Do Your Morning & Evening Skincare Routine Have To Be Different?

by Gio

do morning and evening skincare routine have to be different

Do your morning and evening skincare routine have to be different?

Ok, it’s kind of a given you shouldn’t use sunscreen once the sun goes down. But can you just save a few bucks and use the same products – and in the same order – morning and night?

If you’re a teen without acne, yes. All you need is a basic cleanser, moisturiser and sunscreen. Seriously, don’t worry about anti-aging. If you wear sunscreen religiously from a young age, your skin won’t get wrinkles for a looooong time.

But what if your needs are a little more complex? Then, following a slightly different regimen morning and night makes sense.

Don’t worry. It’s not going to cost you a fortune. You can use a lot of the same products in both your morning and evening skincare routine. 😉

Morning Skincare Routine

Your morning skincare routine is all about sun protection. The goal here is to protect your skin from the UV rays that make you age that much faster. While you’re at it, safeguard it from pollutants, harsh winds and all the other shebang that threatens it.

The trick here is to keep your morning skincare routine AS SHORT AS POSSIBLE.

Here’s the deal: when determining the SPF of your sunscreens, researchers slather them on clean, freshly-cleansed skin with no other product in between.

Think about it: anything that you apply on your skin before sunscreen could potentially make it harder to spread and get an uneven application. That’s why Michelle from LabMuffin only uses cleanser and sunscreen in the morning.

I’m not that drastic. I like to add a CEF serum (vitamin C + E + ferulic acid) in between as this combo is proven to boost the effectiveness of your sunscreen.

If your skin is very dry, dehydrated or acne-prone, you may want to add a hyaluronic acid or spot-treatment into the mix. The point here is to use ONLY what your skin CAN’T absolutely do without.

Remove toner, essence and all the other layers you’re doing just because Allure tells you you must. It’s not about using all the ingredients/products. It’s about giving your skin WHAT it needs WHEN it needs it.

Here’s what a good morning skincare routine looks like (this is what I do):

  1. Cleanser: choose one that’s suitable for your skin type. If it leaves your skin feeling tight afterwards, it’s too harsh for you. Check this post to find out the best cleanser for your skin type.
  2. CEF Serum: studies show that vitamin C, vitamin E and ferulic acid boost one another’s effectiveness and provide enhanced sun protection. You’re missing out if you don’t use this combo in the morning. Check out my fave CEF serums here.
  3. Moisturising sunscreen: wear it every day, rain or shine. UV rays penetrate through clouds and windows and are even reflected on snow. Until the sun goes down, your skin is NOT safe from UV harm.

Related: How To Find The Right Cleanser For Your Skin Type

Dry skin? Tweak it like this:

  1. Cleanser: choose a cream or oil-based cleanser that replenishes your skin’s natural oils as they’re cleansed away. I’ve shared my fave picks in this post.
  2. CEF Serum: see above.
  3. Hyaluronic acid serum or lightweight moisturizer: if you find your skin feels a little tight or dry during the day, add a hylauronic acid serum or lightweight moisturiser to boost hydration. You can find my fave hyaluronic acid serums here.
  4. Moisturising sunscreen: see above.

Related: How To Care For Dry Skin

Oily skin? Here’s your tweak:

  1. Cleanser: choose a low pH foaming cleanser that removes excess oil without disrupting your skin’s protective barrier. You can check out my faves here.
  2. CEF Serum: see above.
  3. Benzoyl peroxide: only as spot treatment and only if you’re using retinol or salicylic acid at night. BP kills the bacteria that give you acne but it’s harsh so it’s best to alternate it with other harsher antiaging actives like retinol. Check out my fave picks here.
  4. Lightweight sunscreen: your skin needs sunscreen too. Just go with a lightweight formula that doesn’t leave your skin a greasy mess. I’ve shared my fave picks in this post.

Related: What Are The Best Sunscreens For Oily Skin?

Evening Skincare Routine

Your evening skincare routine is all about repair. You see, no matter how much you protect it during the day, your skin will still suffer a little damage.

