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Optimal Timing Between Skincare Steps: A Simple Guide

Article last updated: June 9, 2024

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Ever wondered if you're nailing the timing between your skincare steps? Well as it turns out, timing can actually make a huge difference in how effective your routine is! In this article we'll be explaining how to perfectly time your product application.

Why Timing Matters in Skincare

Imagine making a gourmet meal but dumping all the ingredients in at once—it just wouldn’t work, right? The same logic applies to skincare. Each product in your routine has a unique role to play, from hydrating and nourishing to protecting and repairing. Giving each one the right amount of time to absorb can boost their efficacy and prevent interactions that might irritate your skin or negate the benefits of the products.

Think of it like this: if you rush through your routine, you might be mixing ingredients that aren’t meant to be combined, leading to reduced effectiveness or even adverse reactions. By spacing out each step, you’re not only enhancing the performance of your skincare products but also ensuring they work harmoniously. Plus, it ensures that you’re getting the most out of those precious (and sometimes pricey) bottles, maximizing your investment in your skincare regimen.

Step-by-Step Timing Breakdown

Here’s the scoop on waiting times. As a rule of thumb, wait at least a minute between each product. This little pause lets your skin soak up all the goodness from one product before moving on to the next.

Some products need more time to work their magic, so let’s break it down step-by-step:


Waiting Time: None (this is always step 1).

Start with a clean slate. Massage your cleanser in, rinse thoroughly, and move right on to the next step. No waiting required!


Waiting Time: 30 seconds.

Toners are like a drink of water for your skin. Give it about 30 seconds to sink in before applying your next product. This helps balance your skin’s pH and primes it for better absorption.


Waiting Time: 1-2 minutes.

Treatments are the superheroes of your skincare routine. Packed with active ingredients, they need a bit more time to penetrate deeply. Wait at least a minute or two after applying your treatment to let it fully absorb and start working its wonders.

When it comes to applying treatments, texture is key. Treatments can come in various forms—serums, ampoules, and essences, to name a few. The general rule is to apply treatments from lightest to heaviest. Start with the thinnest, water-based treatments first. These lightweight formulas absorb quickly and deliver active ingredients deep into the skin. Follow with slightly thicker treatments, ensuring each layer has a chance to penetrate without being blocked by a heavier product applied beforehand.

Eye Cream

Waiting Time: 1 minute.

The delicate skin around your eyes deserves special attention. Apply your eye cream and give it about a minute to set before moving on. This ensures it doesn’t mix with other products and lose its potency.


Waiting Time: 1-2 minutes.

Moisturizers lock in all the previous layers, creating a barrier that keeps your skin hydrated. Give it a couple of minutes to fully absorb, ensuring it seals in all the serums and treatments you’ve applied.

Sunscreen (AM Routine Only)

Waiting Time: None.

Sunscreen is your last step in the morning. Once your moisturizer has set, go ahead and apply your sunscreen. No need to wait here, just make sure you cover all exposed areas thoroughly for optimal protection.

A Note On Retinoids

Waiting Time: 20-30 minutes.

Retinoids are a bit tricky. They’re powerful, and your skin needs time to adjust. After applying a retinoid, wait about 20-30 minutes before applying anything else. This gives it enough time to start working without being diluted by other products.

What Happens If You Apply Products Too Soon?

Applying skincare products too soon can throw your entire routine out of balance. When you layer products without giving them time to absorb, you dilute their potency. Your skin can’t fully absorb and benefit from each ingredient, meaning you’re not getting the maximum effectiveness from your products.

Ever noticed tiny flakes or balls of product on your skin? That’s called pilling, and it happens when products aren’t given enough time to settle. Instead of being absorbed, they just sit on the surface and mix with the next layer, leading to an uneven application and waste of product.

Certain active ingredients can react with each other if not given time to penetrate properly. This can cause irritation, redness, or even breakouts. For example, applying a retinoid too soon after a harsh exfoliant can lead to increased sensitivity and irritation.

Your skin’s barrier is crucial for maintaining moisture and protecting against environmental aggressors. Applying products too quickly can compromise this barrier, making your skin more vulnerable to dryness, irritation, and damage.

Let’s face it, skincare can be expensive. If you’re not allowing products to work as intended, you’re essentially washing money down the drain… Make sure you’re giving each step its due time so you can ensure every drop counts!

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