The Best Skincare Routine Order for Every Single Product You Own (Seriously)

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It’s a good time to be really into skincare, with more serums, spot treatments, and SPFs than I can possibly keep track of. The downside? Figuring out the best skincare routine order can be tricky as hell. After all, what’s the difference between toner and essence, and can you use both in one routine? Or how do you apply a spot treatment and a face oil in the same routine? It can be a mystery even to those of us who work in the biz, testing and learning about products day in and day out—but the good news is that you’re def not alone.

Even better: It’s totally possible to make sense of it all, especially if you have expert dermatologists laying out the steps of your skincare routine for you. And that’s exactly what I’m doing here, because it’s a big deal. The order of your skincare routine, as well as how and when you apply your skincare products, can make a huge difference in your results. In fact, they can even help you avoid potential skin concerns like irritation and breakouts.

So, whether you want the laziest-yet-most-effective skincare routine or need to know how to layer your arsenal of 10+ products, keep reading for all the details. And don’t miss the tons tips to make skincare your thing and the best products for your exact skin type (from oily to sensitive to dry to acne-prone).

cosmo great skin bible

How do I start my skincare routine?

PSA: You do not need a 10-step skincare routine (or even a 5-step routine). “Less is more when it comes to your skin—I’m all about product reducing,” says dermatologist Karan Lal, MD. “In reality, our skin chemistry needs hydration and moisture to maintain a good skin barrier, which you can get from just a few products.” And, as virtually all dermatologists agree, those products include the following:

Three required skincare products:

  • Cleanser: a gentle, sulfate-free face wash free
  • Moisturizer: a simple fragrance-free formula that can be used twice a day
  • Sunscreen: a mineral- or chemical-based sunscreen with at least SPF 30

That’s it—the three most important skincare products are just a cleanser, moisturizer, and SPF. It’s not glamorous, but good skin doesn’t need to be (just ask your dermatologist or anyone on the Cosmo beauty team—simple is always better). The more products you layer on, the higher your risk is for irritation, allergic reactions, and breakouts, notes Dr. Lal.

If you’re looking to build a slightly more advanced skincare routine, you can! But you don’t need to. “If you can consistently stick with those three basic products and you want to add more, try a retinoid,” says Dr. Lal. “After three months, if your skin is ready, add a vitamin C.” But any additional products? “It’s not gonna help—I think five products is the max you skin can handle at once,” says Dr. Lal.

What age should you start a skincare routine?

You can start a skincare routine at any age. In fact, the sooner you start, the better, says dermatologist Jessie Cheung, MD. “You’re never too young to start protecting your skin,” she notes. If you’re a beginner, start with the above routine (cleanser, moisturizer, SPF—the holy trinity, IMO), and slowly add in products depending on what your skin needs.

Your skincare routine order and steps

Need a preview of what a full skincare routine should look like in the proper order? Here’s a little guide to screenshot. But before you freak out at seeing a 10-step routine, don’t worry: You really only need three products for a great, simple routine (more on that below).

Text, Font, Line,

John Francis

Pin it, save it, screenshot it, memorize it, whatever. Just get it into your brain, and then read our breakdown and product recommendations, below.

How to build and layer your skincare routine

“The rule of thumb when applying skincare is to apply the lightest first and the heaviest last, since thinner products can’t penetrate thicker products,” says dermatologist Shereene Idriss, MD. Example: Layering a serum (thin) over your moisturizer (thick) would render that serum almost ineffective, because it can’t penetrate your skin when there’s an occlusive barrier on top of it already.


SKINCARE ROUTINE ORDER

Step 1: Cleanser

⏰: morning and night

Please, for the love of the beauty gods, remove your makeup and wash your face before slathering on your products. “For ingredients to absorb properly, you need clean skin that’s totally free of oil and grime,” says dermatologist Mona Gohara, MD, which is where double-cleansing comes in.

