comments is incredible and so helpful.
I’m have very oily and sensitive skin. My current routine is this;
Nip and fab glycolic toner pad
Ordinary salicylic acid
Ordinary hyloronic acid
Nip and Fab toner pad
Ordinary Lactic Acid
Ordinary hyloronic acid
I was using just the salicylic both in the morning and evening but I found it was making no difference to my pores or blemishes so added the Lactic acid. Could you let me know what you think and if there is anything I should remove or try differently?
Thank you so much!
Sophie, you’re using 3 exfoliants every day. For the love of your skin, stop it!
I understand your frustration with salicylic acid, but adding lactic acid and the glycolic toner is gonna hurt your skin, not help it. Unlike salicylic, glycolic and lactic can’t penetrate pores so they won’t even help with blemishes much!
Stick to salicylic acid and remove the other two. If you find The Ordinary isn’t effective, try Paula’s Choice. They have BHA exfoliants at a 4% strengths, so they should work better for you.
Hope this helps
Lauren, I’m replying here because we’ve run out of space upstairs. 😉
1. I’m not a fan of exfoliating cleansers.You’re just spending extra money for exfoliating ingredients that work way better when left on the skin for hours. A basic, no-frills, cheap cleanser is better for your skin and wallet.
2. How long have you been doing this new routine? Purging lasts up to a month so wait until then. After a month, if you still get pimples, try eliminating one product at a time (i.e., don’t use azelaic for 2/3 weeks for example) and see if it makes a difference. If something is giving you breakouts, this should help you identify the culprit.
Thank you Gio! I will stick to something simple for my cleanser like the Paula’s choice cleanser you recommended. Do you think it’s a good idea to use the Katesommerville acne cleanser or her other basic cleanser as an exfoliant and only use once or twice a week?
It’s been a little over 5 weeks since I started this new skin care routine. My chin is finally clearing up and i think my hormonal acne is a big cause of the lasting acne. What are your thoughts on hormonal acne? This may be venturing into a totallly different area of knowledge but have you ever done hormonal testing or know anything about the process? I’ve always been curious about it.
Thanks again Gio for all your knowledge and support!
Lauren, as I said I’m not a fan of exfoliating cleansers. They can do a little exfoliation but you get much better results (and bang for your buck) when you allow exfoliants to stay on the skin for hours. Exfoliating cleansers won’t ruin your skin but why use something sub-par?
I’m afraid I don’t have any knowledge of hormonal testing. My expertise is in skincare and hormones are a very complicated topic. But I have a post about how to deal with hormonal acne through diet and skincare: https://www.beautifulwithbrains.com/ultimate-guide-dealing-hormonal-acne/
Hi, please help me. im new to try the ordinary Niacinamide, lactic acid 5% and azelaic acid? which one should i use in Am and Pm? thanks
Khaire, use azelaic acid in the morning and niacinamide at night. Two or three times a week, use lactic acid after cleansing but before niacinamide.
Hi! I have a glycolic acid toner and I was wondering if I would use that before or are I put the Ordinary’s salicylic acid on? Or would I get rid of the glycolic toner and get a regular toner? Or would you just suggest using the other glycolic infused (not leave-on) products on the nights I don’t use the salicylic acid leave-on?? THANK YOU. I assume it is ok to use a glycolic toner or cleanser/scrub before a leave-on salicylic acid cause it is only on for a second. I only use the toner a couple times a week anyway. Thanks
Mia, I don’t recommend a cleansing scrub because I feel scrubs do more harm than good to the skin. And if you’re already exfoliating with salicylic acid, what’s the point? Get a cheaper cleanser without scrub. 🙂
You can alternate glycolic and salicylic acid by using them on different days but do you really need to? Salicylic acid is for blackheads, whiteheads and pimples. Glycolic acid is for hydration, so if you’re dealing with blemishes and your skin isn’t dry, there isn’t much point using this. Even if your skin is ok with both exfoliants, you’re throwing money away for something you don’t need. Or is there a specific reason why you need both?
