The Perfect Nighttime Skin Routine, Start To Finish

Medically reviewed by
 Dr. Nayantara Santhi

Dr. Nayantara Santhi

Dr. Nayantara Santhi holds an academic position at Northumbria University. After completing her Ph.D. at Northeastern University (Boston, MA), she joined the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School as a post-doctoral fellow to research how sleep and circadian rhythmicity influence our cognitive functioning.

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Last Updated On January 16th, 2024
The Perfect Nighttime Skin Routine, Start To Finish

Key Takeaways

  • Importance of a Comprehensive Routine: A complete nighttime skincare routine involves several steps, including cleansing, exfoliating, toning, treating, moisturizing, and using masks and targeted treatments. Each step serves a specific purpose in promoting healthy and radiant skin.
  • Personalization for Skin Type: Tailor your skincare products and routine to your skin type. Whether you have oily, dry, sensitive, or combination skin, choosing the right products can make a significant difference in achieving your skincare goals.
  • Protecting and Maintaining Skin Health: In addition to skincare products, remember to protect your skin from the sun’s harmful UV rays with SPF during the day. Also, take precautions to prevent skincare product residue from staining your bedding and mattress.

It’s no secret that having a nighttime skin routine is essential for keeping your skin healthy and looking its best. But what exactly should you be doing? We all want to feel confident in our skin and have that feeling of belonging with others.

“Like many physiological functions or characteristics, sleep or lack thereof affects our skin,” says Dr. Nayantara Santhi. “Evidence suggests that sleep loss can affect our skin hydration and elasticity. But it is important to keep in mind at a molecular level circadian rhythmicity also plays a role.”

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“The many cell types that make up the skin undergo changes throughout the day based on circadian rhythms. Thus the nature of the skin itself can vary over a 24-h period. Thus our treatment of skin and its effectiveness may depend on when it is done.”

So, let’s look at the perfect nighttime skincare routine from start to finish to ensure you’re giving your skin the attention it deserves. Ideally, you should do this routine after brushing your teeth before bed, as you want to make sure you’re scrubbing away any lingering toothpaste residue first and not letting it set in with all your serums and creams.

First, we’ll cover the basics of prepping your skin for cleansing, including exfoliation and removing makeup. Then, we’ll move on to cleansing itself – an essential step for removing dirt and impurities from the day. Finally, we’ll discuss moisturizing and applying other products like serums or oils to lock in hydration overnight. Once you incorporate all these steps into your nighttime routine, you’ll be ready to face the world with beautiful, glowing skin!

Are you ready to learn how to create the perfect nighttime skincare routine? If so, keep reading; let’s dive right in!

Cleanse The Oily Skin

A good night time skin routine starts off with cleansing. It’s essential to remove dirt, oil, and makeup that can accumulate throughout the day. Cleansing is also a great way to relax before bed and getting much needed beauty sleep.

As we mentioned, this cleansing step should come after brushing your teeth at night, and not before. Saving your oral hygiene for before bed may seem natural, but burshing your teeth after your skin routine can undo much of your hard work.

Naturally, you also want to remove any glasses or contacts you wear. Not only is sleeping in contacts a bad idea, but the products you use in your routine may contaminate or damage your lenses.

You don’t need anything fancy; a gentle oil cleanser will do just fine. Take your time and massage it onto your face in circular motions, then rinse with warm water. This simple step will help clear away impurities and refresh you before bed.

The washing of your skin is always the first and most crucial step in any skincare routine. If you have oily skin, you don’t need to clean it as often as someone with normal or dry skin would.

Even while most individuals should be washing their faces in the morning and at night, it is particularly essential for those with oily skin to clean their faces in the morning thoroughly.

During the night, even though it may feel like your skin is still clean from the night before, your skin is busy shedding dead skin cells and creating oils. This may make it seem that your skin is still clean.

Because of this, it is advisable to wash one’s face with a decent cleanser that exfoliates twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening. A cleanser or wash containing salicylic acid is an even better option.

Exfoliate Normal & Sensitive Skin

Now that you’ve cleansed your skin, it’s time to move on to the next step, exfoliation. Exfoliating is integral to a nighttime skin care routine because it helps remove dead skin cells and excess dirt from your face. It can also help improve the absorption of other products you use in your routine.

But how do you go about exfoliating? First, you should choose the correct type of exfoliant for your skin type. For those with dry skin, look for gentle exfoliants like mild scrubs or chemical-based exfoliants. Those with oily skin should opt for physical scrubs with larger particles to buff away excess dirt and oil to limit breakouts for those with acne-prone skin concerns. And for sensitive skin types, there are even gentler options, such as enzyme-based exfoliants.

