The skincare step you should never do before bed

Your routine just got a shake up with a big no-no to this skincare step

studio shot of a young brunette applying cream on her face during skincare step - stock photo
(Image credit: Ada Summer/Getty Images)

At-home beauty rituals may be the new norm, but there is a skincare step you should never do before bed if you want to reap the full effects.

Applying a rich face cream or eye cream immediately before bed may seem like a smart idea. But it has its pitfalls and may actually mean that expensive products are going to waste - and you wouldn't want your best eye cream to count for nothing, right?

You need to give your skincare time to really sink in and have a chance to work. So if you're applying a 10-step Korean style skincare routine a few minutes before your head hits the pillow, the likelihood is those actives will end up on your pillow (or your hair) first. 

Secondly, to maximize on the efficacy of each product (moisturizer for dry skin, serum, oil), you need to wait a certain amount of time in between applying each one. The closer you get to bedtime, the lazier we are likely to become about this - so a heavy dollop of face cream may be what we think will suffice.  

Plus we're also less inclined to invest time in really massaging our serums and creams into our skin.

So what should you do instead?

The right way to moisturize and make the most of your skincare

The correct skincare step is to apply your products and acne medications at least one hour before bed. Wait for each product to fully dry before reaching for the next, whether that takes 30 seconds or a full minute.

Even if you're sitting on the couch watching TV, use your fingers or a facial roller to really work them into the skin. "Facial massage has so many benefits," says  A-list facialist Joanna Czech, whose own Facial Massager is a best-seller on Net-A-Porter. 

"It can bring more oxygen and blood to the tissue, resulting in brighter skin. It also helps to drain away excess fluid and toxins, as well as lift the cheekbones bones and brows."

And rather than simply whack on that rich moisturizer and hope for the best, heed this warning from Dr Barbara Sturm, an aesthetic doctor who counts Hailey Beiber as a client: "Very rich moisturizers will only ever sit on top of the skin and make your skin sweat underneath. This eventually leads to clogged pores rather than deep-down hydration."

So scan your skincare labels for hydrating ingredients that absorb straight into the skin: hyaluronic acid, glycerin and sorbitol are a few gold-standard humectants that attract water molecules and add them back to the skin. This will also cut down the amount of time you have to wait between product applications.

Then apply a face cream containing ceramides (Kate Somerville DeliKate Recovery Cream is ideal) in a fine layer over the top. They may not be especially sexy, but ceramides are like the mortar between skin cells, sealing water in.

Et voila, a turbo-charged skincare routine is at your fingertips.

Fiona Embleton is a beauty writer who is now Acting Beauty Editor at Stylist. She is obsessed with Isabel Marant and cats.