Ultimate Guide to Skincare: The AM & PM Routine Edition

Ultimate Guide to Skincare: The AM & PM Routine Edition

Earlier this week, I shared a reel via Instagram sharing how to correctly layer your skincare routine. It may seem simple, but the other of your skincare application will make a significant impact on how effective your routine is. Today, I'm diving deeper and sharing a detailed breakdown on each step, what it does for the skin, and product tips. This is your ultimate guide to achieving glowing skin and understanding the "why" behind each step.

Pre-Cleanse (PM)

The Double Cleanse should always be a part of your nighttime routine. Nightly. Always. An oil-based cleanse to begin your nighttime routine will "Wash Away The Day" and is a must for all skin types, including oily skin (no, it won't make you oily, or breakout, it will help to draw out excess oils and improve congestion). It's a simple step, but oh so mighty, to help achieve healthy skin.

Oil-based cleansers such as cleansing oils, balms, and micellar water effortlessly remove environmental exposures, surface impurities, skincare, and makeup. This step will effectively remove what's on the skin's surface before you move on to your second cleanse, which is generally a water-based cleanser (see Cleanse step below).

Double cleansing will improve the skin's clarity, reduce pore build-up, improve acne and texture, and promote better skincare absorption. It is an absolute game-changer for all routines and skin types that will create visible improvements at a fundamental level.

The absolute top seller in the shop is Living Libations cleansing oils. They're cost-effective, work incredibly well for all skin types and effortlessly wash away the day with a spa-like sensorial element. You'll be obsessed if you try it, I promise.

My clients live by The Double Cleanse rule, and I have never had a client not see visible improvement in their skin when incorporating this simple technique into their nightly routine.

HOW-TO USE This will vary depending on the formula used. Generally, oil-based cleansers or cleansing balms are massaged into dry skin with dry hands and removed with a damp and gentle facial cloth or 4x4 cotton pad. If wearing makeup, you may need to repeat your pre-cleanse step twice before moving on to your second cleanser. Watch my reel here, which showcases how to correctly oil-cleanse with Living Libations.


your quick guide

which Oil-Cleanser is best for you?


Cleanse (AM & PM)

This is a fundamental step for healthy skin both morning and night. Cleansers should be gentle yet effective without stripping or compromising the skin's barrier. Cleansers will set the foundation for optimal skincare application and will help slough away dead skin cells, secretions, skincare, and any impurities and exposures sitting on the skin's surface.

Cream and balm cleansers are great for dry, mature and sensitive skin types. Fluid Falls is a milky cleanser which nourishes and soothes the skin without stripping essential oils from the skin's barrier.

Gel and foam cleansers are great for combo and oily skin types. Cleansing Complex is the most well-loved and best-selling cleanser here at Room One. Loved by all skin types, this gel cleanser creates an incredible lather and contains mild resurfacing ingredients to deep cleanse the skin without drying it out.

In winter, if living in a cold climate, cream and milk cleansers are a popular option to aid with dehydrated and dry skin due to being lipid-rich and nourishing for the skin's barrier.

HOW-TO USE Massage your cleanser into the skin for 1 minute, working into all the nooks and right to the hairline, ears and neck. Never use hot water to cleanse, as this will dry the skin. Instead, opt for tepid water to cold water, which will help with inflammation and reinvigorate the skin and pores. Rather than splashing water on the skin to remove your cleanser, opt for damp and unfolded 4x4 cotton pads. This method will effectively remove all product and surface impurities.

your quick guide

which cleanser is best for you?

Toner (AM & PM)

Toners have come a long way since the days of astringent, alcohol-based, stripping formulas (avoid these at all costs). Instead, select a toner based on skin type and concerns. There are amazing formulas to help balance and nourish the skin's microbiome and target common skin concerns such as hydration, aging, acne, texture and more. One of the most well-loved in-studio is Vital Falls, a gentle, balancing toner that nourishes the skin and is perfect for all skin types.

Remember, toner is not a mop! It is not part of your cleansing routine but the first step in your skincare application. Improve your cleanse if your cotton pad has makeup, dirt, and grime. Your toner should not be relied upon to cleanse these impurities, and your cotton pad should be clean post-tone. Remember, the purpose of toner is not to cleanse the skin further; it's to prime and balance the skin for your skincare application.

HOW TO USE Apply onto a cotton pad and use gentle outward sweeping motions.

your quick guide

which toner is best for you?

Essence (AM & PM)

This lightweight formula will help improve skin concerns, such as hydration, fine lines and wrinkles, firmness, pigmentation, texture, acne, and more. Think of this as your pre-serum, which will level up your routine, prep the skin for optimal skincare application, and promote better penetration of skincare layered overtop.