Whichever type of exfoliant you choose, apply it in circular motions and rinse off afterward with lukewarm water. Avoid scrubbing too harshly as this could irritate your skin and cause redness or breakouts. After rinsing off the exfoliant thoroughly, pat dry your face with a clean towel before moving on to your nighttime skincare routine!

Skin Toning

Now that you’ve exfoliated, it’s time to move on to the next step in your nighttime skincare routine: toning. Toners are essential to any skin care regimen and can help balance your skin’s pH levels after cleansing. They can also help remove excess dirt and oil, leaving your skin feeling refreshed and hydrated.

If you need help determining which type of toner is right for you, look at the active ingredients list on the label. You’ll want to avoid anything with alcohol or fragrances, as these can be too harsh for some skin types. Look for natural ingredients like witch hazel, aloe vera, chamomile, or cucumber extract, which are all known to be gentle but effective.

Once you’ve chosen the right toner, apply it to a cotton pad and gently wipe it over your face in circular motions. This will help ensure that every area of your face gets an even application and will help lock in moisture for softer, smoother-looking skin by morning! So go ahead and give yourself a little extra love tonight – your skin will thank you for it.


Now that you’ve cleansed and toned your skin, it’s time to treat it. Treating your skin at night is one of the most critical steps in any skin care routine. It can help replenish the moisture barrier and improve the skin’s overall health.

A common way to do this is by using a moisturizer or serum. A moisturizer will help keep your skin hydrated and healthy. At the same time, a serum is more targeted, helping to reduce signs of aging and brighten the complexion. You can also use an eye cream or special spot treatments for any areas that need extra attention.

Take a few minutes each night to give your skin some love and it’ll thank you. After applying all your products, relax with a face mask or other self-care activity before bed. Your nighttime skincare routine is complete!


Moisturizing is one of the most critical steps in your nighttime skincare routine and should never be skipped. After treating your skin with actives and serums, you’ll want to lock in the goodness by adding some hydration. Moisturizing helps create a barrier on the surface of your skin that protects it from the elements and keeps it looking fresh and healthy.

But which type of moisturizer should you use? Generally speaking, if you have oily or combination skin, go for a lightweight option like a lotion or gel cream. For drier skin types, opt for something better, like an ointment or cream. It’s important to pick something tailored to your needs to get the best results possible.

So make sure to take advantage of moisture. It’s essential to having beautiful-looking skin – now and into the future. If you take the time to find the right product for your complexion, you’ll be well on your way to achieving glowing perfection every night.

Apply Eye Cream

Now that you’ve moisturized your skin, it’s time to give special attention to the delicate area around your eyes with eye creams. Applying eye cream is an essential step for nighttime skin care. It helps protect this sensitive area from environmental stressors, keeps it hydrated, and can even help reduce the appearance of wrinkles. Plus, it’s super easy to do.

Take a small amount of eye cream and gently pat it around the orbital bone, or the bone surrounding your eyes. Make sure you avoid getting too close to your eyes, and don’t forget to blend into your temples. Eye cream should be applied both morning and night for maximum benefits.

When you’re done applying eye cream, you can rest assured that you’re giving yourself the best possible nighttime skin care routine. Taking a few minutes each day to give extra attention to your face will help keep your skin looking healthy and radiant now and well into the future!

Some skincare ingredients may lead to eye irritation if they migrate into the eyes during sleep, so it’s essential to choose eye-friendly products. Avoid applying products too close to the eyes to prevent discomfort in the morning, such as waking up with dry eyes.

Use a Face Mask

As you round out your nighttime skin care routine, it’s time to take your results to the next level. Applying a face mask can help enhance the effects of all the hard work you put in before.

You don’t need to use a mask every night – once or twice a week is great – but when you do, make sure to use one that fits your skin type and needs. If you’re looking for hydration, choose a moisturizing face mask; if you want brighter skin, look for one with brightening or exfoliating ingredients.

Your face mask should be applied after cleansing and toning and before moisturizing. Leave it on for 10-15 minutes, then rinse off with lukewarm water and pat dry with a clean towel. With this step in place, you’ll be ready to finish your routine by locking in the goodness with your favorite moisturizer.

Lip Care

Next is time for the best part of any nighttime skincare routine – lip care. Our lips need love and attention too. Taking a few minutes to pamper them will do wonders in keeping them healthy and hydrated.

