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My Morning Skincare Routine – A Step By Step Guide

Jessica Hapak
ByJessica HapakJul 30, 2021 | 3 comments

If you're a big skincare fan like I am, you may be like me and find it interesting to see the skincare routines that others do. I thought it would be fun to explain my morning routine, my thoughts behind it, and where testing products fits into it. I’m not a Stepford wife- I don’t do the same exact morning routine every single morning. Sometimes I’m in a rush to get out the door and off to work, and sometimes it’s the weekend and I don’t plan on going anywhere except from my bedroom to my living room and kitchen. Below, I’ve broken down my standard morning routine, and then after that I'll explain where my routine varies. For perspective, my skin is dry and can be sensitive if my allergies or rosacea are flaring up, and while I know the experts say we "should" patch-test new products, I rarely actually do it (I'm human, guilty as charged).  Let's dive in!

Step 1: Cleansing

My Go-To: Gl0w Recipe Blueberry Bounce Gentle Cleanser

I actually hate washing my face at a sink, so if I’m taking a shower in the morning I’ll use a gel cleanser like the Glow Recipe Blueberry Bounce Gentle Cleanser. I go to bed with a clean face so I don’t need anything heavy duty, and I like how gel cleansers give me a fresh face without stripping my skin of its natural oils. If I’m not taking a shower, I’m reaching for a micellar water. I recently finished a full-size bottle of the Fresh Kombucha Cleansing Treatment (I liked it, but the price is steep for what you get), and I am currently rotating through a few I have from subscription boxes (like the one pictured above from my Skinstore x Filorga box).

Step 2: Toner/Essence

My Go-To: Origins Mega Mushroom Soothing Treatment Lotion

Once my skin is clean, the next step for me is to get some instant moisture back to my skin with a few layers of a hydrating toner or essence. One that is currently on my vanity is the Origins Mega Mushroom Soothing Treatment Lotion from this Look Fantastic box. I will usually apply one thin layer of that as a base to start with (with my hands... why let a cotton pad absorb all that goodness?). If I have a toner from a subscription box, I’ll wait for that first layer to absorb and then try out the one I need to review. If I don’t, I'll move straight to the next step, because most serums absorb better when you apply them to a damp face. Sometimes, if my skin is feeling extra dry or sensitive, I'll apply a soothing toner or essence multiple times, letting my skin absorb it between applications.

Step 3: Serums

My Go-To: iS Clinical Active Serum

I love to layer serums, and my normal routine is to apply a cocktail of serums from thinnest to thickest. I’ll frequently use the iS Clinical Active Serum to help treat and prevent acne, then use a hydrating serum like the one pictured above from Herbivore. I don’t really pay too much attention to what some of the products are named- I go by thickness, so if it fits in my routine at a different spot than what others say it should go in (like if its called an ampoule or essence, or even a gel-cream), I just shrug my shoulders. Usually, the last serum I apply is one with vitamin C or antioxidants (or both- lately I've been using this Peter Thomas Roth Vitamin C serum followed by the True Botanicals Chebula serum that I have almost finished and came in a previous Trendmood box). I’ve had multiple vitamin C’s irritate my skin, so it’s not a must-have ingredient for me, but I really try to use a serum that features some type of antioxidants. These will help to prevent pollution and free radicals from damaging my skin when I go out into the world, and they can actually work synergistically with your sunscreen to protect your skin. Serums tend to appear frequently in the boxes I review, so my key here is that I will only test one serum at a time. I really try to test only one new product at a time to get a better feel for it, so if I have a serum to review, I'll hold off on trying a toner or moisturizer and will save that for my evening routine or another day.

Step 4: Eye Cream

My Go-To: MZ Skin Soothe & Smooth Collagen Activating Eye Complex

Honestly, I don’t have any eye creams that I truly love. I’m using them more for preventative measures rather than to treat any issues since puffiness and wrinkles aren’t a concern I have right now, but I get enough in subscription boxes that I always have one on hand. If my only option for eye creams was to go out and buy one, I’d honestly skip this step and just use my regular moisturizer. That being said, I do appreciate the little luxury that using an eye cream can bring to a routine- I have no idea why that MZ Skin eye cream costs $142, but I definitely feel fancier when I use it (and keep an eye out for my upcoming Skinstore Expert's Choice Edit Review, where I will go more into detail on this little pink jar of fanciness).

Step 5: Moisturizer

My Go-To: Stratia Liquid Gold

In the mornings I like my thin layers, so I rarely reach for a thicker moisturizer. Sometimes I’ll grab Stratia Liquid Gold and use that as my moisturizer under a hydrating sunscreen. Other times I’m using a lightweight gel-cream or a moisturizer with a more whipped, airy texture. My big goal here is to lock in all of my hydrating layers without feeling like my face has heavy products on it, so I opt for moisturizers with Centella Asiatica or some other soothing ingredient to keep my skin calm. I've had sensitive skin for most of my life, and I really believe that my skin doesn't experience flare-ups as often because I try to focus on products made for sensitive skin, even when I'm not experiencing sensitivity issues (the TIMY Calming Tide Gel Cream is perfect for this- you can read more about why I love it here).

