Whether you add a skin lightener, retinol treatment, or potent AHA or BHA exfoliant all depends on your needs. We’ll explain how to build your own Advanced Skincare Routine and how to get the most out of your treatments. If you’re worried about its initially high maintenance appearance, don’t worry—it’s easier than you think. (And your glowing, good-skin results will put any other fears to rest ASAP.)
What’s an Advanced Skincare Routine?
CLEANSER – EXFOLIANT – AM/PM MOISTURIZER
The Advanced Skincare Routine builds on the core basics of the three-step essentials (cleanser, exfoliant and AM/PM moisturizer). This approach goes beyond the basics needed by your skin to keep it healthy to include more targeted treatment products that address more complex skin concerns.
The concept of an Advanced Routine may seem daunting to some, but the additional step or two (OK, for some, three) means just an extra one or two minutes to your AM or PM beauty regimen. The benefits, however, for concerns such as breakouts, discolorations or advanced signs of aging are far greater.
One more consideration: Many find alternating their routines—such as applying only the essentials in the morning and reserving their advanced treatments for the evening—an excellent balance that saves time (yet doesn’t compromise their results).
Build Your Own Advanced Skincare Routine
Every good skincare routine starts with the basics of cleanser, AHA or BHA exfoliant, and moisturizer (with SPF for the daytime, without SPF for nighttime). We consider those the “essentials,” as protecting your skin from sun exposure, pollution, and helping it manage the constant buildup of dead skin cells is non-negotiable if you want to see any kind of improvement in skin over the short and long term. [1,2,3,4]
Note that as we walk you through the advanced routine, you do not need to use all of these steps—simply choose based upon your skin concerns and the situation. If you’d rather skip a step in the morning, for example, simply move on to the next product in your routine.
Step 1: Cleanser
A gentle, water-soluble cleanser is the best way to start your AM and PM skincare routine. Skipping this step keeps the beneficial ingredients in your routine from doing their work. Those with oily to combination skin often find lightweight foaming or gel cleansers ideal, while those with dry or very dry skin should try lotion, oil, or cream variations. Avoid overly fragranced or harsh formulas, none of which you’ll find from Paula’s Choice, as all of our products are fragrance-free.
For most faces, the average amount of cleanser needed is about a quarter-sized amount or more, depending on how tenacious your makeup or sunscreen products are. If needed, use a makeup remover before or after your choice of cleanser. See all our cleanser options here.
What About a Rinse-Off Mask? If you’re using a rinse-off mask, apply that now to your freshly cleansed face. When it’s time, rinse and proceed on to your next skincare step. Do not cleanse your skin again after rinsing your mask—you’ll only be removing its benefits. (Note: If your mask is a leave-on formula, then it will be the last step applied in your PM routine.)
Step 2: Toner
Sometimes referred to as an “essence,” “tonique,” or “mist,” a toner that supplies a major dose of antioxidants, anti-irritants, and skin-type appropriate degree of hydration is beneficial for any skin type. Those with persistent irritation or dehydrated skin should pay close attention—the right toner can make all the difference via its free-radical protection, soothing properties, and hydrating formula. See all of our toners options here.
Step 3: A Leave-On Exfoliant
An AHA (alpha hydroxy acid) or BHA (beta hydroxy acid) exfoliant has multiple benefits for skin that go beyond what face or body scrubs can offer. These types of exfoliants help skin manage the excess layer of dead cells, oil, bacteria, and more, all of which contribute to dull, flaky skin, clogged pores, and breakouts. See the Recommended Articles section at the bottom of this page for more information on how to decide which is right for your skin.
The amount needed per use will vary by the formula, so defer to the product directions for more info. In terms of how often to apply, many find that the best results come from applying either an AHA or BHA twice daily, morning and night—but less often can still produce great results. Experiment to see which frequency of application works best for your skin. Check out all our AHA and BHA exfoliant formulas here.
Step 4: Serum / Treatment / Skincare Booster
After your exfoliant step, but before your moisturizer, is generally the ideal time to apply your specialty treatments. Whether that is an antioxidant serum, skin lightener, retinol product, vitamin C product or other targeted treatment, now is the time. If you have more than one, such as a retinol treatment and a serum, either mix them together or apply them one on top of the other. It doesn’t matter which order, just opt for whichever you prefer aesthetically—most find layering by texture (begin with the thinnest and progress to thickest) the most comfortable.
If you are using an anti-aging skincare booster, go with the order and method described on your products directions for best results.
Step 5: The Daytime or Nighttime Moisturizer
For the daytime, your moisturizer must contain broad-spectrum sunscreen protection rated SPF 30+, something your nighttime formula doesn’t need. However, both should contain a comprehensive mix of antioxidants and reparative ingredients—these work to help prevent and repair damage and inflammation in skin, as well as ward off free-radical damage from pollution, sun exposure, and other environmental factors. [1,2,3]
Choosing the right moisturizer, no surprise, is dependent upon your skin type—if you have oily to combination skin, look for lighter, less emollient formulas (gels, gel-creams or sheer lotions, for example). Dry or very dry skin should consider richer lotions and creams. Take a look at our moisturizers options here.
Step 6: Spot Treatment (Nighttime Only) or Eye Cream
If you’re spot-applying a skin lightener or blemish treatment, it’s best to wait until the last step in your nighttime routine. That way, you won’t end up moving it around your face by layering it under another product, such as a moisturizer or serum. Just apply your spot treatment where needed!
If you’re using an eye cream, it can be the last product applied around your eyes during your nighttime or daytime routines. During the day, the eye area needs sun protection, so apply your facial moisturizer with SPF around the eyes or, if you opt to apply your non-SPF eye cream during the day, finish with an SPF-rated product around the eyes.
Beyond those basics of cleanser, AHA or BHA exfoliant and sunscreen, there are few irrefutable “rules” regarding the order of application for skincare products—much of this is determined by what kind of treatment it is, and your personal preferences for layering. If you want to try switching the order of application, feel free to experiment and see how you like the results.The only fixed step is that during the daytime, the last skincare product you apply must be your sunscreen. Makeup over sunscreen won’t interfere with its ability to protect your skin because makeup is meant to stay on top of skin, but layering products like facial oil or other treatments on top of your SPF should absolutely be avoided—it will reduce your sunscreen’s ability to protect you from sun damage.
You do not need to wait between product applications, unless you prefer to do so for aesthetic reasons. Rumors or anecdotal tales on discussion boards or blogs aside, people who formulate actual skincare products know the facts—your exfoliant, serum or other treatments do not negatively impact or “deactivate” each other—really!
If you’re unsure which products are right for you, check out the Recommended Articles section below for more info, or contact our Paula’s Choice Customer Care Experts for a personalized skincare consultation!