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The Complete Guide to Layering Skincare Products

August 30, 2023

The Complete Guide to Layering Skincare Products

The way you layer your skincare products makes a big difference in how they work. Are you using your skincare products to their full potential? Find out with our step-by-step guide to layering skincare.

The order you apply your skincare products matters! An all-star skincare lineup is only as effective as the order in which you apply said products. If you’re not layering your skincare in the right order, you could be rendering them ineffective or even worse, irritating your face.

Make the most of your skincare routine with our step-by-step guide to layering skincare products. We also cover important differences in your morning versus nighttime routines.

How to Layer Your Skincare Products

The general rule when it comes to layering skincare products is to apply them from thinnest to thickest so that the inner layers are sealed in by the outer. Products that have a low viscosity also tend to have a smaller particle size, meaning they can penetrate more deeply into your skin. Make the most of your skincare routine and get maximum results morning and night by following our step-by-step guide to layering products below.

Morning Skincare vs. Nighttime Skincare

Your skin's needs differ in the morning versus the night. Thus, your morning skincare routine should be different than your nighttime.

During the day, your skin is exposed to dirt, oil, makeup, pollution, UV rays, pollutants, and bacteria. This wears on your skin cells and your skin's collagen. So your daytime skincare routine is all about protection and preservation.

Then before bed, your skincare focus shifts. Your skin repairs and recuperates as you sleep. Your nighttime routine should address skin issues before the regenerative process begins. This is also the time to apply renewing ingredients like AHA and vitamin C that may make skin sensitive to daytime sunlight.

Morning Skincare Routine

Your morning skincare routine is all about protecting your skin from the day’s environmental stressors ahead. Layer your morning skincare products in the following order.

Step 1. Cleanser

Washing your face first thing in the morning offers a clean slate for everything you apply next. Start by splashing your face with warm water and mix a small amount of foaming cleanser with water in your hands. Massage it into your skin with circular movements, avoiding the area around your eyes, and concentrating in the areas where you have the most pores. This loosens dirt and gunk more effectively, so any ingredients you slather on afterward are able to penetrate, instead of being blocked by anything left behind in your pores. Drier or more mature skin types may find that they only need to use a mild micellar water in the morning to cleanse.

Step 2. Toner

No matter what your skin type, toner is a step you don’t want to skip. Toner’s purpose is resetting the skin after cleansing to neutral. Not only does toner refresh your skin, but it helps balance throughout the day. Toner also acts as a carrier to deliver the powerful ingredients in your serum (coming next!) deeper into your skin.

Step 3. Serum

Serums are packed with skin-loving ingredients that you want sinking in throughout the day. Just be careful about what you choose to apply during the day. Certain ingredients like retinoids can increase your skin’s sensitivity and wearing them during the day can leave you more vulnerable than usual to the sun. 

Instead, look for ingredients like hyaluronic acid and vitamin-rich boosters. Want to use one than one serum?  The cardinal rule of layering based on the viscosity of the products still applies here. So if you have multiple serums in front of you, quickly assess their textures. The thinnest should go on first. Oily or heavier serums should go last. If they all seem to be the same consistency, start with the most concentrated product that will tackle your top concern. Serums should always be applied to your skin while it's still damp to seals in the moisture.

Step 4. Eye cream

The skin around your eyes is the thinnest and most delicate on your face. It’s also the first to show signs of premature aging. Using eye cream is an essential part of any simple natural skincare routine. Regular use of eye cream over time will keep the eyelid skin elastic and can improve or fine lines and collagen loss. Dab a small amount of eye cream under and around your eyes. Don’t forget the upper eyelid and just below the arch of the eyebrow, too. Use your finger pads to pat it in, don’t rub.

Step 5. Moisturizer 

There is no such thing as overly-hydrated skin. Your sunscreen also generally shouldn’t stand-in for your daily face moisturizer. Moisturizing is one of the most important steps in your morning routine. Not only does this step hydrate your skin for the day ahead, but seals in all of the ingredients you applied before this. Your moisturizer should be seasonally appropriate and leave your skin feeling nourished and smooth.

