Skin Care Product Overload!! What To Use & When?

It’s easy to walk into Sephora or a Department Store and get overwhelmed by all the choices of skin care products!  Not only are there so many different kinds of products, but they are all for different purposes.  I’m going to break it down and make it as simple as possible for you.

Makeup Remover-
What is it? Whether it is wipes or a liquid, this is made to remove all the makeup off your face and eyes.
When to use? This is the first step, before you cleanse your skin. Use only when you are wearing makeup.

What is it? Use to wash the face and neck to get off dirt, oil, makeup and clean the skin.
When to use? Both morning and night. Some cleansers are also makeup removers and safe to use on the eye area, like Fresh Soy Face Cleanser and Purity Made Simple. In this case, you don’t need to use a makeup remover first.  If you are using a cleanser that is unsafe for the eye area or isn’t also a makeup remover, you will need to use a makeup remover first before cleansing.

What is it? Gently deep cleans the skin, removing impurities, dirt, makeup and oil.  Cleans 6 times better than just using your hands.
When to use? Use with cleanser morning and/or night.

What is it? Delivers to your skin the specific help your skin needs.  There are toners for oil control, minimizing pores, extra deep cleansing, hydrating, etc.
When to use? Apply to cleansed skin, morning and/or night.

What is it? A serum will sit on your skin all day and work hard to bring you the results you are looking for.  Serums are made to deliver help to your specific skin concerns. There are many different kinds of serums. There are serums to help with wrinkles, dryness, oiliness, brightening, etc.
When to use? Use in the morning to cleansed skin, before moisturizer.

What is it? Applying moisturizer to your skin will bring moisture to the skin, or help to regulate excess moisture; whichever your skin needs. For oily/acne skin you will apply an oil-free moisturizer to help regulate oil and leave an overall smooth finish. For normal, dry, combination skin you will be looking for adding moisture back into your skin.
When to use? Both morning and night. Apply either to cleansed skin, or on top of a serum or toner.

Beauty Oil-
What is it? This is a moisturizer in oil form. Because it’s an oil it’s able to deliver things to your skin in a different way. A beauty oil will give more of a dewy look. I recommend this for dry, normal or combination skin.
When to use? Can be used both morning and night as your daily moisturizer. I like to use it at night for extra moisture. In the winter I will apply my moisturizer then beauty oil on top, before bed, to give my skin all the moisture it needs.

Eye Cream-
What is it? Brings moisture to the eye area, reduces wrinkles, puffiness, dark circles and more.  For what eye cream to use click here, how to apply click here.
When to use? At night only, to cleansed skin before your moisturizer.

Night Cream & Sleep Mask-
What is it? A power packed product that works on improving your skin while you sleep. Whether your skin needs extra moisture, brightening, smoothness, clearer complexion, etc, this will bring it to you in your sleep.
When to use? Use at night, to cleansed skin. Don’t layer a moisturizer or beauty oil with it, use a night cream or sleep mask all by itself to get the full benefits.

What is it? A mask is designed to bring your skin any help or improvement or balance that your skin needs. So many different kinds of masks! It’s easy to find one that will help you with your specific skin needs. There are masks for clarifying, oil control, moisturizing, detoxifying, smoothness, radiance, calming and more.
When to use? Use as much as 1 time a week, as little as 1 time a month. Apply to clean skin, let sit for 10 minutes then rinse off. Be sure to read any specific directions of your mask. Follow with your morning or night time routine.

What is it? Exfoliating gets the dead skin off the surface, revealing more radiant skin. To read more in depth about exfoliation click here.
When to use? Exoliate 2-3 times a week, after you have cleansed the skin, before you moisturize.  You can exfoliate, then use a mask for a mini facial at home.

Peel Pads & Peels-
What is it? This is more of a clinical level product, most of them have glycolic acid as an ingredient. Peels are made for resurfacing the skin, diminishing fine lines and wrinkles, dark spots, acne scars; revealing brighter, more youthful looking skin.  Because this type of product is resurfacing, there is no need to exfoliate if you are using this on a consistent basis.  Over exfoliating will only irritate your skin.  I will use peel pads 1 time a week and exfoliate 1 time a week, and that works well for me.
When to use? Use at night to cleansed skin, follow with night time routine of eye cream and moisturizer. Glycolic makes the skin sun sensitive. Be sure to wash your face in the morning to get the product off your face. If using in the morning always use a sunscreen after.

