How to Layer Your Skincare Products

Woman applying moisturizer to face

Even the finest of skin care products will not work in the way that they are meant to if they are applied in the wrong order.

Didn’t know that there needed to be a specific order to your skin care routine?

This is something that is extremely important if you want to reap the full benefits of all of the products you are applying.

While the general rule of thumb is to begin with the thinnest product and end with the thickest, here are a few tips on how to layer your skin care products to ensure that you really are getting the most out of each and every one of them.

Always Start by Cleansing

It is common sense that your cleanser should be the very first product that you use in your skin care routine, but this is still a step that many people skip.

Vine Vera How to Layer Your Skincare Products cleanse

While you may not be able to see the immediate effects of this, you can be sure of the fact that without cleansing your skin, the other products that you apply will not have much of an effect


Because they will not be able to properly penetrate into your skin, due to all of the dirt, dead skin cells, oil and more that will be sitting on your skin’s surface.

Cleansing clears all of this away, ensuring that subsequent products are not blocked from being fully absorbed by your skin.

Want even better results from your cleanser?

Try following this up with a toner.

While this is not essential, a toner helps to rebalance your skin’s pH level, which cleansers usually disrupt. They will also clear away any residue left behind by your cleanser, guaranteeing a completely blank canvas for the rest of your routine

Exfoliation Comes Next

Do you exfoliate regularly?

Hopefully, your answer is yes, and the best time to exfoliate is after cleansing your skin, before applying any other products.

Wondering if this changes depending on the type of exfoliant you use?

No, exfoliation should always be done at this stage, although you only need to be doing this about twice a week, depending on your skin type.

A Face Mask for Extra Care

Face masks can really help your skin to thrive.


Because not only are they packed with plenty of active ingredients, but they are designed to remain on the face for an extended period of time, giving all of their potent ingredients extra time to soak into your skin.

Vine Vera How to Layer Your Skincare Products face mask

Again, just like with exfoliating, this is the case no matter which type of face mask you usually use.

Wondering how often you should be using a face mask?

Once or twice a week is usually enough.

Specialized Skin Treatments

Whether for acne, wrinkles, eczema or anything else, there are so many different specialized skin treatments out there.

These usually contain strong ingredients, and in order for them to have the best effect, you need to be applying them as close to your skin as possible, meaning before you apply any serums or creams.

Don’t use any specialized skin treatments?

Well then this is a step that you can skip!

Layering Eye Care Products

The skin around the eyes is extremely thin and delicate, and can be up to ten times thinner than the skin on the rest of your face

For this reason, your eye care products should be applied next, so that they sit directly on your skinr ather than behind other products and ingredients.

Do you use multiple eye care products?

If so, follow the general rule of applying the thinnest one first.

This will usually mean an eye serum, followed up by an eye cream.

One tip to keep in mind when applying products around your eyes…

Try using your ring finger to gently tap the product in, rather than rubbing it in.


Because rubbing motions end up tugging at this delicate skin, resulting in an exacerbation of fine lines and wrinkles. By gently tapping the product in instead, you save your skin from dealing with the extra friction, and instead enhance how the product is absorbed.

Layering Facial Serums

Many people have been quite obsessed with serums lately, and for good reason too…

While serums may look not much different from water, they are actually packed with a high concentration of active ingredients.

Essentially, a serum is a moisturizer without all of the heavy ingredients.

Vine Vera How to Layer Your Skincare Products serum

Why do they need to be so lightweight?

Because this means that your skin can absorb them so much easier, and put the active ingredients to good use much faster.

Serums are usually designed to target quite specific skin issues, whether this may be dark spots, wrinkles, dehydration or anything else.

Wondering if you can use more than one serum at a time?

Of course! This is a huge part of their appeal, as serums can easily be layered over each other. This then enables your skin to enjoy all of the targeted benefits that each serum brings.

But which serum do you apply first?

As always, the rule is to go with the thinnest one first, but this can be difficult with serums since they all tend to share a very similar texture.

If this is the case, you need to take a look at the active ingredients within each serum, and also decide which of your skin concerns takes priority.

For example, if your biggest goal is to fade dark spots, then a serum that contains skin lightening ingredients should be applied first. On the other hand, if reducing the visibility of wrinkles is your main aim, apply an anti-aging serum first.

While some serums do target multiple skin concerns, you are best off opting for multiple specific ones, rather than a single multi-tasking serum.

What’s the maximum number of serums you should be using?

