Order of Operations : when and how to use your skincare products

facial care complexity portland skin careFacial regimens can be so involved, can’t they?

Well, actually, they can be as complicated or as simple as you’d like them to be. Everyone has different skin needs or different time constraints. While one client may simply opt to use a cleanser and a moisturizer, another may spend 20 minutes in the bathroom slathering on cleansers, serums, eye creams, masques, and a bevy of other products.

Whatever your regimen is, whatever your needs may be, it’s confusing at times to remember when and how to use your skincare products.

A few common questions come up, such as:

“What’s a serum, and when do I use it?”
“Should I put my eye cream on before or after my moisturizer?”
“How often should I use a masque? Do I let the masque dry? Wear it in the shower? HELP.”

As the resident skin therapist at Watershed, I’m here to assist!

Here’s the complete guide on how and when to use your goodies you picked up after your facial appointment.

The Basic Order:

  1. Cleanser
  2. Toner/Serum (a toner rebalances the pH of the skin, a serum is a deep treatment designed to drop into the deepest layer of your skin. Serums vary in their designated treatments, ranging from acne, to firm skin, to age/sun spots.)
  3. Moisturizer
  4. Eye cream

The High Maintenance Order:

  1. Cleanser
  2. Exfoliant*
  3. Serum in the morning, Toner at night
  4. Moisturizer/Night cream (former is day, latter is night)
  5. Eye cream
  6. Lip balm

Bonus: if you’re using a powder based exfoliant, like Eminence’s Strawberry-Rhubarb Dermafoliant, or Dermalogica’s Daily Microfoliant, you can actually mix those into your cleanser for a “power cleanse”. Two birds, one stone, perfect for the low maintenance client.

The Deluxe Weekly or Bi-Weekly:

  1. Cleanser
  2. Exfoliant
  3. Masque
  4. Serum or Toner
  5. Moisturizer/Night creamWatershed asthetics skin care portland
  6. Eye cream
  7. Lip balm

Also—wondering how much of your product to use?

I found this chart online a while ago, and I don’t know who to credit for it. But it’s highly accurate, and I share it as often as possible. So I’m going to share it again.

So what about a masque? When should you use it, and how? There’s a few ways, and they all serve a different purpose.

  • Use in in the shower. The easiest way. Apply a teaspoon or so to the entire face, neck, and decollete (upper chest/clavicle area) and wear it for 3-5 minutes. This is best for stimulating masques, anti-aging/firming masques, or any kind of anti-oxidant/gel/vitamin/cream-based masque.
  • Apply it to dry skin and let it dry, outside of the shower. This is best for clay or acne masques. This can also be worn for a little longer than the aforementioned masque step. I’ve worn clear skin or acne masques for upwards of 30 minutes while I’m cleaning my house or just relaxing. Highly effective. Use a warm, damp washcloth to remove the masque and proceed with a serum, moisturizer, and eye cream. Preferably done at night, after you’ve taken off your makeup.
  • Use it as a spot treatment. For firm skin/anti-aging/gel/vitamin/cream-based, use a tiny bit around the crow’s feet (eye) area or around your “smile” lines (cheeks/mouth). For acne-based masques, use it on a blemish and sleep in it overnight.
  • Sleep in it! If it’s for acne/blemishes, apply it only to the affected areas. For firm skin, apply the appropriate masque to the entire face and neck. Let dry, and hit the sack. The science behind this is particularly fantastic: if you’re “freezing” your expression lines and saggy/tired skin with a masque, and maybe you sleep on your side at night, your skin will NOT fold over and it’ll be perfectly taut. Welcome to amazing, glowing skin in the morning.

Thanks for reading! Beautiful skin doesn’t have to be hard, it just requires a little bit of careful consideration.

Written by Amanda Koennecke


I’ve made it my life’s work to bring health and happiness into my clients’ lives by way of skin care solutions. With a pursuant interest in the Ayurvedic health system (dating back to 5000 BC), my treatments always come from a loving, healing place. From skin detoxification, to nourishing facial massage, to extractions, to light therapy for the treatment of age spots, everyone has a chief concern they’d like to address.