my approach to evening skincare products

evening skincare routine products

As a follow-up to my post about morning skincare products, I thought it’d be useful to see the slight differences in how I treat my skin at night.

My evening skincare routine is a little more indulgent than the morning routine (though I’m sure many of you are thinking holy shit that’s a lot of products for both times of day!). Please humor me. There’s a method to my madness.

For evening skincare, I use a mix of products designed to hydrate, nourish, moisturize and plump my skin as I drift off to sleep. I believe nighttime moisture leads to supple morning skin, and I’m not afraid to layer skincare treatments to target anything I’m trying to address (usually acne and flakes, fun huh?).

While this post isn’t meant to deliver product reviews, you can easily see some picks from these categories on my favorites page.

evening skincare routine products

My Evening Skincare Routine

Oil or Balm Cleansers

For makeup removal and an indulgent facial massage, look no further than a single carrier oil or simple balm. There’s a billion to choose from, so it depends on your preference and skin sensitivity, but the point is that you don’t need fancy, overly marketing makeup removers to get the job done.

Secret: Before I went clean beauty, I used simple baby oil (mineral oil) to remove my makeup. I made the switch to jojoba oil (same effect, only cleaner) and never looked back.

When it comes to balms vs. cleansers, it’s a matter of preference in texture. I like them both, but balms travel better. Oils tend to have a better slip for a great facial massage, but balms feel cushiony and comforting, especially when you’re feeling dry and flaky. You can easily alternate balms and oils by season, or keep a little bit of each on hand to satisfy your changing cravings.

The point is, you don’t need anything fancy here, but for aromatherapeutic effects, you can try more complex cleansing balms that incorporate more scents and interesting ingredients. I remove my balm or oil with a hot, black (the color is important!) wash cloth and move on to the next step.

Find my cleansing oil and multipurpose cleansing balm reviews in the archives.

Gel Cleansers

While in the morning I prefer a gentle cream cleanser to wash away light sweat and oil, at night, I prefer a gentle gel cleanser with a light foam to remove any remaining traces of makeup post-oil cleanse.

At times, I rotate in a gel cleanser with glycolic or salicylic acid if my skin is being fussy (think: PMS week). But, for the most part, I stick with a simple gel cleanser that’s light on scents and lather so my skin doesn’t feel irritated or stripped of moisture.

It’s not often, but sometimes I like to use a skincare brush with my gel cleansers, but more often than not, it’s just my hands, cleanser and water.

Need recommendations? See my “Ultimate Guide to Face Cleansers” for mini-reviews.

Acid Toners (Optional)

My acneic skin responds really, really well to acid toners, especially those made with salicylic or lactic acids. They help decongest my skin and make it more receptive to targeted treatments, serums and oils.

However, my skin can get a little annoyed if I use acid toners too frequently (think irritation and redness), so I have to be very tuned-in to how my skin is reacting. That means some nights, I may only use acid toners on my problem areas (chin and jawline — thanks, hormones) and other nights, I may skip acid altogether.

I save my stronger acids for evening use (yes, there’s such a thing as mild acid toners!), and if my skin is feeling a bit sensitive but not irritated, I’ll use a mild acid toner in its place. Options, options, options.

Find my acid toner reviews in the archives.

Hydrating Toners / Mists

I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: hydrating toning mists are non-negotiable! I cannot be without this comforting ritual, and I love the way a fine, hydrating mist gets my skin ready for the moisture to come.

At night, in between moisturizing treatments (like balms and oils), I may indulge my skin in another layer of hydrating mist. The addiction is real.

Find my toner picks on my “faves” page.

Targeted Face Serums

This is where it gets fun. My definition of serum is pretty traditional, so here goes: An oil is not a serum. Gonna cause some drama here, I’m sure.

What some may call a “face serum,” I call a “face oil.” Face oils are wonderful, but they are not serums. A serum, to me, is a targeted, fast-drying, water-based treatment that can truly penetrate skin without blocking layers of skincare to come. While many face oils have targeted benefits, let’s just call an oil (no matter how beautiful the blend) an oil.

Rant over.

I like to incorporate evening face serums that have vitamin A, exfoliating enzymes or lush hydrating ingredients, depending on what I’m targeting. It’s important to not overdo it in the exfoliating enzyme department, especially if you acid tone, so that’s why serums with gentle moisture from hyaluronic acid and ceramides always get a spot in the collection, too.

Find my face serum reviews in the archives.

Creams or Balms

A great, cushiony balm is always welcome on my face at night — but I’ve also warmed up to creams quite a bit lately. I’ll choose a cream if my skin feels tight and dehydrated, and I may even layer a little bit of balm over flaky areas.

I’ll go straight balm if I want to feel cushioned and cocooned in thick goodness (and have a little time to let everything settle in). Balms tend to get more play in colder weather and targeted use in warmer weather.

Creams are seeing more play overall recently, as I’m rediscovering their magical, lightweight hydrating ways during warmer weather. Sometimes I skip creams and balms altogether and go straight from serum to facial oil. Options, I say!

Find my reviews of creams and balms in the archives.

Face Oils

At night, anything goes. I love simple, one-ingredient face oils when layering over creams or balms. It’s also important to have a high quality, one-ingredient face oil on hand when your skin is experiencing irritation. Gotta tone it all down and keep it simple.

If I’m skipping the layering step, I choose more complex ingredient blends to get the biggest bang — think facial oils that include a variety of actives, vitamins and antioxidants. I love finding interesting blends that include potent extracts. Vitamin C isn’t as important to me at night because of the lack of sun exposure (though it doesn’t hurt to use at night!).

Find my reviews of face oils in the archives.

Eye Treatments

At night, I like to indulge in eye balms and eye oils. Eye balms come into play in cold weather, and eye oils treat my peepers when it’s warm. I’m pretty consistent about using eye treatments at night (again, I’m obsessed with evening moisture and hydration), and patting in product around my eyes doesn’t feel like it’s adding too much additional time to my leisurely evening routine.

See my reviews of eye balms, eye creams and eye oils & serums in the archives.

Acne Treatments

Now here comes the glamorous part. Acne. In my 30s. Sigh. Because my breakouts tend to be hormonal (chin and jawline), I spot-treat with targeted acne balms and treatments instead of spreading unnecessary product all over my face.

My hope is that my overall routine is preventative, but when zits happen, I spot treat as much as possible to keep myself from going in for the squeeze.

See my reviews of acne-fighting products in the archives.

Lip Balms

A lip balm is a lip balm, right? Well, kind of. Except, at night, I like thicker lip balms to coat my lips so I don’t wake up dry and cracked in the morning. There’s a few lip balms that I like for both day and night, and only one or two that I absolutely must have for nighttime only.

Regardless, I keep lip balms everywhere and have a dedicated space for one on my bedside table.

Find my lip balm picks on my “faves” page.

What product categories are in your evening skincare routine? Do you acid tone at night? Tell me in the comments!


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