The Morning Skincare Mistakes You're Probably Making (2023)

The Morning Skincare Mistakes You're Probably Making (1)

Nighttime skincare routines usually get most of the attention, and as beauty editors, we've definitely fine-tuned ours. But our morning routines are just as important—and impressive, thanks to a collection of tips we've picked up from the pros. Most of these corrected some pretty substantial mistakes we didn't even realize we were making.

It turns out that getting your skin through the day is all about the prep, the products, and some time management on when to use what.

"There is no such thing as a 'correct' skincare routine order, but there's a more optimal way to apply your products. Very often, we have a routine where we use too many products or layer on too many steps in the preparation for the day," says Ava Shamban, MD. "The morning is a time to refresh, gently cleanse, and prepare skin to protect and proactively fight off environmental factors, not to aggravate or be overly treatedwith aggressive actives. Also, by day, we want to focus on strengthening the barrier function, which is the key component to skin's natural protection process."

We spoke to Shamban and dermatologist Rachel Nazarian for their advice on how to achieve a solid morning skincare routine.

Meet the Expert

  • Rachel Nazarian, MD, FAAD, is a board-certified dermatologist with Schweiger Dermatology Group in New York City.
  • Ava Shamban, MD, is a board-certified celebrity dermatologist based in Beverly Hills and is the founder of Ava MD, SkinFive, and The Box by Dr Ava.

Keep reading to learn the skincare mistakes to avoid in the a.m.

01of 07

Not Washing Your Face

Yes, we know, we’re constantly reminding you to wash your face every night to scrub off makeup and the day in general. But it's also crucial to wash your face every morning. Overnight, your skin cells are hard at work. And there’s the matter of your pillowcase—it’s not exactly clean.

"When you sleep, your face is rolling around in the sheets with oils from your hair, dead skin cells from your body, bacteria, saliva, and all of that needs to be washed off before applying your morning regimen," says Nazarian. "This makes the product more effective, but the cleansing also decreases the risk of infection and signs of premature aging. And be sure to wash super gently with a non-soap, non-foaming cleanser—my favorite is the unscented Dove Sensitive Skin Beauty Bar ($6)."

"Cleansing comes first for a reason—to be sure that the canvas is clean and clear," adds Shamban. "A gentle sulfate-free cleanser—like CeraVe Renewing SA Cleanser—is best in general. Mild milk or a hydrating cleanser with peptides is great for regular skin, while a mild salicylic acid cleanser to dislodge dead cells from pores is best for oily or acne-prone skin."

While extreme temperatures of any kind can unbalance the delicate skin on your face, hot water dehydrates. Lukewarm water makes for better cleansing (morning and night).

02of 07

Using Too Many Products

The Morning Skincare Mistakes You're Probably Making (2)

"Very often, we have a routine where we use too many products or layer on too many steps in the preparation for the day," says Shamban. "My gold standards for morning routines include antioxidants, vitamin C, hyaluronic acid, ceramides, niacinamide, polyphenols, glycerin, and tinted sunscreen," says Shamban of the ingredients you should be using. She adds that layering on too many other actives like lactic, glycolic, salicylic is a big skincare mistake, especially first thing in the morning.


03of 07

Skipping the Exfoliating

The Morning Skincare Mistakes You're Probably Making (3)

We know what you’re thinking: Exfoliate in the morning? Isn’t it better to do that at night? The answer is sort of. If you’re a diehard fan of chemical exfoliation, continue to use your glycolic acid pads and the like at night. But chemical exfoliation is only one part of the equation.

Your skin may need physical exfoliation, too. Celebrity esthetician Renée Rouleau says figuring out if you need physical exfoliation is easy; just ask yourself one question: When you do use a grainy, gritty exfoliant, does your skin feel softer and smoother afterward? If the answer is yes, you need to stop relying on chemical exfoliation alone. Rouleau says the best time to use a scrub is in the morning. Overnight you’ve loosened up dead skin cells with your glycolic acid or retinol products, making the morning a perfect time to brush them off.

After washing or scrubbing your face, move quickly. Immediately after patting dry with a clean towel, apply the next step of your skincare routine. Rouleau says that your skin should never stay dry and bare for more than 30 seconds. But that’s the only part of your morning skincare routine you should rush. In order for your skin to properly soak up all of the benefits of each product you apply, you need to give them time to sink in, try three to five minutes.

04of 07

Not Wearing Antioxidants

Antioxidants are beneficial everywhere in your routine, but it's best to use them during the day in your a.m. serum or essence.