Three is probably the most you should use at one time. Any more than this and you’ll only end up diluting all of the various ingredients, and may also end up clogging up your pores. 

Of course, you can still use three serums in the morning and another three at night, but start off slow to ensure that your skin is able to tolerate all of this.

If you have sensitive skin…

You are best off sticking to just one serum, as overloading your skin with too many ingredients at once could lead to a reaction.

Lock Everything In with a Moisturizer

The best time to apply your moisturizer is towards the end of your skin care routine, after applying your serums. 


Because not only does a moisturizer provide your skin with moisture and other nutrients, but it also forms a thin film over the surface of your skin.

This does two things:

  1. Protects the skin from the environment
  2. Prevents moisture from evaporating into the air

Thanks to this seal over your skin that a moisturizer creates, all of the products and ingredients that you have already applied will then be trapped in your skin, with the moisturizer encouraging them to penetrate even deeper.

Applying Facial Oils

Facial oils can be extremely beneficial, especially for those with dry skin.

Thanks to their tiny molecular structure, facial oils are able to sink deep into the skin, providing it with moisture, hydration and nourishment.

This isn’t an essential step in your skin care routine, but, if you do decide to use a facial oil, this is best applied after your moisturizer.


Well, as you likely already know, oil and water do not mix.

This means that if you apply an oil onto your skin, and then apply water-based serums or moisturizers over the top of this, they will not be able to penetrate through the oil, and will therefore not be able to reach your skin.

Think you can’t use a facial oil because you have oily skin?

This is a common misconception, but there are actually quite a few oils out there that could benefit oily skin.

The following oils contain components that not only help to regulate your skin’s natural oil production, but also kill acne-causing bacteria:

  • Jojoba
  • Tea Tree
  • Marula
  • Squalene 

Finish Off with Sunscreen

In order for your sunscreen to provide you with the best protection possible, you need to apply this as the final step in your skin care routine. 

Young attractive woman applying skincare to neck area

Of course, this only applies to the daytime. At night, you won’t need the sun protection, so can end your routine with your moisturizer.

Wondering why you can’t apply your sunscreen before your moisturizer?

Because your moisturizer can end up interfering with the amount of sun protection your sunscreen actually provides, meaning that you will be receiving less protection than the SPF factor on the label.

How about just using a moisturizer that contains SPF instead?

There are many SPF moisturizers out there, but there is one problem that comes from using these…

The amount of moisturizer that you actually apply to your skin will not usually be enough to give your skin the SPF protection it needs.

In order to achieve the SPF rating on the label, you need to be applying about 2mg of sunscreen to each square centimeter of skin. This usually results in quite a thick layer, which is why under-using sunscreen is such a common problem, even for people who think that they are protecting their skin each day. 

How Long to Wait Before Applying Each New Layer

One common question when it comes to layering skin care products is how long to wait in between each layer.

If your skin care routine consists of several different products, waiting for each one to dry before applying the next could mean that your routine takes up a significant chunk of your day.

So, do you really need to wait?

The answer is no. Your skin is capable of absorbing multiple products and ingredients at the same time, meaning that you are free to layer your products on, one after the other, without waiting for each one to dry.

Of course, there are always exceptions…

In this case, the biggest exception would be with acne treatments. These spot treatments do need a bit of extra time to soak into your skin before you apply anything else, but this should only take a minute or so anyway.

Another exception would be with your sunscreen…

The SPF can be diluted quite easily, so make sure to wait for a few minutes before applying anything else, such as makeup, over the top of your sunscreen.

Is There Any Difference to Layering for Day and Night?

No matter when you apply your skin care products, be it in the morning or before you go to sleep, you should always begin with the thinnest product, and work your way up to thicker ones from there.

Rather than with the order in which you apply your products, the difference between your day and night skin care routine should lie with the actual products that you use.

What does this mean?

Well, during the day, what your skin needs the most is protection from the environment, such as the sun, pollution and more.

This means that your sun protection, along with plenty of skin-protecting antioxidants, should be your focus during the day. At night, you should try to use products and ingredients that will help your skin to repair and restore itself, since it does this best while your body is asleep.

It is so important to understand exactly how to layer your different skin care products, as this enables you to really gain the most out of each of them.

If all of this sounds confusing, just remember to start with the lightest product and end with the heaviest, making sure to wait for a minute or two if you have applied spot treatments. If you have been applying your skin care products in the wrong order, you will likely notice quite an improvement in your skin once you adjust the order of your skin care routine.

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