Hi Gio. Is it ok to use mandelic acid and use salicylic acid as a spot treatment? I have been doing the face reality protocol for the last year to clear my skin and I’m just curious if I’m doing too much now. My morning routine is Ultra Gentle cleanser calming toner mandelic acid 11% and face reality Hydra balance. My evening routine is Ultra Gentle cleanser calming toner mandelic acid 11% hide your balance moisturizer and 5% benzoyl peroxide. Things are going okay but I still get tiny blackheads on my chin and a few pimples. I want to make sure I’m not actually the one causing the blackheads and pimples. Thank you for your time
Stephanie, you could but I don’t see the point. Why waste money to buy two products when just the one will do? If mandelic acid isn’t giving you the results you want, switch to salicylic acid and see if that makes a difference.
Also, the mandelic acid you’re using is full of citrus oils and other extracts that are irritating for the skin. Try to choose products that don’t have them as they can cause inflammation in the deeper layers of the skin. And acne is an inflammatory disease!
Please could you give me some advice to help my daughter clear up her skin. We have already tried the Dermalogica range with no joy. We visited body shop recently and was advised to use pure resurfacing liquid peel. I have the ordinary salicylic acid, lactic acid and pixi GA toner. She’s very good at remembering to cleanse her face morning and night but where my routine consists of double cleanse ( kiehls and indie lee ) Pixi toner, oil and moisturise and then queen of Hungary mist, this may not be the best routine for her. Any help or advice would be amazing.
Kelly, at night, tell her to use salicylic acid after cleansing and follow up with a lightweight moisturiser. If she has pimples/blackheads, salicylic acid will get rid of them. No need to use other acids as salicylic acid is the only one that can get inside the pores and remove the clogs.
Hi I need some advice on how to use a few products I got from The Ordinary. I have oily skin with occasional breakouts which always leaves behind dark spots that don’t fade. I have been using the Niacinamide+zinc serum for a few months now and I recently got the Salicylic 2% solution for spot treatment and the Glycolic acid 7%toning solution. Also got The Buffet, I’m 39 and have some fine lines on my forehead. I cleanse my face with Banila co cleansing balm followed by The faceshop rice bran foam cleanser. Can you suggest how I should use these products.
Nicky, given your skin type, it’s much better to use salicylic acid all over the face every day or every other day (depending on what your skin can take) and glycolic acid only on the dark marks that don’t fade. If you don’t have dark marks, don’t use them. Use them at night after cleansing and before Buffet. You can use Niacinamide + Zinc in the morning.
Hi, Gio. is it okay to use drunk elephant framboos and the ordinary niacinamide in the same routine? thank you 🙂
Regina, if you have oily skin, yes it is.
Hi Geo, just come across your blog while looking on how to apply acids and would love your advice if you have time. I’m 51 and not sure what my skin type is … it feels dry after washing but gets oily as the day progresses. I had acne when younger and I’m always fighting some spot or other. My main concern is blackheads and whiteheads and I’d like to de-congest my skin while using products to help with anti aging. I currently use Clarins Cottonseed cleanser in the morning followed by Dermalogica Active Moist and Paula’s Choice Resist Multi correction treatment and a moisturiser. My evening routine is double cleanse, Pixi GA, Clarins Double serum and Clarins Lotus oil. I’ve recently bought a lot of The Ordinary products and not sure how to include them in my routine. I have the HA 2%, Salicylic Acid 2%, Matrixyl 10% + HA, Granactive Retinoid 2%, Rose Hip Seed oil and the Squalane. I have ordered the Niacinamide and a Vitamin C. cream as thought this would benefit my skin. Can you please tell me how I would best use these? I really want to includethe retinol and Vitamin C in my routine but not sure what is safe to use with them without harming my skin which can be sensitive at times. Sorry for such a long comment but woukd really value your input. Great blog btw and one I will now be following ?
