The Ultimate Skincare Routine Order of Product Operations, Explained

If there’s one thing we’re seeing a lot of lately, it’s our own faces. Never have we had this much face time with our own visage until now, and it’s pushed many of us to amp up our skincare routines so we can look and feel our best while video conferencing colleagues and connecting with our loved ones via Zoom.

If you’ve turned your attention to the world of skincare, you’re in good company.  While the landscape of skincare is vast – we’ve put together the holy grail of skincare guidance that will help you decode and decide which are must-haves as you stock your skincare shelf (or, let’s be honest, shelves). Read on for tips that will help you refine your skincare regimen so you can achieve glowing, radiant, and – most importantly – healthy skin.


The cornerstone to every skincare routine is clean skin. Ridding your face of impurities, dead skin and residue is the facial foundation to flawless skin. However, all cleansers aren’t created equal and finding the right cleanser for you is important. If the choices seem endless, it’s because… they kind of are! You’ve got lots of options to choose from: cream, oil, water-based, gel, foam, micellar, clay, bar, mitts, cloths, devices, powder, and sponges. However, we’re focusing on two popular ones, oil-based and water-based. Which is right for you? Let’s dig in, shall we?

Oil-Based Cleansers

Best for sensitive, dry skin, oil-based cleansers are incredibly powerful cleansers that help your skin retain its natural oils and moisture. Oil-based cleansers have a reputation for being on the gentler side of the cleansing spectrum, but don’t let that fool you. They’re highly effective at drawing oily impurities from your skin without irritation and removing makeup, leaving your skin clean and refreshed. If you’re prone to breakouts, oil-based cleansers can do more harm than good, so consider consulting your dermatologist to understand which cleanser is right for you!

Water-Based Cleansers

Skin that tends towards the oily end of the spectrum fares best with water-based cleansers, think cleansers that lather or foam. The lather produced by these types of cleansers act as a surfactant, removing impurities from the surface of the skin with ease. Considering these cleansers can be intense and cause irritation during the cleansing process, those with sensitive skin may want to experiment with caution.


After cleansing, it’s time to bring balance back to your skin. Toners pack a punch, from pore tightening to restoring the pH balance of your skin – basically, they’re a step you may not want to skip! Toners help skin avoid impurities and offer protection against naturally occurring pollutants in the air. Those with acne-prone skin can especially benefit from adding toner to their skincare lineup as they also help keep bacteria and excess oil at bay.


We could write a book on serums, but for brevity’s sake – we’ll keep this as concise as possible. Loaded with nutrients, serums provide your skin with the vitamins, acids and hydration it needs to look its absolute best. Thanks to the high concentration of active ingredients, serums are heavyweights when it comes to improving skin texture, elasticity and appearance. Serums also provide your skin with an additional layer of protection against the elements, packing major protective power. Vitamin C serums help fight free radicals and pollutants along with damage from the sun while brightening your face and helping to reduce redness. Serums with Vitamin E can help reduce inflammation and improve the tone of your skin. Keep in mind, the concentration of serums relates directly to the potency – and effectiveness – so always read the active ingredient breakdown prior to making a decision.   

Brightening Serums

Bright, luminous skin is well within reach with the addition of a brightening serum. You may even be able to skip the highlighter and, instead, let your skin radiate from within! Serums with vitamin C, collagen and hyaluronic acid will even your skin texture and tone while adding a youthful bounce that exudes vibrancy.

Anti-Aging Serums

Beginning an anti-aging regimen provides dividends at any age, so if you’re wondering if now is the time to start using an anti-aging serum – the answer is a resounding, “yes.” Anti-aging serums are essential to maintaining youthful skin and thanks to the intense concentration, they’re a beyond simple way to take care of your skin in a snap. When deciding on an anti-aging serum, look for vitamin A, C, E, amino acids and retinol or a retinol alternative.

Hydrating Serums

That dewy, fresh-from-a-facial glow? That’s the work of hydrating serums. Hyaluronic acid, which is naturally produced by your body and retains moisture in your skin, is considered the gold standard of moisturizing. Hyaluronic acid serums give you skin an added moisture boost and keep skin lubricated and dewy. Although hyaluronic acid tops many hydrating serum lists, it’s not the only active ingredient that will leave your skin glowing. Provitamin B5, sodium hyaluronate and antioxidants found in green tea extract are prime for keeping your skin hydrated.


Repeat after us, “I will never skip moisturizing my face.” While it may seem like a no-brainer, we want you to understand why moisturizer is so important. Think of moisturizer as a protective shield that not only hydrates your skin, but sits on top of your toners and serums, locking in the ingredients so you see optimal results. It also protects your skin against free radicals and air pollution, ensuring your skin stays as protected as possible throughout the day. Speaking of skin protection, selecting a moisturizer with SPF is important, but don’t rely on the SPF in your makeup as your only defense, especially if you’re opting for a #nomakeup day.

Retinols or Plant-Based Retinol Alternatives

No skincare regimen is complete without some element anti-aging power. Retinols and retinol alternatives encourage skin cell regeneration and collagen production, leaving you with reduced fine lines, fewer visible wrinkles and smoother, more youthful skin. Best-saved for your nighttime skincare routine, retinol can make your skin extremely sensitive. Some dermatologists even recommend moisturizing both before and after retinol use to help maintain your skin’s moisture barrier and soothe your skin, depending on your skin’s temperament. If you’re opting for a more natural anti-aging product, plant-based retinol alternatives like our Bakuchiol line offer all the benefits of retinol without the harsh chemicals.

Facial Oils

You might be surprised to learn that facial oils don’t provide much moisturizing power on their own. However, what they are great at is sealing in your products and keeping ingredients from evaporating before they’re effective. Facial oils act as a skincare insurance policy, ensuring all the steps you’ve taken to achieve gorgeous, glassy skin aren’t done in vain.

Sun Protection

“But my moisturizer has SPF!” the SPF found in your moisturizer is beneficial, but for the ultimate defense in protecting your skin against UVA and UVB rays, add a a broad-spectrum SPF as your finishing touch.

Our Favorite: Sun Shield SPF from MyChelle Dermaceuticals® available at select Waxing the City studios.

Just remember, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure when it comes to your skin! So, while your new skincare regimen may feel robust, trust the process – and don’t forget your SPF.