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My Evening Skincare Routine: A Step By Step Guide

Jessica Hapak
ByJessica HapakAug 20, 2021 | 2 comments

In my morning skincare routine article, I'd given a glimpse into my 'rise and shine' regimen. My evening routine, however, is when I am able to take my time and use skincare as more of a ritual than just a routine. Often times you'll find me multi-masking, and others I will be reaching for retinol products that claim to help me age gracefully. When I have received a new skincare product like a fancy serum or face mask in a box, the evening is when I like to try them out because I'm able to give more care and attention to the experience. Want to learn more about how my evening skincare routine works, and the variations that come with them? Let’s dive in!

Step 1: Cleanse, Then Cleanse Again

My Go-Tos: Dermalogica Precleanse Cleansing Oil & Youth To The People Superfood Antioxidant Cleanser

No matter how the rest of my evening routine goes, there's one step I never want to miss: washing my face. I wear sunscreen on most days that end in y, and I generally have at least a small amount of makeup on. I also work a pretty stressful day job as a family law attorney, so when I come home after a long day, my goal is to relax and decompress. For me, that usually involves soaking in a bathtub with some bubble bath and Epsom salt, and that’s also where I will wash my face. Nine times out of ten, my evening cleanse will be a double cleanse; I’ll use a cleansing balm or cleansing oil (like the Dermalogica Precleanse), and then follow up with a second cleanse (like the Youth to The People Superfood Antioxidant Cleanser) to rinse away every last bit of residue, and give myself a clean slate. If a cleanser came in a subscription box and I need to try it out, I’ll usually incorporate that in my evening routine, when I have more time to devote to it (compared to the mornings when I’m a zombie just going through the motions). On rare occasions, this is actually the only step in my evening routine, so I really focus on using cleansers that do not dry out my skin.

Step 2: Double Masking

My Go-Tos: Korres Greek Yoghurt Superdose Face Mask & Peter Thomas Roth Potent-C Power Brightening Hydra-Gel Eye Patches

I love to mask- it’s definitely my favorite skincare step, and since there is no shortage of masks in my skincare stash, I reach for them just about every day. Sometimes that means applying a mask in the bathtub when I’m done cleansing (like the clay-based Youth to The People Superclay Purify + Clear Power Mask), or the hydrating and nourishing Korres Greek Yoghurt Superdose Face Mask to wear while I soak, and then I rinse it away right before I step out of the tub. Other times, if it’s a hydrating mask I want to leave on for a long time (like the Dermalogica Melting Moisture Mask or I’m From Honey Mask), I’ll apply it right when I step out of the tub, and leave it on for a while (if you’re curious on why I love these masks, check out my feature on Honey Face Masks).

If I’m not in the mood to deal with washing off a mask (what can I say, sometimes that just involves more energy than I want to expend), I head straight to my stash of sheet masks. Masking is part of my skincare routine and my self-care routine, so a lot of my downtime during weekday evenings will have something to do with a mask. I’ll frequently follow a wash-off mask with a sheet mask, and wear the sheet mask while relaxing on the couch (especially if I used a clay-based or exfoliating mask). If I am really feeling the self-care vibes when I’m done with my sheet mask, I’ll reach for an eye mask like the Peter Thomas Roth Potent-C Power Brightening Hydra-Gel Eye Patches or the Wander Beauty Baggage Claim Eye Masks (which I discovered through Birchbox, I believe!). Masks - the sheet variety in particular - are incredibly common in the K-Beauty boxes I review, so even if I'm too tired to do a wash-off mask, I’m definitely doing a sheet mask. At this point, for as much potential skincare benefits sheet masks can give me, I also use them for the way they help me relax (they’re cooling to the skin, which helps me to ease up on my facial tension, and I frequently use a jade roller over the sheet mask to further help me relax).

Step 3: Treating With Active Ingredients

My Go-Tos: Murad Retinol Youth Renewal Night Cream & Biossance Squalane + BHA Pore-Minimizing Toner

My evening routine is when I incorporate more skincare treatments like an exfoliating serum or retinol. I don’t have a prescription, so all of my retinols are OTC and not prescription strength, but they still can pack a punch if you’re not careful. I like to sandwich my retinol between layers of hydration (like a hydrating sheet mask before and a heavy moisturizer after). The retinols I have in my rotation right now are the Murad Retinol Youth Renewal Night Cream and the Sunday Riley Luna Retinol Night Oil (both of these came from my Ipsy Glam Bag Plus subscription, actually). Even though one is a moisturizer and one is an oil, I still try to sandwich them just to be on the safe side because I have dry, sensitive skin. Similarly, in the past year, I have really focused on not over-exfoliating, and being more intentional about when I do reach for the lactic acid. My current chemical exfoliant is the Biossance Squalane + BHA Pore-Minimizing Toner from the Trendmood Volume 11 box, and I’ll sweep that over my face about three nights a week on dry skin, and follow with the rest of my evening routine.

