Putting your products inwards order, including pH theme acids

One of the questions I hear the most often from novel Asian beauty production fans is what gild to house their products in, specially if they are using actives similar Vitamin C serums or acids, which are pH-dependent.  After many private responses, amongst the same questions over together with over, I realized it needed its ain post.

Skincare production routine inwards order
This is understandably overwhelming for many people. Image from: K-Beauty on Amazon: Rebuilding a 15+ Step Routine if My Stash Caught on Fire
There are some full general rules that encompass 90% of skincare, but 1 time yous add together powerful actives similar Vitamin C antioxidant serums together with chemic exfoliants, things acquire a petty to a greater extent than complicated.  This guide volition encompass them all.

In this post:

There is a lot of understandable confusion, because the production names don't genuinely brand sense or they are misleading: i.e. 'First Essence' that doesn't genuinely become first, a 'Lotion' that has the texture of water, together with the fifty-fifty to a greater extent than mystifying-named 'Skin'.  (What??)

Korean beauty production routine order
Now agree inwards 2 cleansers, iii actives, together with a partridge inwards a pear tree!
It makes yous desire to delineate out a dartboard together with permit fate decide.

Basic rules on the gild that applies to all your skincare

You can do this, I promise.  First, retrieve that yous tin layer products together with strategically apply them; yous don't have got to seat a thick coating of a unmarried production all over your face.  You tin larn to a greater extent than virtually why people layer products inwards my postal service on Skincare Layering.

Here are the basic steps:
  1. Cleansers
  2. Actives
  3. Hydrators
  4. Occlusives
  5. Treatments/Protection
It's that simple.

Need a visual example?  I oftentimes postal service my daily routines on Instagram, along amongst the products + their gild of application. You tin also cheque out these posts, amongst photos of illustration products seat into order:

Korean beauty production routine
click prototype to thought post
Korean Beauty Products for Oily together with Acne-Prone Skin
click prototype to thought post
Nonetheless, yous tin totally exercise this amongst your own products, I have got faith inwards you!

Before yous start applying products to your face, yous demand to accept off what's already there.  All of these steps become after 'Basic Cleansing', which yous tin read to a greater extent than virtually inwards my Cleansing Megapost: Double Cleansing, Cleanser Types, Tools, & Techniques.

As long every bit yous tin proceed inwards hear the next excerpt from my layering post, together with apply the logic to the texture of your products, you'll hold upward 80% there, no affair what product yous are unsure about:
Layer 'fat over lean', similar a fossil oil painter.
I noticed when yous layer, it's a lot similar the technique yous role for fossil oil prototype of putting 'fat over lean'; important yous start amongst thinner layers of pigment suspended inwards turpentine or other thinners, together with every bit yous create the layer of colours, yous increase the amount of linseed fossil oil or oil-based medium inwards the later on layers.  If yous start amongst a 'fat' layer, the 'lean' medium can't penetrate through to the canvass or adhere to the lower layers, resulting inwards peeling layers, damaged paintings, together with dullness.
Same amongst the moisturizers-- yous seat the thinner/watery/more easily absorbed moisturizers on outset to ensure they sink easily into the peel together with create hydration, thus yous seat thicker/richer/cream-type moisturizers on top, together with only inwards the areas yous demand them.  This keeps my cheeks wonderfully moisturized together with keeps my brow from becoming greasy.
So when it comes to whatever together with all hydrating/moisturizing products, (note: this does non include actives such every bit LAA Vitamin C serums, retinoids, BHA, AHA, or PHA!  I volition encompass those later) the higher upward applies.  This includes (in order):
  • 'First' Essences, such every bit the Missha First Treatment Essence, Mizon Skin Power Original First Essence, together with whatever other production that has instructions to hold upward applied outset after basic cleansing.  If yous have got multiple 'first' type products, role the 'fat over lean' dominion above.
  • Hydrating Toners, such every bit the Holika Holika Don't Worry Bee Care Calendula Toner, Skinfood Gold Kiwi Toner, together with all 'toners' that are meant every bit a layer of skincare, bringing wet or nourishment to the skin.  Note: these are really different than 'cleansing' type toners, which would hold upward included inwards your 'Basic Cleansing' steps.
  • Serums, Essences, Ampoules, Lotions, Milks, Skins, Creams, Balms, Oils: all of these autumn nether 'fat over lean' because frankly, yous tin have got a 'cream' that feels similar a serum together with an 'essence' that feels similar a thick black cream,  So, ever start amongst the thinnest/wateriest product, together with layer them inwards gild of increasing thickness/oiliness.