Laura, thank you for your support. Glad you like the blog and hope to see you here often.
Mm, it seems to me that your skin is on the oily side but you’re using a cleanser that’s way too harsh. Is it pH balanced? Try switching to one of these: https://www.beautifulwithbrains.com/best-cleansers-oily-skin/
Then, I’d ditch Pixi GA and use salicylic acid instead. Unlike GA, salicylic acid can get inside the pores and help you get rid of blackheads and whiteheads. Adding retinol and vitamin C is a great idea too.
pH balanced cleanser
Salicylic acid (either The Ordinary or Paula’s Choice Resist Multi Correction Treatment – you only need one of them)
Vitamin C serum
pH balanced cleanser
Granactive retinoid 3 times a week
Niacinamide + Zinc
Dermalogica Active Moist
If you find your skin gets a little drier during the day or night, you can use either HA 2% or Matrixyl 10% + HA after vitamin c or retinol. During the colder times of the year, I recommend you do so.
Your skin type doesn’t need an oil but if you want to use one, go with either squalane or rosehip instead than Dermalogica. Maybe try each for a week or so and see what your skin loves the most. An oil is great to seal in HA in winter but the rest of the year an oil-free moisturiser like Dermalogica may do.
Clarins Cottonseed cleanser in the morning followed by Dermalogica Active Moist and Paula’s Choice Resist Multi correction treatment and a moisturiser. My evening routine is double cleanse, Pixi GA, Clarins Double serum and Clarins Lotus oil. I’ve recently bought a lot of The Ordinary products and not sure how to include them in my routine. I have the HA 2%, Salicylic Acid 2%, Matrixyl 10% + HA, Granactive Retinoid 2%, Rose Hip Seed oil and the Squalane. I have ordered the Niacinamide and a Vitamin C. cream
Is it okay if I use Glycolic acid followed by applying azelaic acid after cleansing? Thank you!
Adilah, if your skin can take it. But it’s best to just pick one or there’s the chance of irritation.
Is it ok to apply Glycolid acid followed by Azelaic acid- after cleansing?
Britney, if your skin can take it. But with acids, it’s best to tread carefully. I’d rather use them on different days or just pick one and stick with it.
Hi Gio, great post. thank you. I am 47 and have recently added salicylic acid into my skincare routine which is as follows:
b. Vitamin C or Niacinamide ( alternate days)
c. Hyaluronic Acid
d. Coenzyme Q10 Serum
b. Salicylic acid or retinol (alternate days)
c. 20% Argireline + Matricyl 3000 + HA Serum
d. Estee Lauder advanced night repair serum
a. Is there anything i should take off or add into my skincare routine? I have oily skin.
b. I have slowly introduced SA alternating with Retinol. Is that too much?
c. Can i apply acid on undereye? Is it safe to put SA under the eye?
Kindly advise. Thank you
Prima, to answer your questions:
1. It depends. I wouldn’t say any of your skincare products are bad. If this routine is working for you, keep following it. If, on the other hand, you’d like to simplify things, you can alternate serums or keep just the one that’s working best for you. I’d say there’s not much proof that argireline and matrixyl work so maybe you can use just one HA serum (I’m assuming you’re using a different one in the morning?)?
2. If your skin isn’t irritated, then no, it’s not too much.
3. It depends on your skin type. If it’s not sensitive and the SA products doesn’t have any irritating ingredients, you can use it there. Just not as often.
Can you help me with my routine.. I dont kniw if I am using it right. I am 35 year old and I have combination skin
1. La rosey posay Rosalic cleanser
2. Vischy vitamin C serum
3. Clinique moinstrizer with suncream
1. La rosey posay rosalic cleanser
2. La rosey posay redermic R
3. La rosey posay hidraphase intense riche
Do I need something to change or ad? I would like to change moinstruizer with hyaluronic acid from Ordinary, Paulas choice, Clinique, Kiehls, La rosey posay or Kiehls..