Step 6: SPF

My Go-To: Supergoop GlowScreen SPF 40

You may be tired of hearing me talk about it, but sunscreen is such an important step- probably the most important one in your entire routine. Along with its ability to actually prevent skin cancer, proper sunscreen application also helps prevent skin damage that leads to dark spots and wrinkles. If I used a lightweight moisturizer in the step before, I’ll usually use a heavier, hydrating sunscreen like this one from Dermalogica. If I used a thicker moisturizer, then I’ll probably reach for Unseen or GlowScreen from Supergoop. Sunscreens have also been showing up a bit frequently in my subscription boxes (love it), so if I have one I need to review from a subscription box, I try it out here too (and cross my fingers the combination of products I just applied won’t result in pilling, which is what happens when you mix some skincare products that have silicones and others don't- the product on top can 'ball up'). Keep an eye out for my upcoming reviews that will feature the EltaMD and Frudia sunscreens pictured above, and for more of my thoughts on the other sunscreens I've mentioned, check out my list of sunscreens I recommend that I've tried through subscription boxes.


The 6 steps listed above may sound like a lot, but honestly my morning routine almost never takes more than 5 minutes to finish. I would say this is my standard Monday-Friday routine, and it works for me and my skin. I recently saw something on Instagram that said you should wait minutes between your skincare steps, and even if that is true, that isn't about to happen when I value sleep as much as I do. And if I hit snooze on my alarm (it's been known to happen), sometimes I don't have the extra five minutes to do everything listed above. When that happens I reach for a simple two step routine: a quick swipe of a Micellar water-soaked cotton pad, followed by a hydrating sunscreen. I really do my best to not leave the house without applying sunscreen, but the rest of my lotions and potions are optional if I don’t have the time. The other common variation in my morning routine falls on the weekend; days where I’m supposed to relax after a busy work week. If you ask the experts, you should apply sunscreen even if you’re staying indoors because those UV rays still come through clouds and windows. If I don’t plan on doing anything other than relaxing with my kitten, Goose, I’m not listening to the experts. Sometimes on these days, I don’t do any morning routine at all, and other times the extent of my morning routine is applying a sheet mask before getting comfortable on the couch.

And that's my standard morning routine, with the most common variations of it. I really love applying skincare and treating it like a self-care ritual, but the mornings aren't when I am going to take my time (any extra time spent applying skincare could have been time I slept). My evening routine looks very different from this- once I get home from work, I'll test out any masks I need to review, and there are some skincare products I only will use at night. Keep an eye out for my P.M. part two, where I will go more into detail about my evening routine. In the meantime, I'd love to know more about your morning skincare routine- do you do 10 steps, or is a wash-and-go more your style? 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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Great post! I need to try that TIMY gel.

My AM routine is much shorter than my PM because I cannot stand feeling greasy or like I have a lot on my face. I don’t really have any HG brands in my AM routine and usually use whatever I have in my stash. Here’s the current version:

Cleanse with water or ELF Watermelon Jelly Pop
Toner: Tony Moly Chok Chok Green Tea Watery Skin
Whatever Vit. C sample I am using: Currently it is Strivectin Super-C Retinol Brighten and Correct, which is wonderful.
A gel moisturizer or hydrator: Currently rotate between Clinique Moisture Surge and Origins Original.
Eye Cream: Origins Ginzing Refreshing (I use it more for the glow lol).
SPF: SuperGoop Unseen. I have a couple of moisturizers with SPF that I have been testing (Peter Thomas Roth and Dermatologica) too.

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This was a very fun and interesting read, Jessica! I am super into skincare but it didn’t always used to be fun. I still shudder at all the issues I had to go through…..I wouldn’t even let my husband see me bare faced until I felt better about my skin…..oh the horror and the nightmares.

Anyway, I really appreciated this post. I do have to ask if you have any issues with pilling. I find the more I layer, the more issues I tend to have.

My morning routine consists of:
Washing my face or using a toner to “clean” it. Vitamin C serum. Resveratrol plus ferulic acid mixed with vitamin C or squalane oil. Moisturizer. Eye cream. Sunscreen.

I mix out products all the time but do have some favorites. Thanks again for sharing!

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Jessica Hapak

Hi Snow!
I sometimes have issues with pilling, – the most recent example being the Filorga Time Filling Cream! I don’t really use products that have silicones in my morning routine unless it’s sunscreen. If I try to use a silicone product in my layers, that’s when I have issues with pilling. I’m not anti-silicone, but they work better for me in my makeup primers + night creams.
Hope that helps!

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