There are a few exceptions, such every bit the Mizon Snail line:
Korean beauty production routine order
As yous tin see, the 'cream' is listed first, but inwards reality, it's to a greater extent than similar a whipped essence than an actual cream together with provides really petty moisturization.  It's hydrating, but it's non heavy.

The Ampoule is a medium weight, together with gives to a greater extent than intense hydration than the 'cream', together with thus the Snail Recovery Gel Cream isn't a cream at all, it's definitely a gel.  It's also The Precious, my most purchased skincare production ever (review). It's beingness used every bit a 'sealing' pace here, locking inwards the hydration from the before steps.

But that's the exception!

A banking concern complaint on toners:


I lift higher upward that ‘hydrating’ toners should become on after the ‘first essence’ type products, together with that’s because they’re non genuinely ‘toning’ anything, they’re nourishing the skin.  Asian toners are really different than western ones.  If yous are non using a ‘first essence’, yous would motion directly to the hydrating toner.  Thus, yous aren’t applying a production only to wipe it off amongst the toner, the toner is the side yesteryear side layer.


If yous are using a ‘cleansing’ type toner, it’s in all probability redundant if yous are doing actives or a ‘first essence’.  If yous aren’t either actives or a ‘first essence’, yous would role them every bit the terminal cleansing step.

So where exercise yous role a 'cleansing' toner if yous are using actives + ‘first essence’?  Short answer: yous don't, unless it’s also a toner meant to lower the pH of your peel inwards training for later on steps, together with has a depression plenty pH, such every bit the Mizon AHA & BHA Daily Clean toner that I role to forcefulness downwards the pH of my peel after cleansing together with before applying actives.

You volition also have got a few AM vs PM differences: inwards the AM yous volition hold upward finishing amongst sunscreen (and makeup, if yous article of apparel it), together with mayhap a mist throughout the hateful solar daytime if you're into that, together with inwards the PM yous may add together a sheet mask (during the serum step, thus before your heavier/occlusive creams), black masks/sleeping packs, together with spot treatments.

Confused?  Need a visual reference/ELI5 version?  Check out this post: Multi-Step Korean Skincare Routine, which includes visuals of the steps together with the gild they become in, along amongst an illustration routine.

As long every bit yous proceed inwards hear that products amongst a lot of lipids (oils, fats) inwards them volition block absorption of water/hydration into the skin, yous volition hold upward able to apply this dominion to most of your skincare.

That brings us to:

How to comprise 'actives' which are pH dependent

'Actives' are products amongst ingredients that have got direct, active results on the skin, ordinarily amongst a serious scientific discipline pedigree.  Actives are the only ingredients that drive truthful purging. [source] ** These include antioxidants such every bit Vitamin C (LAA - L-Ascorbic Acid), Vitamin Influenza A virus subtype H5N1 (retinoids such every bit retinol together with tretinoin), together with acids similar Alpha Hydroxy Acid (AHA), Beta Hydroxy Acid (BHA), together with Polyhydroxy Acid (PHA).  I volition eventually hold upward doing a postal service virtually diverse acids together with their use, but if you're reading this to discovery out where/when to comprise them, that's in all probability onetime tidings to you.

**If yous are 'purging' from a production that doesn't contain actives inwards the concentration % and pH needed to hold upward 'active', it ain't purging.  Flee.

Actives exercise not apply to the 'fat over lean' rule, because they become after basic cleansing together with before whatever hydrating steps, including all those 'first' essences.  So if your production says to role it straightaway after basic cleansing together with before whatever other products, together with yous role actives, ignore those instructions together with role them after the actives.

In fact, you tin consider whatever 'actives' every bit an extension of cleansing, if that makes it easier, because they are often prepping your peel to brand your skincare to a greater extent than effective/absorb better.  (I genuinely sometimes 'cleanse' my peel after my actives are done, yesteryear swiping amongst my Mizon AHA BHA toner on a cotton wool foursquare to take away whatever residue, together with dirt, sebum, or dead peel that the acids dissolved off my skin.  I desire that slurry of goo off my confront before I start moisturizing, ugh!) They're also pH dependent (meaning that they demand your peel to remain at a specific pH piece they work) so yous demand to acquire them done before yous remain layering anything else on your skin.