The simplest method is to remove your makeup with a cleansing oil or cleansing balm (neither is “better” than the other; it’s just personal preference). It’ll dissolve all the makeup on your face without stripping your skin. Then, follow that up with a gentle cleanser depending on your skin type:

✔️ How to choose the best cleanser for your skin type

  • Oily skin: Avoid too-stripping formulas (like charcoal-, sulfate-, and clay-based cleansers) and look instead for gel-based face washes or gentle foaming cleansers for oily skin.
  • Acne-prone skin: Opt for a cleanser with added acne-fighting ingredients, like salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide.
  • Sensitive skin: Try a gentle, creamy face wash filled with soothing colloidal oatmeal, aloe vera, and niacinamide.

Q: “Do I really need to cleanse skin in the morning?”

It depends, tbh. If you have oily or acne-prone skin, then yes—cleansing after you wake up can be a good way to get rid of any grime or shine that’s collected overnight. (Plus, if you’re using anti-acne ingredients like salicylic acid, they can work extra ~magic~.) However, if you have dry or sensitive skin, you prob don’t need to re-wash ahead of the rest of your routine.

Our favorite cleansers for every skin type:

Dry Skin

Toleriane Hydrating Gentle Face Cleanser

La Roche-Posay Toleriane Hydrating Gentle Face Cleanser

Oily Skin

On Sale

Low pH Good Morning Gel Cleanser

CosRX Low pH Good Morning Gel Cleanser

Acne-Prone Skin

On Sale

Acne Control Cleanser

CeraVe Acne Control Cleanser

Now 17% Off

Sensitive Skin

Cleansing Serum

Shani Darden Skin Care Cleansing Serum

Step 2: Toner

⏰: morning and/or night

Face toners used to be terrible, alcohol-based liquids that burned your face. But today’s (good) toners are either (1) filled with gentle, hydrating ingredients for dry and sensitive skin, or (2) filled with chemical exfoliants to treat acne and bumps. “Toners are not meant to be something that sits around on your skin and feels heavy,” says Dr. Gohara. “They’re just priming your face for ingredients to be better absorbed later on.”

Reminder: Toner (like most of the steps on this list) is totally optional, but if your toner smells like nail polish remover or alcohol, you need to ditch it—fast—and find an updated version instead. Here’s how:

✔️ How to choose the best toner for your skin type

  • Acne-prone/oily skin: The best toner for both oily skin and acne-prone skin will be one filled with either BHA (beta hydroxy acid, like salicylic acid) or AHA (alpha hydroxy acid, like glycolic acid or lactic acid), which work to unclog pores, prevent breakouts, and dissolve blackheads over time.
    • How to use toner ↠
      Tap acid-based toners over clean, dry skin every other night (or every other morning, if you plan to use a retinol at night), then wait 60 seconds before layering on another product to prevent accidentally neutralizing the acid.
  • Dry/sensitive skin: Both dry skin and sensitive skin types do best with hydrating toners (although all skin types, even acne-prone, can benefit) because they help replenish the water your skin barrier lost when you washed and dried your face.
    • How to apply toner
      After cleansing, tap your hydrating toner over your clean, dry skin every morning, every night, or both: “There’s no such thing as too much moisture, regardless of your skin type,” says Dr. Gohara.

Q: “Is toner the same thing as an essence?”

Toners and essences are pretty interchangeable in their consistencies, so if you’re looking for when to use your essence in your skincare routine, use it as step 2 (instead of a toner). But if you happen to have both in your routine, swipe on a toner first, then pat in an essence (think of it like a thin moisturizer-serum hybrid).

Toners for every single skin type:

Dry Skin

On Sale

Cream Skin Toner & Moisturizer

Laneige Cream Skin Toner & Moisturizer

Oily Skin

Balancing Force Oil Control Toner

OleHenriksen Balancing Force Oil Control Toner

Acne-Prone Skin

Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Salicylic Acid Exfoliant

Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Salicylic Acid Exfoliant

Sensitive Skin

Snail Rescue Blemish Busting Toner

Peach Slices Snail Rescue Blemish Busting Toner

↠ SHEET MASKS
Not sure where sheet masks come in? Use masks after cleansing and toning your face, then pat on the excess serum left behind.


