Earlier this week we covered some great lightweight moisturizers for summer. For most of us, a moisturizer is just one piece in our skincare routine. Treatment serums, facial oils and SPF often play a role, but do these products work well together? There is indeed a best practice for applying products, and once you understand the logic behind each step you’ll be able to layer in a way that allows each product to perform with maximum results. Keep in mind that this is a general guide and adjust as needed based on the unique properties of the product you’re using or the needs of your skin from day to day. In general, products with the lightest, thinnest consistency should go on first. Except in the case of SPF, which should be your last layer (before makeup if you wear it), oils should go on top of anything that is water-based.
Here’s the blueprint for layering skincare successfully…
- Start with a toner. Toners tend to be as liquid as it gets in skincare, and they often work to either remove any remaining dirt and makeup after washing your face or to reset the pH levels in skin after cleansing. They can also contain active ingredients that help brighten, fight acne or increase moisture levels. Refer to my blog post on why you need a toner for more information. This should be the first layer in your routine.
- Treatment Serums come next. Serums often contain the most active ingredients because they are meant to correct and repair in many cases. They also tend to have the thinnest consistency after toners. For example, La Bella Figura Modern Radiance Concentrate or KYPRIS Clearing Serum are thin, non-oily treatments that feel weightless and aren’t meant to moisturize, but rather correct. Note that there are many oil-based treatment serums on the market, like One Love Organics Vitamin C Serum or Josh Rosebrook Deep Hydrating Serum. Even though these have active corrective ingredients, they should be treated like an oil in the layering process.
- Creams and lotions follow treatment serums. As a rule of thumb, keep in mind that oils can penetrate water-based moisturizers but not vice versa. If you use both a cream and an oil in your routine, the cream won’t be able to do its job if you apply it on top of the oil. Creams and lotions can help lock serums and moisture into skin, and they hydrate well thanks to their water content. If your skin is already balanced and doesn’t need much moisture, you can skip the water-based moisturizer and use a facial oil alone. If your skin is on the dry side or seems dehydrated, first apply a water-based moisturizer and let it sink in.
- Facial oils come next. Many of you can skip the lotion and use a facial oil alone to moisturize and protect skin, especially during the summer. For more on whether and how to use a facial oil, refer to this blog post on the topic. The key to using a facial oil, especially when SPF or makeup are applied afterward, is to use very little. 1-3 drops is generally all you need for the entire face. You can also just spot treat dry patches. Oils work beautifully to restore balance to skin, plump and prevent fine lines and lock in moisture. Allow it to fully absorb before the next layer.
- Finish with SPF. Except for makeup, SPF should be the last step in your layering process. If you’re using a moisturizer that includes SPF, like the Josh Rosebrook Nutrient Day Cream, consider that the final layer. Natural, non-toxic sunscreens rely on physical UV blockers like zinc oxide to protect skin, so you want to end your routine with that protective layer. In addition, your other products will have trouble penetrating the sunscreen if layered on top, which renders them pretty useless.
If you stick to this general framework for layering products, you’ll likely find your products perform much better. Another good rule of thumb is to let each layer fully absorb before applying the next. During your morning routine, do something between each layer, like brush your teeth or make some tea. It won’t take long for most products to absorb, and they’ll get along better with those that come before and after them if you do.