During the day, antioxidants can protect your skin from free radicals and environmental damage. The right combination of antioxidants can be quite powerful. Nazarian encourages the use of antioxidants topically and orally in the morning and likes Skinbetter Science's Alto Defense Serum, which helps to improve the appearance of uneven skin tone and redness.

"A specialized eye cream for your concerns—dehydration, fine lines, and wrinkles, puffiness or dark circles, etc.—can be applied next," notes Shamban.

(Video) The Top 5 Skin Care Mistakes You're Probably Making 2023

05of 07

Forgetting to Moisturize

The Morning Skincare Mistakes You're Probably Making (4)

If you think you can skip your moisturizer for a day, think again. Not only will your face feel tight and dry, but skipping such an important step in your skincare routine will cause your other products to suffer as well.

"Many people forget to moisturize while skin is still damp and can be best absorbed," says Shamban, who notes that a moisturizer or just a tinted [hydrating] sunscreen goes on last.

While you may need to adjust your moisturizer if your skin changes with the seasons (heavier in the wintertime for dry skin and lighter in the summer for oily skin), it's a step you never want to skip.

06of 07

Not Applying Sunscreen

For such an essential product, many of us aren’t using it to its full potential. For starters, the majority of people apply less than half of the actual amount needed. If you’re not applying a teaspoon amount of sunscreen to your face every morning, you’re not getting the sun protection factor you think are. And you’re probably forgetting your neck and chest—your décolletage tends to be one of the first areas to show signs of aging. Protect yourself from the chest up Revision Skincare's Intellishade TruPhysical sunscreen, Nazarian's pick for a broad-spectrum, minimum SPF 30 sunscreen, that is tinted to block visible light.

"A good cleanser, antioxidant serum, and sunscreen is a product combination that preps the skin appropriately, protects from free radical damage, and shields skin against ultraviolet light and visible light," says Nazarian. "It is my absolute morning trifecta."

Sunscreen usually needs 20 to 30 minutes to set in (make sure to read the directions on your specific sunscreen). Leaving the house too soon after application leaves your skin unprotected.

(Video) 10 Skincare MISTAKES You're Probably Making!

07of 07

Using the Wrong Anti-Aging Ingredients

The Morning Skincare Mistakes You're Probably Making (5)

Don’t get us wrong—we’re pro-anti-aging. But there’s a time and a place for every potent product in your routine. Heavy doses of skin cell turnover–boosting retinol and alpha-hydroxy acids (aka exfoliating acids like glycolic and lactic) can make your skin more sensitive to the sun. Your body naturally regenerates cells while you sleep—so save retinol, prescription retinoids, and AHAs for evening use.

"If we do a proper de-gunking routine in the evening, add the key factors for repair, hydrate, and sleep well, the skin will have time to work in its most efficient way leaving a less is more morning routine," says Shamban.

The Best Skincare Advice for Your 40s


Article Sources

Byrdie takes every opportunity to use high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.

  1. Tang SC, Yang JH. Dual effects of alpha-hydroxy acids on the skin.Molecules. 2018;23(4):863. doi:10.3390/molecules23040863



What are common skincare mistakes? ›

Avoid These 7 Common Skin Care Mistakes
  • Applying Comedogenic Ingredients (Especially If You're Acne Prone) ...
  • Not Layering Hyaluronic Acid. ...
  • Storing Your Products Improperly. ...
  • Letting Products Go Stale. ...
  • Over Exfoliating. ...
  • Getting Complacent Once You See Results. ...
  • Sleeping Carelessly.
Dec 3, 2021

How important is a morning skincare routine? ›

A morning skincare routine, however, can help to protect and preserve the skin throughout the day. Skipping your morning skincare routine has the potential to cause a variety of issues, such as clogged pores, acne, and leaving the skin more susceptible to damage caused by pollution and the sun's harsh rays.

Can I use glycolic acid every morning? ›

Is Glycolic Acid okay for everyday use? Depending on the concentration, yes, you can use Glycolic Acid every day. If you're new to chemical exfoliants, you should work up to using it every day slowly rather than overdoing it at the beginning.

Can I exfoliate the morning after retinol? ›

If you want to use both, try exfoliating and using your retinoid on alternating evenings, or exfoliating in the morning and using the retinoid at night. Also, because retinoids increase your sensitivity to the sun, make sure you're always using a broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least 30 SPF, Dr. Lipner says.

