How to Put Together a Skincare Routine


In This Article:

Knowing what products work together, how they benefit your skin, and the order in which to use them is incredibly important when selecting the best skincare routine for you. The information below is designed to help you select a Paula's Choice Essential or Advanced skincare routine or to custom-select products based on what works best for you and your specific skin concerns, step by step!
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The Products You Need (and Why)

The following table provides key details about how each type of product works, when it should be applied, and what results you can expect. Keep in mind that if you have multiple skincare concerns, you may need to add more than one treatment or targeted treatment product. You may be able to just add one targeted treatment product to your routine, or you might need to alternate its use with the other products. With a more advanced routine, some experimentation is needed to discover which method and frequency of application works best. We promise we'll help you make sense of this and cut through the confusion!

For complete details, please visit the skincare product pages using the links below.

Skincare Product What is this for? Why do I need this? What results will I see?
Cleanser (Step 1) A gentle, water-soluble cleanser removes debris, oil, and makeup. Rinsing with water is not enough to clean your face. When your face is clean, it allows the other products you use to work even better, morning and evening. With a Paula's Choice cleanser, your skin will look and act healthier, feel smoother, and be ready to receive maximum benefits from your other products.
Toner (Step 2) Our well-formulated toners smooth, soften, and calm skin, while removing the last traces of makeup. They also add vital skin-repairing ingredients after cleansing. Toners with skin-repairing ingredients hydrate and replenish the skin's surface immediately after cleansing. They also help reduce redness and dry patches. With a Paula's Choice toner, your skin will feel softer and look smoother, and redness will be reduced. Those with oily skin will see smaller pores.

Daily use will give your skin what it needs to function in a younger, healthier way.
Exfoliant (Step 3) Our exfoliants gently remove built-up dead skin cells, revealing new skin.

AHAs exfoliate the surface of skin; BHA exfoliates the surface of skin and inside the pores.
Sun damage causes the surface of the skin to become abnormally thick. Acne and oily skin complicate this further. Exfoliating eliminates this build up, which otherwise would cause clogged pores, uneven skin tone, dullness, and deeper wrinkles. Overnight your skin will look radiant, smoother, and younger (really)!

Daily exfoliation with a Paula's Choice AHA or BHA exfoliant will unclog pores, reduce redness, blackheads,* and breakouts, diminish wrinkles, build collagen, and improve uneven skin tone.
*BHA is best for blackheads.
Acne Treatment (Step 4, if needed) After exfoliating with an AHA or BHA exfoliant, an acne treatment with benzoyl peroxide kills acne-causing bacteria and helps reduce redness. When acne is your concern, research shows that topical treatment with benzoyl peroxide is an essential step for achieving clear skin. With consistent use of Paula's Choice acne treatments, you will see fewer breakouts and a reduction in large, red, swollen blemishes. Your acne will be reduced, possibly eliminated.
Skin Lightening Treatment (Step 4, if needed; step 5 if you're using an acne treatment) Applied at least once daily, skin lighteners gradually reduce, and in some cases eliminate, brown spots and discolorations. Using a skin-lightening product reduces the over-production of melanin, the skin pigment that makes up brown spots and discolorations. After 8–12 weeks of daily use, you will see discolorations fade or even disappear completely. Your skin tone will be more even and radiant. Ongoing use is needed to maintain results.
Anti-Aging/Antiwrinkle Treatment Serum(Step 4 if you're not using an acne treatment or skin lightener; otherwise, those go on first) Applied morning and evening, serums filled with antioxidants and other anti-aging ingredients protect your skin from environmental damage, including sun damage* and pollution.
*When used with a sunscreen rated SPF 25 or greater. 
Paula's Choice treatment serums with antioxidants improve your skin in numerous ways, from reducing redness to stimulating healthy collagen production and improving the appearance of wrinkles. Immediately, your skin will feel smoother and look radiant. With twice-daily use, signs of damage will fade and your skin will look and behave healthier and visibly younger.
Anti-Aging/Antiwrinkle Moisturizer with Sunscreen (the last step in your morning routine) This essential morning step keeps your skin shielded from sun damage. It must have an SPF 25 or higher rating, and offer broad-spectrum protection.
Our sunscreens with antioxidants are essential to protect your skin from UV light exposure, which is the No. 1 cause of wrinkles, brown spots, and other signs of aging. Protecting your skin from further sun (UV) damage allows it to generate younger, healthier skin cells. This is the critical step to having radiant skin. You will see fewer signs of aging!
Anti-Aging/Antiwrinkle Moisturizer (the last step in your evening routine) All skin types will benefit from our moisturizers because they contain the types of ingredients research has shown help your skin look healthier and visibly younger. Used daily, moisturizers (cream, lotion, gel, or liquid texture) improve skin's healthy functioning and keep it feeling smooth and soft. You can (and should) use them around the eye area; however, if you prefer using an eye cream, you can apply it over or instead of your moisturizer around your eyes. When you use the right Paula's Choice moisturizer for your skin type, you will see smoother, radiant skin that's hydrated and healthier. Dry, dull, or flaky skin will be replaced by skin that looks and acts visibly younger!
Targeted Treatments (when and how often to apply depends on the product) These products are optional extras you can add, depending on your personal skincare concerns. Examples include products such as boosters, facial masks, oil-blotting papers, and lip care. These products may be needed as an extra step to hydrate skin, absorb excess oil, calm skin, or treat a special need or occasional skin concern. Results depend on the targeted product you choose. For example, our Shine Stopper will leave your skin shine-free and help large pores look smaller.