You may have got heard that Vitamin C should non hold upward combined amongst niacinamide, or that it doesn't matter, that the pH doesn't matter, or that the pH matters, that yous tin layer things on top of 1 another, that yous have got to hold off xx min betwixt everything, together with other contradictory statements.  It genuinely depends on which cast of Vitamin C yous are using (LAA is both pH theme together with also should non hold upward combined amongst niacinamide, thus best to hold off xxx min inwards betwixt using those two), together with what is the pH gain of your specific products.

So why that specific order?

The gild of your pH theme products

Most mutual actives require a 15-20 infinitesimal absorption/activation window inwards the right pH for that product, together with inwards the trial that yous include multiple actives inwards a unmarried routine, you'll desire to follow an order of lowest pH to highest pH.

For people who role LAA-based Vitamin C serums (which are pH dependent), that volition usally hold upward Vitamin C >> BHA >> AHA.  (For how to comprise retinol into an Asian skincare routine, I recommend yous cheque out read to a greater extent than here
.)

Click prototype to view: What's In My Skincare Wardrobe: Actives (Prescriptions, Antioxidants, together with Acids) Edition
Pictured inwards gild on bottom row: pH adjusting toner > Vitamin C serum > BHA > AHA > non-exfoliating acid treatment

You can role all  3 inwards a unmarried routine, but 1. that's a lot of waiting inwards betwixt them, together with 2. that's a lot of exfoliation inwards 1 go. Even though Vitamin C isn't technically an exfoliant, since it's a depression pH together with it's an acid, it may hold upward likewise much for your peel if yous are also using acid exfoliants.  I personally role Vitamin C inwards the AM together with BHA together with AHA inwards the PM, which is a lot, but I also pay unopen attending to my peel together with skip whatever of the higher upward if I experience similar I demand to pace it downwards a bit.  Many people role only 1 or 2 out of the iii daily, or on alternate days.

I also role AHA at black because it makes your peel photosensitive correction: AHA makes yous photosensitive, period.  AHA directions often say to role it at night, but it's genuinely no safer to role it at black vs the day, every bit studies have got shown that a 10% AHA has photosensitivity effects for upward to a week. [source: total text, additional source: abstract amongst conclusion]  I have got non seen whatever studies standard lower concentrations of AHA, but the 1 I role is 8% together with I can't imagine a 2% divergence is magically mitigating the sustained photosensitivity effect.  Conclusion?  You're going to demand sunscreen no affair what fourth dimension of hateful solar daytime yous apply it, which was my master copy opinion fifty-fifty before I learned this novel info.

I slather on high SPF/PA sunscreen during the hateful solar daytime if I become out.  Sunscreen is necessary.  If yous can't commit to sunscreen, chemic exfoliation is non for you.

I received this interrogation from someone virtually the gild of Vitamin C, BHA, together with AHA, because I had advised to role them inwards that exact order, amongst a xx infinitesimal hold off fourth dimension inwards betwixt them.

They asked:
  • if at that spot was a argue for that specific order
  • was the hold off fourth dimension necessary
  • and if they all component subdivision at a depression pH, can't they only apply them 1 after the other?  
They also mentioned they cleanse, thus role the Hada Labo toner I linked above, thus an AHA, waiting 1-2 minutes, thus an LAA Vitamin C serum, waiting xx minutes, together with thus continuing amongst the ease of their routine.  (Please banking concern complaint that non-LAA Vitamin C serums are non impacted yesteryear the below factors, thus disregard if your Vitamin C is non LAA.)

I realized that they were struggling amongst data overload, thus I had to alter upward my approach.

Borderline NSFW analogies if the technical price are making your caput spin

Actually, I acquire this sort of interrogation a lot, together with I likewise was overwhelmed when I started delving into the sciencey side of skincare, thus I decided to become for a less technical approach inwards my reply:
The argue for the gild has to exercise amongst the relative pH requirements of the different products. Vit C together with the other acids demand to hold upward at different pHs to hold upward effective. Think of it every bit cooking temperature- different meats require different temperatures, right? So say that yous are cooking beef together with pork to medium-rare. 
If yous railroad train them both together at the same temp, yous are going to acquire into problem - beef needs a temp of 130-135 but pork needs a temp of 145-150.  So if yous railroad train them at the 'beef temp', the pork volition hold upward undercooked, but if yous railroad train them at the 'pork temp' the beef volition hold upward waaay overcooked. So yous have got to exercise them separately.  Does that brand sense?