Acne Spot Treat-
What is it? A product that spot treats any break outs or acne.
When to use? Morning and/or night on clean skin, before you moisturize.

You do not need to use all of these products.  And you certainly don’t want to use them all at once.  One night I will use a sleep mask, the next night I will use a beauty oil, and the night after that I will use peel pads.  You can switch it up as often as you want to.  Here is what a morning and night time routine looks like:


  • Cleanse, with Clarisonic
  • Acne Spot Treat (if needed)
  • Toner and/or Serum -If using together, use toner first then serum. (optional, only if there are skin concerns)
  • Moisturize

Night Time

  • Makeup Remover (if cleanser isn’t a makeup remover)
  • Cleanse, with Clarisonic
  • Exfoliate or Peel Pads (2-3 times a week)
  • Mask (1-4 times a month)
  • Toner (optional)
  • Eye Cream
  • Acne Spot Treat (if needed)
  • Moisturize or Beauty Oil or Night Cream/Sleep Mask


24 thoughts on “Skin Care Product Overload!! What To Use & When?

  1. This is such a great post! Thanks so much! Do you have any specific peels you recommend that aren’t too harsh but good for acne scars?

  2. Great information, I really enjoy reading your blog. What is your opinion on Rodan & Fields?

  3. Love this Rachel! I have a quick question for you…I’ve been using FAB deep cleanser with red clay and it has been amazing! My skin tends to be oily/acne prone and this has done a great job with it. My question to you is, I’m getting towards the end of this cleanser and I didn’t know if I should repurchase or if I should mix it up and try the Fresh Soy Face cleanser or the Purity cleanser you recommended? If you could let me know, I would appreciate it! Have a great Tuesday!

  4. Thanks so much Rachel! You’re extremely knowledgable and articulate in such a way the rest of us can understand and don’t feel overwhelmed.
    I have a personal skin question: after wearing makeup for a few hours, my foundation sometimes ‘separates’ and looks ‘cakey’ on my nose area. I think these are the correct terms. I have normal to dry skin and look after my skin extremely well, mainly through you and your sisters recommendations and I used to be a MAC makeup artist. I could detail my routine and products if that helps.
    What do you think causes this separation? Is it oiliness or dryness? I’m a bit out of my depth.
    Any guidance you can give would be grateful. :)

      1. Thanks for getting back to me Rachel :)
        I do set my foundation with Tarte Provocateur Pressed Mineral Powder and then use the Urban Decay All Nighter spray. :/
        Any other ideas?

        1. Do you exfoliate? Is your foundation brush clean? How long after you apply moisturizer do you apply foundation? Best results is 20-30 minutes. Possibly try a different foundation? I have some foundation that crease on me, and some that don’t… and I do everything the same.

  5. Do you have any knowledge on what toners would be good for oily/combo skin drug store & high-end???

  6. Hi Rachael! I always love your posts–on EVERY topic–thank you so much! I wondered if you might be able to do a small follow up to this post for how/when/where one would best incorporate a gentle retinol product? Please do not feel like you have to leave me a personal extensive reply, but I’m just going to put my whole question here and if it strikes you to do a follow up post, that would be fabulous :) (or answer here if you feel like it, and it’s not too much trouble, of course!–or direct me to a past post, if you have done one that I’ve overlooked!)

    I am just starting to you an over the counter retinol cream–nothing crazy strong–and only about 2x/wk for now because my skin has been very sensitive to it in the past, and I would like to make sure I get the most out of it. I have heard to use it at night, or at least under a good SPF so that its effectiveness isn’t diminished, but I also would like to know how one should best integrate it with other products like the ones you include in this post. For example, how to integrate it with ones use of a vitamin C serum and any AHA/BHA serums (not peels, just low concentration serums) during the week, for example. Are any of these products so incompatible that they should only be used on completely separately (like in different 6 week rotations or something like that), or is it safe to integrate them throughout the week, on an ongoing basis, even if not at the same application setting? Should one still apply serums beneath the retinol? If one’s skin needs extra moisture along with the retinol product, long should one wait before adding a basic face cream/face oil over it? And any other ideas/tips you may have about how to best use retinol would be tremendously appreciated!

    Thank you!

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