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Everything You Should Know About Morning and Evening Skincare Routines

by Deborah Duffey, Chief Product Development officer and President  Oct 15, 2021

Skincare routines are most effective when products are used in the right order at the right time. Building specific morning and evening routines can help. While it can initially be overwhelming deciding when to use what, once you learn some basic concepts it will be easy to build your routines. When it comes to the products you use, crossover is expected, but some that you use in the morning you won’t use again in the evening, and vice versa. An obvious product you might only use in the morning in sunscreen, while heavier creams might be reserved for night. There’s also specific reasons why a product might be reserved solely for the evening or morning, which we’ll cover as well.

What’s the difference between morning and evening routines?

There are a few ways that morning and evening skincare routines differ and ways to choose when to use which products. The first is due to how the products feel on the skin. In the morning—and especially if you’ll be putting on makeup or heading out into the heat for the day—the products on your face need to be lightweight and pair well with foundation or concealer. In some cases, the products you apply in the morning need to act as a base for makeup.

The second reason to apply products at certain times is due to the goals of each product. The morning routine prepares your skin to face the day—protecting it from the sun, keeping pollution, dirt, and oil at bay, and allowing your natural, healthy skin to thrive. Nighttime is when skin can handle heavier products without interfering with your lifestyle, it’s a chance to apply products that make your skin sensitive to the sun, and it’s also the best opportunity for treatments—which brings us to the last major difference between morning and evening routines.

One big reason some products are better suited for nighttime application is because of the way skin functions. Our organs, including skin (which is our biggest organ!), do most of their regenerative work at night. While we sleep, skin starts what we can call its “repair” mode. While skin can and does repair itself during the day, at night this mode happens faster and more efficiently. Sleep is so important to skin rejuvenation that losing sleep can actually have a negative effect on how your skin looks the next day—ever notice a dull, lackluster appearance after a night of bad sleep?

What skincare products should I use in the morning?

The products you use in the morning should protect the skin from environmental factors, prepare it for the day ahead, support a healthy glow, and play well under makeup (if you choose to wear it).

Cleanser is optional, but it’s a good idea if you’ve applied heavy night creams the evening before, if you want to remove oil and sweat build-up, or to remove any hair products that transferred to your pillow and then to your skin while you slept. At minimum, cleanse with water. If you use a physical exfoliator, this can be used in the morning after cleansing or in place of your cleanser.

Next, toners can be used. Depending on your skin type, you might be using a toner that adds moisture to skin or a toner that prevents skin from becoming too oily throughout the day. This is also a good time for acid exfoliants, if you use them, or these can be saved until your evening routine. AHAs, like glycolic acid, can make your skin sensitive to the sun, however, so it’s smart to save these for nighttime unless you are fully committed to daily sunscreen use. (BHAs, like salicylic acid, don’t have the same sun-sensitizing effect.)

The morning is the perfect time to use antioxidants that protect skin throughout the day. Vitamin C is an especially great option for your morning routine, as it can help protect the skin from the sun. Or, use a serum with multiple antioxidants to get benefits from each.

If you use eye cream, choose one with peptides and ingredients that help tighten skin and reduce the appearance of lines and wrinkles. Reducing puffiness by using eye serums that target swelling and dark circles makes eyes look more awake. Added hydration can also help your eye makeup apply smoothly and last longer.

Next, moisturizer can be applied in the morning. Formulas that are non-greasy and lightweight will keep skin from looking oily, although drier skin types may prefer a heavier hydrator in the morning. It’s up to you to choose the moisturizer that feels best on your skin, and the choice often changes with the season.

The final morning routine step is non-negotiable: sunscreen. If your sunscreen is also a moisturizer, or if your skin doesn’t need extra hydration, you can skip moisturizer in the mornings and use your sunscreen in place of it.

What skincare products should I use in the evening?

Every evening skincare routine should begin with a cleanser. In some cases, double cleansing is a good idea to help remove heavy makeup and oil. Double cleansing involves two cleanses: first, an oil cleanser to remove anything on the face, followed by a traditional cleanser to remove the oil and completely clear the face of makeup.