Step 6. Sunscreen

If you only had time for one skincare product every morning, sunscreen is non-negotiable. Even on cloudy or cool days, and even if you don’t plan to be in the direct sunlight, sunscreen is a must. Daily sun protection is as important to your overall health as drinking water.

Nighttime Skincare Routine

Your nighttime skincare routine is all about preparing it for the regenerative process that happens while you’re asleep. Layer your nighttime skincare products as follows.

Step 1: Makeup remover

Sleeping in your makeup can wreak havoc on your skin and usually, a face cleanser isn't enough to remove it all. Start your nighttime routine by first removing your makeup with a micellar water or makeup remover. This step also helps you to avoid having to pull and tug at the makeup stuck into the gentle creases around your eyes. Anyone with a smoky eye addiction will attest to this!

Step 2. Cleanser

To get rid of the day’s grime, dirt, oil, and makeup, you need to cleanse again. No matter your skin type, a gentle cleanser keeps your skin’s natural oils in balance. Avoiding harsh surfactants like sulfates prevents disrupting your skin's microbiome. Wash your face the same as your morning routine to remove all the excess dirt, oil and makeup. This leaves your skin refreshed and ready to absorb the rest of your products’ ingredients for the night.

Step 3. Toner

We said it before and we’ll say it again. Toner is the unsung hero of a good skincare routine. It’s essential for balancing skin pH and prepping your skin for all of the superstar ingredients to follow. After patting your skin dry with a towel, apply your toner just as you did in the morning.

Step 4. Treatments

Your body literally heals itself while you sleep. This is why targeted skincare treatments like retinol serums, acids, peptides, peels, and masks are better used at night. 

But unlike your serums in the morning, instead of layering, choosing your nighttime treatment depending on your skin’s most pressing needs. Here are some other things to consider before choosing your targeted treatment before bed.

Choose between prescription medications for acne or rosacea, or exfoliative treatments like acids, peels, or detox masks. Using both on the same night increases your risk of skin irritations

Don’t use retinol creams on the same night as exfoliative treatments

Use exfoliative treatments sparingly, two to three times a week

Step 5. Eye cream

Your eye area hosts the most sensitive skin on your face. It is also the first area to show the signs of aging. Eye creams are a great form of preventative care against this. Choose an eye cream with peptides to boost hydration and help firm the delicate skin around your eyes, smoothing fine lines and wrinkles. Hyaluronic acid and hydrating butters help smooth the appearance of fine lines. Ingredients like green tea, cucumber and vitamin K help target puffiness and circles.

Step 6. Serum 

Serums are the most potent and customizable step in your skincare routine and a must in your nighttime one. Look for formulas that hydrate and regenerate before bed like a hyaluronic acid serum. Save the antioxidant-rich options for your morning routine. 

Step 7. Face oil 

Applying a facial oil overnight helps skin combat the overproduction of pore-clogging sebum and oil leading to the breakouts and blackheads. Dry and sensitive skin types especially will benefit from this additional boost of moisture.

Step 6. Night cream

The final step in your nighttime skincare routine should always be a night cream to seal in the effects of all the hard work you’ve put into the previous steps. Night creams are generally thicker and heavier and designed to be absorbed over the course of several hours. Moisturizer creates a protective barrier on the skin to prevent water evaporation while you sleep. Maintaining a high water content in your skin is the key to maintaining a healthy complexion. Overnight hydrating masks can also be a potent way to rehydrate stressed skin while you sleep.

It can be tricky figuring out how to use all of the products in your routine. But the way you layer your skincare products makes a real and significant difference to your skin. If you're not following the correct order, it could be compromising the efficacy of your routine.

When it comes to skincare, remember the general rule of applying your products from thinnest to thickest texture. It’s also important to note that consistency is key when it comes to any routine.  Repeating your morning and nighttime skincare routines in the same order will yield the best results for your skin in the long run.