The Night Shift: Building an Evening Skincare Routine

Night routines are my favourite. I get somewhat bored with the consistency of my morning routines and love to switch things up during the evenings. My night routines fall into one of 4 categories:

Retinol (4-5 nights per week)

If I had a file of “things I wish I had done in my 20s”, using a gentle retinol consistently would be right at the top next to wearing more sunscreen. In the past I’ve used Rx retinol (Retin A Micro at .1%) and Skinceuticals 0.5% and even though I used them correctly, my skin never seemed to adjust. It was constantly red, irritated, and overly oily from surface dehydration. I went south on vacation earlier this year and stopped the retinol prior to leaving, and in two weeks my skin was almost back to normal. It was calm and balanced, absorbed products and I had no irritation. I realized that strong retinols twice a week weren’t for me and decided to try a gentle retinol more often. The low and often approach really worked for me. I’ve been using a gentle retinol about 4-5 days a week now for almost two months and feel I am finally getting the benefits of retinol without the irritation. My skin is brighter and more even toned and I’m very happy with it. I use two retinols, Jordan Samuel Skins Etoile + Retinol and Allies of Skin 1A Overnight Mask. I’ve never had any irritation with either and wake up to bright and happy skin.

I keep my retinol routines simple: double cleanse, hydrate, retinol

Acids (1-2 nights per week)

When I first discovered Biologique Recherche’s famous Lotion P50 I began acid toning twice a day, every day, and consequently caused myself a lot of grief. I learned the hard way that my skin wasn’t able to handle so much exfoliation. I ended up with worse acne and skin that was red, congested, and so dehydrated. After backing way off on the acids and being nicer to my skin, my acne started to clear and these days I am acid toning about twice a week.

An acid toning routine goes like this: double cleanse, acid tone (wait 10 minutes), mist,  hydrate, moisturize

Here are the acid toners I reach for the most:

  • Biologique Recherche Lotion P50 PIGM 400: my favourite. Brightens my skin with no tingling or redness. Great to use before masks or the evening before tanning to ensure a smooth canvas.

  • Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid: I use this when I’m feeling congested and it does a great job of bringing any gunk in my pores to the surface. It does leave a bit of a film, but I use it at night so don’t mind.

  • Paula’s Choice BHA 9: I use this as a spot treatment on any blemishes that I feel coming on. Definitely works to either flatten the blemish or bring it to a head quickly. This is strong, and I only use it on larger spots if I get them.

  • Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Peel: I love these peel pads and have them in every strength. They are my go to when travelling since they are so conveniently packed, and I find the pads are saturated enough that I can do my face, neck, chest, and back of my hands in one application. Brighter and smoother skin with every use.

Nourishing, No actives (1 night per week)

One night a week I like to use no actives and focus just on fortifying my skin. I think it’s important to give your skin a break every now and then and I’ve seen great results by sticking to one night a week focused only on hydration and replenishment.

This routine is simple: double cleanse, tone (non acid), hydrate, and moisturize.

Evening Routine Power Players

These play a significant role in almost all of my evening routines, from hydrating and soothing, to enhancing my retinols or healing any irritation.

  • Jordan Samuel Skin Hydrate: My favourite evening hydration serum. Aloe based, absorbs quickly and mixes well with absolutely anything. Great for irritated or dehydrated skin. Anytime you see “hydrate” in an evening routine, it’s almost always Jordan’s Hydrate serum.

  • Paula’s Choice 10%  Niacinamide Booster: one of my favourite ingredients, I’ve seen more results from this little bottle than from some of my more expensive oils and creams. Niacinamide is great for the skin, promoting a more even skin tone, smaller pore size, and refining skin texture. I can confirm after using this for a good 4 months that I’ve seen benefits in all of these areas.  I mix this with Jordan’s Hydrate serum about 4 times a week.

  • Skinceuticals Triple Lipid Restore 2:4:2 : this cream is marketed towards a more mature skin but my 33 year old dehydrated skin absolutely loves it. Formulated with ceramides, lipids, and fatty acids this moisturizer aims to protect against moisture loss and strengthen the skins barrier. It claims to improve the “look of skin fullness, texture, and pore appearance” and I agree that it delivers on all of those claims. My only gripe with this is the jar packaging. And the price.

  • NIOD Copper Amino Acid Isolate 1%: this was one of the first products I purchased when I made the shift from focusing only on clearing my acne, to focusing on skin health as a whole. Within 3 days I noticed a difference: less reactive skin, better absorption of product, and more balanced oil production. Copper Tripeptide has various functions within the body, some of which include collagen synthesis and wound healing, both of which I was looking for when my skin was in rough shape. Add in the anti-inflammatory effects and this has become a staple in my daily skincare routines. I use this right after cleansing and wait a minute before moving on to next steps.

I think well balanced night routines are really important.  I try to do my routine as early as possible so my product can absorb into my skin before my face is mashed into a pillow for the evening. Since I’ve streamlined my evenings to focus on retinol I haven’t had too many bad skin mornings, and waking up to clear and glowing skin is something I’ll never get tired of.