Dori, your skincare routine sounds fine to me. Whether you add something or not depends on your concerns and how well your current skincare routine is working. Are you getting the results you need? The Ordinary Natural Moisturising Factors is a great moistruzer with hyaluronic acid.
Hi, thank you so much for all the time you spend in replying to all of us and helping us to decide our skincare routine.
I’m 30 and lately struggle with painful breakouts some pimples and some cystic (I think) so I started looking and trying various products starting from proactiv which didn’t do much and now I moved on to Clinique:
1) Clinique take the day off
2) JAN MARINI BIOGLYCOLIC FACE CLEANSER ( I have only received it in the post today so can’t comment on effectiveness) which contains glycolic acid – applying with sonicare face brush
3) Clinique blemish solution toner
4) Clinique blemish solution face cream
Have you got any comments as to what else I can do and what peel as well as serum I could add to this to reach my goal of spot-less skin?
Thank you very much
Ewebbo, do you have the ingredient lists for the two Clinique Blemish Solution problems. Clinique is one of those annoying brands that change formulas often but never list the ingredients on their website and I just want to know we’re on the same page.
In the meantime, stop using the Jan Marini Cleanser with sonic face brush. That’s a great way to exfoliate dry skin, but if you have breakouts, you need salicylic acid instead.
One of the best blog post and exactly what I was looking for. Can you please verify my routine:
2) ordinary marine HA
3) ordinary buffet + copper peptide
4) ordinary alpha arbutin + HA
5) Ordinary Ascorbyl Glucoside 12%
6) moisturizer and sunscreen
1) cleanse, Paula’s choice bha toner,
2) Ordinary marine HA
3) ordinary buffet + copper peptide
4) ordinary alpha arbutin
5) alternate between GA, lactic acid, mandalic acid, ordinary retinoid 2%. If using ga/ la/ ma I don’t use bha toner
7) facial oil
I have a combination skin and have pigmentation and occasional acne
DI, so glad you’ve found the post useful.
You have a great routine here. I’d just change the order of some products. As a rule, ingredients that need to penetrate the skin like retinol and vitamin C or that exfoliate must go as close to clean skin as possible. Ingredients that stay on top of the skin like peptides and hyaluronic acid should go afterwards.
So in the morning, apply vitamin C right after cleansing. In the evening, use retinol after BHA toner.
Also, why the heck are you using 4 exfoliants?! This is throwing money down the drain!! I understand that different acids have different properties but that’s because every skin type is unique and needs something different. You’re never meant to use them all, even if on alternate days.
All these exfoliants remove dead cells from the surface of your skin. To know which extra benefit you need, here’s a quick guide:
Oily skin, pimples, blackheads: salicylic acid.
Sensitive, pimple and blackheads free skin: lactic acid
Dry skin that needs hydration: glycolic acid (FYI, glycolic acid boosts collagen only at 10+% concentration, so if you’re using it for wrinkles, it won’t work)
Oily skin that doesn’t react well to salicylic acid: mandelic acid
What a great, informative post. I have some questions about my current skin care routine. I am 41 with some fine lines, sun spots & blackheads. The black heads are something that have only started in the past year or so (mostly on my cheeks). My current routine is:
-Cleanse with philosophy purity cleanser or neutrogena deep clean foaming scrub
-MK salicylic acid toner**
-philosophy turbo booster c powder mixed with cerave lightweight lotion
-apply makeup (it cosmetics cc cream & powder)
-cleanse with philosophy purity cleanser
-tretinoin cream 0.05% (2x/week) -or-
other nights -Alpha skin care dual action skin lightening cream (2% hydroquinone & 10% glycolic AHA)
-collagen cream or philosophy renewed hope in a jar
The salicylic acid toner & hydroquinone/AHA cream was just added a week ago to help combat the blackheads and sun spots. Prior to this I used a less potent retinol cream on nights when I didn’t use the tretinoin cream. I have too much peeling if I use the tretinoin cream every night – or even every other night.