One of the perks of essence is how multifaceted it is at improving a host of skin concerns within one formula. Hyalogy P-Effect Peeling Lotion fuses mild exfoliation with hydration and improves acne, inflammation, and texture. Primary Veil offers a refreshing milky emulsion for the skin that nourishes, calms and repairs. Copper Firming Mist is the perfect selection for those on the go and for travel, with copper tripeptide growth factor, antioxidants, and hydrating ingredients that you can effortlessly mist onto the skin and even reapply throughout the day.

There usually needs to be some clarification regarding the difference between an essence and a toner. This is often because both products have similar consistencies and are applied back to back. This is where I often describe that essences are more sophisticated, more concentrated in active ingredients, and more targeted at improving skin concerns. A toner is generally used to balance and prime the skin post-cleanse.

HOW TO USE Depending on the formula, you'll gently press your essence into the skin with your hands, or saturate flat cotton pads and press into the skin. If essence is in the form of a mist, you will apply directly to the skin.

your quick guide

which ESSENCE is best for you?

Serums (AM & PM)


Serums are the powerhouse of a skincare routine. They have the highest concentration of active ingredients and the smallest molecular size. They penetrate the skin deeply and treat skin concerns more intensely.

Daytime serums should include antioxidant-rich formulas to help protect against environmental aggressors and UV-induced sun damage. Some popular antioxidants include, vitamins A, C & E, niacinamide, resveratrol, and more. With that said, the must-have daytime serum is, without a doubt, a vitamin C serum. This holy-grail ingredient will help to boost collagen, brighten pigmentation, improve overall skin tone, and more. Some of the best vitamin C formulas I've found are by IS Clinical, which formulate with the purest L-Ascorbic Acid for optimal potency and efficacy. Pro-Health Serum Advance+ is perfect for those concerned with acne, redness and inflammation. Super Serum Advance+ is the go-to if you have concerns with pigmentation and brightening. GenexC Serum boasts a potent 20% L-Ascorbic acid and mixed fruit acids to aid with aging and texture.

Additionally, serums are only sometimes the fluid consistency we traditionally think of when we think of serum. Serums can vary in weight, from fluid to gel to creamy consistencies. For example, Brightening Complex is a daytime complex that improves sun damage, pigmentation and melasma. Moisturizing Serumulsion is a hydrating serum with a creamy consistency that hydrates and nourishes the skin. While both are considered richer than a traditional serum, with creamy finishes, a moisturizer is layered over them.

HOW TO USE If layering multiple serums, apply from thinnest to thickest consistency, and wait approximately 30 seconds between layering each serum to allow time for optimal absorption.

your quick guide

which VITamin C Serum is best for you?


Nighttime is the best time to include actives such as AHAs, BHAs or Retinol. These will promote cellular turnover and improve common concerns such as aging, pigmentation, and texture. During the night, the skin is in its reparative and regenerative phase. This is the perfect time to include actives to aid in cellular turnover, and because many actives cause photo-sensitivity, it's recommended to apply only at night.

If you are struggling with acne and blackheads, opt for a formula containing salicylic acid, which penetrates into the pores to break down build-up and congestion. Those concerned about aging and texture should opt for a formula containing glycolic acid to diminish fine lines and wrinkles and smooth the skin. Lastly, lactic acid is one of my personal favourites. It's gentle but highly effective at improving texture while also boasting hydrating benefits.

A cult-following serum which contains a blend of all three acids mentioned, along with arbutin to brighten the skin, is Active Serum. Its fast-acting formula is well-loved and well-rounded to treat common concerns including acne, aging, texture, and uneven skin tone.  

HOW TO USE A general rule of thumb is never layer more than one active product in a skincare routine. Instead, opt for a single formula with a synergistic blend of acids if you want to incorporate various exfoliating acids. Why? Because layering different products containing exfoliating acids may cause skin sensitivity and compromise the barrier.

your quick guide

which AHA/BHA Serum is best for you?


I'm giving hydrating serums their very own category because besides vitamin C serums being one of the most recognized in the beauty industry, hyaluronic acid serums reign second in popularity.

Hyaluronic acid is one of the most-touted ingredients for hydrating the skin due to its potent humectant power of binding 1000x times its weight in water to the skin. This helps draw in much-needed moisture to the skin, improving dehydration and plumping fine lines and wrinkles.

