Is Your Skin Care Working As Well As It Should?

by Miki Hayes
Anna Webber/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Managing a skin-care routine shouldn't be all that difficult. Just slap on your products and go about your day, right? Well, for the most part, that's true. But if you really want to make sure you're getting the most out of your skin-care products, there are little things that you should and shouldn't do— things that will make your products more effective, last longer, and in the long run even save you some money. So to find out some tips for how to make sure your skin care is doing its best, I emailed with a couple of experts.

Dr. Elizabeth Tanzi, founder and director of Capital Laser & Skin Care and Assistant Clinical Professor for the Department of Dermatology at the George Washington University Medical Center, and Joanna Vargas, celebrity facialist and founder of Joanna Vargas Salon and Skincare Collection, both let me in on some of the steps you should be taking to optimize your skin regimen. And you may be surprised just how much of an effect these simple little things can have on your skin and your products. So if you want to make sure your products are penetrating properly and staying fresh as long as they should, here are seven skin-care habits to know and follow:

1. Exfoliate Regularly

Exfoliating regularly is the key to keeping your pores clean, your skin glowing, and your products properly penetrating, says Vargas. She recommends using a gentle exfoliator as over-exfoliating with something like a retinol can make skin dry and look thin. Dr. Tanzi adds that how often you exfoliate will depend on your skin type. Those with oily skin can exfoliate as often as once per day while those with dry skin may only be able to exfoliate once per week, she says.

2. Apply In The Correct Order

To make sure the ingredients of each skin-care product is absorbed by your skin instead of blocked by another product, it's important to apply your products in the correct order. Generally, your products should be applied from thinnest to thickest consistency. So after cleansing, depending on what types of products you actually use, Vargas says the order should be something like this: Toner, serum, face oil, moisturizer, sunscreen, makeup. Of course, if your skin is too dry for a toner or you already have sunscreen in your moisturizer and/or foundation, you may want to skip those steps.

3. Store Your Skin Care Properly

If exposed to sunlight, certain ingredients in skin care could break down, causing your products to be ineffective sooner than their expiration dates, explains Vargas. In order to keep your skin care out of direct sunlight, Dr. Tanzi recommends storing everything under your sink or in a medicine cabinet.

4. Be Careful With Antioxidants

Antioxidants are notoriously unstable, says Dr. Tanzi. So if you have products that are rich in antioxidants, she warns against layering too many other products on top as this could render the antioxidants ineffective.

5. Save Peels & Retinoids For Night

If you incorporate a peel and/or retinoid into your routine, both Dr. Tanzi and Vargas recommend including this step in your nighttime routine only, as these types of products can make your skin more sensitive to the sun.

6. Know Which Direction To Apply

"If your skin is inflamed, red, or breaking out, you should always apply your products in a downwards motion on the face towards the sides of the neck," says Vargas. This, she explains, "encourages lymphatic drainage and brings down redness immediately." If your skin is dry or dull though, she recommends applying your products in an upwards motion as this encourages greater circulation.

7. Stick With Small Amounts

More isn't always better when it comes to how much of each skin-care product you should use. Dr. Tanzi recommends using "a dime-sized amount of cleanser, two or three drops of serum, and a nickel-sized amount of moisturizer." Not only are these small amounts enough to care for your face, but sticking to them will help your products last longer.

Because even the smallest changes can help you get the most out of your skin-care products.