Even the best sunscreens protect you only from 99% of UV rays (and that’s only if you reapply them regularly) so the remaining 1% will hurt your skin a little.

Harsh winter weather or hot blaming summers aren’t ideal for your skin either. If you live in a big city, you also need to worry about all the pollution and toxins that get in contact with your skin every time you leave the house.

Your evening skincare routine is the perfect opportunity to use ingredients that help the skin repair itself and boost collagen production, like retinol and copper peptides.

It’s also the time for those actives that make your skin more susceptible to sun damage, like retinoids and exfoliating acids.

Everything else you can’t fit into your morning skincare routine, add it to your evening skincare routine. Just not all at once.   I like to alternate my actives so my skin gets everything it needs without the irritation (even the best ingredients can backfire if you go overboard).

Here’s what a good evening skincare routine looks like:

  1. Double cleansing: if you’re wearing makeup, use an oil-based cleanser to melt everything off your face. If it leaves a greasy residue behind, use a water-based cleanser to rinse it away. No makeup? Your morning cleanser will do.
  2. Retinol: if you’re 25+, use retinol 3 or 4 times a night to boost collagen production and fight wrinkles. You can find my fave retinol products here.
  3. Glycolic acid: on nights when you’re not using retinol, exfoliate with glycolic acid. It dissolves the “glue” that holds skin cells together so they can slough off and hydrates your skin too. You can check out my fave glycolic acid exfoliants here.
  4. Moisturizer: seal everything in with a good moisturiser. The best ones are loaded with antioxidants and soothing ingredients that help you destroy the free radicals the sun, pollution etc generated into your skin.

Related: The Complete Guide To Retinol: What It Is, Where to Find It And How To Use It

Dry skin? Tweak your evening skincare routine like this:

  1. Double cleansing: see above.
  2. Retinol: see above.
  3. Glycolic acid: see above.
  4. Hyaluronic acid: it boosts hydration while your skin is sleeping.
  5. Moisturiser or oil: oils are a great alternative to moisturiser for your skin type at night. They’re very moisturising and have their fair share of antioxidants, too.

Related: The Complete Guide To Glycolic Acid: What It Is, Where To Find It And How To Use It

Oily skin? Here’s how to tweak your evening skincare routine:

  1. Double cleansing: see above.
  2. Clay mask: use them only two or three times a week to remove excess oil.
  3. Salicylic acid: this exfoliant removes dead cells, unclogs the pores to get rid of pimples and blackheads and soothes redness. For your skin type, it’s probably gentle enough to be used daily, even with retinol. But if you’ve never used it before, alternate it with retinol, just to be on the safe side. You can check out my fave salicylic acid exfoliants here.
  4. Retinol: see above.
  5. Oil-free moisturiser: oil-free moisturisers have lightweight textures that hydrate skin without adding more oil to it. Check out my fave oil-free moisturisers here.

Related: Why Salicylic Acid Is The Key To Spot-Free Skin

Want To Add More Products To Your Evening Skincare Routine?

Wait, what if you have a toner, copper peptide serum or anything else you want to add to your evening skincare routine? You can totally use add it. Just follow these rules:

  • Texture rule: apply products from the lightest-textured to the heaviest-textured. The heavier the texture, the more difficult it is for other skincare products to get through:
  • Penetration rule: the closer to clean skin you apply something, the higher the chances it’ll penetrate it deeply – and be more effective. After cleansing (and exfoliation, when applicable), apply the active that matters to you the most. If you’re concerned with antiaging, apply retinol. For skin-brightening, it’s hydroquinone.
  • Keep it short: if you want to add quite a few skincare products, alternate them. You see, every new product you add to your skincare routine may cause an irritation, especially when paired with powerful actives like glycolic acid or retinol. By alternating your products, you ensure your skin gets everything it needs without irritation. Plus, the less stuff you apply, the higher the chances that what you do apply does penetrate your skin.

Related: What’s The Correct Order To Apply Your Skincare Products?