As we age, our natural production of hyaluronic acid diminishes, which is why mature skin types often experience more dryness, lacklustre skin, and more visible fine lines and wrinkles (due to dehydration within the skin). Layering a hyaluronic acid serum into a skincare routine helps quench thirsty skin while plumping and smoothing the skin.

Because hyaluronic acid has a larger molecular size, it's often best layered over other serums (if layering) before applying moisturizer. It's also vital to always use a moisturizer over a hyaluronic acid serum. This will ensure you lock hydration into the skin. Otherwise, your hyaluronic acid serum may work against you and pull moisture from the skin, leading to dryness and sensitivity.

Hydrating serums come in many forms and can help treat additional skin concerns. For acne-prone skin, Hydra-Cool Serum is a fantastic option with anti-microbial properties. For sensitive skin types, Moisturizing Serumulsion will soothe and nourish all skin types, dehydrated and sensitive skin types. For aging skin, Hydra3 Regenetic Serum boasts three weights of hyaluronic acid, along with proprietary ingredients to smooth fine lines and wrinkles, and plump the skin.

Not all hydrating serums need hyaluronic acid as a star ingredient, and other popular humectants found in hydrating skincare include lactic acid, glycerin, ceramide, urea, and more.

HOW TO USE May be easily included in a morning and/or night routine. A rule of thumb is to layer serums from thinnest to thickest consistency, but usually, hyaluronic acid serums, especially if thicker in consistency, are the last serum layered onto the skin before moisturizer.

your quick guide

which hydrating Serum is best for you?

Retinol (PM)

You may opt to reach for Retinol instead of, or in combination with your nighttime serum application. Here's an in-depth look at this power ingredient, which often has the most questions associated with it.

What is Retinol, and what are its benefits?
Retinol, a form of vitamin A, is one of the most highly regarded ingredients in skincare, with proven science behind its countless benefits for the skin. It stimulates collagen production, which helps improve skin elasticity and reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. It accelerates cellular turnover, resulting in smoother and more even-toned skin. Additionally, it can unclog pores and reduce acne breakouts, making it beneficial for those with oily or acne-prone skin. Lastly, Retinol has antioxidant properties that help protect the skin from environmental damage and promote a more youthful complexion.

How to start Retinol and acclimate the skin
The secret to including a retinol is to start low and go slow. Start with a low potency, 0.3% or 0.5% are common, whereas 1% is reserved for a seasoned and well-acclimated retinol user. Begin with applying it once per week before moving to twice per week, then up to three times per week, and so on. You'll gradually increase the frequency of application to allow the skin to acclimate over a prolonged period of time. Applying Retinol too frequently or at high doses before the skin is acclimated will overwhelm the skin and result in a compromised skin barrier, sensitivity, and dryness. With time, and if done correctly, you'll find you will tolerate application regularly, if not nightly, throughout the week. Everyone is different, so it's best to listen to the skin, use common sense, know your limits, and drawback frequency of application when needed.

What not to layer with Retinol
Retinol is generally only applied at night, and should not be layered with other actives, such as AHAs and BHAs. Where it is layered within your nightly routine varies on your skin.

Tips on how to apply Retinol
Traditionally, it should be applied directly to the skin after toner and essence and then followed with the application of serum, eye care, and moisturizer. However, suppose you want to draw back the intensity of the Retinol. In this case, I recommend waiting 5 to 10 minutes after applying toner and essence to allow the skin to completely dry before applying Retinol. This is a method I often recommend to those who are using prescription-grade Vitamin A, which is highly potent. The theory here is that when the skin is completely dry, it doesn't draw in the formula as deeply or quickly into the skin, making it more tolerable. Think of a damp sponge cleaning a spill versus a dry sponge, and you get the idea.

Retinol tips for sensitive skin
Alternatively, you can create a buffer before applying Retinol for more sensitive skin types or those wanting to ease into acclimating the skin, which will drawback its intensity. You do this by first creating a barrier. A popular Buffer Method is to first layer a hyaluronic acid serum before applying Retinol. Another method of application is the Sandwich Method. This is beneficial for especially sensitive skin types, in which you layer your Retinol overtop of your moisturizer before finishing with an additional layer of moisturizer overtop of your Retinol. Over time, as skin acclimates to the Buffer or Sandwich Method, you can attempt the optimal application of Retinol to dry skin after toner/essence application.

Be mindful of the neck
Additionally, something essential to keep in mind is that your neck is far more sensitive to Retinol. The skin is thinner and more delicate. I recommend applying Retinol to the neck with less frequency as it is more susceptible to becoming compromised and sensitized to Retinol.