Step 3: Face Serum

⏰: morning and/or night

“Serums are essentially shots of extremely concentrated nutrients, hydrators, or antioxidants that really amp up your skin health as soon as you apply them,” says Dr. Gohara. “People often skip out on using them, but they’re honestly the heavy lifters of your skincare routine.” So, while serums are totally optional, they’re often a good first step in leveling up your skincare routine and boosting your skin health.

✔️ How to choose the best face serum for your skin type

In the morning…

For almost all skin types, Dr. Gohara, Dr. Lal, Dr. Idriss, and every other derm in existence, swears by using vitamin C serum in the morning, which protects your skin from inflammation and damage caused by environmental factors, while also brightening dark spots over time. Just note: Vitamin C can be strong, so if your skin is sensitive, use it every other morning (or every two mornings) instead.

At night…

Though serums are optional, all skin type scan benefit from using a hydrating, hyaluronic-acid-based serum at night (and, honestly, in the morning too), which pulls into your skin from the air to keep it hydrated. “If you’re using acne treatments or anti-aging products—which can be drying or irritating—you want to prep your skin with as much moisture as possible first,” says Dr. Idriss.

Q: “Can I use multiple serums at the same time?”

Def. But when it comes to layering serums, keep in mind the thin-to-thick rule, says Dr. Cheung. “The thicker serums may impede the absorption of the thinner formulations,” she notes. So you’ll want to start with your watery, vitamin C serums, then layer on rich, creamy formulas after.

4 serums we recommend:

Smoothing

On Sale

Clarifique Pro-Solution Face Serum

Lancôme Clarifique Pro-Solution Face Serum

Now 15% Off

Hydrating

Mineral 89 Hyaluronic Acid Face Serum

Vichy Mineral 89 Hyaluronic Acid Face Serum

Brightening

Brightening Dark Spot Vitamin C Serum

Hyper Skin Brightening Dark Spot Vitamin C Serum

Anti-Aging

On Sale

Super Serum

Olay Super Serum

Step 4: Eye cream

⏰: morning and/or night

Eye creams tend to be lighter and thinner than face moisturizers, so make sure to apply them before your creams and oils (remember: lighter products go before heavier products). But an important note: Eye creams are not necessary for most people. “As long as you’re using moisturizer and sunscreen, your eye area is already getting the TLC it needs,” says Dr. Gohara.

✔️ How to choose the best eye cream for your skin type

In the morning…

Look for an eye cream that’s packed with caffeine, which helps temporarily constrict and tighten puffy under-eyes within 20 minutes. And, ideally, look for one with a steel-tip applicator (“the cold steel helps a bit with fluid retention—aka under-eye bags—especially if you keep the cream in the fridge between uses,” says Dr. Gohara).

At night…

“Most people think a night eye cream should contain retinol to help with fine lines, but in reality, you want to be gentle,” says Dr. Gohara. “Your eye area is delicate and at risk for irritation, so tap on a simple, hydrating eye cream that’ll protect your under-eyes and repair your skin barrier overnight.”

Q: “Should I be using retinol around my eyes?”

Yes, you can—and should!—use a retinol around your eyes, but “it’s better to apply retinoids to your whole face rather than to just spot-treat parts of it,” she says. (Don’t worry, retinol options will come later on.)

Eye creams to try, depending on your ~goals~:

De-puffing

Yerba Mate Wake Up Eye Gel

Good Molecules Yerba Mate Wake Up Eye Gel

Moisturizing

Holy Hydration! Eye Cream

E.l.f. Holy Hydration! Eye Cream

Smoothing

On Sale

Retinol Correxion Under Eye Cream

RoC Retinol Correxion Under Eye Cream

Now 27% Off

Brightening

On Sale

Universal Universal C Eye Perfector

BeautyStat Universal Universal C Eye Perfector

Step 5: Spot treatment

⏰: morning or night

Ideally, spot treatments are best applied at night (whether they’re for zits, scars, or dark spots), because that’s when your body is working hardest to repair itself, says Dr. Gohara. But if your nighttime routine already includes acids or retinoids, try spot-treating in the morning, so you don’t irritate your skin with too much at once.

Regardless of when you apply your spot treatment, make sure to tap it on before your moisturizer so it can really penetrate your skin and do its thang without having another barrier to penetrate (before?! What?! Yes, just trust the process and keep reading).