But what products should you use? Start by applying a hydrating lip balm with shea butter or jojoba oil. This helps to nourish and seal in moisture, protecting against drying out overnight. Then try a lip scrub to remove dead skin cells, making sure your lips are smooth and soft before bedtime. Finally, apply a moisturizing overnight mask as part of your night skincare routine to help keep your lips soft while you sleep.

Now that you’ve finished your nighttime skin care routine from start to finish, it’s time to snuggle up in bed and enjoy the feeling of having taken good care of yourself! Pampered lips are a vital part of any self-care routine so make sure you remember them when giving yourself TLC.

Neck & Chest Care

Now that our nighttime skincare routine is nearly complete, it’s time to move on to the neck and chest area. This part of your body can often be forgotten regarding self-care. Still, it’s just as important as any other skin area! Taking proper care of your neck and chest will help keep them looking youthful and healthy for years to come.

When caring for this part of yourself, use a gentle cleanser or exfoliant. This will help remove dirt and impurities from the skin without irritating it. Afterward, apply a light moisturizer or serum that’s specifically designed for this area. This will help lock in hydration while also protecting the delicate skin from environmental damage. As an extra step, look for products with antioxidants like vitamin C or E that can help protect against wrinkles.

With these simple steps, you’ll be well on your way to taking great care of your neck and chest. It may sound like a lot of work, but we promise it’s worth it – soft, healthy skin is always worth celebrating!

Don’t Forget Daytime Use of SPF Protection

Finally, let’s talk about SPF protection. Protecting your skin from the sun’s harmful UV rays is essential. And it’s not practical to avoid sunlight for multiple reasons, not least is how light helps regulate the sleep-wake cycle.

After completing your nighttime skin care routine, applying an SPF-enriched moisturizer or sunscreen is important. This will help keep your skin hydrated and protected throughout the day.

The right kind of sunscreen is essential to maximize protection against harmful UV rays. Look for a sunscreen with at least SPF 30 that offers UVA and UVB protection. Make sure to apply liberally and generously to ensure maximum coverage. Remember those hard-to-reach spots like the ears, neck, upper chest, and back of hands as they need extra attention!

It can also be helpful to carry around a small tube of sunscreen with you during the day, so you can reapply as needed throughout the day, especially after swimming or sweating. This extra step can make all the difference in keeping your skin healthy and looking its best.

Tying Up Your Hair Before Applying Product

If you have long hair, you may wish to tie it up out of the way as you apply skincare items or have an at home spa night. Long hair can easily come into contact with your face when you’re applying skincare products. This can transfer oils, dirt, or product residue from your hair onto your skin, potentially leading to breakouts or skin irritation.

Keeping your hair away from your face while applying skincare products promotes better hygiene. It reduces the chances of contaminants from your hair coming into contact with your skin. Plus, some skincare products, particularly those with active ingredients like retinoids or acids, can be harsh on hair strands. Tying up your hair helps protect it from accidental contact with these products.

When tying up your hair, you can use a simple hair tie, a headband, or a hair clip to keep it in place. You may also want to use a loose braid to keep your hair out of the way and make it easier to sleep with long hair.

You also want to be careful if you have wet hair. It’s good to leave time for it to dry if you can before applying skin products, as you want to avoid sleeping with wet hair because of the potential damage to hair strands and the chances of promoting fungal growth.

If your wet hair is long enough to touch your face while applying skincare products, we suggest tying it up or securing it away from your face. This helps prevent hair from transferring moisture or product residue onto your skin.

You may want to sleep in a bonnet, sleep cap, or a hair scarf to keep your hair manageable throughout any tossing and turning.

Protecting Your Mattress & Bedding

While skincare is important, the products can leave a residue on your bedding and sheets. In time, this can lead to unsightly yellowing as the product helps other cast-offs, such as body oils, linger in your sleeping environment. While you can work to remove cosmetics from a mattress, it’s smart to take precautions.

Wait for Products to Absorb

Allow your skincare products to fully absorb into your skin before lying down on your bed. This can help prevent any transfer of product onto your bedding or mattress.

You can perhaps make skincare a part of your pre-bedtime relaxation routine earlier in the evening, pairing your application process with a cup of herbal tea or tart cherry juice for sleep. You may even want to indulge in a warm shower or bath before your skincare routine, as bathing in warm water before bed can help you relax easier for sleep.