What should I avoid in my skin care routine? ›

Ingredients to consider avoiding
  • PEGs (polyethylene glycols)
  • methyl and propyl parabens.
  • aluminum.
  • formaldehyde.
  • phthalates.
  • oxybenozone.
Sep 1, 2022

Is it OK to not moisturize in the morning? ›

Most skincare professionals suggest moisturizing twice a day: once in the morning and once at night. This ensures your skin's moisture will remain constant both throughout the day and while you sleep, so you can always look forward to supple, healthy skin.

What is the best morning face routine? ›

Use a cleansing oil to remove excess dirt and makeup from your pores. Using a face toner to balance the pH levels of your skin. Moisturize with a creamy or water-based gel to nourish your skin. Always apply sunscreen with SPF 30 to protect your skin from harmful sun rays.

What not to pair with glycolic acid? ›

AHAs and BHAs, such as glycolic, salicylic, and lactic acids should never be used with Vitamin C. Vitamin C is an acid, too, and is unstable, so the pH balance will be thrown off by layering these ingredients together and might as well be useless.

What goes first glycolic acid or retinol? ›

It is recommended to apply vitamin c and glycolic acid in your morning skin care routine and then apply your retinol product at night. Only when you have been using both for a while can you use glycolic acid and retinol together.

Can I use both retinol and glycolic acid together? ›

Glycolic Acid and Retinol are two very powerful antiaging ingredients that shouldn't be used together in the same application as there is a high risk of irritation, dryness, itchiness, peeling, flaking and sensitivity to the sun. If you are noticing this, you should cut back on your applications.

What are the 5 basic of skin care? ›

The Basic Skincare Rules Everyone Should Know
  • Cleanse Once and Then Cleanse Again. Double cleansing requires washing your face not once but twice. ...
  • Always Layer Products in the Right Order. ...
  • Know Your Skin Type. ...
  • Take the Time to Exfoliate. ...
  • Always Wear Sunscreen.
Jan 15, 2020

What not to use with retinol? ›

Don't Mix: Retinol with vitamin C, benzoyl peroxide, and AHA/BHA acids. AHA and BHA acids are exfoliating, which can dry out the skin and cause further irritation if your skincare routine already includes retinol.

Can you put hyaluronic acid over retinol? ›

Can hyaluronic acid and retinol be used together? Unlike many other skin care ingredients out there, hyaluronic acid and retinol can be used in the same skincare routine. Not only that, but using them together can help to lessen the severity of the side effects that often come with retinol usage.

What is the healthiest skin care routine? ›

Best natural skin care routine for your 30s and beyond
  • Cleansing. This first step should occur every morning and evening. ...
  • Exfoliating. Exfoliants should not be used daily. ...
  • Toning. Toners are one of the most common steps left out of skin care. ...
  • Moisturizing. ...
  • Sun protection. ...
  • Repeat the a.m. routine. ...
  • Eye cream. ...
  • Night moisturizer.

Is Cerave actually good? ›

Without a doubt, yes. If you're ever unsure of what to use on your skin, regardless of your skin type or condition, turn to Cerave. The brand has products that contain ingredients like salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide for treating acne, SPF for sun protection, retinol and vitamin C for anti-aging, and more.

What is the most important skin care routine? ›

Washing your face is the most basic and essential step of any routine, says the New York City dermatologist Dr. Carlos Charles. “Our skin comes in contact with environmental pollutants, dirt and other factors each day that should be gently removed.”

Which skincare mistakes do you think people are making daily without realising? ›

Here are a few skin-care mistakes most people make without realizing it.
  • Not applying moisturizer/product quickly enough after cleansing. ...
  • You're washing with bar soap. ...
  • You're rubbing product into your skin. ...
  • You aren't removing your eye makeup separately from the rest of your makeup. ...
  • You aren't double cleansing.
Apr 23, 2018

What skin care mistakes causes acne? ›

People with acne might see better results if they avoid these common skin care mistakes: Using oily products. Avoid oily or greasy cosmetics, moisturizers, sunscreens and acne cover-ups. Prefer products that are water based and not likely to block pores (noncomedogenic).

How do you know if your skin is reacting badly to a product? ›

Reactions to Look Out For

Here are some of the most common ways your skin might negatively react to ingredients in your skincare products: Red, itchy, and irritated skin, otherwise known as dermatitis. Red pimples. Flaky skin.

Why is my skin worse after starting a skincare routine? ›

When you start a new skin care routine or you incorporate new products into your current regimen, you may experience breakouts or skin flaking. This process is sometimes called purging. This is a normal, short-term condition where the skin will rid itself of underlying oil, bacteria, or dirt, according to Dr.


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