✔️ How to choose the best spot treatment for your skin type

For Dark Spots and Acne Scars…

Dr. Idriss recommends using a spot treatment with either hydroquinone (a skin-bleaching ingredient that works fast but can be highly irritating) or niacinamide (aka vitamin B3), which gently brightens marks and scars over time. Niacinamide can be used daily (most formulas won’t cause irritation), but hydroquinone should be used once every three days to be safe (zero irritation after two weeks? Move it up to every other day).

For Pimples and breakouts…

For acne, Dr. Gohara stands by tried-and-true benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid—but not together, unless you want to irritate your skin. Benzoyl peroxide kills acne-causing bacteria (use it for classic whiteheads), while salicylic acid dissolves oil and skin cells (use it for little clogged pores and inflamed bumps).

  • How to use spot treatments
    Regardless of which formula you choose, the application is the same: Dab a thin layer (seriously) over your spot or zit and wait a full minute for it to dry. Then, to prevent the treatment from getting wiped around your face, apply your moisturizer to the rest of your face, avoiding the spots. When your face is fully moisturized, tap a dot of moisturizer on top of the spot treatment.
    Spot treatments we *love*:

    Dark spots (kojic acid)

    Retinol Rapid Repair & Dark Spot Treatment

    Urban Skin Rx Retinol Rapid Repair & Dark Spot Treatment

    Dark Spots (Niacinamide)

    Topicals Faded Serum for Dark Spots and Discoloration

    Topicals Faded Serum for Dark Spots and Discoloration

    Pimples (Benzoyl Peroxide)

    Neutrogena Stubborn Acne A.M. Treatment

    Neutrogena Stubborn Acne A.M. Treatment

    Pimples (Salicylic Acid)

    Peter Thomas Roth AHA/BHA Acne Clearing Gel

    Peter Thomas Roth AHA/BHA Acne Clearing Gel

    Q: “When am I supposed to put a pimple patch on?”

    You should stick on a pimple patch (which, FYI, are hydrocolloid stickers that help protect your pimple, soak up any excess fluid or oil around it, and potentially help treat your zit depending on if it has added actives like salicylic acid) before moisturizer, just as you would with other spot treatments. Typically, I will stick on a pimple patch, then carefully spread my moisturizer across my face to avoid moving the patch around.


    Step 6: Moisturizer

    ⏰: morning and night

    “You need to be using a moisturizer twice a day,” says Dr. Lal and every dermatologist in the world. “Your skin barrier requires moisture and hydration to stay healthy,” he adds, noting that all skin types should load up on formulas rich in ceramides, glycerin, and hyaluronic acid. “A moisturizer also helps trap in all the products underneath it to make the ingredients even more effective,” says Dr. Idriss.

    You can use the same moisturizer morning and night, but if you plan to skip sunscreen (shame), your a.m. formula needs to have at least SPF 30. And remember to let it sink in for 5 to 10 minutes before applying makeup (if this is the end of your morning skincare routine and makeup is your next step).

    ✔️ How to choose the best moisturizer for your skin type

    Q: “What about anti-aging creams?”

    If you want, you can tiptoe into the retinol game by using an anti-aging night cream in the p.m., which usually has a gentler, “watered-down” dose of retinoids. That being said, it’s often easier—and less irritating—to use your regular moisturizer and layer a retinol on top (see: the next step).

    Give one of these moisturizers a try:

    Dry Skin

    Barrier+ Triple Lipid-Peptide Refillable Face Cream

    Skinfix Barrier+ Triple Lipid-Peptide Refillable Face Cream

    Oily Skin

    Oil Control Moisturizer with Niacinamide

    Community Sixty-Six Oil Control Moisturizer with Niacinamide

    Acne-Prone Skin

    Cloud Cushion Plush Moisturizer

    Eadem Cloud Cushion Plush Moisturizer

    Sensitive Skin

    SOS Daily Skin Barrier Redness Recovery Moisturizer

    Tower 28 Beauty SOS Daily Skin Barrier Redness Recovery Moisturizer

    Step 7: Retinol

    ⏰: night

    “Retinoids—the general term for all vitamin-A derivatives, including retinol—sink into your skin to speed up cell turnover, causing your body to churn out fresher, smoother, less-wrinkled skin over time,” says Dr. Gohara. Remember that retinoids take four to six months of consistent use to give you results, so consistency is key.