The Bottom Line

Your morning skincare routine is for sun protection. Your evening skincare routine is for repair. In both cases, keep it short. More products don’t equal better results. Usually, they just up the chances of irritation!

Are your morning and evening skincare routines different? Share yours in the comments below.



Crissy October 29, 2018 - 6:31 pm

Hi Gio,
Thank you so much for the information. I read your post all the time and have learned so much. Skincare products and routines are so cofusing. I have driven myself crazy over it lol… I’m 46 with dry skin, wrinkles, crows feet and hyperpigme ntation. I would greatly appreciate your help with my routines. I’ve been using these products for awhile now and I haven’t seen much results I also wanted to ask if there something I could add to this.
CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser
Witch Hazel Toner
Cosmedica Hyluronic Acid
The Ordinary Buffet
Timeless 20% Vitamin C + E + Ferulic Acid
CeraVe Moisturizing Cream
Elta MD Sunscreen
CeraVe Cleanser
Witch Hazel Toner
Hyluronic Acid
The Ordinary Granactive 2% Retinol
Alpha H 14% Glycolic Acid (alternate night with retinol)
CeraVe Cream
Julep Rosehip Oil

Gio November 1, 2018 - 4:36 pm

Crissy, when you say you haven’t seen results, what do you mean? Did they help with dry skin but not with wrinkles, for example?

Just by looking at it, you don’t need a witch hazel toner and The Ordinary Buffet. Witch hazel is an astringent so not really suitable for dry skin and none of the peptides in Buffet is proven to do anything for wrinkles.

Then, invert the order: in the morning, apply Timeless straight after cleansing and follow up with hyaluronic acid. In the evening, cleanse, Retinol or AHA and then hyaluronic acid.

Hyaluronic acid stays on the surface of the skin while Vitamin C and retinol need to penetrate it so it makes sense to use them first.

JD October 30, 2018 - 3:08 am

First of all, I love the photo. I have essentially shortened my skincare routines. I sat down one day and looked at my skin to determine what it needs. My routines in the hotter days and in the cooler/colder days are different. I try to minimize my routine, but as a Golden Girl, well, I need a little more moisturizing I think.

In summer: AM – quick cleanse with cleanser with BHA; then vitamin C; and end with moisturizing sunblock. PM – double cleanse (for the second cleanse, I use one with hyaluronic acid, no BHA); then I alternate OTC “retinol” (really light one, I think it’s retinyl palmitate), AHA and BHA; and end with light moisturizer.

In winter: AM – cleanse face with water; then vitamin C; then moisturizing serum (but if the day is really cold or windy and I’ll be outside for a long period of time, I either use or add light moisturizer, depending on the weather conditions); and end with moisturizing sunblock. PM – same as summer, except that I use a heavier moisturizer and either end with oil or use oil before the moisturizer.

Gio November 1, 2018 - 4:30 pm

JD, that’s a great routine! I think less is more with skincare. Listen to your skin and what it needs, not what some magazine editor or influencer is pushing atm.

JD November 2, 2018 - 10:44 am

May I say that I actually started using Vitamin C this year (from late spring or early summer) because you highly recommended it. I kid you not.

Gio November 23, 2018 - 10:24 am

JD, so glad to hear that! Vitamin C is the best. 🙂

Crissy Anderson November 3, 2018 - 6:49 pm

They helped with the dry skin but I’m not seeing any results with the wrinkles. I was looking to add maybe some more products from The Ordinary. I’m also wanting to add a good face mask as well.

Gio November 23, 2018 - 9:34 am

Crissy, the ONLY thing that can reduce wrinkles you already have is vitamin A – and even then the results are incredibly slow. You’re already using The Ordinary Granactive 2% Retinol. Once you finish that, upgrade to 5% version and when you’re done with that, go another step up to either the Granactive Emulsion or Retinol 1% in squalane. And after that, go to a dermatologist for prescription vitamin A.

You can also go straight to a dermatologist without doing all these steps but prescription vitamin A is harsh and will seriously dry out your skin. Your skin will tolerate it better if you’re prepping it with stranger and stronger forms of vitamin A.