If you use an exfoliator and don’t use it in the mornings, this is a good place to add it into your evening routine. If not, skip ahead to toners or acid exfoliators. In most cases, you can use the same toner you used in the morning. If you use an acid exfoliator, this is a good time for that, too. More intense acid exfoliators, including peels, should be used in the evening. This will give your skin a chance to renew itself overnight before you expose it to the sun or apply makeup onto it. The evenings can also be a good time to use more luxurious treatments. While hydrating masks or sheet masks can be used in the morning, most people prefer to save these for the evenings when there is more time to relax and enjoy the products.

Eye creams can be applied morning and evening, and while you can use the same eye cream you use in the mornings, the evening is a good opportunity to use a thicker cream or an eye cream with more regenerative properties.

Oils are another product that are best used in the evenings. They are fine to incorporate into a morning routine, too, but some people find they interact with other products or makeup, and can make skin appear too oily during the day.

Finally, your evening routine is the best time to use thick creams. This gives them time to sink into skin, and they can lock in moisture during the night and help skin’s overnight renewal process.

If you use any treatments, like retinoids, for example, these may have their own particular usage instructions (like not using any products underneath them, or suggestions to use only in the evening, only in the morning, or during both). Usually, these treatments are best applied at night as well since it gives them the chance to work while you sleep, so make room in your evening routine for these.

What time should I do my skincare routines?

There’s no exact time you need to do your skincare routines, nor do they need to be started and completed all at once. For example, you might begin your day by immediately washing your face and applying a hydrating serum, but then take time to enjoy your coffee or get dressed before continuing the rest of your routine. At night, the same principle applies. It’s not necessary to complete your skincare routine right before you go to bed. You can wash your face and apply your treatments at any time once you’ve decided to settle in for the evening.

Some products work best when given time to sink into skin. For example, your makeup might apply smoother if you let your sunscreen completely dry before putting anything on top of it. In the evening, some products work best on their own, making it necessary to leave about 30 minutes between products. In general, though, there’s no need to overthink the exact timing of your morning and evening routines. As long as the right products are used either in the morning or evening, you’ll find success with your routine.

A morning skincare routine

Wondering what a real-life morning skincare routine looks like? This is a good example of what products someone might use if they were using Kara Vita products.

First, wash your face with Purify and Cleanse, which has natural antiseptic properties due to lemon and lavender oil. It’s perfect to wake up your skin in the morning!

Next, follow up with Purifying Antioxidant Treatment to protect skin throughout the day. The treatment uses vitamin C and retinol in a gentle formula that works well in the morning and at night.

For a boost of hydration and protection, use Secret Code DNArescue™. The lotion is sprayed onto the face, and it’s super lightweight for morning wear. This, too, can be used in the evenings as well.

Next, brighten eyes with Eyewish!™ Bioserum. The lightweight formula uses vitamin C, green tea extract, and honeysuckle to lighten discoloration and reduce any puffiness or sagging.

Finally, Face Essentials with SPF 15 provides anti-aging benefits while protecting the skin from sun damage, and it hydrates skin so you don’t need to apply a separate moisturizer underneath it if you don’t want to. (The cleanser, antioxidant treatment, and sunscreen can be bought together in a three-piece set, available here.)

Remember that not all of these products are necessary every morning! Learn to work with what your skin needs each day, and adjust your products accordingly.

An evening skincare routine

A nighttime routine using Kara Vita products includes heavier products that might interfere with makeup during the day, and those products that work best at night.

First, start with a cleanser. You can use the same cleanser you used in the morning, or try something new like Glycol-X Cleanser, which exfoliates and brightens skin.

If you want to use a mask, try the PBH Exfoliating Facial Masque. It takes just ten minutes to use, and gently exfoliates with pineapple fruit extract!

After, continue treatment with the Glycol-X Treatment Lotion, which can be used during the evening or morning. The glycolic-rich serum helps to stimulate skin renewal and to shed dead skin cells.

Finish off your evening routine with Up Tight Firming Peptide Cream. The anti-aging night cream is extremely concentrated, with a 45% formula of peptides and bioactives.

By using products like these in the evening, you’ll be taking full advantage of skin’s renewal and healing cycles. But it’s important to note that with well-formulated products (like Kara Vita’s, which use nanotechnology to deliver ingredients deep into skin), you’ll see the benefits whether you use it in the morning or in the evening.