Do you have any thoughts or suggestions for my routine? And is there something else I should be doing for the blackheads?
Thanks so much for taking the time to read & respond to my questions!
Hi Christie, your skincare routine is already perfect as it is. I wouldn’t change anything. The only thing that really works for blackheads is salicylic acid and you’re already using it. If you find the blackheads aren’t disappearing, it may be because they’re too old and sticky, so maybe switch to an exfoliant with a higher dose of SA. But you’re doing well, keep it up!
Hi! Looking forward to hearing what routine I should be using. From reading your article, it sounds like I’m using too much AHA. I’ve been using products from Sunday Riley and Olehenriksen. I’m 56, and I have combination skin, large pores, some dark spots, and a few wrinkles. I want to find a routine that is simple, but effective. My biggest concerns are my pores and anti-aging. Can you help? Thank you!
FP, this is a good skincare routine for you: https://www.beautifulwithbrains.com/best-skincare-routine-aging-acne-skin/
You can substitute the BHA for a AHA but don’t use it more than three times a week.
Thank you so much for you blog, one of the best and exactly what I need. I would like to get some advise regarding my “non seeing all the results expected ” current routine:
1) cleanse (Cosrx low ph morning cleanser
2) Blithe in shower exfoliator (2 times a week)
2) Toner (Beauty water son & Park). I would like to change it with Aha/BHA toner from Cosrx. Sometime on lazy days I skip cleansing and toning and use Cosrx original pads directly.
3) Whamisa essence deep rich. This definitely helped with my dehydrated skin. I love it.
4) Clairial serum (from SVR which contains vitamin C and a 8% complex brightener). I bought the Klair’s freshly juice to replace it once it’s over.
5) Moisturizer (Mat pores from SVR which contains 2% matifying agents, 4% gluconolactone=PHA and BHA at low percentage i think.). I want to replace it with the Klair’s vitaminc mask on vitamin C day’s or a simple moisturizer without any active for other days (cosrx snail’s one for example)
6) Sunscreen (SVR with 4% niacinamide and 2% matifying agent )
1) Oil and water cleansers. I plan on buying an acid base oil cleanser (Hanskin Aha, Bha or Pha) for example. It’s is okay?
2) Exfoliate cosrx pads or whamisa pads
3) Toner: beauty water (will replace it with the hada labo hyaluronic acid toner)
4) Essence whamisa
3) Serum klair’s
6) Moisturizer (snail cream)
7) facial oil (if and when needed)
I have a combination but dehydrated skin, sentive with hyperpigmentation, dark spots, occasional acne
Also should I add a more effective acid as spot treatment? Which one would you recommend? I am lost at this point.
Thank you for help.
Amina, you have a great skincare routine for dehydration so I’m assuming your lack of results is in the acne department? Ditch ALL exfoliating products and get yourself a bottle of salicylic acid (BHA) instead to use after cleanser instead. Cosrx BHA is a good, but weak, option. You can start with it if you want to try the product but if you’re not seeing results, switch to a higher dose (2%) of BHA. You only need ONE exfoliating product in your routine so don’t get acid cleansers, acid toners whatever. Just get ONE product that can exfoliate skin. It can come in toner form or serum. Just ONE product.
Is it too late to ask for advice here?
Hi Gio! I’m 21 years old and had near-perfect skin all throughout middle and high school. Then when college hit I got acne on my cheeks pretty badly. Curology (my mix is azelaic acid 4%, clindamycin 1%, zinc pyrithione 0.25%) has helped me get it under control, but one of my cheeks still has flair-ups and the texture just won’t completely go back to normal. I’ve seen a lot about chemical exfoliants and wanted to try gycolic or lactic acid and maybe try a new routine to see if that’d be useful.
