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Listen, when you spend countless dollars on skincare products, you at least want them to be effective. You shell out your hard earned dollars and proudly swipe that credit card at checkout on another skincare product that you don’t need. Have you ever wondered if you’re using your products the right way or how to layer your skincare products?
But, what if I told you that if you’re not layering you’re skincare products in the right order ALL of your skincare products are pretty much ineffective!
Your skin is only as good as your skincare routine, and how you layer your skincare products is a huge and important part of your skincare routine!
Why Layering Your Skincare Products Matter
When you layer your products in the right order, you are getting maximum benefit out of all of your products. You don’t want to waste money on good skincare products if they’re not going to work, right? That’s why it’s so important to learn how to layer skincare products properly.
For example, say you have an anti-oxidant serum and a moisturizer. The serum has a much thinner, watery consistency as well as lots of ingredients that need to penetrate the skin in order to be effective. If you apply your moisturizer first, then your serum won’t be able to sink in as well, and therefore it won’t be as effective.
Rule of thumb: skincare should be applied thinnest to thickest
Skincare Wait Times
What the heck is a “skincare wait time?” It’s actually a very important step that many people skip! When you layer your skincare, you really should allow a few minutes between steps. Why? When you layer skincare products one after another, it doesn’t give everything time to properly absorb.
Plus, when you are using actives like retinol or chemical exfoliants, you need to give them a few minutes to soak in and actually work. When you apply something right on top of them, it dilutes your products and they won’t be able to work properly.
Actives in skincare are most effective with a wait time of at least 10 minutes. Typically, I usually allow about 30 minutes if possible. If you don’t have time, it’s not the end of the world. But, I do think it helps your actives be more effective.
So, if you have time, wait a few minutes between your next layer of skincare products.
How To Layer Your Skincare Products
STEP 1: Cleanser
If you do anything on this list, make sure you are washing you face at night! Cleansing is the single most important step in your skincare routine. If your skin is covered in makeup, dirt and oils, your skincare products will not be able to sink in properly and won’t be as effective.
Properly cleansing your skin ensures that all the makeup, oil and grime are washed away and your skincare products have a blank canvas and will absorb better.
If you wear makeup or sunscreen, you should double cleanse. Try an oil cleanser to remove makeup and followup with a second, gentle cleanser to remove any residue and any leftover oil, dirt and bacteria.
Check out my post on why you shouldn’t wash your face twice a day
Step 2: Toner
If you use toners, you should apply them directly after cleansing your skin. A good toner should be full of effective ingredients that can add moisture back into your skin, soothe your skin, treat acne and ensure your face is clean for your next skincare products.
Make sure your toner is gentle and not full of irritating and drying ingredients like alcohol and essential oils.
Check out my post on how to use toners if you’re interested in adding a toner to your routine.
If You’re Acne Prone
Look for toners with a chemical exfoliant like BHA, AHA or retinol (salicylic acid, lactic acid, glycolic acid). These will kill bacteria, shed dead skin cells and help treat and prevent clogged pores, blackheads and acne.
Other Skin Types
Try a soothing, hydrating toner that will add moisture back into your skin from washing. Look for ingredients like glycerin, hyaluronic acid and aloe.
Step 3: Serum
Skincare serums. What are they exactly and how in the world do I use them? Skin serums are essentially highly concentrated products. Serums can have chemical exfoliants like BHA or soothing ingredients like anti-oxidants or hydrating ingredients.
Personally, I think everyone should have a good serum in their skincare routine! Serums are a great way to streamline your routine and reduce how many products you use. Because serums are so concentrated, they are one of the best things to use for your skin. They pack a punch in one highly effective product.
In the morning, use a potent anti-oxidant serum like vitamin c. Anti-oxidant serums should be used in the morning because they fight free radicals that come from the sunlight and pollution.
At night, you should use a serum that has lots of hydrating ingredients, like a hyaluronic acid serum. Typically these have tons of other hydrating and soothing ingredients that will work wonders while you sleep. You’ll wake up with plump and glowing skin! No matter what skin type you have, there’s no such thing as too much moisture!
Step 4: Spot Treatments
Spot treatments should be applied before moisturizer so that they can penetrate your skin better and work their magic. Spot treatments, like serums are potent products that are designed to treat a specific problem like acne or scars. Unlike serums, spot treatments are not designed to be used over the entire face. Rather, spot treatments should be used only on a single (or a few) spots.