Wear your sunscreen
Remember to apply sunscreen daily. This is vital to reap the full benefits since Retinol will make the skin more prone to photo-sensitivity and sun damage. Lastly, while you do not need to pause Retinol during the summer months, it is best to pause application if going on a tropical vacation, or if you're not cautious with sun exposure or sunscreen use during the summer months.

HOW TO USE Appy to dry skin after toner/essence, avoiding the eye area. Follow with additional serums (optional), eye care and moisturizer. Use the Buffer Method or Sandwich Method outlined above, if needed, for sensitive skin. Drawback frequency of application if the skin begins to feel over-sensitized or compromised.

your quick guide

best retinol in-shop

Eye Care (AM & PM)

I always tell my clients that eye cream is like perfume. People have particular tastes in their eye cream, and it may take time to find the "the one" you love. The eye area is delicate and 10x thinner than the skin on our face. Using skincare specifically formulated for the eye area is best, and depending on the formula, it will help with common concerns, such as fine lines and wrinkles, puffiness, and dark circles.

Prevention of aging in the eye area is key. Start to use eye cream in your early twenties when collagen production begins to slow. The eye area is the first to show signs of aging, which is challenging to correct once static wrinkles have settled in. Remember, an ounce of prevention is a pound of correction. If you want more youthful and revitalized eyes, include an eye cream in your morning and nighttime routine, even if you don't yet have visible concerns.

What's important to remember about the eye area is that eye care is not always the only caveat in correcting a visible concern since other factors, such as genetics, lifestyle, and diet, contribute to the appearance of the eyes. Eating a well-balanced diet and getting enough sleep help further improve the appearance of the eye area in combination with eye care.

Some formulations will also address the eyelids, an often overlooked area. V-Firm Eye is a favourite in-shop, that may also be applied to the eyelids, with its unique honeylike consistency and ability to restore the elasticity of the eyelids while plumping out fine lines and wrinkles. DetO2x Eye is a perfect pick for dark circles, with a velvety whipped consistency that will brighten and reawaken the eye area. For those stepping into the world of eye care for the first time, Youth Eye Complex is a budget-friendly option that will address hydration and aging and may also be applied to the lip area.

HOW TO USE If layering multiple eye care, such as an eye serum, gel or cream, layer from thinnest to thickest consistency, waiting 30 seconds between each layer. Apply around the orbital bone with your ring finger for the gentlest touch, using soft sweeping and tapping motions. Apply only to the eyelid if the formula is indicated for this purpose.

your quick guide

which EYE CREAM is best for you?

Moisturizer (AM & PM)

Moisturizers come in various weights and finishes, so regardless of your skin type and preference, there is a perfect option for you. Moisturizers will keep the skin well-balanced and hydrated, nourish the skin's barrier, and focus on improving common concerns such as dehydration, fine lines and wrinkles, elasticity, inflammation, and more.

This is a vital step for all skin types, including oily skin. A common mistake for those with oily skin is to skip using a moisturizer, which will likely increase your skin's oil production, resulting in oilier skin. If oily, opt for a lightweight or gel moisturizer rather than skipping this essential step. Favourites in the shop include Reliance Gel, Prime 24 Hour, and LumiCream.

For dry and mature skin types, a richer moisturizer will help improve hydration and barrier health and diminish dehydration, fine lines, wrinkles and skin tightness. Certain formulas will also help to improve common concerns associated with mature skin, including sun damage and loss of elasticity. Popular picks in the shop include V-Firm Cream, Youth Intensive Creme, and Hyalogy Platinum Face Cream.

Normal to combo skin types will love medium-weight formulas and will have more flexibility in selecting a preferred weight and finish. Bestsellers include Reparative Moisture Emulsion, Hydra3 Regenetic Cream, and Hyalogy P-Effect Nourishing Cream.

Lastly, those with sensitive skin should opt for formulas focusing on nourishing the skin and reducing inflammation and redness. Well-loved formulas include SHEALD Recovery Balm, Primary Pomade, and Prime Regenera II.

Remember to moisturize the neck (front and back), ear area, and decolletage. If you have concerns with the neck area and would like a more targeted formula, opt for a neck cream, such as V-Neck Cream or NeckPerfect Complex, which will help diminish fine lines and wrinkles and improve elasticity and texture.

HOW TO USE If layering multiple eye care, such as an eye serum, gel or cream, layer from thinnest to thickest consistency, waiting 30 seconds between each layer. Apply around the orbital bone with your ring finger for the gentlest touch, using soft sweeping and tapping motions. Apply only to the eyelid if the formula is indicated for this purpose.

your quick guide

which Moisturizer is best for you?

