Step 1: Cleanser
There are two ways you can go about this at night: single cleansing or double cleansing. Single cleansing is exactly what it sounds like—washing your face once with a cleanser (preceded by a makeup remover for more stubborn products like waterproof mascara). Double cleansing means you’ll use an oil cleanser to break down your makeup before lathering up with a regular face wash. Though both methods are effective, Rodgers advocates for a double cleanse. “Even if you don’t wear makeup, and even if you have oily skin, using an oil cleanser first will help dissolve any impurities and draw out excess sebum, prepping it for the next cleanse.”
Shop cleansers: Go-To Skincare Fancy Face Nourishing Oil Cleanser ($45); Farmacy Green Clean Makeup Removing Cleansing Balm ($34); Then I Met You The Cleansing Duo ($68); Glamglow Supercleanse Clearing Cream-to-Foam Cleanser ($32); Joanna Vargas Vitamin C Face Wash ($40)
Step 2: Exfoliation
While exfoliation should be a part of your routine only a few times a week (and even less if you have sensitive skin), both Rodgers and Vargas agree that this necessary step should take place at night. You can choose to chemically exfoliate with an acid treatment or physically exfoliate with a scrub or cleansing device. Exfoliation helps lift the dead skin cells away to expedite cell turnover and allow products to penetrate better into the skin. Rodgers recommends steering clear of any abrasive scrubs, as they can further sensitize the skin.
Shop exfoliators: Pixi Beauty Glow Tonic ($29); Kate Somerville ExfoliKate Intensive Exfoliating Treatment ($85); Sunday Riley Good Genes All-In-One Lactic Acid Treatment ($105); Summer Fridays R+R Mask ($52); Tatcha The Rice Polish Foaming Enzyme Powder ($65); Foreo Luna Mini 3 ($159)
Step 3: Serum
Your skin does most of its cell turnover at night, so this is when your products really get to work. If you have specific issues like dryness or dark spots that you’re trying to remedy, look for serums that target those areas of concern. Speaking of targeting, you don’t have to apply your serums to your entire face. For example, if you need extra moisture in your cheeks but want to control the oils in your T-zone , apply a hydrating serum just to the spots that need it and allow it to sink in before applying your next and final step.
Shop serums: Dior Capture Youth Serum Plump Filler ($95); Glossier Super Pure ($28); Peach & Lily Glass Skin Refining Serum ($39); Dr. Jart+ Cicapair Tiger Grass Serum ($46); Mario Badescu Anti Acne Serum ($20)
Step 4: Moisturizer
Nighttime moisturizers are typically heavier than daytime moisturizers. That said, opt for creamy products over gel formulas, because creams are more effective at stopping transepidermal water loss and will help keep moisture in while you sleep.
Shop moisturizers: Drunk Elephant Lala Retro Whipped Moisturizer ($60); Augustinus Bader The Cream ($265); Algenist Genius Sleeping Collagen ($98); CeraVe Skin Renewing Night Cream ($14); Herbivore Botanicals Moon Fruit Super Night Treatment ($58)
Again, the four steps above are the absolute minimum to include in your evening routine. For additional help, you can add one of the following products as needed.
Mask: If you plan to apply a mask, the best time to do it is right after you’ve finished cleansing (and exfoliating, if it’s part of your routine that night). While masks aren’t a necessity, they can give your skin a little extra TLC if you’re in need of a boost. Vargas recommends using a hydrating sheet mask after exfoliating to help soothe the skin if it has become sensitized, or you can use a spreadable mask to target other issues, like dryness, darkness or hyperpigmentation.
Shop masks: Patchology FlashMasque Illuminate 5 Minute Sheet Mask ($30); Dr. Jart+ Firm Lover Rubber Mask ($12); Innisfree Super Volcanic Clusters Pore Clearing Mask ($15); Glow Recipe Watermelon Glow Sleeping Mask ($45); The Things We Do Liquid Lift Sleeping Mask ($62)
Retinol: This ingredient—which is a derivative of vitamin A—is touted as the holy grail for all things anti-aging, so it makes sense that both Vargas and Rodgers made a point to mention it. Note that it’s meant to be applied directly after cleansing. Because retinol can leave your skin a bit sensitive, it’s best not to use it on the same days as exfoliation. To get started, Rodgers recommends using it only once a week so your skin can get acclimated, and then you can increase the frequency over time. If your skin is too sensitive for retinol, try bakuchiol, which is a plant-based alternative that offers similar results.
Shop retinols: Sunday Riley A+ High-Dose Retinol Serum ($85); Shani Darden Retinol Reform ($88); Herbivore Botanicals Bakuchiol Serum ($54)
Spot Treatment: Whether it’s a zit or a dry patch, spot treatments can help address your skin concerns as they (forgive the pun) pop up. Like retinols, spot treatments should be the closest layer to your skin to ensure maximum efficiency, so apply them right after you cleanse and don't use retinols on the same day that you spot treat.
Shop spot treatments: Kinship Pimple Potion Gentle + Healthy Acne Solution ($18), Tatcha The Serum Stick ($48)
Eye Cream: Some people really see a difference when they use the right eye cream, so if you find one that works for you, feel free to incorporate it into your routine. Rodgers cautions that if the formula is too heavy, it can cause milia (small bumps around your eyes), so you’ll want to find one that’s heavy enough to hydrate yet light enough to layer.
Shop eye creams: La Mer The Eye Concentrate ($235); Dior Capture Totale C.E.L.L. Energy ($105)
Face Oil: Last but not least, face oils serve the same purpose in the daytime as they do at night, though you can use a thicker oil at nighttime. Rodgers recommends either layering this on top of your moisturizer or mixing the two together before applying for a hydrating boost.
Shop face oils: Peach & Lily Pure Beam Luxe Oil ($39); Mara Algae + Moringa Universal Face Oil ($72)
The Ultimate Guide to Beauty Oils