I tried changing my nighttime routine from just cleanse (CeraVe foaming facial cleanser) and then my Curology treatment to:
The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5
The Ordinary Lactic Acid 5% + HA
The Ordinary Marula Oil
I tried it with and without using my curology mix after the lactic acid a few nights. And well, I broke out bad. Even a little on other parts of my face! Going back to my usual routine has helped get me away from the breakout, but I still want to try something new to push me over the edge from managing acne to being acne free. I have mostly normal, somewhat combination skin. Can you offer any advice? Thank you so much!
Oh, also my morning routine is cleanse, tea tree toner by Lush, then CeraVe AM face moisturizer with spf
Hi Jen, I’m sorry to hear that your routine has broke you out. That could have been for two reasons:
1) something in the products clogged your pores and gave you breakouts (in this case, my guess would be marula oil)
2) it was a purge (lactic acid was bringing to the surface the breakouts that were brewing underneath)
In any case, I do agree that chemical exfoliants could help you, but try salicylic acid. Unlike lactic acid, it can keep your pores clean and unclogged, treating and preventing more acne outbreaks. Keep in mind, though, that at the beginning salicylic acid may cause purging.
I’ve explained the difference between a purge and a breakout and what to do about it here: https://www.beautifulwithbrains.com/purging-breakout-difference/
Hi I Gio!
I am elated that I found your blog. It’s concise, interesting, and superbly informative!!! I am 28 and I don’t have “bad” skin, however, I do have light dark spots (from past pimples) on my cheek and the rare times I break out it’s typically hormonal or due to stress. Also, on my cheeks are small bumps (?) that are unnoticeable unless I am really close to a mirror but it annoys me.
I’m aiming for a clearer cheek area and a “dewy” look. Since I assume that’s due to proper hydration I wanted to switch gears skin wise. I’m looking for your assistance with my routine.
Cleanser (Neturogena HydroBoost Cleanser)
The ordinary (TO) Buffet
TO’s Lactic Acid
TO’s “B” Oil
Cleanser (same as above)
Any suggestions? Thank you once again for your awesome blog.
Sade, thank you for your kind words – means a lot!
I agree that hydration is definitely part of the glowing skin recipe – but you don’t get there by using so much oil! That can actually backfire and clog your pores. Instead, use a combination of oils, hyaluronic acid and exfoliation.
AM: Cleanser, Buffet, Moisturiser, sunscreen
PM: Cleanser, exfoliant, hyaluronic acid, oil.
Out of B Oil, Squalane and Rosehip oil, pick one! If you don’t know which one to pick, use each of them for a month and see what your skin reacts back to.
Re exfoliant, I assume Exfoliating toner is glycolic acid 7% toning solution? But you’re already using lactic acid in the morning. That’s too much. Again, pick one and use it in the evening. Around the time of your period, you may want to switch to salicylic acid as that helps you treat and prevent pimples.
Hello, thanks so much got this helpful info. You said that one can apply hyaluronic acid with everything. My questions are about order of application of products and incorporating new products.
My current routine is wash face with plexion morning and evening, followed by dapsone gel. Wash at night with neutrogena healthy skin boosters daily scrub, follow with tretinoin cream. Just recently, I’ve started to alternate the tretinoin with 6 drops of ordinary mandelic acid + 3 drops of rosehip oil, every other night.
How can I incorporate the following products with what I’m currently using? Can you help me to figure out a daily routine and what products I can alternate for every other day use, for example?
Here’s what I currently have available in addition to the plexion, dapsone and tretinoin. – vit c serum, ordinary lactic acid 10% + HA, ordinary mandelic acid 10% + HA, rosehip oil, ordinary vitamin c suspension 23% + HA Sheres 2%, ordinary 100% squalane, NIOD multimolecular hyaluronic complex.
Thank you in advance!
Doreen, what are you even trying to accomplish with your skincare routine? It’s not about buying all the products that sound good and then find a way to fit them into your skincare routine. It’s about understanding what problems your skin has and what works to fix them. I could put these products in order for you, but if I don’t know what your concerns are, there may be something in there that’s not suitable for you. That wouldn’t help you.