Sunscreen (AM)

This is non-negotiable for healthy and youthful skin! To invest in skincare and skip this step is counterproductive. 90% of premature aging is due to UV exposure, so if you want to age with grace, prevent sun damage, and diminish your risk of skin cancer, a broad-spectrum SPF 30 or higher should be applied daily. This includes all seasons and whether it's sunny or cloudy. UVA (aging rays) are potent year-round, regardless of the season. In contrast, UVB (burning rays) are most powerful in summer.

Unfortunately, most people don't apply enough sunscreen to achieve the sun protection factor listed on the label (ex. SPF 30). The correct amount of sunscreen to apply is two finger lengths for the face and neck, three finger lengths for the face, neck and decolletage, or two shot glasses for the body.

One of the biggest concerns I hear during skin consults regarding daily sunscreen application is how it looks and feels on the skin. Formulas have come a long way, and there are endless weights and finishes to suit every skin type and desire. Oily skin types love Tizo3 Primer/Sunscreen Mineral SPF 40, a sheer tint with a velvet matte finish that doubles as a makeup primer. Ultra Zinc Tinted SPF 40 is another fan favourite. Available in tinted and non-tinted, this mineral sunscreen is dewy and creates zero white cast on the skin, an often rare commodity for mineral sunscreens. EltaMD sunscreens are forever loved go-tos for all skin types and feel light and airy on the skin.

Remember the eyes and lips. These delicate areas are often skipped when it comes to sunscreen application. Total Eye 3-in-1 Renewal Therapy SPF 35 is one of my daily favourites for the eye area, which marries an under-eye concealer with sunscreen. Lip Protection SPF 45 offers sun protection for the lips, which will keep them full and plump for life.

An unknown fact about sunscreen is that your initial morning application won't offer sun protection for the entire day. Instead, it's advised to reapply sunscreen approximately every two hours for continued protection. Mineral powder sunscreens are an excellent option for reapplication as they can be applied on-the-go and over makeup.

Remember, sunscreen is always the last step in your skincare application. Never mix your sunscreen with your moisturizer or foundation, as this will dilute the sun protection factor. Don't rely on moisturizers or foundations with an SPF built into the formula as your sole protector. In this case, you will likely never apply the quantity needed to get the proper sun protection factor listed. It's always best to layer over your moisturizer and under your makeup.

HOW TO USE Apply liberally after moisturizer in AM. Apply two finger lengths for the face and neck, three finger lengths for the face, neck and decolletage, or two shot glasses for the body. Use a water-resistant sunscreen if swimming or sweating. Reapply at least every 2 hours. If pregnant or nursing, stick to mineral sunscreen formulas.

your quick guide

which Sunscreen is best for you?

Exfoliation (PM)

Exfoliation is vital to a well-rounded skincare routine. It will promote cellular turnover, improve the penetration of your skincare, and greatly help improve common skin concerns, including signs of aging, pigmentation, texture, acne, blackheads, and more.

The frequency in which you exfoliate will depend on multiple factors including your skin type, skin conditions, what is currently being used in your daily skincare routine, and the kind of exfoliator you use/the potency of its actives.

For example, exfoliating once per week may be sufficient if you are already incorporating an AHA, BHA or Retinol product into your nightly routine. If, on the other hand, you have no daily actives in your routine, you can up your frequency of exfoliation to three nights per week.

A common misstep with exfoliation is doing it too often, which will compromise the skin barrier and lead to sensitivity, roughness of the skin, dryness, and irritation. Balance in the frequency of exfoliation is essential. This is a case where more frequency does not equal better results.

Various ingredients exfoliate the skin, but generally, there are two different types of exfoliation: physical/mechanical exfoliation, such as a scrub to slough away dead skin cells—or chemical exfoliation, which may use AHAs, BHAs, or enzymes to dissolve dead skin cells and resurface the skin.

Acne-prone and sensitive skin types should steer clear of scrubs but instead rely on acids and enzymes, as they are gentler on the skin's surface. Warming Honey Cleanser is a fabulous enzymatic exfoliant for acne-prone skin, with honey also offering anti-bacterial properties. Hydrating Clay Masque is an excellent exfoliant for sensitive skin types and may be layered over your pre-cleanse to reduce intensity further (if needed).

Other favourites in-studio include LumiMask, which gently exfoliates and brightens the skin, and Active Peel System, a two-step, 3-minute exfoliating treatment that's excellent for all skin types.

Generally, exfoliation is performed 1-3 times per week, at night post-cleanse, depending on the above factors. The key is to balance the frequency and ask a skin care professional when in doubt.