How To Layer Skincare Products Effectively

It’s easy to build up a large collection of skincare products, just have a look in your bathroom cabinet. Where things get a little confusing is understanding which order they should be applied. You should know how to layer skincare products effectively to maximise results.

The basic order of layering skincare products is to begin with a cleanser, followed by a toner, then a serum, then a moisturiser. But what about the steps in between? We’ve cleared that up for you below.

How To Layer Your Skincare Products/Routine Properly

Applying skincare products in the correct order will ensure maximum efficacy and improve noticeable results, and could possibly prevent skin damage.

The golden rule is that products should be applied from lightest or thinnest, to thickest or heaviest. This means water-based formulations first, followed by thicker creams.

Below is the correct order in which you should layer or apply your products;

Step 1. Cleanser

Bit of a no brainer. Cleansing is the first step before you applying absolutely anything to your face. Cleansing will ensure you get rid of unwanted dirt, oils and pollutants from the face. This will not only reduce likelihood of acne/break-outs but will also improve absorption of any products you apply subsequently.

You should be using a non-comedogenic facial cleanser (won’t block your pores). Soap-free is also a recommendation as it will prevent the skin from being overly dried out.

Step 2. Toner

Skin toners should be applied right after cleansing. These often include active ingredients that need to absorb into the skin. The function of a toner is to balance skin pH, deliver exfoliating and hydrating ingredients as well as cleanse.

Furthermore, toners can achieve anything from brightening the complexion, to helping clear up acne. It all depends on the active ingredients, for example, if you’re looking to chemically exfoliate the pores try and use a toner with Glycolic acid such as the ordinary glycolic acid 7% toning solution.

One thing to look out for is toners that contain simple alcohols. Regular use of these alcohols on the skin can cause excessive dryness and intefere with natural barrier function. Best to read the label.

Step 3. Serum

assorted skincare products

Serums are applied right after the toning step. The goal of a serum is to deliver active ingredients to tackle skincare concerns such as aging, acne, redness, blemishes and so on.

You’ll notice that the order in which these products are layered are in terms of product thickness or density. The lightest or least dense products are applied first, so water-based, which is then followed up by heavier oil-based creams.

This works the same for serums, lighter water-based serums come first, then heavier oil-based serums. This is because oil forms a thin layer on the skin and can prevent absorption of products applied ontop of it.

Before applying any serums then, you should know what the base is. This is fairly simple, just read the ingredients list or just put a little on your skin and see it’s consistency. Things like Retinol often come in an oil base as it maximises efficiency, so apply it last.

1. Products that include Salicylic Acid, Glycolic acid or Niacinamide are typically water based, so make sure you apply these first.

2. Follow these serums up with Hyaluronic Acid to provide some much needed hydration. AHA’s/BHA’s are known to be a little drying, so it’s good practise to boost the skin’s hydration with hyaluron.

Step 4. Vitamin C (Day)

Vitamin C, also known as Ascorbic acid is a fantastic anti-oxidant which can completely rejuvenate your facial skin. Vitamin C neutralises free radicals, preventing skin damage. Other benefits of applying Vitamin C serums include minimising redness, preventing premature aging and brightening the skin.

One thing to be aware of is Vitamin C’s reactivity with other acids. If you are going to use Vitamin C, perhaps stay away from any AHAs/BHAs and use them on alternate days instead. Vitamin C has the potential to raise skin sensitivity and this can cause some further irritation when coupled with another mild exfoliant.

That being said Vitamin C is perfectly safe to be used after Hyaluronic Acid, combining these is definitely recommended. We recommend Drunk Elephant’s C-Firma Day Serum.

Step 5. Retinol (Night)

First things first, make sure you NEVER apply Retinol and Vitamin C together as it will drastically reduce the effectiveness of both treatments.

Retinol is a treatment best left for use at night as the sun can impact it’s potency. Retinol is a form of Vitamin A which works to boost collagen synthesis, therefore slowing down and even reversing the aging process. Fine lines and wrinkles can be significantly improved with continued use.

Step 6. Eye Cream

Eye creams should typically be applied either before or after the moisturising step. If your eye cream is denser than the moisturiser, apply it after moisturising. If the eye cream is lighter, then it comes before moisturising.

Eye creams can help minimise eye puffiness, dark circles, and reduce fine lines and wrinkles around the area.

Step 7. Moisturiser

A critical step, you should apply moisturiser towards the end of your skincare routine (before sun protection, anyway). The goal of a moisturiser is to provide skin hydration as well as reduce transepidermal water-loss. This is when the water evaporates from your skin to the surrounding, the moisturiser effectively seals in the moisture to keep the skin looking and feeling hydrated.

You should even apply moisturiser if you have oily skin, as the previous treatment can leave the skin feeling a little dry. If you do have oily skin, try a lighter gel-based moisturiser instead to limit skin congestion.

Step 8. Sun Protection (SPF)

Layering your skincare products should always end with application of sunscreen (in the day-time, anyway). Adequate sun protection will protect your skin from damaging UVA and UVB rays, as well as provide protection against harmful pollutants.

A minimum of SPF 30 is recommended if you’re going to be in contact with direct sunlight.

That’s all there is to effectively layering your skincare products in the correct order. We hope you’ve enjoyed this article. Any questions or comments? Leave them down below 🙂