How To Create The Perfect AM And PM Skincare Routine
Brush up on the basics with our simple guide to putting together a reliable skincare routine for morning and night.
Sports great, LeBron James, was once asked, “Why do you continue to do basic drills?” His response was that you should never forget about the basics. While our skincare routines can’t turn us into sporting greats (unfortunately that requires basic athletic ability, lame), we can learn a thing or two about always sticking to the tried and true principles of skin.
Here, Gritty Pretty breaks down a streamlined approach to your AM/PM skincare routines. If you take away one thing from this article, let it be this: easy does it.
The Gentle Cleanse
First things first! A gentle cleanse takes priority. As a general rule of thumb, cleansing occurs twice daily—with the most common exception being those who have very dry skin. If you find yourself in this category, a simple splash of water in the morning will suffice to remove any oil or sweat from the night.
For the majority, a gentle morning cleanse offers a moment to wipe away any remaining serums, creams or oils that were applied the night before. Here, you can opt to use micellar water for a reliable cleanse that won’t offend the skin (think the Bioderma Sensibio Micellar Water—a french beauty staple for good reason). You’ll find it refreshes a sleepy complexion by soothing the skin thanks to the addition of fatty acids in the formula.
You’ve probably heard about antioxidants and if you’ve ever wondered what they actually do for the skin, you’re not alone. Essentially, antioxidants protect against free radicals that break down the collagen in our skin. Free radical damage can appear in the form of dark spots, fine lines and sagging skin. In our efforts to preserve our collagen stores, the most common antioxidant serum you can easily add to your morning regimen is vitamin C. Not only does vitamin C provide overall protection, but it also works to brighten the skin leading to even skin tone.
If you find this particular vitamin irritates your skin, you’re not alone. You can try to slowly add it into your routine every second day or you can try a vitamin B. The Skin Series B3 Hydrate is a milky white serum that not only offers the benefit of antioxidant protection but also assists with hydration. Hyaluronic acid and niacinamide act as a power couple for the skin.
For those in the market for vitamin C, SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic Serum is a patented serum powered by l-ascorbic acid, vitamin E and ferulic acid. This cocktail protects against external stressors, combatting fine lines and discolouration—but best of all, its lightweight, silky smooth once absorbed and sensitive skin types can reach for it.
Even if you have oily skin, the basis of a good skincare regimen always includes a moisturiser. Choosing a moisturiser is certainly based on personal preference, however, most skin types will tolerate an oil-free, fragrance-free moisturiser. When on the hunt for your favourite moisturiser, think about what you’re looking for and build from there.
For a hydrating yet lightweight cream, Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Cream is a fan favourite. Containing glycerin, glacial glycoprotein and avocado oil, you’ll find it provides intense hydration through maximising water retention, thus leaving the skin supple and soft. For another fragrance-free option, CeraVe’s Daily Moisturising Lotion draws on three types of ceramides and hyaluronic acid, a combo that works a treat on the skin barrier. It’s also a dermatologist-approved favourite.
If you haven’t heard, protection is always, always key. Rain, hail or shine, SPF acts as your first line of protection against skin cancer. It’s important to look for something that is SPF 30+ or higher and make sure to apply daily and always as your final step (before makeup).
Looking for a reliable friend? The Mecca Cosmetica To Save Face SPF 50+ Superscreen is an oxybenzone-free sunscreen that leaves a natural matte finish behind. It also pairs well with makeup on top, making it a great addition to your beauty shelfie if you struggle with pilling.
For those who are on the sensitive side, or are acne-prone, the La Roche Posay Anthelios Invisible Fluid Facial Sunscreen is a chemical sunscreen that is non-comedogenic and non-eye stinging (IYKYK). Meaning, you’ll not only be protected, but your pores won’t get clogged.
Properly taking the day off sets you up for all your skincare investments. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to take off SPF, makeup, oil, sweat and debris in one wash. So, rightly, it calls for a double cleanse. Typically, a double cleanse consists of an oil or balm cleanser first, followed by your cleanser of choice.
