How To Make Your Skincare Work Harder
How To Make Your Skincare Work Harder

How To Make Your Skincare Work Harder

A good skincare routine is about more than just the right products – it’s also about how you use them and in what order. From boosting your cleanser with a steam to changing things up morning and night, we asked three experts to walk us through it…
By Rebecca Hall
Photography: ANI DIMI / STOCKSY

All products on this page have been selected by our editorial team, however we may make commission on some products.

Nail The Right Order

“The order in which you apply your products can impact their efficacy. For example, if you’re layering multiple products – like serums – you can reduce the impact they have on your skin. The first serum you apply will deliver the ingredients much more efficiently than anything you apply afterwards. If one serum is water based and another is oil based, this can cause issues as the textures are so different. Ideally, use one targeted serum containing all the active ingredients you need at that time of day – find ones with antioxidants, vitamin C, niacinamide and ferulic acid, as these all help to keep your skin cells turning over. We also know that starting your routine with a good cleanser and toner will allow your next products – usually including a serum – to absorb and deliver quick results. Stick to these steps – skin is happier when you use a simple routine consistently.” – Dr Anita Sturnham, founder of Decree

“Skin prep is key to maximise your routine. A cleansed complexion is essential if you want to see results. Otherwise, you’ll only have a build-up of dead skin cells on the surface – a large percentage of your product will be absorbed by this dead layer, rather than penetrating into the living skin cells below. So, always cleanse first.” Debbie Thomas, celebrity facialist

Warm The Product Up First

“This isn’t always essential, but some products – including oils and serums – work better if they’re warmed up in the palm of your hands prior to application. It helps to activate the ingredients inside. You’ll also find it enhances the fragrance of your products – especially if they contain nourishing, essential oils. Simply massage them into your palms first to increase the temperature, then pat the formulas on gently.” Michaella Bolder, facialist

Try Steaming 

“Steaming your face can work wonders – especially if you are prepping the skin for removal of blackheads and general extraction. The heat softens the trapped oil, making the skin a little more malleable. Skin that is prone to redness and sensitivity, however, should only be steamed with caution. Once you have steamed, your complexion will be damp as water sits in the very upper layers of the skin for a short time before evaporating. Products like hyaluronic acid work well in this environment as they absorb moisture and bind it even further into the skin. To make sure you continue to retain it, seal it in with a barrier-supporting ingredient like ceramides.” – Debbie 

“The heat and moisture of steam also helps to stimulate your blood circulation. As a result, this opens up your pores and warms the skin tissue, making it supple and much more responsive to any products you apply on top. Overall, you’ll increase the skin’s vitality. You don’t need to do it every day but steaming once or twice a week can really have a big impact on how effectively your products work.” – Michaella 

STEAMING your face can WORK WONDERS. The heat softens any trapped oil, making the skin a little more malleable and helping products better ABSORB.

Choose The Right Cleanser

“We’ve mentioned how important cleansing is but finding the right formula is just as important if you want to maximise results. For your morning cleanse, a cream or gel-based formula will gently remove remnants of overnight skincare and excess oil, without stripping the skin of natural moisture. Remember, you need your skin barrier to be healthy and hydrated, not stripped down and vulnerable. I love rose-based cleansers and those containing glycerin – a natural humectant that draws moisture into the skin. Follow this with a water-based, antioxidant toner to rebalance the skin’s pH and to rehydrate your epidermal barriers. At night, your skincare can go up a gear and be a little more active and intense. This is the time of day where your skin goes into rest and repair mode, and the ingredients in your skincare can provide the building blocks it needs to rejuvenate overnight. Look for cleansers that contain gentle fruit acids and detoxifying ingredients such as bentonite and kaolin clays. I love using lactic and salicylic acid together to really purge pores.” – Anita

Exfoliate Carefully 

“Exfoliating products are the one thing people tend to overdo, and they can lead to dryness, sensitivity and skin barrier dysfunction. As a rule, make sure your morning products are gentle and non-stripping. Any exfoliating ingredients should be reserved for night time, when your skin needs them the most. My preference is to use some gentle fruit acids – including lactic and salicylic – in your night-time cleanser. This allows for removal of old skin cells and decongestion of your pores. Retinoids are great at night too, as they have exfoliating and cell regenerating properties. Take a gentle approach for the best results – as always with skin, less is more.” – Anita 

