An efficient skin care routine is about more than just the products you use; it’s also about using those products in the right order.
Learning how to layer skin care in the most effective way can not only help your skin look its best but also help you get the most value out of every product.
Should you have a different morning and evening skin care routine?
Before we discuss how to layer skin care products, let’s discuss the differences between your morning and evening routines. While you can absolutely use the same basic skin care products in both routines, there are a few ways to make each even more effective.
As we discuss the most efficient way to layer your skin care products, we’ll make a note of different products that you may want to include in either your AM or PM skin care routine.
How should you layer skin care?
All those products on your bathroom shelf work best when applied in the right order. In general, we recommend layering up from your thinnest to thickest formulas.
That way, the ingredients are able to sink into your skin and work their magic all day or all night long.
As we move step-by-step through how to layer your skin care products, one thing remains consistent — your morning and evening routines should always start with facial cleanser. This first step helps remove buildup and prepares your skin for the serums you’ll use later.
The type of cleanser you choose will depend on your skin's unique needs. Most people do well with a gentle cleanser, but if you have skin concerns like oily skin or dry skin, you may need something a little more specific.
After your skin is clean, the next (optional) step is to use a toner. Toners are designed to sweep the remaining buildup and residue from your skin, leaving it clean and open for your next step — treatments.
Although exfoliation won’t be part of your everyday routine, we recommend using an exfoliant two to three times a week. If you have sensitive skin, you may want to start by exfoliating once a week and gradually working your way up.
Exfoliants can help break up the bonds between dead skin cells, allowing them to be more efficiently cleared away from the skin’s surface. This will help the skin look brighter, open the pores and minimize visible signs of aging.
Next, you'll apply your serums. The options you choose will depend on what your goal is and if you’re applying them in the morning or the evening.
The “rules” for how to layer skin care products extend to your serums, too. As a general rule of thumb, it’s best to start with your thinnest, lightest product and end with your thickest, most occlusive — with time in between to let each dry thoroughly.
There are numerous topical skin care treatments out there, but here are some of the most popular:
EYE PRODUCTS: Often developed to hydrate the under-the-eye area using active ingredients like hyaluronic acid, firming eye products (like Eye Sculpt) can help minimize the appearance of fine lines, puffiness and dark circles.
ANTIOXIDANT SERUMS:Vitamin C serums can help minimize the visibility of dark spots by scavenging free radicals in the skin and brightening the skin tone. Plus, it can support your skin’s natural collagen production. Niacinamide is another ingredient that can act as an antioxidant while also being an effective hydrating serum.
AHA + BHA SERUMS: Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) and beta hydroxy acids (BHAs) are found in many serums targeted toward breakouts. These products can help exfoliate and unclog pores to help minimize the appearance of pimples. To find these products, look out for active ingredients like glycolic acid, lactic acid and salicylic acid.
When combining your treatment products, verify that they are compatible. Some, like salicylic acid and vitamin C, work best when layered correctly.
While vitamin C usually absorbs easily into the skin, it’s been found to penetrate most effectively on skin that has lower pH levels (around 3.5 on the pH scale). That’s where salicylic acid comes in. An acid itself, it also lowers the pH of the skin. So when you apply it before vitamin C, it helps it to be at its most beneficial!
Hydration is a crucial part of your skin care routine, although the products you use to hydrate your skin will likely differ depending on the time of day you use them.
Moisture is essential for helping to support the functionality of the top layer of your skin, also known as the stratum corneum or moisture barrier. This is your first line of defense against all kinds of external stressors. Hydrating ingredients can strengthen the moisture barrier.
If you’re performing your morning routine, you’ll likely want a lighter moisturizer — and there’s one more step you’ll need to take before starting your day.
If you’re doing your nighttime skin care routine, a heavier night cream should be your last step. Apply your moisturizers in the order of lightest to heaviest — start with lightweight lotions, then move on to any moisturizing face oils, and then use night creams.
Sunscreen is a must for your morning skin care routine, even if you don’t plan on spending an extended amount of time in direct sunlight.
When choosing a sunscreen, here are a few qualities to look for:
SPF 30 or above
Broad-spectrum protection against UV rays
Water resistance (although you’ll still need to reapply every two hours and when you spend time in the water or sweat excessively)
Sunscreen can also take the place of foundation, as there are tinted options available that can help keep you safe while also improving the appearance of redness and dull skin.
The bottom line...
Getting the most out of your skin care products begins with using them in the right order. Start with cleansing your skin before moving on to your other products, and make sure to finish your morning routine with sunscreen.
Our recommendations will help each of your skin care products work more effectively so that you can achieve the glowing, smooth and youthful-looking skin you deserve.