This is How Long You Should Wait Between Each Step of Your Skincare Routine

To wait or not to wait? A dermatologist tells you exactly what to do

If you have been following a morning and nighttime skin care ritual then there are high chances that you must have wondered about the efficacy of each step or the best ways to optimise each layer as you slathered toners, serums, creams and oils. A thought that must have often crossed your mind while you are at it is how much time should you wait between applying each layer of skincare products. You are not alone, with so many products out there in the market, it’s hard to note what to use when and how, how many layers, the time gap between each product, etc. Dr Chytra Anand, dermatologist, cosmetologist and founder of Skin Q Beauty Care, shares a handy tip, she says, “ Start with lighter and go towards the heavier product. Today, there are many skincare routines, from the classic 3 step to the 7 step glass skin and the 10 step Korean Skin routines. The basics, though remain the same.”

However, before we move on to discuss the time gap between each layer, let’s do a refresher on the correct order of applying skincare products.

What is the right order to apply skincare products?

We asked Dr Chytra to elaborate on the correct layering. She breaks down the ritual into simple steps that need to be followed in the order mentioned below:

A must-do day-care daily routine should include cleansing of face,  followed by moisturising and the application of sun screen.  

A night-care routine involves cleansing of face followed by application of night active serum on the face and neck and finally night cream which needs to be applied on the face, neck, eyes and lips. 

The daily layers are cleanser, toner, serum, spot treatment, moisturiser, eye cream, retinol, facial oil, sunscreen and then makeup. 

Dr Chytra further discusses each layer, advising on the correct way to choose a product and apply it right. 

Cleansing: Needs to be done both during the day and night. 

Must use choices: Face Wipes / Ph balanced cleanser (gel / cream) / micellar water / cleansing oil. 

“1st step is always a cleanser. It is a critical step to cleanse the skin of dust, dirt, grime, oil. Only when the face is clean can you apply the successive layers for better absorption. Otherwise, this leads to improper absorption and clogging,” she says. 

Single cleanse: For daily basics 

Double Cleanse: Makeup wipes + Ph balanced cleanser cleansing oil + micellar water 

Toners: Need to be used both during the day and night.

“Previously, it was a must, but now toners are being replaced with active serum or correction serums, especially for acne-prone skin. Today there are alcohol-free, botanical serums like rose water, marine water sprays available. This is a skin prep for better absorption,” adds Dr Chytra. 

Serums: Need to be used both during the day and night.

It’s a must if you are above 25 years of age. A serum is a concentrated fluid, lighter than a lotion. It is packed with active ingredients to boost skin activity. 

Dr Chytra says, “choose a serum based on your skin needs. Look for these ingredients in your serums if your skin type is the following: 

Oily: Salicylic acid, retinol liposomes and tea tree extracts.

Acne-prone: Salicylic acid, niacinamide, azelaic acid, retinol liposomes, tea tree extracts and witch hazel.

Dehydrated: Hyaluronic acid and sodium hyaluronate.  

Pigmented: Kojic Acid, rrbutin, licorice, emblica, azelaic acid. 

Dull skin: PHA and lactic acid.  

Day time: Photoprotective serum and hydration serums are best.

Night time: Other active serums. 

Spot Treatment: This is mainly for acne-prone Skin or Skin that has prescription skincare advised by a dermatologist. This layer is only for specific activities 

Eye cream: To be used only during the night. "Separate eye cream is not always needed unless the eye area is damaged. Your regular serum and moisturisers are most times sufficient," ," says Dr Chytra.

Moisturiser: Need to be used both during the day and night.

Moisturisers are a critical step in a skincare routine. It is a barrier maintenance step. Our skin barrier is constantly under stress, and a moisturiser helps boost it. Once a day is a must if you are below 30. But if you are above 30 years and have dry skin, then use it twice a day. 

Retinol: Retinol is an active ingredient used for anti-ageing / acne/pigmentation. It is in a class of its own. "Retinol always needs to be layered as it can be exfoliative to the skin and cause purging. Hence, it should typically applied after a moisturiser.

Face Oil: This layer is for dry, mature and sensitive skin types, it's used mainly to restore the skin barrier. 

Sunscreen: This is the last skincare step in the daily routine before makeup. This is the only step that requires reapplication in 3 – 4 hr

What should be the time gap between layers?

“Around 30 secs to 1 min is a sufficient gap between layers in the skincare step. The exception is post serum / spot treatment and retinol. You should allow 3 – 5 mins before applying the next layer to allow surface skin penetration. Apply sunscreen only after there are no traces of moisturiser on the face. Otherwise, the strength gets diluted. What is important to note is the order of application and the time between to ensure each layer is effective," says Dr Chytra.


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