    But just because it might take half a year to see your wrinkles smooth out doesn’t mean you won’t see more immediate results in other ways. “Retinoids trigger collagen production and cellular exfoliation,” adds Dr. Gohara, “which means they’ll also fade dark spots, smooth scars, clear pores, prevent breakouts, and brighten skin.” Basically, retinoids are the closest thing to magic that dermatologists have.

    ✔️ How to choose the best retinoid for your skin type

    Retinoids—which are the umbrella term for all vitamin A derivatives—aren’t created equal. In order of most powerful to least, it starts with prescription-strength retinoids (like tretinoin), adapalene (which is prescription-strength but sold over-the-counter), retinal (or retinaldehyde), and then retinol. There are also a ton of over-the-counter derivatives of vitamin A in addition to retinal and retinol.

    The more sensitive or dry your skin, the weaker your retinoid should be. That, or you’ll need a longer acclimation period to get used to it (more on that in a sec). You can also find over-the-counter retinoids paired with anti-inflammatory ingredients, such as niacinamide, to offset their side effects.

    How to Use Them…

    If you’re new to retinoids, make sure to start slow to mitigate the initial adjustment period of flakes and sensitivity. “Apply a pea-size drop to your entire face one night a week for one week, then two nights a week for two weeks, then three nights a week for three weeks, and then every other night indefinitely,” says Dr. Gohara.

    And if you do have extra-sensitive skin, apply a layer of moisturizer 10 minutes before and 10 minutes after your retinol to reduce irritation without totally diluting the treatment. Think of it like sandwiching your face in moisture.

    Q: Who *shouldn’t* use retinol?

    If you’re already using (or planning to use) a night cream with retinoids, doubling up won’t make the anti-aging results more effective—it’ll just cause inflammation. And if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, retinol is also off-limits, FYI.

    Our favorite retinoids *ever*:

    On Sale

    Retinol Serum for Post-Acne Marks and Skin Texture

    CeraVe Retinol Serum for Post-Acne Marks and Skin Texture

    Now 44% Off

    On Sale

    Revitalift 0.3% Pure Retinol Night Serum

    L’Oréal Paris Revitalift 0.3% Pure Retinol Night Serum

    Now 28% Off

    Retinol Reform Treatment Serum

    Shani Darden Skin Care Retinol Reform Treatment Serum

    Acne Treatment Gel

    Differin Acne Treatment Gel

    Step 8: Face Oil

    ⏰: morning and/or night

    “Face oils are occlusive, meaning they seal in all the ingredients and moisture you just applied to your face to keep them from evaporating as quickly,” says Dr. Idriss. On their own, oils don’t really moisturize your skin, but when you layer them over products, they help increase your routine’s efficacy while also leaving skin softer and smoother. Just make sure to always, always apply your oils last. Yes, last.

    “Oils can easily penetrate moisturizers, serums, and treatments, but no products can penetrate an oil, which means they need to be applied last,” says Dr. Gohara.

    ✔️ How to choose the best face oil for your skin type

    Oils aren’t just for dry skin—certain oils, like rosehip and jojoba, have been shown to regulate excess oil in acne-prone skin, while marula and aloe oils can soothe sensitive, easily irritated skin. Or, grab an oil mixed with anti-aging or acne-treating ingredients (if your routine doesn’t already include similar ingredients).

    Q: “Do I need a face oil? I’m scared!”

    No! You do not need any product on this list aside from a cleanser, moisturizer, and sunscreen. If you have dry patches and you’re scared of oils, try an occlusive moisturizer instead, like the cult-favorite EltaMD Moisturizer (I use this one every night).

