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What Order Should You Really Apply Your Skincare?

Adam Browning Hill

Shot for Vogue Arabia. Photographer: Adam Browning Hill

Skincare is overwhelming. It seems like every day a new formula or active ingredients hits the market offering a plethora of benefits. What if you just want to keep it simple? Then it’s best to seek expert advice. Dr Marwa Ali the resident aesthetic doctor at The Wellness Clinic at Harrods in London shares her essential skincare steps that you too should focus on and the benefits of doing so.


1. I wash my face every morning with Obagi Exfoliating Cleanser. This is important to gently remove any oil and dead skin cells on the face that can block pores and lead to acne.

Tip: Wash your face with cold water to close and tighten pores.

2. My favorite part of my skincare routine. Vitamin C Serum. I use the Obagi 20% vitamin C because studies have shown that it allows greater penetration than other Vitamin C’s on the market.

Tip: I only use 2-3 drops of this and put over my whole face. Wait for it to dry before going onto the next step.


. Anti-aging.

. Vitamin C is involved in the cycle of collagen production.

. It’s photoprotective and therefore protects your skin from damaging UVA (aging) and UVB (burning) rays from the sun.

. Fights hyper-pigmentation: Evens out skin tone – lightens pigmentation for a more even skin tone.

. Anti-oxidant – protects the skin from damaging effects of free radicals in the environment and pollution. (Free-radicals cause damage to our skins cellular DNA and accelerate aging).

3. The most important step – SPF. I use the Sunshield Matte SPF50 every day.

Tip: Use SPF every day all year round! Even when you’re in colder climates during winter and when indoors. If you can see light, then there are UV rays. UV rays can reach your skin even when inside your home by penetrating through the windows.


. 90% of skin aging is from exposure to UVA rays.

. UVA rays damage penetrate the skin and cause skin aging by damaging the collagen and elastin.

Courtesy of Dr Marwa

Courtesy of


1. I begin as above with an Exfoliating Cleanser.

2. Next, I use products containing Retinol / Tretinoin, these are vitamin A derivatives.

Tip: Go slow with retinol. Start with a low dose retinol to ‘retinise’ your skin and build up to higher doses. It makes it easier for your skin to cope with the effects. Over the last 5 years, I first began at 0.5% retinol, then stepped up to 1% retinol, then 0.025% tretinoin, and now I’m currently using 0.05% tretinoin.


. Originally used to tackle acne; for a clearer spot-free complexion.

. Later found to boost collagen production; for anti-aging and younger-looking skin.

. Evens out skin tone – fights hyperpigmentation.

. Removes superficial dead skin cells for brighter looking skin.

. Anti-oxidant.

3. My final step is Moisturizer. I use Obagi Hydrate. It’s a light humectant moisturizer which works by preventing your skin from losing any moisture without blocking your pores.

Marwa’s Top Skincare Tips

. Avoid touching your face! Our hands are probably the dirtiest parts of our body, they’re constantly touching different things. They can transfer dirt onto skin causing breakouts.

. Clean your phone frequently, preferably daily. Our phones just like our hands are one the biggest culprits for harboring dirt, bacteria, and viruses. They also frequently come into contact with our faces and can transfer this to our skin and contribute to breakouts. Use soap or a wipe.

. Don’t forget to wash your face before and after exercising. Don’t exercise with makeup on, it clogs your pores. Sweat after exercise needs to be washed off to prevent clogging pores.

. Shower immediately after exercising and exfoliate using a luffa once a week to prevent clogging your pores and getting body acne (aka the dreaded bacne).

. Use a silk pillowcase. It is good for both your hair and skin. Silk is a natural product and therefore silk pillows have been exposed to far less chemicals during production compared with other materials that are exposed to herbicides and pesticides etc. Silk pillowcases’ smooth surface limits friction on your hair which can lead to breakages and split ends. Silk is also naturally hypoallergenic meaning silk has a natural resistance to dust mites, fungus and mold and many other allergens.

. Change your pillowcase every two to three days and flip it every night. This is for hygiene purposes as whilst we sleep, oil from our hair and skin, sweat, perspiration, etc may transfer onto our pillows and then into our skin.

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