If you’ve read anything online about skincare, you’re probably familiar with The Number One Rule: You must wait between steps to get the full benefits of your products. The way that most people talk about this makes it sound like the most serious skincare sin to not wait long enough between steps.
When you’re new and not sure where to start, it can be helpful to have cut-and-dry guidelines that give you some structure and routine so that you don’t get overwhelmed. The problem comes when you stick to that structure so rigidly that you never question whether or not you need to maintain that same routine forever.
Wait times are kind of polarizing in the skincare community. I’m not here to tell you that there’s one right way to handle them because the reality is … it’s just skincare. Taking care of your skin shouldn’t be stressful. So, I’m going to tell you about wait times and when they can be helpful, but I’m not going to tell you how to live your life!
Wait times are polarizing in the skincare community. People make it sound like the most serious skincare sin to not wait long enough between steps.
Wait Times: The What and Why
I’m just gonna say it straight out of the gate: Wait times are pretty much a myth.
Much like pores opening and closing and only needing sunscreen when it’s sunny, this is one of those myths that just won’t die.
Basically, the idea is that your skin needs time between every step of your routine to “fully absorb” whichever product you’ve applied. You’re supposed to wait between cleansing and acids so that your skin can “restore its pH.” You wait between acids and serums so that the acids “work more effectively.” Waiting between serums and moisturizers ensures “optimal absorption.”
All of those reasons sound totally logical, right? I didn’t question them for a long time because, in my head, they made sense. The problem is that all of this waiting made my routine take forever, and it took a lot of the enjoyment out of skincare.
So, I started examining wait times, and I discovered that *record scratch* they’re not really necessary?!
We Don’t Give Our Skin Enough Credit
Those reasons I mentioned above that sound totally sensible all have one major flaw: They don’t take into account just how awesome our skin is.
The truth is that our skin is great at absorbing well-formulated products. You’re not going to cancel out the effects of one serum by patting in another serum before that one is dry. The pH of your skin isn’t going to dramatically shift in 20 minutes and alter how effective your AHA is.
Your skin can reap all of the benefits of multiple ingredients at once, so you can pretty much skip the “wait 10 to 20 minutes between steps” advice (unless you prefer to wait!).
When Waiting Can Be Helpful
I know, I know. I literally just said you could skip the waiting advice. As with basically everything in life though, there are a few exceptions to the rule.
1. Prescription topicals
If your derm says to wait, then you should definitely follow his or her instructions. Some prescription topicals do need time by themselves to do their thing, so make sure you ask your derm for advice before you change up your routine!
2. Spot treatments
I’m sure it’s no shock to anyone that spot treatments need time to … treat the spots. While you can layer things over acne treatments, I find that it’s better to apply the treatment and then skip over that part of your face when you’re applying the rest of your products.
Okay guys, this one is the one, true, hard-and-fast exception. With sunscreen, waiting actually IS important.
We all know that you should never mix any other makeup or skincare with your sunscreen. You might not know that you also should give your sunscreen a minute or two to set before moving on with the rest of your makeup routine, though!
Waiting is important here because you don’t want to accidentally rub off the protection you just applied, and you don’t want it to mix with whatever base makeup you’re using. Plus, a lot of sunscreens can pill up if you try to apply certain liquid or powder foundations too soon, and then you have to go through the hassle of starting all over with your morning makeup.
Ain’t Nobody Got Time For Wait Times
Listen, if you like having a long and leisurely routine, there’s nothing wrong with waiting between steps. All I want you guys to take away from this post is that they’re totally optional in most cases.
The only good reasons for waiting (other than personal preference) are following your derm’s advice, avoiding pilling, and letting your sunscreen set. Other than that, go wild! Slap on serums like it’s your job. Your skin can handle it, I promise.