Here's How Long The Perfect Skin-Care Routine Should Take – Brit + Co

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We love starting our routine early. It ensures every detail is right, and having the time to go slow is super relaxing *and* a surefire way to set ourselves up for a good day (or finish out the day if you're doing a nighttime routine). But just because you enjoy spending time on skin cycling or doing a fall makeup look doesn't mean you have to spend an hour getting ready to have an effective routine.
While there are lots of toxic beauty trends circulating around the internet, we got a peek at the skin-care tips that board-certified dermatologist and owner of Facet, Dr. Geeta Yadav, gave Dermstore. There's a good chance you already have the products she recommends, and whether you're a skin-care pro, you're starting from scratch, or you're trying to figure out which gifts to get the beauty guru in your life, this is a great place to get more info.

Image via Dermstore
It's important to know which products to use in what order so that you can maximize the results for your skin. Knowing how long you should spend on each step is important for two reasons: You want to make sure that each product has time to absorb into your skin, and you also don't want to pile on multiple products at once that might irritate your skin.
“If your formulas don’t have time to penetrate the skin, they won’t work as well, especially when it comes to the application of subsequent steps — the active ingredients won’t be able to reach the skin, making a thorough routine a wasted effort,” Dr. Yadav tells Dermstore.
While the order you use products is fairly generalized, the specifics of which cleansers or serums to use will depend on factors like your skin type and your age.
Your nighttime skin-care routine will look different than your morning routine because both the products and the focus change. Peels, face masks, and gua sha are excellent ways to relax after a long day, but they'll also add time to your routine so just make sure you account for that.
Since you spend all day absorbing pollution and excreting oil and sweat, you want to make sure you take the time to nurture your skin and give it some vitamins back before you go to sleep.
There are a variety of skincare brands at different price points that you can try out. Some of our favorites include Cerave, The Ordinary, Sunday Riley, and Goop.
Image via Monstera/Pexels
1. Cleanser: When you wash your face, spend between 30 to 60 seconds gently massaging your cleanser into your skin to cleanse but not irritate. You can also spend some time focusing on your face's oily areas, which will help break down your pore congestion.
Whether you rinse the cleanser off as soon as you're done or leave it on your face will depend on if it features active ingredients like AHAs. After you've finished this step, wait for your skin to dry unless you're using a hyaluronic acid hydrating toner in the next step. In that case, you'll want to apply it to a damp face.
2. Toner: All you have to do for this step is wipe your face with a cotton pad, which should take you around 30 seconds. Wait a few extra seconds for the toner to dry before moving to the next step.
3. Serum: This is another step that should take under a minute, since you just need to apply the serum over your face and down your neck.
4. Eye Cream: While your serum settles into your skin, you can directly move to applying your eye cream (since it's a different part of your face, you don't have to wait for the serum to dry beforehand). Your eyes are a sensitive area of your face so make sure you're super careful with how and what you apply.
We'd recommend using your ring finger to gently press the product into the skin around eyes so you don't tug on your skin. You can move onto the next step as soon as you're done.
5. Spot Treatment: Spot treatments help reduce inflammation, avoid infection, and calm breakouts. It should take around 15 seconds depending on how many spots you have. Wait 60 seconds to allow the product to penetrate your skin and dry before moving on.
6. Moisturizer: Moisturizer adds necessary hydration to your face, and you don't want to forget to add it to your neck and chest as well. If we're having a super-dry day or our skin needs extra hydration, we'll apply a few layers of lotion, but overall, it should take you one to two minutes to moisturize. After you've finished, wait another one to two minutes so your skin can absorb the product.
7. Sun Cream: This is arguably the most important step in your skin-care routine, which means it should take you the longest to ensure you apply it correctly. "If your prior products don’t fully absorb, chemical sunscreens will not be able to reach the skin to create the chemical reaction that protects you from UVA/UVB rays," Dr. Yadav tells Dermstore. "It’s also important when applying mineral sunscreen — all the layers may smear around, sheering out the coverage of your SPF, making it less effective.”
When applying to your face and neck, it should take you one to two minutes. Dr. Yadav also recommends waiting five to 10 minutes for all the products to absorb into your skin before moving on to your makeup routine. You don't want the makeup to mess with the effectiveness of your sunscreen!
For dry skin, you can focus your routine on hydration and moisture to ensure you fight flaky and tight skin. You can try a creamy, hydrating face wash instead of an acne-fighting or foamy one. Serums, face oils, and moisturizers are also good products to add to your routine. The specifics of which ones you should pick, however, totally depends on what you (and your skin) like the best.
Image via Anna Shvets/Pexels
1. + 2. Cleanser + Toner: Both the cleanser and toner steps will be the same as in the morning! Even if you're exhausted, you won't want to miss out on getting rid of whatever dirt and makeup might be in your pores. Feel free to close your eyes and really focus on your movements to get yourself in a calm and relaxed headspace.