Step 4: Eye Cream

My Go-Tos: Glow Recipe Avocado Melt Retinol Eye Sleeping Mask

The rest of my evening routine happens similarly to my morning routine in that the final few steps are just kind of slapped on. If I didn’t mask, or if I did but the serum has dried, I’ll apply toner just to get my skin damp (I love facial mists for this specifically). Then, I'll apply an eye cream. Currently, my favorite one is this green jar of goodness-aka the Glow Recipe Avocado Melt Retinol Eye Sleeping Mask. Sometimes if I am really feeling extra, I’ll apply an eye serum before my eye cream (I will never spend my hard-earned dollars on an “eye serum,” but Allure sent one in a recent box, and if I have it, I am going to use it), but that is only on the nights when I’m not in a hurry.

Step 5: Moisturizers in All Forms

Because my skin is dry, I really like to layer on my serums and lightweight moisturizers. The top three in my rotation right are the new Glow Recipe Avocado Ceramide Redness Relief Serum, Stratia Liquid Gold, and the Then I Met You Calming Tide Gel Cream. Those last two products can definitely be used as your last step if you have oily skin or don't like applying heavy creams; they're lightweight, but still packed with skin barrier-boosting ingredients to help you have healthy skin. I personally like to apply products on top of those, however I look for something thicker that is a bit more occlusive, like fresh Black Tea Firming Overnight Mask or First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream.

If my skin is feeling especially dry or sensitive, the cherry on top of my routine is a nourishing face oil. I love face oils- I use them on their own, or I'll mix a few drops into another product depending on how my skin is doin. I do have quite a few face oils in my stash-  Stratia Fortify, Josie Maran 100% Argan Oil, and First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Oat & Hemp Seed Dry Oil are all ones I have used in the past week.

Make sure you're hydrating your lips too! I like to moisturize mine with the Laneige Lip Sleeping Mask (I already own the original berry flavor, but I'm stoked to be getting the Apple Lime flavor in my August Ipsy Glam Bag X) or the Beth Collins MD Pour La Bouche Lip Balm (I actually discovered that lip balm from November 2018 New Beauty Test Tube, and have repurchased it twice).

Variations: They Happen

My Go-To: Kora Organics Turmeric Glow Moisturizer

While the above steps are what my routine normally consists of, sometimes that just isn’t happening. While I really and truly love skincare, sometimes all I have the energy for is a double cleanse that consists of using a micellar-soaked cotton pad, twice. On those nights, I really try to reach for a one-and-done product to just keep my skin from drying out like the Laniege Cica Sleeping Mask or the Kora Organics Turmeric Glow Moisturizer. Additionally, I will sometimes wash my face right when I get home and throw on a sheet mask… and then fall asleep on the couch and not do any other skincare for the rest of the night. I’m not a robot who can stick to a perfect 10-step skincare routine, I just do my best to take care of my skin and myself in the process. Sometimes my body needs rest more than it needs an eye cream, and that is okay. I will say that in the past few years, I’ve been able to avoid sleeping in my makeup the way I did when I was younger (even if it’s just a makeup wipe), but other than that, I do what I can, when I can. Skincare should be fun, and I’ve figured out some evening routines that allow me to truly enjoy the process of slathering goop on my face.

There you have it- my standard evening routine with the most common variations of it. I really love applying skincare and treating it like a self-care ritual, but the evenings are when I have time to actually do so.

I'd love to know what your evening routine looks like- do you use tretinoin? Do you wash your face and call it a day? Have any questions about masks or serums I have tried and can recommend? Let's swap skincare secrets and let us know in the comments!

Ready to discover your next favorite beauty product? Check out some of our readers' favorites that hit all the marks.

Jessica Hapak
Jessica Hapak
I am a staunch believer that pineapple doesn’t belong on pizza and when I’m not working as a family law attorney I enjoy hiking the Louisiana trails (alligator sightings are a favorite!) or relaxing with Duchess, my cat. I’m a sucker for anything labeled a mystery box and I’ve never met a bath bomb I didn’t like.

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Thank you Jessica for your always thorough articles. Your attention to detail must be very appreciated in your work as an attorney.
I need to get better with my nighttime routine. This is some good information to help me weed out what I don’t need and add some things that I wasn’t doing.

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Jessica Hapak

Lisa this was such a lovely comment to read. I’m so glad you appreciate it and found it helpful!

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