Spot Treatments For Acne
If you struggle with acne, look for spot treatments with BHA, benzoyl peroxide or sulfur. I like to tab on the spot treatment and let it absorb for a few minutes before moving on to the next step.
Spot Treatments For Scars
Brightening products like niacinamide, hydroquinone or AHA are great at fading acne scars or sun spots. Again, tap it on the spots and let it absorb before applying anything on top.
Step 5: Retinol
Retinol is something that everyone should be using in their routine! It’s the gold standard in skincare no matter what your skin type and skin concerns. Retinol is a potent anti-aging ingredient that prevents and fades fine lines and wrinkles and also treats and prevents acne, black heads, large pores and oily skin.
Retinol’s should only be used at night because they degrade in the sun.
Step 6: Moisturizer
Everyone needs to use a moisturizer, even if you have the oiliest skin in the world! There are so many moisturizers out there that I guarantee there is a formula that will work for your skin.
Moisturizers are the heavy lifters of your skincare routine, and really ensure that your skin is healthy and supple. A good moisturizer will lock in hydration, keep your moisture barrier strong and keep your skin glowing.
Go for a gel or light cream moisturizer that will hydrate skin without making it greasy. I would also suggest getting one with at least SPF 30 in it, especially if you don’t use a separate sunscreen during the day.
Other great ingredients to look for are vitamin c, anti-oxidants, green tea and hyaluronic acid.
At night, you can use a more powerful moisturizer without having to worry about it being too greasy. Nighttime is also the best time to use for more powerful ingredients like peptides, lipids and proteins that will help your skin repair itself overnight. A moisturizer with retinol is also a great option for those with sensitive skin, but still wanting to get the benefits of retinol.
Step 7: Eye Cream
Eye creams tend to have more gentle ingredients than moisturizers since they go near the sensitive and thin skin around the eye. Most eye creams are targeted for things like crows feet, anti-aging and dark circles.
Eye creams can be used day or night and they should be patted on instead of rubbed. I like to take a small amount on my finger and “tap” it under my eyes.
Step 8: Oils
Facial oils actually aren’t supposed to moisturize your face. Rather, they create a “seal” that locks in your skincare products and hydration so you don’t lose any moisture.
Make sure to always apply facial oils last because products cannot penetrate oils, so if you apply anything on top of them, they won’t soak into your skin.
Oils can be used day and night, but most people prefer to only use them at night since they can be, well, oily. If you only use oils at night, then just skip this step for daytime and move onto your sunscreen!
Step 9: Sunscreen
Sunscreen should always be last! If you apply anything on top of sunscreen then it makes it less effective. If you aren’t using a moisturizer with sunscreen, you definitely need to have a separate sunscreen if you are going to be outside for a while.
Some people use sunscreen everyday, even if they aren’t going to be out in the sun. I personally only use sunscreen when I know I will be out for more than an hour.
Sunscreen only needs to be used during the day and reapplied regularly if you are out in the sun all day.
Skincare Ingredients To Not Layer
There are certain ingredients that you should not layer or use together. Certain skincare ingredients, when combined, will render each other ineffective. So, it’s important to keep these in mind and make sure you aren’t layering them in your skincare.
Retinol and Benzoyl Peroxide
When retinol and benzoyl peroxide are layered together, they deactivate one another, and won’t do anything to help your skin. If you use both of these products in your skincare routine, use benzoyl peroxide in the morning and retinol at night.
Benzoyl peroxide can be used with adapalene, a form of retinol. But, prescription tretinoin and OTC retinol should NOT be used with benzoyl peroxide.
Niacinamide and Vitamin C
Both of these products on their own are very powerful and effective, but when combined, can cause facial flushing and irritation. Again, use one during the day and the other during the night if you use both of these in your skincare routine.
Vitamin C and Other Actives
Vitamin c works best at an optimal pH, and when you add an active (like an AHA or BHA) on top, that will change the pH and the vitamin c won’t be as effective. Try separating these two products in your routine, or use a wait time of at least 15 minutes before applying the next step.
And because skincare can be so confusing and hard to keep straight, I made an infographic that will hopefully help you know how to layer your skincare products. Take a screenshot or pin it so you’ll have it to refer back to.
Has this article helped you know how to layer your skincare products? I hope it has made skincare easier for you. Now that you know how you should be layering your skincare, you’ll be well on your way to healthy skin!