Streamline Your Bedtime Skin Care Routine

How to simply your evening skin care routine. (Photo: Guy Aroch / Trunk Archive)

When it comes to our nighttime skincare routine, most of us are among two camps: The meticulous beauty connoisseur who does a thorough double-cleanse followed by slathering on a host of serums, essences, and lotions, and those who barely manage a hasty cleanse before bed. As it turns out, despite what the 10-step Korean beauty regimen may have us believe, you really don’t need to use an endless stream of skin care products at night; you just need to know how and when to use them to get the most out of your routine. Here’s how to boost your nighttime skin care game.

By now, you’ve likely been indoctrinated with the idea that it’s essential to remove your makeup before bedtime. While cleansing should be a no-brainer, many of us are getting it wrong; we’re just not doing it thoroughly enough before applying skincare. “The majority of cosmetic camouflage products are designed to last longer — they’re persistent,” says Beverly Hills celebrity dermatologist Dr. Harold Lancer. Lancer, who counts Kim Kardashian among his clients, recommends a double-cleanse approach for those who wear a lot of makeup. Exfoliate in the evening after cleansing with a gentle polish to slough away any excess oil or dead skin cells and allow any active ingredients you apply to penetrate more effectively.

“Sleep is when your repair mechanism is more responsive to the product,” says Lancer, and thus nighttime is prime time to apply any treatment ingredients such as retinol/retinoids and AHAs. The derm recommends blending a mix of vitamin C, retinol, and alpha-hydroxy acid together in the palm of your hand and applying the mixture to the skin to take advantage of the skin’s natural reparative process. “During the hours of sleep, cortisol levels, insulin levels and a variety of physiologic proteins function more efficiently, therefore using antioxidants, anti-inflammatories, retinol and AHAs at night is more useful to the biology of the skin,” says Lancer. For sensitive skin types, seek out products with active ingredients that are specifically geared to your skin type, or only use one active ingredient at once (i.e. either retinol or an AHA and not both), so you don’t risk irritation. Or, apply an anti-inflammatory moisturizer underneath your retinol cream to decrease the risk of sensitivity, suggests Miami-based dermatologist Dr. Leslie Baumann. Follow up with a night cream to hydrate the skin and lock in active ingredients.

Above all, Lancer preaches a minimalist approach when it comes to skincare. As long as you’re applying treatment products, including serums and moisturizers, smoothly and evenly (he says many of us don’t), you don’t need to layer on product after product. “One high-quality serum should be multi-purpose — you shouldn’t have to use multiple products,” he says, and the same goes for moisturizer. “Less is more. Or else you’ll end up with some irritated, acne-prone problem.”


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