Your Essential Routine

This simple, step-by-step routine covers the basic types of products everyone should use and the order in which to use them every day. These steps apply regardless of your skin type.

Essential Routine: MORNING

  1. Cleanser
  2. Exfoliant
  3. Moisturizer w/ sunscreen

Essential Routine: EVENING

  1. Cleanser
  2. Exfoliant
  3. Moisturizer

Learn why exfoliation is so important and which exfoliant to use.
Learn about moisturizers, anti-aging, and antiwrinkle products.

Your Advanced Routine

The Advanced Routine is one most people concerned with signs of aging or breakouts will need. It includes targeted solutions that build on the foundation of the Essential Routine to treat your personal skincare concerns involving visible signs of aging.

For example, if your sole concern is dry skin, you'll do fine by following the Essential Routine. But if you have dry skin and wrinkles or oily skin and wrinkles and breakouts you will want to follow the Advanced Routine for best results.

The Advanced Routine includes a gentle toner as the second step, morning and evening. If you've never used a well-formulated toner before, prepare to be amazed by the results! Learn why toner is such an important step in a comprehensive skincare routine.

Advanced Routine: MORNING

  1. Cleanser
  2. Toner
  3. Exfoliant
  4. Treatment (serum)
  5. Moisturizer w/ sunscreen
  6. Optional: Targeted treatment (applied as needed before sunscreen)

Advanced Routine: EVENING

  1. Cleanser
  2. Toner
  3. Exfoliant
  4. Treatment (serum)
  5. Moisturizer
  6. Optional: Targeted treatment, as needed, applied before or after your treatment product.

The Best Skin of Your Life Starts Here: The same type of in-depth research used to create this article is also used to formulate Paula’s Choice Skincare products. You’ll find products for all skin types and a range of concerns, from acne and sensitive skin to wrinkles, pores, and sun damage. With Paula’s Choice Skincare, you can get (and keep) the best skin of your life! Learn more at Shop Paula's Choice.

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About the Experts

Paula Begoun is the best-selling author of 20 books on skin care and makeup. She is known worldwide as the Cosmetics Cop and creator of Paula's Choice. Paula's expertise has led to hundreds of appearances on national and international television including:

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The Paula's Choice Research Team is dedicated to busting beauty myths and helping you solve your skincare frustrations with research-supported expert advice—so you'll have the facts you need to take the best possible care of your skin.

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