My Tried-and-True Morning Routine for Skin

morning routine for skin

After years of testing hundreds (maybe even thousands) of beauty products, I’m happy to report that I’ve totally nailed my morning skincare routine. With so much information out there about the best skincare practices and highly coveted products, I know it can be overwhelming to differentiate quality tips from bogus advice.

Having a solid skincare routine in place is essential for the overall health and appearance of your complexion. And while your skin’s needs might change throughout the month and season, following a routine can help combat issues like acne, clogged pores, and sun damage.

Here, I’m sharing the morning routine that I’ve found to work best for a variety of skin types. These steps are simple yet they’ll properly prepare your skin for the day ahead—as well as provide the protection you need from the sun. While I’m admittedly not a board certified dermatologist, I swear this routine will level up your skincare game.

Best Morning Routine for Skin Care

Step 1: Wash Your Face.

First things first, washing your face is a must (which you already know.) However, there’s a lot of debate around whether or not you need to wash with a cleanser in the morning or not, but as a general rule of thumb, I’d argue that using a cleanser is important.

While your skin is likely exposed to more dirt and other pore-clogging elements during the day, it unfortunately can still accumulate gunk while you sleep. Think about your pillow, your sheets, or the arm you lean your face against while you snooze off—all of these things can increase your exposure to bacteria, and yes, little particles of dirt.

So even if you’re washing your sheets and pillowcases on the regular, it’s still inevitable that you’ll come in contact with some less than desirable elements while you sleep. When left on your skin, those little particles can build up over time and cause issues like clogged pores and/or acne.

morning skincare cleanser

Fortunately, the solution to this is simple: Wash your face in the morning! Most dermatologists would agree that the type of cleanser you use is the least important aspect of your skincare routine (because you rinse the product off rather than letting it sit on your skin.)

I tend to reach for cream cleansers more often than foams or gels because I’ve found that they are less likely to strip my skin. Drugstore products are great for this step, so don’t sleep on finds like this Cetaphil cleanser or CeraVe option. This hydrating yet gentle cleanser from Fresh is a more luxe find that I like (which still doesn’t break the bank.) You could also use a cleanser with salicylic acid if your skin type is more acne prone.

Step 2: Apply Eye Cream.

I feel like there are two groups of skincare people: Those who swear by eye creams and those who aren’t convinced that they actually do anything. While I personally think adding an eye cream to your regimen is worth it, anyone who tells you that they will completely get rid of your dark circles is probably just trying to sell you on their product.

With that being said, a quality eye cream can certainly help with common skincare concerns, like puffiness (which is almost always a problem after you wake up in the morning), fine lines, and yes, reducing the appearance of dark circles.  

morning skincare eye cream

This one is a tried-and-true favorite that does a great job at brightening your under-eye area. I actually just found out that my dermatologist uses it as well. I also like this one for smoothing, lifting, and minimizing fine lines.

Unlike facial cleansers, I do think that eye creams are worth investing a bit more in. I’m sharing some more of my faves below, including a handful from luxury skincare brands that have a good reputation for delivering results.

Step 3: Apply Any Serums.

You might think that serums are best to apply in the evening, but there are actually a handful that are optimal for morning use. Vitamin C, niacinamide, and hyaluronic acid are all ideal for daytime wear—and even though you might think this is an optional step, I’d highly suggest that you add them to your skincare routine.

If you’re just starting to establish a healthy routine, ease into serums slowly by sticking to one or two at first (you can read my skin care routine for beginners here.) Even if you have lots of skincare goals, you don’t want to overboard your complexion with too many new products at once.

serum for morning skincare routine

The three ingredients that I suggested above (vitamin C, niacinamide, and hyaluronic acid) offer various benefits to your skin, ranging from fading dark spots to providing deep hydration. I would save any other serums and treatments for nighttime application.

Not sure where to start? You can read more about how to introduce vitamin C serum in this blog post and how to use niacinamide in this one.

Step 4: Apply Moisturizer.

Even if you don’t struggle with dry skin, applying a moisturizer is a crucial step in every skin care routine—both morning and night. FYI: Your moisturizer and sunscreen should always be the last two products you apply.

The season, weather, and your skin type will likely indicate how much moisturizer you should put on each day, so just use your judgement here.

Also, I have tested hundreds of moisturizers over the years and think it’s really about personal preference rather than finding the “best” one. There are a variety of moisturizers that target different skin concerns with active ingredients that address things like acne or redness.

If you need a rec, here are some highly-rated options that are worth checking out….

Step 5: Apply Sunscreen.

Sunscreen is perhaps the most crucial step you should include in your skin care regimen. It’s essential that you protect your skin from harsh rays for both skin cancer reasons as well as for anti-aging benefits.

Look for a broad spectrum SPF that ideally is lightweight and non-comedogenic (meaning it won’t clog your pores.) The great thing about sunscreen is that there are tons of options out there at various price points, so there’s really no excuse for this not to become a staple in your lineup.

There are lots of products that act both as makeup (tinted moisturizers or foundation) and SPF. While these are good options, I’d suggest reapplying sunscreen if you’re out and about all day or if you’re spending a lengthy amount of time in the sun.

p.s. Sunscreen should always be the very last product you apply to your skin before you put on makeup.

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