A basic skincare routine lays the foundation for beautiful, healthy skin. It helps kickstart your day with cleansed and nourished skin in the morning, and holds space for your self-care routine in the evening.

Despite our changing skincare needs and priorities as we age, as well as our products and ingredient choices, your skincare routine order will likely remain the same. Get back to basics, and read on for the ABCs of a basic skincare routine.


Cleanser serves as the foundation for your basic skin care routine, helping to remove oil-soluble impurities

What does cleanser do

There are many different types of cleansers on the market, each one providing a slightly different end result depending on your skin goals. Generally speaking, the best facial cleanser works by lifting and removing any build-up of dirt, oils, sweat, or sebum from the face.

How to use cleanser

Cleansers can be used as part of your simple skincare routine, to prep your skin for AM skincare products and makeup application. Or, they can be used as part of your evening skincare routine, helping to wash away the day’s impurities.

What are the precautions of using cleanser

Cleansers help to reduce pimples, and acne, from developing or flaring up. However, over-cleansing can potentially strip the skin of its natural oils that actually protect against inflammation, in turn making the skin dry, flaky and irritated.

When to use cleanser

Depending on your skin type, you can use a cleanser twice daily, once in the morning and once in the evening, or less frequently. A splash of water to the face in the morning, might be ideal for those with sensitive skin, who do a thorough job of cleansing the night before.


Originally formulated as strong astringents that both cleansed and stripped the skin (think cult-fave, one-time “it product” Thayer’s Witch Hazel Toner), gentle toners are now more popular among skincare lovers.

What does toner do

The best toners both hydrate and prep the skin for further skincare. Often containing nourishing ingredients, they’re frequently delivered in a water-like consistency, and are often marketed in spray or liquid formats.

How to use toner

Douse a cotton round with toner and swipe across the face. Alternatively, disperse a few drops of toner into clean hands, and gently pat onto the face using pressing motions to saturate the skin.

What are the precautions of using toner

Different toners for face cater to different skin types. While a toner containing salicylic acid, or benzoyl peroxide might be appropriate for acne-prone skin, these ingredients might be irritating for someone seeking a toner that provides simple nourishment.

Many toners continue to be produced and marketed as astringents, and may contain high levels of alcohol that can dry out the skin. This highlights the importance of conducting product research and reading labels prior to purchasing. 

When to use toner

A morning application of toner will cleanse the skin from any oils or dirt built up overnight, while an evening application will prep the skin for heavier products. Depending on your toner’s ingredients, you can use the toner more sparingly (think two to three times a week), and only once per day on those select days.


Often chock full of potent ingredients, the best face serum is made up of smaller molecules designed to penetrate deeply into the skin.

What does serum do

Serums are often marketed for their ability to target specific concerns, like anti-aging, hyperpigmentation, dehydration, and acne. This is because they can deliver a higher concentration of ingredients, and can sink quicker into the skin than other products.

How to use serum

A face serum is meant to be applied after your toner, but before your moisturizer. Because serums are lighter formulations than moisturizers, this adds to their ability to be absorbed faster.

Not only are serums formulated to target different skin concerns, but they can also be formulated for day or nighttime use. A Vitamin C serum applied in the morning prior to your moisturizer and SPF, can help tackle hyperpigmentation and sun spots, while many retinol-formulated serums are intended for evening use.

What are the precautions of using serum

While serum’s high concentration of key ingredients can be beneficial to your skin, they can also be a potential source of irritation for sensitive skin, too. 

Aforementioned Vitamin C and retinol-based serums, can contain active ingredients or acids that can inflame the skin when not properly integrated into your routine. Especially when first using retinol, finding a high-quality formula and building up tolerance is key to reducing skin irritation.

When to use serum

How often you apply your serum depends on your skin goals and skin type. However, it’s important to note that serums are not meant to replace moisturizers. Working with a trusted skin therapist can help you to hone in on frequency and consistency of serum application, as well as ingredient potency to avoid irritation.


Often delivered in topical formats like creams, and lotions, the best moisturizer assists by carrying both hydration, and comfort as part of your skin care routine.

What does moisturizer do

The oil-in water emulsion of most moisturizers locks in water that would otherwise evaporate from the skin, creating a hydrating barrier that both binds and protects.

How to use moisturizer

Applying moisturizer while your skin is still damp is more effective than attempting to rehydrate the skin after it’s already been depleted of water. This is why post-shower application of moisturizer is ideal.

What are the precautions of using moisturizer

Despite rarely being associated with any health concerns, some moisturizers can still cause irritation or inflammation for those with sensitive skin. For the most part, they are a beneficial component of every basic skincare routine, not only providing moisture to dry skin, but also mitigating the effects of conditions like dermatitis and eczema.

When to use moisturizer

Moisturizing is especially crucial post-bath, shave, or exfoliation to help maintain hydrated skin. Daytime moisturizers are often delivered as lighter formulations containing sun protection, while evening moisturizers are more so marketed as nightly face cream containing restorative, skin repairing ingredients.

Sun Screen

The last (but certainly not least) step in the ABCs of your skin care routine order.

What does sunscreen do

Sun protection often comes in the form of sunscreen, or SPF- laden moisturizers, helping to prevent the signs of aging while protecting against the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation.

SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor. Commonly found in sunscreen products, the SPF number assigned to sunscreen indicates how much more exposure it would take to cause a burn when exposed to the sun, when using sun protection versus not using sun protection.

How to use sunscreen

Sunscreen should be applied to all areas of the body that will be exposed to the sun. This includes, but is not limited to: Face, neck, ears, decollete, hands, arms, shoulders, chest, back, legs, feet, and toes.

What are the precautions of using sunscreen

Some sunscreen ingredients can cause skin irritation or inflammation, which is why we prefer mineral sunscreen at Facial Expressions Skin Therapy. Many formulas not only contain reef-safe ingredients, but are also better for sensitive skin given its natural anti-inflammatory properties. 

When to use sunscreen

Sunscreen should be applied at least 30 minutes prior to sun exposure, allowing time for skin absorption and increasing your skin’s ability to retain the product.

Test drive your skincare routine order with Facial Expression Skin Therapy – book in today for your free 30-minute consultation!

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