Skincare Layering And How To Nail It
Applying your products in the wrong order or in record-breaking time is asking for serious trouble. So, if dry patches, itchy skin and flare-ups are so not your jam, let’s get this layering malarkey nailed, shall we?
Knowing when (and when not) to apply your skincare products can be something of an art form. Does your antioxidant serum come before or after your moisturizer? And what about sunscreen? Also, are you supposed to wait a few minutes between applications or can you just go for it and layer to your heart’s content?
So. Many. Questions.
But don’t worry, because we’ve all been faced with the dilemma of which battalion of serum to apply first and thought 'what the heck, I’m gonna apply them both – together.' Instant regret.
So, should you hone down your regime into a couple of key products? Or do you simply need to learn how to play the skincare cocktailing game? Actually, it’s kind of up to you and the concerns you want to address. But if you need a little help getting started, we’ve put together a four-step guide to the art of skincare layering.
Here it goes...
1. Understand Your Skin
Some of you can get away with applying product after product with no adverse reaction (lucky you), but this is not the case for everyone. For example, while a nightly dose of 1 percent retinol could be a slam dunk for many of you, it might be way too intense for anyone with sensitive or dry skin.
The key is to understand your skin and learn what it does and does not like. And the best way to do this? Always patch test a new product before trying it all over your face. This way you’ll learn if your skin becomes irritated by a particular ingredient. Also, give new products a chance to work before you write them off completely. Your skin takes between four and six weeks to turnover, so the general rule of thumb is to give new products this amount of time to really do their thing. No judging after 24 hours, OK? Unless you’ve had a negative reaction, of course. Then you’re totally OK to judge. And to stop using it.
One other thing: if you ever become sensitive to one of your favorite serums, but can't bear to trash it, try applying a gentle moisturizer first to reduce its potency and cause less irritation. And if it still causes issues? Then it’s time to say ciao.
2. Get Some Order
When it comes to knowing what to apply when, obviously you know that cleanser happens first, then toner. But what should come next? Well, if you’re using some kind of treatment serum for acne or pigmentation, for example, this should follow your toner.
Next up would be an antioxidant serum like vitamin C, hyaluronic acid or niacinamide, followed by eye cream, a pimple treatment, moisturizer, face oil and finally a broad-spectrum sunscreen every morning.
Obviously, your skin doesn’t need ALL of these, every day, but moisturizer is the one product everybody should use. Reckon your skin is too good, oily or zitty for moisturizer? Think again. Moisturizer not only locks in, er, moisture, but it balances your skin and seals in all those products you’ve applied previously to help them work more effectively and efficiently. You need it. You just do.
Sunscreen is also vital every morning and, without question, always comes last because most (and especially mineral sunscreens) are formulated to sit on the surface of your skin. If you apply sunscreen before your serum, for example, it’ll literally block it from penetrating your skin. That’s just wasteful.
Not sure if your product is a serum or an oil? Then get a feel of its texture, weight and viscosity and compare it to the rest of your skincare line-up. Then all you need to remember is that your thinnest product should be applied first, with the thickest, most dense product going last.
Makes so much more sense now, right?
3. Don’t Overload Your Skin With Actives
While it may be super-tempting to bombard your skin with AHAs, BHAs, retinol and vitamin C, remember, you can have too much of a good thing. And in this case, too many hard-working, active ingredients can cause breakouts, dryness or in worse cases, severe irritation. Most derms agree that three treatment products is the maximum anyone should apply.
We recommend either sticking with actives that have been cleverly formulated in precise concentrations to work synergistically together (oh hi there, C-Plus Super Serum). Or go for just one main, active ingredient in your morning regimen (vitamin C, for example) and a different one in the evening (retinol, of course).
4. Finally, Take Your Time
Remember, your skincare routine should be something you enjoy, not a race to the finish line, so take time when smoothing products onto your skin. And avoid any frantic rubbing. Slowly and gently pat and press products into your skin as this helps minimize friction and allows them to absorb way better.
Also, try to give yourself a little breather between product applications. If you pile all your products on in quick succession you could wipe away the previous one, therefore a) wasting it and b) increasing your chance of pilling. Instead, stick the coffee machine on between applications or check your FB feed for a few minutes to allow each product to settle into your skin before applying the next.
These extra minutes will not only be beneficial to your skin and give you the perfect base for your makeup, but they'll help you start off your day on the right foot – ie: not in a complete frenzy.
About Georgia Gould
Georgia is an award-winning beauty writer who has been in the business for over 20 years. British-born, she began her career as a magazine beauty editor in London before moving to San Francisco, CA in 2012 where she now continues her love as a freelance writer and editor. As well as her editorial work, Georgia has created content for many high-profile beauty brands, including Clarins, L’Oréal, Procter & Gamble, Simple and TRESemmé. Her passions include retinol (obviously), golfing, skiing and walking her beloved Schnauzer, Dave.