Also, your Hada Labo is hydrating thus it volition contain moisturizing ingredients that volition block the acids' might to access the skin. It should become after all your acids. 
Start amongst the lowest pH theme product, which is the Vit C. It needs to become on a 'bare' face, together with it's thus low-pH-dependent [link] that yous either have got to hold off 15-20 min after washing your confront for your peel to naturally become dorsum downwards to pH 4.2-5.6 on its ain [link], or forcefulness it downwards amongst a pH adjusting toner (I role Mizon AHA BHA toner, which is around 4.5, thus on the depression terminate of 'natural' peel pH) if your peel volition dry out out likewise much for waiting. 
The harder your Vit C has to work to acquire your peel to a sub-3.5 pH, the to a greater extent than wasted effort- when the Vit C could have got been working its magic on your skin, instead it's burning its efforts on lowering pH. Vit C needs fifteen minutes ,alone inwards a candlelit room amongst polish jazz , amongst your peel (and yesteryear that I hateful Vit C has a fifteen min absorption time/effectiveness window), together with if it's gotta waste matter fourth dimension pleading at the door for yous to lower that pH together with permit it inwards baby! Then that's minutes of antioxidant sexytime that yous are giving up. 
However, BHA has a higher pH effectiveness range, of 3-4, thus yous genuinely don't desire it crashing your Vit C party. AHA is higher still, all the means upward to 4.5. So since your Vit C is ,sensitive , yous desire to accept tending of it before yous start flirting amongst higher pH products similar BHA together with AHA, because it volition acquire huffy together with sulk off. 
The argue yous desire BHA before AHA is less virtually pH (unless your AHA is betwixt 4-4.5 inwards which instance it's going to mess upward your BHA) together with to a greater extent than virtually oil. BHA is oil-soluble, AHA is not. So, yous demand the BHA to become inwards outset together with battle the sebum inwards your pores together with clear them out, thus it's non inwards the means when yous apply your AHA.
Yep, I only equated Vitamin C serum to a petulant, jealous, emo boyfriend.  But hey, it worked!

If yous desire a to a greater extent than technical explanation, yous tin cheque out my recent postal service on pH testing amongst a digital meter where I beak virtually the specific ranges of BHA together with AHA, together with how the pH of my particular BHA together with AHA of alternative forces me to stagger them amongst xx min inwards between.  If whatever of your products are non finicky virtually the pH they are in, or inside the same pH range, I don't run into whatever argue why yous couldn't layer them, but I prefer to err on the side of caution.

Some terminal notes together with warnings

LAA-based Vitamin C serums oxidize when exposed to lite (or heat, thus store it inwards your refrigerator betwixt uses) thus I wouldn't recommend waiting out the xx minutes inwards front end of a large window (or yous may terminate upward looking similar Snooki until yous wipe off the residue).  Some people apply it together with hold off inwards the dark, similar ultra-glamorous bats, but I've never gone that far.

AHA makes yous photosensitive, thus for the honey of anti-aging, wear sunscreen.  Don't only seat it on at black together with thus facial expression that it volition hold upward prophylactic to become out sunscreen-less the side yesteryear side morning, because we're talking an overall shift inwards your skin.  Not only volition yous lose out on all the goodness an AHA gives you, yous volition hold upward making things worse.  You should already hold upward wearing sunscreen daily no affair what, but yous may demand to boost upward the strength when yous add together actives, AHA, BHA, LAA, whatever yous are using.

BHA has to hold upward inwards higher concentrations to operate (1-2% at minimum, together with I have got seen suggestions every bit high every bit 3-5% is needed for those amongst really clogged/oily skin), but I have got heard that Korea has limits on OTC (over the counter) products containing to a greater extent than than 0.5% BHA.  Hence my rage together with frustration amongst the Sidmool Dual Effect BHA Gel together with the explanation every bit to why it wasn't doing anything.  So exercise some extra enquiry to brand certain your production is high enough.

AHA (well, BHA too) comes inwards many forms, the most mutual is Glycolic Acid which doesn't concur amongst some people's skin.  That doesn't hateful that yous have got to surrender AHAs, yous only demand to discovery alternatives, such every bit Mandelic acid.  Same amongst BHA; if your peel doesn't similar Salicylic Acid, yous may have got to dig around to discovery a BHA that industrial plant for you.

Do your enquiry before trying whatever actives, because dissimilar the creams together with lotions together with potions yous are used to, yous tin genuinely harm your peel if yous goof up.  They're magical together with wonderful together with they're skincare mana from above, but don't mess amongst them.  Research.  Research!

Lastly, that's also my disclaimer: I am non a licensed medical professional, I am only a skincare nerd amongst an unhealthy honey of google scholar together with a willingness to devote hours into research.

All the best,
-Cat

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