Life + Habits

Is Your Skincare Routine Science-Backed?

6 min read
Skincare on cheeks of the face.
Skincare on cheeks of the face.

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Is it just us, or has skincare gotten complicated lately? Gone are the days of a morning cleanse and bedtime moisturizer (shoutout to my middle school beauty routine!) Between what we put on our skin, what we put in it — looking at you, injectables — and what we consume, caring for our skin has morphed into a full-time preoccupation.

But if there’s one way to cut through the skincare noise and clear up what matters, it’s by checking the science.

First, it’s helpful to get to know our skin itself. Hi, skin! Skin consists of multiple layers, but the layer most affected by skincare products is the first layer, called the epidermis, which acts as a barrier to the outside world, keeping pollutants and harmful substances out while minimizing water loss from the skin and body. (1) Thanks, skin! This layer can also prevent some skincare products from penetrating skin deeply enough to make a major difference in your complexion. This is also where ingestible skincare, like Ritual’s HyaCeraTM, can come in handy.*

Understanding how skin naturally works can manage your expectations for that deliriously expensive serum, and also arm you with the best advice. Building a science-backed skincare routine that works with the natural rhythm of our skin not only benefits skin now, but also as skin inevitably ages. (Sorry if that’s a bummer to anyone reading but…yes. Skin does age.)

Morning vs. Night Skincare Routine

The skin you wake up with isn’t the same skin you fall asleep with. Okay, that may be a stretch, but it’s not entirely untrue: just like our sleep cycles, skin is affected by our body’s natural circadian rhythm. (2) The circadian rhythm is the 24-cycle of our body, sometimes called the master clock. Skin functions differently depending on where in this 24-cycle you are, which is why creating a morning and nighttime skincare routine that takes advantage of these changes can lead to a boost in the results you see. For example, skin permeability increases at night. (3) This means that skin not only loses water (aka hydration) at a higher rate than during the day, but it also increases its absorption rate, making it the ideal time to layer on heavy hydrators (or, as the kids call it, “slugging.”)

Meanwhile, during the day, when skin is exposed to the sun and environmental pollutants, damage can occur. This can lead to serious outcomes, but also superficial concerns, like wrinkles and pigmentation changes. (4)

Your morning skincare routine doesn’t have to be extensive to be effective. Start with a cleanser if skin feels oily or if you’ve applied thicker products overnight (feel free to skip the cleanse if your skin errs on the dry side, or just rinse with water). An antioxidant serum, like one with vitamin C, can help protect skin from DNA damage, like that from the sun or pollution. (5) Use moisturizer if needed for your skin type (and how necessary it is might change throughout the year—an important point we’ll discuss next), or skip straight to SPF. Most of these products can be used during your evening routine, too, but sun protection should always sit firmly in the AM lineup. One study found that using sunscreen daily significantly reduced skin aging compared to occasional use, so feel free to slather it on. (6)

While the morning routine is all about protection, your nighttime skincare routine is concerned with rejuvenation and restoration. Cleansing at the end of the day is a must, especially for makeup wearers. This step removes dirt, excess oil, and sets up skin for a clean base to apply products. After that, the order to apply skincare products is generally from lightest to heaviest—think watery toners, to serums, to lotions. The specific products you use are highly individualized based on your skin type and goals, but keep the trend of rejuvenation and restoration. This is also when you should apply active ingredients, like retinoids, followed by moisturizer or night cream.

Skincare isn’t just topical. Like the rest of our organs, skin health often comes down to how we use nutrition to support it. Using HyaCeraTM, which contains two clinically-studied skin-supporting ingredients, Hyabest® and Ceratiq®, can further support skin hydration and minimize wrinkles. Hyacera can be taken morning or night, whether it becomes a part of your skincare routine or added in with other daily supplements.*

Morning vs Night Skincare Steps

Summer vs. Winter Skincare Routine

The changes in your skin—and ultimately your routine—are even more pronounced when we start talking about seasons. This is especially true if you live in an area with extreme weather, like say, the desert, but just as important in places where differences are more subtle.

Harsh weather, most notably the dry and cold winter, can compromise skin’s barrier leading to excessive moisture loss and a host of other issues (think redness, itchy skin, and sensitivity). (7) And during hotter months, sun-exposed skin in a place with a high UV index leads to increased likelihood of sunburns and skin damage, while summer humidity can make skin sweaty and amp up oil production.