Be Cautious with Oily Products

Extra caution is needed when using oily skincare products like facial oils or oil-based serums. Ensure your face is not excessively oily before resting your head on your pillow. You may wish to spread a soft towel across your pillowcase on nights that you use skincare oils to catch any residue.

Apply Products Away from the Bed

When adding skincare products to your bedtime routine, make sure you don’t make them a last-minute task you’re performing right in bed before switching off the lights. Instead, designate a specific area, like your bathroom sink or vanity, for your skincare routine. You may even want to set up a mini fridge in the bedroom nearby, to preserve your products and ensure a pleasantly cool application.

Applying your products elsewhere will help contain any product spills to a controlled space and minimize the risk of accidents on your mattress.

Clean Spills Immediately

Accidents can happen, so if a spill occurs, address it promptly. Blot the affected area with a clean, dry cloth to absorb excess moisture. Avoid rubbing to clean a mattress, as this can push the product further into the fabric.

Use a Mattress Protector

Invest in a high-quality, waterproof mattress protector. These are designed to shield your mattress from spills, stains, and liquids, including skincare products. Make sure it fits securely and covers the entire surface of your mattress.

Wash Bedding Regularly

Develop a routine of washing your bedding regularly, with sheets washed at least once a week and other items as needed. Follow the care instructions on the bedding’s label to maintain its quality.

You can also choose shades of bedding and overall bedroom colors that are unlikely to show discoloration if they become stained by your products.


How do you layer creams and serums?

Most of the time, it makes sense to use the serum first and then moisturizer. This is because serum typically feels lighter than a moisturizer, which is usually heavier. The skin will have more time to absorb the active components if the serum is applied first. Moisturizer is frequently the final step in skin care regimens.

What should I put on my face before bed at night?

Use skin-regenerating treatments at night. Look for components that are healing, exfoliating, and anti-inflammatory. Retinol, hyaluronic acid, alpha-hydroxy acids, and antioxidants are some of the best ingredients to look for in night creams. Retinols aid with brown spots, fine lines, and wrinkles.

What order should I put my face products on?

Typically there are seven steps of skin care. The order is as follows:

  • Step 7: SUNSCREEN

Rejuvenate your skin at night. Find anti-inflammatory, exfoliating, and healing components. Night creams contain retinol, hyaluronic acid, alpha-hydroxy acids, and antioxidants. Retinols improve fine lines, wrinkles, and brown spots.

How much sleep do I need for healthy skin?

Seven to nine hours. People who slept for seven to nine hours a night had skin that was better able to protect and heal itself after being exposed to ultraviolet light, according to a study that was published by the Department of Dermatology at the University Hospitals Case Medical Center in Cleveland, OH. The study found that people who slept for five hours or less had less moisturized skin and were less able to protect themselves.

How can I improve my face skin?

There are several steps to improving skin concerns. The first is to take care of your overall health. Get a responsible amount of sun with sunblock, eat healthy foods and drinks such as green tea or later in the day, a herbal tea for sleep, and always boost hydration. Finally, feel free to see a dermatologist or other skin care experts.


It’s important to take care of your skin before bed, along with looking great by getting a good night’s sleep. And it’s possible to fake the second sometimes, as we have beauty tips on looking well rested when you’re not, though it’s always best to get a full night’s of sleep.

Still, great nighttime skincare routines are essential for healthy and glowing skin, and they can be safer than other purported anti-aging hacks like mouth taping before bed to prevent wrinkles. Starting with a cleanse such as an oil cleanser or water-based cleanser, and then exfoliating, toning, treating, moisturizing, using a face mask, and lip care are all important steps in completing this routine.

In addition to these steps, remember your neck and chest area – they also need to be taken care of. Finally, make sure you finish with SPF protection before going outside. Taking the time for this complete routine will ensure that my skin is healthy and radiant each morning.

By doing this routine regularly, our team has strived for soft and supple skin that will last us throughout the day. With all these steps combined, we can rest assured that our skin is receiving the care it needs for optimal health. Remember: taking the time to nurture our skin will pay off in the future, as while getting enough sleep for good physical health overall.

About the author

Eric Ridenour is a health and wellness writer with a strong focus on sleep and nutrition. With a background in health science and psychology, Eric has a deep understanding of the connection between sleep and overall well-being. His expertise has been sought by various businesses and individuals, and his work has been featured in reputable publications such as Thrive Global, Drug Report, and Authority Magazine. Eric's commitment to promoting better sleep and comprehensive wellness is evident in his writing and consultations. He is a published author working on his second book.

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