Get Your SPF Right 

“Always squeeze a generous, 50p-sized amount into the palm of your hand. Then, dab it around the face using two fingers, followed by a gentle massage to blend and smooth the product over your complexion and neck to ensure you have covered all areas. SPF should always be applied after your moisturiser and before your make-up for the optimum protection. You should reapply it every few hours to maintain its efficacy throughout the day.” – Michaella 

Apply Even Coverage

“There are ways to ensure you don’t waste product. First, always use your fingertips to apply anything, not your full hands. Otherwise, your hands will absorb quite a lot of product. Start by dotting the product onto different areas of the face. Then, using fingertips only, massage these dots in. This method is especially good for active products and sunscreen. Another product-saving tip is to apply products without any cotton wool. Apply tonics and toners to your hand, then pat them all over the face, leaving them to dry. Cotton just absorbs too much product, which only ends up in the bin.” – Debbie 

CLEANSED SKIN IS ESSENTIAL. Otherwise, you’ll have a build-up of dead skin cells – a large percentage of your product will be absorbed by this, rather than the living cells below.

Change Up Your AM & PM Routines

“To get more from your products, you need to be using the right things at the right time of the day. For instance, your morning routine should be made up of products with thinner consistencies – think SPF and vitamin C serums. As for the evening, your routine should include more active products, like retinol, overnight exfoliation treatments, and richer moisturisers and facial oils. This is because your complexion rejuvenates while you sleep, so it’s the best time to use your most active ingredients.” – Michaella 

“While your morning and night routines should be different, some of the products you use can stay the same if budget’s an issue. After all, changing the products you use regularly or mixing and matching too many brands will upset your skin’s balance and only lead to issues. In my opinion, your cleanser, toner and serum should stay the same all year. As the seasons change, the only thing you should switch up are the textures of your moisturiser. Use a thicker, barrier product in the cooler months, and a lighter formula in the summer.” – Anita

Understand Ingredients

“Don’t rush out to buy the newest, celebrity-endorsed creams and expect miracles. To get more from your skincare, you need to understand your own complexion, and what ingredients work for you. I go by the motto: ingredients are instructions, and the skin takes a while to understand these instructions, and it takes even longer for the full benefits to show. This means getting to know them and learning each one’s key benefits. This doesn’t mean you have to be a slave to particular products, but rather if you want to try different brands, make sure the key ingredients are the same.” – Debbie 

“A basic knowledge of skin science can help you take your skincare to the next level. It’s best to leave complex ingredient pairings to the professionals, but if your skin is relatively normal, you can follow a simple guide. I recommend selecting multi-tasking  products – for example, a serum that does a bit of everything. My top picks are vitamins C, B, E and ferulic acid combined. These work to boost glow and are ideal for using in the morning as they protect, too. At night, retinoids and resveratrol are key ingredients to look out for on your serums to brighten tone and boost collagen. Finally, any serums combining lactic and salicylic acid will offer gentle, superficial and deep exfoliation simultaneously – you can find the combination in many serums these days.” – Anita

Keep Skincare Tools Handy

“I’m a fan of using facial tools if they help you get more enjoyment out of your skincare – I always say a skincare routine should be a pleasure and not a chore. If, for example, by using a jade roller you’re more likely to stick to a skincare routine, then go for it, just be gentle. Cool ice globes and teaspoons kept overnight in the freezer are effective at reducing puffiness around the eyes and stimulating the skin so that when you do apply product, it has a smooth base to adhere to. Foreo’s UFO2 does improve the results of your at-home skincare, too, as does Dermalux, which has a clinical-strength home system to encourage better efficacy of your routine – it comes at a hefty price, however.” – Anita 

Be Patient 

“We all want to see results, but it takes time. While this message doesn’t help to improve the effect of your products, it’s vital you know what a product is trying to do long term. For instance, when you first start using something, you may feel like you see a result, then after time, you think that stops being the case. The reality is that it probably is working and even if you changed things up, the results would be similar. Products can never fundamentally change your skin, but they will support it over time. When used correctly, you’ll notice results gradually. In fact, new studies with retinol show that when it’s used consistently, it takes up to nine months before ‘true’ results are visible. It’s why I advise using products for 12 weeks as a minimum before you give up on it.” – Debbie

Shop The Expert Approved Products...

DISCLAIMER: We endeavour to always credit the correct original source of every image we use. If you think a credit may be incorrect, please contact us at

Fashion. Beauty. Culture. Life. Home
Delivered to your inbox, daily