As for anything else that promises to reduce wrinkles, don’t buy it. They either prevent them or simply fill them in so they look temporarily smaller.

Kennedy November 3, 2018 - 11:35 pm

Hello Gio! I am a 23 yr old black woman with oily skin, mild breakouts; especially during my period; and dark marks left over from past breakouts. How does this routine sound for me? Thank you!
Neutrogena Fresh Foaming Cleanser
Paula’s Choice RESIST Ultra-Light Super Antioxidant Concentrate Serum
Paula’s Choice CLEAR Regular Strength Daily Skin Clearing Treatment with 2.5% Benzoyl Peroxide
Sunumbra Sunkids SPF 40
Coola Liplux SPF 30 Original
Banila Co Clean It Zero Original Cleansing Balm
Neutrogena Fresh Foaming Cleanser
Paula’s Choice SKIN BALANCING Oil-Absorbing Mask
Paula’s Choice CLEAR Regular Strength Anti-Redness Exfoliating Solution With 2% Salicylic Acid
Paula’s Choice SKIN BALANCING Super Antioxidant Concentrate Serum with Retinol
Paula’s Choice CALM Redness Relief Moisturizer for Normal to Oily Skin
O’Keeffe’s Original Lip Repair Lip Balm
P.S. I thought we were never supposed to mix retinol and BHAs. Is it ok if I’m already using salicylic acid twice a day and my skin is used to it?

Gio November 23, 2018 - 9:29 am

Kennedy, the skincare routine is good but there are products that I wouldn’t use everyday.

For example, 2.5% benzoyl peroxide is only for pimples. If you don’t have any breakouts, don’t use it. If you have only one or two pimples, use it only on pimples. Never use it on clear skin.

The oil-absorbing mask is another product you can use only two or three times a week. No need to use it every day.

You can use salicylic acid twice a day even with retinol – as long as this combination doesn’t dry out and irritate your skin. But as you’ve already using benzoyl peroxide in the morning, I wouldn’t use salicylic acid as well. In other words use salicylic acid only on days you’re not using benzoyl peroxide.

Katrina November 11, 2018 - 3:33 pm

So I’ve been very minimalist with my skincare cause my dermatologist told me to so my AM routine is essentially cleanser+moisturizer+sunscreen—as you recommend. Here’s the problem though, I use a very heavy moisturizer (Eucerin Original Healing) because it’s been my best friend ever since my dermatologist introduced it to me when I had infected eczema. I’m reluctant to switch because, well, it’s winter and dry and windy and I don’t feel safe without a somewhat thick moisturizer to protect my skin during the day where I have to bike(can you imagine the wind?)…what do you think?

Gio November 23, 2018 - 10:11 am

Katrina, I hear ya! Who you find a good skincare routine, you don’t want to switch. And you don’t have to. As long as you’re able to apply sunscreen properly over your moisturiser, you can still use Eucerin in the morning as well.

I’m all for taking out unnecessary products your skin doesn’t need but you think it does because – marketing. But if your skin likes this routine, keep up the good work!

Lucila January 25, 2019 - 6:35 pm

Hi Geo! I discovered your page yesterday and I’m fascinated by it. So much useful information! Thank you very much!
I have recently bought some Korean products (essence and tonic) and i was wondering if this world be a good way to introduce them to a routine:
I’m 36 and have fine lines (not that fine actually). My skin is quite normal but tends to be sensible (at léase to some esencial oils)
– cleanser (cosrx low ph)
– vit. C
– wait 15 mins
– hialuronic ácid serum
– sunscreen
– double cleanse
– glycolic acid/retinol (different days each)
– tonic
– essence
– hyaluronic acid serum
– Moisturizer or night mask
Would that be the correct order?
And as in the South hermisphere is summer i’d like to know if I should not use glycolic acid till autumnal shows up.
Thank you very very much!

Gio February 8, 2019 - 6:44 pm

Lucila, that is the correct order, well done for putting it together! You can use glycolic acid in summer but you have to be religious with sunscreen.

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