3. Eye Cream: Take the same care and attention to your eyes that you do in the morning to make sure your evening routine works just as well overnight. The main difference between daytime and nighttime eye creams is the ingredients — your overnight cream might have ingredients that shouldn't be exposed to sunlight.
4. Treatments: Follow the instructions on your particular product (whether it's a serum, peel, or retinol) so that you know how much to apply and to which zones of the face. You can also check to make sure they can all be used together. Dr. Yadav recommends keeping this step simple so that you don't overload your skin with ingredients, but if you do use multiple products, just let them soak in one at a time before applying the next. This step should take you under 10 minutes.
5. Night Cream: Applying your night cream over both your face and your neck should take one to two minutes (unless you extend that time with a gua sha or roller), and it helps to lock in the moisture from your treatments. Dr. Yadav recommends waiting 10 minutes before heading to bed. That way, your products won't get all over your pillow instead of staying on your skin, and it just happens to be the perfect amount of time to make a cup of tea or read a chapter of your book.
There are particular ingredients that you can look for when shopping for acne skincare products. Here are some you might have seen before or might come across in the future.
This is an ingredient commonly found in acne-fighting products because of its strength. Salicylic acid penetrates your pores and breakouts, fights against inflammation, and removes dead skin cells.
Benzoyl Peroxide is a bit stronger than salicylic acid, and it works by reducing the bacteria on your skin that causes breakouts. Plus, it's anti-inflammatory and fights comedones (the tiny pimples you can get on your forehead and chin).
Often used for hydration, squalane strengthens your skin's barrier and helps it retain moisture, all while improving your skin's appearance.
It's surprisingly easy to wash your face incorrectly. Details like removing all your makeup beforehand, using cool water instead of hot, and switching from rubbing to patting your face dry make all the difference. Here are our favorite face washes.
A TikTok skincare trend from 2022 is cloud skin, which focuses on a look that's part dewy and part matte for a totally natural and glowy finish. The key is to focus on hydration and illuminating products. We've even seen some creators add a layer of serum or facial oil to their skin before adding their primer and foundation.
Slugging is all about locking in your skin's moisture overnight, which sounds appealing if you're dealing with dry skin. But you want to make sure you avoid toxic skincare trends, which is why after talking to Miami-based board-certified derm Loretta Ciraldo, MD, we don't recommend slugging with vaseline.
This skincare trend is a routine that you repeat every four nights. The first night, you exfoliate, while you use a retinol on the second night. Both the third and fourth nights are recovery nights, which just means that you focus on hydration and calming your skin before going back in with the chemical exfoliant. Click here to read our interview with the doctor who coined the term!
Skincare fridges are a super cute way to both store your skincare products and actually extend their shelf life. The cold helps the properties in the products stay stronger, longer, and also makes applying them feel like heaven.
Feel free to keep products like mists, your facial tools, or sheet masks in your fridge to make them feel extra cooling.
You'll want to avoid putting oil-based products like face oils or makeup in your skincare fridge — if they get too hard and cold, you won't be able to use them!
Tag us with your skin-care routines on Instagram, and make sure to check out our Luxurious Night Routine and Morning Routine for more tips!
Brit + Co may at times use affiliate links to promote products sold by others, but always offers genuine editorial recommendations.
Featured image via Pavel Danilyuk/Pexels.
This post has been updated.
B+C Editorial Assistant, Swiftie | Chloe is from the Outer Banks (yes, like the Netflix show!). When she isn't writing or updating her blog Pastels and Pop Culture, Chloe enjoys watching Marvel movies or texting her sister about the latest celebrity news. Say hi at @thechloewilliams on Insta and @popculturechlo on Twitter!


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