For a balm cleanser that doesn’t leave behind a harsh waxy film, the Alpha H Melting Moment Cleansing Balm is as the name suggests: a melting moment. The balm begins to emulsify easily as you apply the product to your full face of makeup. Once you’re ready to rinse away, the non-stripping formula slides right off. For your second cleanse, using a milky, gentle cleanser such as The Ordinary Squalane Cleanser is preferred. This ensures we don’t send the wrong message to our skin barrier (not over-stripping the skin) avoiding the overproduction of oil. Yes, it’s a fine line.
Treat & Target
After your base is fresh, cleansed and ready to go, you can view your nighttime serum as a corrective treatment. This can look like addressing concerns such as hydration, sensitivity, redness, hyperpigmentation and ageing. Two of the most common treatments to reach for are retinol and a chemical exfoliant, but if these options seem daunting there’s always niacinamide, hyaluronic acid and our trusty friend vitamin C. Whatever your choice is, it’s important to select one treatment and focus on your specific concerns. You can always switch it up once finished.
For a tried and trusted ingredient that works to visibly firm, refine and brighten while supporting the skin’s natural renewal process, opt for retinol. Why? Well, it boosts cell metabolism, encourages collagen production and repairs connective tissue. When incorporating retinol for the first time, introduce it (like any new actives) into your regimen gradually, a couple of times a week, and always make sure to apply retinol in the evenings only. When using highly concentrated actives such as retinol or a chemical exfoliant (AHA, BHA or PHA) make sure to be extra diligent with a broad spectrum SPF as the final step in your regimen every morning.
If you’re on the hunt for retinol, Dr. Dennis Gross’s Overnight Wrinkle Treatment works a dream to build skin proteins and visibly lift skin. The inclusion of retinol, bakuchiol, rambutan, niacinamide and ferulic acid also works to even out texture and tone, all while strengthening the moisture barrier. For a chemical exfoliant, Sunday Riley’s Lactic Acid refines and clarifies the skin by gently buffing away dead skin cells, naturally brightens age spots, discolouration and adds radiance.
Hot tip: it’s important to remember that less is more when it comes to keeping your skin barrier intact. So, if it means you treat and target your skin twice a week, instead of every night, that is more than okay!
Eye Cream (optional)
To eye cream or not to eye cream? While eye creams have been widely debated, they’re a great option to add extra moisture to dry under eyes or target fine lines. This could look like a retinol eye cream or a peptide-infused formula such as the Ordinary’s Multi-Peptide Eye Serum. Drawing on palmitoyl tripeptide-38, niacinamide and fraxinus excelsior bark extract, this water-based eye serum gradually targets puffiness, fine lines and wrinkles. For a rich, yet sensitive skin option, Perricone MD’s Hypoallergenic Firming Eye Cream is not only vegan but provides essential hydration with squalane and olive polyphenols.
Deja vu? Well, yes and no. As your skin comes alive and begins its repair process at night, it’s important to remember that your moisturiser plays an important part in sealing all your hard-working serums and ingredients into the skin. It will also ensure you rise feeling hydrated and plump.
You might keep the same moisturiser for morning and night but for the skincare junkies who love a thicker cream, here is the perfect opportunity to opt for a creamier consistency (should you wish)! Think Drunk Elephant’s Lala Retro Whipped Cream or Emma Lewisham’s Supernatural Face Crème Riche. Only you know whether you prefer a cream, gel or something in between.
Face Oil (optional)
It’s a final, final and optional step. Enter: facial oil.
Facial oil is not only a sensory addition, but a great extra layer of hydration for very dry skin types—it also acts as the perfect vehicle to do a facial massage. Targeting the points of the face that tense up during the day a facial oil ensures you don’t tug at the skin. Consider massaging the areas of your face that tense up during the day—for example, between the brows, temples, around the jaw and cheekbones.