Wow! Your site and responses are so super informative!! I’ve been on a journey to reduce my hyperpigmentation cause by acne and I found that my most helpful product is The Ordinary’s L-ascorbic acid. But now I’m noticing that I still have small congested pores (and tiny blackheads?) & texture issues so I maybe wanted to incorporate another acid. I’m currently using:
Witch Hazel toner
L-ascorbic acid + The Ordinary resveratrol 3 + ferulic acid 3
Moisturizer + Sun block
Double cleanse (Palmers oil + Urban Skin rx cleanser bar)
The Ordinary Lactic Acid 10%
Palmers face oil
I have Cosrx’s AHA/BHA toner and Whitehead Power Liquid sitting in my cabinet plus stidex pads that I occasionally use for spot treating hormonal breakouts. Do you think I should incorporate any of those on a more regular basis? Or am I missing something?
Lu, if you have congested pores, you need salicylic acid. Ditch lactic acid and use AHA/Bha toner or Stridex pads instead.
hye there. I hope u notice my comment. So i have quite a dry skin and my skin also got acne. Tons of it. But most of them are scars. I still have sudden breakouts sometimes. The question is, can i use salicylic acid 2 percent on my acne, and follow by hyaluronic acid to prevent dryness on my skin? And has anyone ever done this before n what are the results?
Fjack, yes you can do it. It will help you get rid of acne and keep it from coming back without drying out skin. But it works only for pimples, not acne scars.
Thank you so much for taking the time to write this and to help people get this worked out. I feel like I’m really struggling to get my products in the right order. I just realized I may be using all of mine incorrectly :(.
If you could help me sort out what I should be using when, that would help me so so much.
My skin looks (I think) pretty good for being 36 with 4 skids but I have some redness around my nose and always want to watch for signs of aging. I have normal/combination skin and rarely have break outs.
Here are the products I am using (and a few I purchased but not sure were to use them in my routine:
(In no order)
The Ordinary Buffet
The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%
The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5
Drunk Elephant C Firma (replacing the SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic because of cost)
The Ordinary Granactice Retinoids 5% in sq (have not started yet)
Paula Choice 2% BHA
Saturday Skin Featherweight Daily Moisturizing Cream
Saturday Skin Wide Awake Brightening Eye Cream
I emailed DECIEM for their help but their reply was “Unfortunately, it is difficult for us to comment on the pairing of our products with those of other brands and/or prescription medications.”, so your help would be so much appreciated.
Thank you again for your help!!
Hi Karen, sorry to hear Deciem wasn’t any help. Here’s what I’d do:
Drunk Elephant C Firma
Saturday Skin moisturizer + eye cream
Alternate Paula’s Choice BHA and Granactive Retinoid
Alternate Buffet and Hyaluronic Acid + B5
You’ve probably noticed I’ve left The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%. It’s for oily and acne-prone skin so you don’t need it.
Also, introduce any new product one at a time. If you use them all together and one of them doesn’t agree with your skin, you won’t know who the culprit is.
Hi! I just wanted some advice on my potential regiment from The Ordinary, it’s going to be my first purchase and first venture into skin care lol. I have combination (oily/dehydrated) skin, but my main issue is with texture and bumps (non acne) on my forehead.
I was thinking of getting: Squalane, Niacinamide 10% + Zinc, Ascorbyl Glucoside 12%, Azelaic Acid 12%, Lactic Acid 5%. Please let me know what you think about my regimen and when/how I should use them.
Hi Ebony, I’d skip azelaic acid and lactic acid as these aren’t the best fits for your skin type. Instead do this:
AM: Cleanser, Ascorbyl Glucoside, Niacinamide + Zinc, sunscreen
PM: Cleanser, salicylic acid, Hyaluronic Acid + b5, squalane
Hope this helps
Gio, Gio, Gio… Preaching to the choir, thank you for everything you’ve contributed to furthering the knowledge of skin- and self-care!