    Slather on one of these face oils:

    Plant Squalane Face Oil

    Naturium Plant Squalane Face Oil

    Facial Oil with Rosehip Extract

    Burt’s Bees Facial Oil with Rosehip Extract

    Ultralight Moisture-Boosting Botanical Oil

    The Outset Ultralight Moisture-Boosting Botanical Oil

    Squalane + Vitamin C Rose Firming Oil

    Biossance Squalane + Vitamin C Rose Firming Oil

    Step 9: Sunscreen

    ⏰: morning

    Okay, yes, I know I said oils go last, but technically, sunscreen (of SPF 30+) is the absolute last step—and one that’s required. “Oils are still working to penetrate and treat your skin, which is why they would go last in your skincare routine, but sunscreen isn’t trying to penetrate anything—it’s just there to protect your face and act as armor against the outside world,” says Dr. Gohara. “Basically, it’s not adding anything to your skin—it’s protecting your skin.”

    And before you tell yourself that the SPF 15 in your foundation is good enough, know this: “The absolute bare minimum SPF you need on your face is SPF 30,” says Dr. Gohara. Unless you’re cool with premature aging, worsened acne scars, and an increased cancer risk.

    ✔️ How to choose the best sunscreen for your skin type

    It’s 2024, and sunscreens come in hella different formulations depending on your skin type. There’s sunscreen for oily skin, sunscreen for dry skin, sunscreen for deep skin tones—the options are vast, people. In other words, it’s mostly a matter of preference. If you have oily or acne-prone skin, for instance, you might prefer a sunscreen with chemical filters, since these feel lightweight on skin and sink in quickly—and can come as gels or even serums. If your skin is dry, look for a formula with hyaluronic acid or ceramides, as these help skin retain moisture.

    But if you’re prone to sensitivities, reach for a mineral-based sunscreen. These use either titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, or both to sit on skin and shield UVA and UVB rays—and, since they don’t actually penetrate skin, tend to be less likely to cause reactions than their chemical counterparts. Otherwise, go with a formula that you’ll be excited to slather on every! single! day!

    After all, “sunscreen not only reduces your risk of skin cancer, but it also prevents the formation abnormal collagen and elastin,” says Dr. Lal. Basically, a layer of sunscreen today helps prevent 65-year-old you from having thick, mottled, leathery skin.

    Q: “Can I use a moisturizer with SPF in it?”

    Again, “the best sunscreen is the one you’ll actually use every day,” says Dr. Lal. But your skin will look and feel the best with two separate products. “Moisturizers formulated with sunscreen can be more sensitizing and won’t have as many moisturizing benefits,” he says. So, like, it’s better than nothing, but it’s not ideal.

    Try one of these sunscreens:

    Glowscreen SPF 40 Glowy Primer + Broad Spectrum Sunscreen

    Supergoop! Glowscreen SPF 40 Glowy Primer + Broad Spectrum Sunscreen

    Natural Unrivaled Sun Serum SPF 40 Mineral Sunscreen

    EleVen by Venus Williams Natural Unrivaled Sun Serum SPF 40 Mineral Sunscreen

    UV Clear Face Sunscreen

    EltaMD UV Clear Face Sunscreen

    Moisturizing Formula

    Moisturizing Lotion SPF 30

    Black Girl Sunscreen Moisturizing Lotion SPF 30

    QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

    What does non-comedogenic mean?

    Non-comedogenic is a marketing term brands often use to signal that a product or an ingredient shouldn’t clog pores or trigger acne breakouts. The only issue? It’s not that accurate. The comedogenic scale isn’t FDA-regulated (meaning anyone can slap it on their product), and, more problematically, the original system was based on animal testing from rabbit’s ears—not human skin—meaning it historically hasn’t been very reliable.

    Of course, some brands do conduct internal testing to determine if their product is likely to result in zits, but it’s difficult to verify their accuracy. “A lot of these things are not FDA-regulated, so brands can make whatever claims they want based on Wild West science,” says Dr. Gohara. Not only that, but everybody’s skin is different (burn that into your brain), which means something that triggers a breakout in your BFF may be perfectly fine on your skin.

    What tools are used for skincare?

