Toner Before Serum But After Scrub? Read This If You Can’t Keep Up

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how to layer skincare
Photo: Courtesy of Mario Testino

Have you ever clicked on an article that claimed you’re doing something wrong, only to find out what you already knew? This isn’t one of those times. In fact, we’re not going to tell you that your skincare steps might be out of order, that you’re layering them incorrectly, or that anything about your current routine is wrong.

Instead, what we’re suggesting below is an ideal way to optimize your skincare routine, layering each product in such a way as to guarantee maximum absorbency and efficacy. For the best results, follow each step and your skin will be brighter, more hydrated, and blemish-free.



Exfoliate first? Experts say, “Yes!” Instead of using a rough scrub, we recommend gently rubbing your face with the softer side of a Morihata ‘Binchotan Charcoal Face Scrub Towel’ (or similar product), which is specially formulated with charcoal powder from Japan’s Kishu region. This special powder is woven into the fibers of the towel and known for purifying, detoxifying, and gently exfoliating.

Top tip: You can apply your cleanser to the towel first, thereby killing two birds with one stone, or use it alone with lukewarm water. Your face will be baby soft and smooth with daily use.

Toner Before Serum But After Scrub? Read This If You Can’t Keep Up

Morihata Binchotan ‘Charcoal Face Scrub’ Towel

AED70 / SAR71




Everyone knows this is the first step, but not everyone can agree on how to cleanse or what products to use. Ideally, you are using a gentle cleanser that is formulated for your skin type i.e. a moisturizing cleanser if you have dry, flaky skin or a product with salicylic acid if you’re susceptible to breakouts.

Armed with a cleanser that is optimal for your specific skin type, wash your face with lukewarm water, applying the product in a gentle and circular motion with your fingertips. Massaging your face while cleansing will help blood circulation, which in turn will help your skin look healthier and brighter. If you’re combining the cleansing step with the exfoliating step above, the use of gentle pressure and circular motions still apply.

Alternatively, you can opt to do a “double cleanse”, which is a method popularized by the South Korean ten-step skincare regimen. Double cleansing requires you to first clean with an oil, which draws impurities from your pores, and then following with a regular foaming or cream cleanser to ensure that the oil is fully removed from your skin.

Top tip: When you’re done, pat your skin gently with a soft towel, but be sure to leave your skin slightly damp. This is key to getting the next step right.



When skin is wet, it is ten times more permeable, which is why a little dampness will do you good when it comes to capturing moisture and boosting your skin’s hydration. Toner – often considered a superfluous step – is wonderful for balancing your skin’s pH levels, improving moisture, shrinking pores, and soaking up excess oil, especially if you apply it to damp skin.

Top tip: Skincare experts recommend that you apply toner within three seconds of cleansing your face, which is when your skin is most absorbent.



Since serums are super concentrated, give them lots of time to sink into your skin. In fact, after you have finished your toner step, you should apply your serum and then wait a full 15 minutes before your moisturize. Otherwise, when you moisturize, you risk wiping off the serum before it has fully absorbed.

Top tip: If you’re pressed for time in the morning, save your serum step for the evening instead. Because of their potency, serums can be applied only one to three times a week instead of daily.

serum flat lay
Photo: Courtesy of SofHoney


After your serum has fully absorbed, it’s time for the most important step: moisturizing! A good moisturizer will seal in the benefits of all previous steps, improve skin tone and hydration levels, and act as a barrier against free radicals and environmental toxins throughout the day.

Top tip: Use a moisturizer with a high SPF, thereby skipping the sun-care step and making your routine more streamlined.



As the final step before you apply makeup, primer is a must-do. Whether you wear a full face of makeup or not, primer is necessary for ensuring that your BB cream, foundation, powder, and other products will adhere to your face without smudging, budging, or slipping. Primers are great for soaking up excess oil, allowing your makeup to go on smoother and ensuring that it stays on longer.

Top tip: If you want a great “no makeup” look, smooth primer onto your face, concentrating on your T-zone, and then apply a light layer of powder.

And as a Bonus

Once a week, set aside time for an hour of skin pampering, preferably while in the bath, because the steam will keep your pores open and be more receptive to your products. Potent products like retinols, masks, and pore strips should be saved for this hour.

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