Toner, emulsion, serum - is this a skin care routine or a science experiment? Here’s a primer that’ll demystify the dizzying array of SKINFOOD products available to you. Still feeling lost? First, determine your skin type and what kind of concerns can be addressed and treated with proper skin care. After you discover what the different products are, learn how to use them to build a skin care routine that’s best for you.


Cleansing prepares your face by removing surface impurities, which hinder hydration and absorption of necessary nutrients. Use wipes as a pre-cleanse, particularly around areas that need gentler attention, like eyes and lips. Wipes are also a quick and easy way to remove basic makeup if you’re tired from burning that midnight oil and don’t have the energy. They’re also super portable, so keep some in your bag to refresh after a workout. You can also take them on airplanes, so have them handy during a long flight for quick clean up.


Despite also being known as facial scrubs, actual scrubbing with cleaners stresses your skin! Exfoliation is not the goal of cleansing. Use a cleanser to deep clean your pores of dirt, oil, and sweat, now that most of the makeup is off. Give yourself a mini-spa treatment by massaging the cleanser into your face with your fingertips. Note: There’s a difference between oil-based and water-based cleansers. An oil cleanser is applied to dry skin, and is best for removing makeup and any other oil-based products, such as sunscreen. A foam cleanser is applied to wet skin, and removes sweat and dirt. Double cleansing might seem like overkill, but if you want the best results from your skincare routine, you’ve got to cleanse away all the facial gunk thoroughly, so that nothing is left to hinder maximum absorption of moisture and nutrients. You’re not getting the full benefit from skincare products if you’re applying them to a dirty face.

Wash Off Masks / Exfoliators

Depending on your skin type, exfoliate your face regularly to remove dead skin cells and blackheads. You’re clearing off the dead stuff so that your skincare products can really get into your pores, plus the bonus of making your skin smooth, soft, and bright. Don’t overdo it, as excess exfoliation can irritate skin and strip it of too much of its natural oil, leading to oversensitivity, oil imbalance, or dryness.


Toner is used to prep skin for deep hydration and nutrient absorption. If you think of your skin like a sponge, it’s easier to hydrate a sponge that’s slightly damp, instead of one that’s scrunched up and bone-dry. Toner helps balance your skin’s pH levels and tightens pores for decreased sebum production. It also cleanses any residue left over from your cleansing. Apply to your face and neck with a cotton pad or with the palms of your hands.


The essence of skincare is hydration and nutrition, so it makes sense that essence is a combination toner and serum, providing deep moisturization and wide-spectrum nutrition and skin repair at the cellular level. Pat it in with your hands - your skin should drink it up after toning.


If essence is an wide-spectrum product, serum is a super-concentrated essence, with a concentration of nutrients formulated to target specific skin concerns. Customize your skincare routine with a selection of super-charged serums when your skin needs extra care and attention. An ampoule takes it even further; it’s like a double-concentrated serum.

Sheet Masks

Made of cloth and soaked in the same nutrients that go into essences and serums, masks are a concentrated blast of skincare. It might make you look weird, but as the mask lies on your face, it’s preventing evaporation and forcing deeper absorption of its contents. They have different effects, depending on which step you apply them, so keep in mind that some are used before cleansing, some to treat, and some as the final step. Choose a mask that addresses your specific skin concern, or use them to mix up your skincare routine with different ingredients. Depending on your skin type, use several times a week as desired. There are also specialized masks for lips, eyes, hands, and feet, as well as peel-off packs and spot patches for forehead, nose, and jaw.

Eye cream

The skin around your eyes is much thinner than the skin on the rest of your face, so it requires extra care. Eye cream helps to moisturize, firm, and protect the delicate skin, as well as treating dark circles.

Emulsion (Moisturizer)

After all the work you’ve done to replenish moisture and nourish your skin, use an emulsion to seal in the layers of moisture and nutrition from previous steps and to create a moisture barrier. Emulsion is light enough to use during the day. Use a cream at night for even better protection and rejuvenation.