With all the skincare routines on the market, it is surprising that most still come with three steps: a cleanser, a toner or serum, and a moisturizer.

That is all fine and well, but is it enough, and is it effective?

Yes… and no. A skincare routine doesn’t have to be complicated and long; you don’t need tons of steps to get the job done. At the same time, that doesn’t mean your morning and night routines should be the same.

Nor should your skincare routine look exactly like everyone else’s. Depending on your skin type, you might find that your skincare products look entirely different from that of your friends or even your family members. For example, oily, acne-prone skin can benefit from an astringent to help with excess oils, while dry skin might need products that are for sensitive skin.

With that in mind, here’s the 411 on morning and night skincare routines.

Your Morning Routine

When it comes to your morning routine, it should be simple but protective. That is the goal of your morning routine, or it should be.

For a step-by-step on your morning skincare routine, keep reading:

Step 1: Clean Your Face

In the morning, you should gently cleanse your skin. Since you aren’t removing any makeup or SPF, you want to just remove any treatments or sweat from the night before. You can simply rinse with warm water; if you like to feel like your face is freshly washed, you can also use a gentle cleanser.

Step 2: Use a Toner

We get it. Toners? Some people don’t like using a toner on their face because it’s associated with drying sensations. Toners don’t have to be drying, though. Some can help close your pores and enrich your skin with healthy antioxidants.

Step 3: Apply Your Serum

After you’ve cleaned and toned your face, you can go in with a serum that suits your skin type. Serums come in all kinds of forms. Most are golden in color, and the best don’t leave your face feeling greasy or shiny. Lightly put the serum on your face for even coverage.

Step 4: Moisturize

Last but not least is the moisturizer. Even oily skin needs to finish with a lightweight lotion. Always make sure your moisturizer is an SPF to keep yourself protected throughout the day.

Morning Skincare Products

Now that we’ve discussed what you want to include in your morning routine, let’s get to the good stuff: the products!

When it comes to skincare products, you can really spend as much or as little as you want. You’ll find that many brands can be completely over the top expensive, while others are cheaper, but you get what you pay for. For our top picks for affordable and effective morning skincare products, check out our top drugstore skincare products.

Using a serum with vitamin C or hyaluronic acid will protect your skin from damage and dehydration. Meanwhile, following up with a moisturizer that contains SPF will lock in the goodness of the serum and protect you from harmful UVA and UVB rays.

Even if you use tons of effective products on your skin, skipping sunscreen puts them all to waste. Nothing you use to treat your skin will work long-term if you continue exposing your skin to the sun without protection.

Your Night Routine

Your night routine is totally different from your morning routine. At night you don’t need protection from the sun or pollution. Instead, your skin repairs itself while you’re sleeping (source). This is why it’s so important to wash your face and apply the right products that actually do their work while you rest.

Just to be clear, it’s not that your day routine isn’t vital to your skin’s health, but those products won’t change the skin the way your night products should.

Now that we’ve cleared that up, let’s talk about your step-by-step night-time routine.

Step 1: Wash Your Face

The first step at night should always be cleansing. You want to effectively clean the day off your face. Unlike your morning routine, however, you’re going to want to go in there and get rid of any makeup, dirt, sweat, or other buildups from your day.

The last thing you want is to go to sleep with all of that icky stuff on your face! Not only will those things cause issues if left on the skin, but if you don’t clean them off properly, the products you apply later won’t work as well either. Some dermatologists recommend washing your face twice: once to remove makeup, and once to ensure all has been washed off (source).

An exfoliator or exfoliating toner is another great way to help remove the top layer of skin and reveal fresher and brighter skin beneath.

Step 2: Use a Toner

Speaking of toners, just as you did in the morning, the second step is to apply a toner. As we mentioned, you want to focus on your skin’s unique concerns, which we go into in more detail here. For instance, if you have acne, a salicylic acid or azelaic acid serum is ideal. If your skin is more sensitive, you can use rose water or another more gentle toner alternative.

Step 3: Eye Creams

This one is totally optional, but if you suffer from pesky dark circles or puffy eyes, you might want to include an eye cream in your nightly skincare routine. Eye creams can help alleviate signs of wrinkles or discoloration by helping the sensitive skin around your eyes stay hydrated (source).

Step 4: Apply Treatments

Now that you’ve protected your eyes, you can use some of the more intense skincare products on your face. If you have dry skin, then you may want to try hyaluronic acid; if you have mature skin, retinol might be your go-to. Whatever you end up using, you’ll want to do this step right before you moisturize to keep your skin from drying out. We also recommend doing it after applying any eye creams, as eye creams can protect the skin around your eyes from these harsher treatments.

Step 5: Moisturizer Time

Night moisturizers operate differently from daytime moisturizers. You can get away with something heavier at night because you don’t have to worry about looking shiny or applying makeup. The moisturizer will lock in all the other ingredients, so your skin can do the work.

When you wake up, your skin should look more supple and fresh. To keep that going, you want to maintain it and protect it with your simple daily routine. Repeat the routine every day and night for improved skin!