I too am in a bit of a pickle. I am a 25-year-old man living in Sweden with Moroccan origins, which might have importance due to the cold and drying weather we have here. I am now starting to get serious with my skin-care since I in later years have started having problems with my skin. I have oily skin with enlarged pores (blackheads), blemishes and hyperpigmentation on cheeks (mostly), and occasional and varying breakouts and pimples. However, I would say I have “good skin” all in all.
This is my routine and what I have been able to research myself to buying so far:
Cleanser (alternate): Estelle & Thild Biocleanse Cleansing Milk / Origins plantscription anti-aging cleanser (not for every day).
Salicylic Acid 2%
Buffet + Copper
Niacinamide + Zink
(I want to incorporate a vit c here)
Natural Moisturizing Factors + HA
Azelaic Acid Suspension 10%
Buffet + Copper
Niacinamide + Zink
Granactive Retinoid 5% in Squalane
Natural Moisturizing Factors + HA
REN Invisible pores detox mask
AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling
I am open to incorporate new products that might suit me better. The stuff I already have at home that is not in my regular regime is: Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2%, Ascorbyl Tetraisopalmitate 20% in Vitamin F, Estelle & Thild Super Bioactive Repairing oil complex (ingredients in that follows: coco-caprylate/caprate,prunus armeniaca kernel oil*, squalane, commiphora mukul resin extract, haematococcus pluvialis extract, carthamus tinctorius hybrid oil, simmondsia chinensis seed oil*, caprylic/capric triglyceride, tocopherol, parfum.)
Thank you for everything again! Sorry for the length of the comment.
Karim, well done for putting together a good skincare routine. If you want to use vitamin C in the morning, use it in the place of Buffet + Copper. You shouldn’t use copper every day, anyway. Too much copper can have the opposite effect. But if you want to stick to The Ordinary, I’d go with Ascorbyl Glucoside as it’s the best derivative for acne prone skin.
I do not recommend the stuff that you already have:
Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2%: too grainy to be used in the morning
Ascorbyl Tetraisopalmitate 20% in Vitamin F: suitable for dry skin
Estelle & Thild Super Bioactive Repairing oil complex : against suitable for dry skin. Oily skin does NOT need oils.
Thanks so much for all the advice. I am 35 with dry skin. I am new to skin care haven’t really used much on my skin but lotion and sunscreen hear and there. Last year i noticed a small dry spot on my face and began to get concerned. After doing some research turns out it’s melasma. It’s now darker brownish and has expanded a lil. I started using some skin care products but am not sure if im missing anything or am using them in the right sequence. Here it goes, just a reminder i am novice…
Day 1 & Day 2
Neutrogena fresh foaming cleanser.
Spring valley hyadrolic acid or collagen serum
Ponds dark spot lotion correcting cream
Neutrogena Sheer face spf 50
Day 1 Night
Neutrogena fresh foaming cleanser
The ordinary glycolic acid 7% Toning solution
Roc retinol correxion retinol max wrinkle resurfacing system
Day 2 Night
Neutrogena fresh foaming cleanser
The ordinary Alpha Arbutin 2% + HA
The ordinary Azelaic 10% acid suspension
Ponds dark spot lotion correcting cream
I am not sure if i’m incorporating some of these products properly of if they are even the “right” products for my face. Where can i fit in the glycolic acid so its daily. Should i be adding a vitamin c product of so which one? if the retinol product ok? or is the ordinary retinols better? As i mentioned i have dry skin, have this melasma thing brewing and want some thing to keep my face looking as young as possible. Completely loss
Can you help me pleasssse!!! 🙁
Hi Tuty, you don’t need to use glycolic acid daily or use anything else in your routine. Just pick one skin-lightener – either alpha arbutin or azelaic acid – and double down on it. Pick one of them and use it every morning and night after cleanser (and on glycolic acid nights, after exfoliation). If you don’t know which one to pick, try one for a month and try the other one for the second month and see which one works best. But you have to be patients. Most dark spots can only be lightened, not get rid of completely.