    None! At least, you don’t need any tools for skincare. Can you use a bunch of facial tools and techy gadgets? Absolutely—but none of them are the key to excellent skin, and some of them can actually irritate your face and cause further issues over time. But if you’re set on playing around with tools, here’s a quick breakdown of the most common:

    Facial cleansing brushes

    Facial cleansing brushes are used to manually/physically exfoliate your skin while washing your face (and no, they cannot “remove” or “dislodge” gunk from your pores). Because of their potential to irritate your skin barrier, most dermatologists aren’t in love with them, and also don’t recommend them for anyone dealing with acne, eczema, rosacea, or sensitive skin.

    LED face masks

    LED therapy (aka light-emitting diode therapy) uses different wavelengths of light to potentially help stimulate collagen production, kill acne-causing bacteria, and even reduce inflammation. At-home LED face masks are better than nothing, says Dr. Gohara, but they’re nowhere near as effective as professional in-office treatments.

    Cryo tools

    Cryotherapy tools, like ice rollers, are excellent for soothing irritation and inflammation, since they temporarily shrink the blood vessels in your skin to help bring down swelling. No, they can’t “tone” or chisel your face, but they’re great for de-puffing and calming.

    Facial steamers

    Facial steaming can help soften the top layer of your skin for somewhat better product absorption—and that’s about it. Steamers can’t “open” your pores (pores don’t have muscles; they can’t open and close), they can’t melt your blackheads, and they can’t remove “toxins” (your body does that all on its own).

    Microcurrent facial devices

    Microcurrent devices (like the Foreo or the Nuface) emit a low-grade electrical current that stimulates your muscles, potentially leading to slightly firmer and more lifted-looking skin over time. Evidence is mixed: Some people swear by them (when used consistently for, well, ever), while others saw no visible results.

    But, as with all things in skincare, you do you, and use whatever makes you happy.


    Meet the experts:

    Why trust Cosmopolitan?

    Deanna Pai is the interim deputy beauty editor at Cosmopolitan with more than 12 years of experience covering skincare, makeup, and beyond. She’s an authority in all skincare categories. When she’s not testing skincare formulas, she’s chatting up top dermatologists to learn about everything new and innovative.

    Beth Gillette is the beauty editor at Cosmopolitan and has been writing about skincare for more than five years. She’s covered topics like Aviclear, slugging with Aquaphor, and back acne. She’s spent years interviewing dermatologists and aestheticians about skincare routines, especially after dealing with hormonal acne for the past decade of her life (fun!).

    Chloe Metzger was the deputy beauty director at Cosmopolitan with nearly 10 years of experience researching, writing, and editing skincare stories that range from cystic acne treatments to skincare routines. She’s an authority in all skincare categories but an expert when it comes to the correct order of your skincare routine, thanks to her own lifetime of figuring out the right steps on her own sensitive skin. She regularly tests and analyzes products for efficacy while working with the industry’s top dermatologists and cosmetic chemists to assess new formulas and brands.

    Headshot of Beth Gillette

    Beth Gillette

    Beth Gillette is the beauty editor at Cosmopolitan, where she covers skincare, makeup, hair, nails, and more across digital and print. She can generally be found in bright eyeshadow furiously typing her latest feature or hemming and hawing about a new product you “have to try.” Prior to Cosmopolitan, she wrote and edited beauty content as an Editor at The Everygirl for four years. Follow her on Instagram for makeup selfies and a new hair ‘do every few months. 

    Headshot of Chloe Metzger

    Chloe Metzger is the deputy beauty director at Cosmopolitan, overseeing the editorial content and growth strategy of the hair, makeup, and skin space on digital, while also obsessively writing about the best hair products for every hair type (curly girl here; whattup), and the skincare routines that really, truly work (follow her on Instagram to see behind-the-scenes pics of that magazine life). She brings nearly a decade of writing and editing expertise, and her work has appeared in Allure, Health, Fitness, Marie Claire, StyleCaster, and Parents. She also has an unhealthy adoration for Tom Hanks and would like to please meet him one day, if you could arrange that. Thanks.

    Headshot of Deanna Pai

    Deanna Pai is a freelance beauty writer and editor currently based in New York. She has more than 10 years of experience writing about beauty and wellness. 

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