The good news is that there’s no need to completely overhaul your skincare routine each season. In fact, we can equate your morning routine with summer, and your winter to night: summer is all about protection, while your winter priorities should be maintaining skin barrier health and preventing water loss (of course, this isn’t an excuse to skip SPF during colder months—the sun produces damaging radiation year round). Keep using a gentle cleanser year-round, especially if you wear makeup and during sweaty summer days. Your serums and toners can be continued, too. One place where you might consider making a change is in your moisturizer. Heavy lotions that might feel too thick in the summer heat can be ideal for winter days, both to protect from harsh wind and cold and to prevent increased transdermal water loss at night. If your skin is especially dry or irritated, winter is the ideal time to try a trend like “slugging”, aka covering skin with a thick balm-like product overnight to really lock in hydration.

Just like your other products, HyaCeraTM can (and should!) be used year-round, too. Yes, hydration needs go up during winter, but they don’t stop during summer. Daily use of HyaCeraTM was shown to reduce crow’s feet wrinkles and increase skin smoothness†, so taking your supplement 365 days a year means the benefit can stick around.*

Summer vs Winter Skincare Steps

†Based on a 12-week randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical study on 63 women and men ages 26 to 64 years old

With your skin on its own daily schedule, using your products at the right times can make the difference in how effective they are, and ultimately, the results you see. It’s not just your morning vs night skincare routine, but how you use your products throughout seasonal changes. But it also means taking a personalized approach to your routine — the routine your friend (or let’s face it, influencer) follows isn’t necessarily the right one for your skin.

When you do find the products you love, make sure you’re choosing high-quality, science-backed skincare. This might mean clear ingredient sourcing, clinically-tested results, and research-influenced formulations. This is why Ritual developed our first supplement for your beauty routine with two of the best clinically-studied ingredients shown to support hydrated skin, Hyabest® and Ceratiq®. What you put on your skin matters, but when you turn to ingestible skincare to support from the inside out, it’s doubly important to use high-quality products.*

But of course, a final note (we have to say it!) you are so much more than any blemish, wrinkle, sun spot, birthmark, acne scar, etc. Aging skin is natural, beautiful, and frankly, often a sign of a life well-lived. In a digital world of increasingly unrealistic and sometimes alarming skin expectations, remember to support and protect your inner peace, just as much as you do your skin. It’s all only skin-deep.


  1. Yousef H, Alhajj M, Sharma S. Anatomy, Skin (Integument), Epidermis. [Updated 2022 Nov 14]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2024 Jan-.

  2. Lyons AB, Moy L, Moy R, Tung R. Circadian Rhythm and the Skin: A Review of the Literature. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2019 Sep;12(9):42-45. Epub 2019 Sep 1. PMID: 31641418; PMCID: PMC6777699.

  3. Yosipovitch, Gil, et al. “Time-Dependent Variations of the Skin Barrier Function in Humans: Transepidermal Water Loss, Stratum Corneum Hydration, Skin Surface PH, and Skin Temperature.” Journal of Investigative Dermatology, vol. 110, no. 1, Jan. 1998, pp. 20–23.

  4. D'Orazio J, Jarrett S, Amaro-Ortiz A, Scott T. UV radiation and the skin. Int J Mol Sci. 2013 Jun 7;14(6):12222-48. doi: 10.3390/ijms140612222. PMID: 23749111; PMCID: PMC3709783.

  5. Al-Niaimi F, Chiang NYZ. Topical Vitamin C and the Skin: Mechanisms of Action and Clinical Applications. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2017 Jul;10(7):14-17. Epub 2017 Jul 1. PMID: 29104718; PMCID: PMC5605218.

  6. Hughes, Maria Celia B., et al. “Sunscreen and Prevention of Skin Aging.” Annals of Internal Medicine, vol. 158, no. 11, June 2013, p. 781.

  7. Rogers J, Harding C, Mayo A, Banks J, Rawlings A. Stratum corneum lipids: the effect of ageing and the seasons. Arch Dermatol Res. 1996 Nov;288(12):765-70. doi: 10.1007/BF02505294. PMID: 8950457.

Meet the Author

This article was written by our content specialist.

joline buscemi

Joline Buscemi, Freelancer Writer

Joline Buscemi is a freelance writer specializing in beauty and wellness topics, with a special interest in women's health and skincare. She's published in several publications including Glamour, Byrdie, and HuffPost.

joline buscemi

Joline Buscemi, Freelancer Writer

Joline Buscemi is a freelance writer specializing in beauty and wellness topics, with a special interest in women's health and skincare. She's published in several publications including Glamour, Byrdie, and HuffPost.


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