Retinol, peels, say WUT? Yeah yeah, we hear about all sorts of products we need to be incorporating into our skincare regimen. However, once you buy a product, the questions arise: where the F does this fit in? How often should I be using it to see results? More often than not, some of our products end up going unused simply because we don’t know how/when to apply it. How sad is that? It got me thinking: just like sports, quality gear and your personal fitness level really mean nothing if you aren’t following the playbook. Unfortunately finding the “playbook” for skin isn’t intuitive. Trust me, I’ve been there: wasted products, minimal results, the works. After years of running my own experiments coupled with advice from my facialists/doctors, I’ve learned a few lessons. What does a playbook for skin entail? Before you give up and revert back to your tried and true routine, let this playbook be your guide. This is what a weekly regimen actually looks like for great skin.
The Skin Product Calendar
Your weekly routine is the most important thing to hack: it’s a day by day grind. The days and times matter too:
Exfoliation. Depending on the sensitivity of your skin, exfoliating products/peels can increase redness. I save these treatments for a day where I know I won’t be wearing makeup so I can let my skin rehab. I wear little makeup to work, so Mondays are a great day to keep my skin on track. No matter your skin type, you’ll need 3-5 days between exfoliating treatments and or other more invasive treatments like microneedling. These below products produce quality results: on me and others based on reviews.
After peels or exfoliating treatments, it’s important to keep your skin hydrated and apply anti-aging skincare that won’t fight the treatment. I like to steer clear of my retinol on nights like this and instead use another form of anti-aging serum. I also always use a Vitamin C serum immediately after exfoliating/microneedling. This will help increase circulation and skin elasticity. As a bonus, make it a double treatment with a hydrating or Vitamin C infused sheet mask (before serums). Use a sleeping mask that helps hydrate, my faves are below:
Since your skin is still sensitive, it’s important to keep the hydration going (oils for dry skin and gel/water-based products for oily skin). It’s also crucial to drink a full cup of water everyday when you wake up. Cleanse with a low foaming cleanser. Why? The more bubbles you get, the more it will dry your skin out. Add your Vitamin C serum first, followed by anti-aging serum and moisturizer and hydrating eye cream. I prefer to reach for a mosturizer that protects against pollution since I live in New York City. Also, never forget sunscreen. It’s important every day, but even more so after invasive treatments. I prefer the spray, it’s a great way to set your makeup and not fight your skincare.
This is the most important time after an invasive treatment. Rehab your skin with light treatment therapy after cleansing and a serum. I always use a roller after serums, but it’s even more so important after treatments and 3-5 days after to see solid results. It presses the serum into your pores and helps reduce redness/puffiness.
Depending on the sensitivity of your skin, it may be okay to start including retinol 2 days later. New to retinol? Wait the full 5 days, learn your skin and adjust as needed. If your skin gets red, aim to use retinol 2-3 times per week, spread out by a day in between. Vitamin C serums are great as morning serums too and give similar results as your skin starts to adapt to retinol.
Since I’m a regular retinol user, I amp up and use it nightly starting on Tuesdays. Not you yet? No problem! Swap it for an anti-aging mask treatment in the meantime. I love my Peter Thomas Roth masks because they WORK, and play well with intense skincare treatments. Opt for a stem cell based one to promote skin repair or a smoothing one for fine lines.
I like to exfoliate more mildly during the week. Use an exfoliating or detox cleanser midweek. Use a cream/gel sunscreen immediately after your serums/moisturizers. It will seep in, helping you stay protected from the sun after exfoliating.
Start using your current skincare serums/etc that help your skin needs. After the serum, use light therapy as your night treatment. It will help rebuild again after exfoliating. I also use a repairing sheet mask, for whatever my main needs are that week. Live in a city? Don’t let it ruin your hard work. Apply an anti-pollution serum with your night cream.
Cleanse with your low foaming cleanser, and apply Vitamin C serum and your regular routine essentials. I prefer the spray sunscreen on days like these since it allows me to use the right skincare products and not have it fight them. Follow up with an anti-pollution moisturizer. REN is my favorite since it’s clean and not oily.
Time for another treatment! Thursdays are my mask binge days: it preps my skin for Friday/Saturday nights. Being in my mid-thirties, I opt for moisturizing and anti-aging masks. Start with the hydrating one, followed by anti-aging. Bonus: if your skin is used to light therapy, use it again after serums.
Exhausted from the week? Vitamin C is your best friend. I mix some Vitamin C and anti-aging serums in the morning and continue with my daily skincare products. On days you know you’ll be out all day/night, it’s important to use another anti-pollution moisturizer.
Don’t be that person that sleeps in your makeup. Wash it all off, zap your face for 5 minutes with light therapy, and apply what you need based on your skin type. I look way more refreshed the morning after using light therapy. Staying in? Feel free to use your microneedler or dermaplaning tool. Finish with a sleeping mask that helps hydrate your skin overnight. Bonus: add in eye patches, you’ll look well-rested when you wake up!
It’s another mask binge day! This should be your day to recover your skin. I like to start my weekends off with a brightening mask and anti-aging mask. Use a sheet mask to brighten after using a mask that helps firm the skin. It’s also a great way to combat your skin hangover when paired with a third mask for hydration.
Mask it UP. Since you’ll be rolling into another deep exfoliating day the following day, prep your skin to avoid redness with hydrating and anti-aging products. Apply your favorite eye patches: I love the Peter Thomas Roth 24K Gold ones, they hydrate and iron out fine lines from a week of stress.
So that’s what a weekly regimen actually looks like for great skin. Now, how do you take step one? It’s important to know that YOU know your skin better than most people. You don’t need to completely overhaul what’s in your bathroom cabinet, just invest in a few new ones as you’re able, and work up to this routine in your own way. For more articles helping with just this, head to the Beauty section. My core picks if you’re just starting out, start with a few of these: