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How Long Should You Wait Between Applying Skincare Products?

14 Apr 2023

While you might be tempted to breeze through your skincare routine, it’s important to leave the appropriate amount of time in between applying products in order to obtain the best results. A slow, meditative approach gives your hardworking skincare formulas enough time to sink in before moving onto the next layer, as explained by board-certified dermatologist and dermatologic surgeon Dr. Anthony Rossi. Even in the case of cleanser, giving it enough time to work in is key. 

“To get actives into the skin it really does take time and the correct layering,” Dr. Rossi says. So, how long should you wait between applying skincare products? Let’s break it down.

How long does it take to wash your face?

When washing your face, Dr. Rossi recommends choosing a pH-balanced cleanser— we  like Youth To The People’s Superfood Cleaner,—and  lathering for 30-60 seconds. 

“If your cleanser has active ingredients in it you really do need to let it sit on your skin,” he says, explaining that such ingredients take time to impart any benefits they might boast, like the antioxidant-rich superfood extracts in the Superfood Cleanser . If washing your face for a full minute feels long, you can even try brushing your teeth  once you’ve gently massaged the cleanser into your face before washing it off.

If applying a hydrating serum, wait before drying.

After cleansing, no need to fully dry your face; instead, gently pat it with a towel and leave a bit of water on the skin. 

“We want to trap as much hydration onto the skin as possible,” says Dr. Rossi, explaining that any moisturizer or hydrating serum applied to damp skin will create a “hydrophilic/hydrophobic layer that will trap water onto your skin,” says Dr. Rossi.  We recommend the Triple Peptide + Cactus Oasis Serum, which is formulated with three peptides and four types of hyaluronic acid.

“If you use a serum you want to let it dry for at least a few minutes,” recommends Dr. Rossi. “Most serums have active ingredients, so you want to put them on before anything that’s really going to impede the entrance of the serum into the skin,” like a more occlusive moisturizer or oil.  

Or if exfoliating, take a pause. 

If instead of hydration you are looking for exfoliation, follow up after cleansing by applying a liquid exfoliant like YTTP’s Kombucha + 10% AHA Power Exfoliant on dry skin. Timing comes into play after application in this instance. 

“You really want to let that dry for at least a minute to two minutes because it’s a leave-on treatment,” says Dr. Rossi. 

Once the toner has fully absorbed, you can either follow it with moisturizer directly or apply a  serum first. Remember to always apply a sunscreen containing SPF 30 or higher, especially when using products containing AHAs which can increase sun sensitivity.

When to apply moisturizer vs. sunscreen

The next step is a moisturizer. After applying a moisturizer like the Polypeptide-121 Future Cream, daytime skincare routines should always include SPF. It’s important to make sure your moisturizer has had a chance to soak in before applying SPF in order to avoid any diluting effects.

As to why it should always be the last step in your routine, after moisturizer, Dr. Rossi says, “A physical sunscreen doesn’t get absorbed into the skin, which is why it should always be your last step.” Critically, it’s imperative to wait for at least 20 minutes after application before going out into intense sunlight after applying sunscreen. Always reapply as directed.

“Compliance is key,” says Dr. Rossi. “It’s important to use really good products consistently.”

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