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What Goes First? How to Layer Your Skin Care Products

Posted by Nikki Wisher on Mar 21st 2023

What Goes First? How to Layer Your Skin Care Products

A great skin care routine is like a great group of friends: you need the right balance and combination to bring out each one’s best qualities. Unlike your friend group, though, your skin care routine needs to go in a certain order. How do you know which products to apply first and which to apply last?

This is a point of confusion for many people but we’re shedding light on why layering matters and how to do it right.

Why Does Layering Matter?

Why, exactly, do you need to apply your skin care products in the right order? Your skin care routine isn’t a mixing bowl that blends everything together. It’s more like a parfait, with one layer resting on top of the other. Unlike the layers of a parfait, though, your skin care products need to be absorbed into your skin at the bottom for them to be effective. The products at the bottom will block some of the upper layers from sinking in, so you need to layer your products in a way that allows them all to be as effective as possible.

Tips for Layering Your Skin Care Products

If you want to get the most bang for your buck in your skin care, how do you layer your products appropriately? Follow these tips to work out your ideal routine.

Always Cleanse First

For morning and evening skin care alike, the first step is always the same: using your cleanser. A cleanser will clear away dirt and debris that can clog your pores and can also block your skin care products from properly sinking into your skin.

The only exception is removing your makeup if you’re wearing any. You’d use a makeup remover and then a cleanser before proceeding with the rest of your routine.

Go from Thin to Thick

Here’s the golden rule for layering your skin care products: apply them based on their consistency. Start with the thinnest products first and make your way to the thickest products. For example, after cleansing, you might start out with a tone, then a serum, then a treatment lotion, and then a moisturizer.

Take It Slow

As you’re building up your multi-layer skin care routine, don’t rush it. Start with simplicity, maybe as little as just a cleanser and a moisturizer. Let your skin get used to this for about six weeks before you add something new and repeat that cycle until you have the routine you want. Introducing your skin to too many new things too quickly can leave your skin irritated and red.

Consider Your Priorities

Applying your skin care products from thinnest to thickest sounds all well and good until you have two products that seem to have the same consistency. Say you want to use two serums, for example. Which one should you apply first, or is it a toss-up?

In this case, whichever product you apply first will be able to better absorb into the skin and have a greater effect. For that reason, you should first use the product that you want to be more effective.

For example, let’s say you want to use two serums: one for anti-aging and one for hydration, and both have the same consistency. In this case, you’d ask yourself which is a higher priority for you: anti-aging or hydration. There’s no wrong answer – it’s just a matter of personal preference and what your skin needs most. Whichever you decide is your highest priority, you’ll apply that first.

Leave Absorption Time

As you apply one skin care product after the other, it’s ideal to give each product a minute or two to sink in before you apply something else on top of it. This might seem time-consuming, but you can make it efficient by being strategic about your routine and doing other non-skin care tasks in between applying skin care products.

For example, you could follow this order for a nighttime routine:

  • 1.Makeup remover
  • 2.Cleanser
  • 3.Toner
  • 4.Brush your teeth
  • 5.Serum
  • 6.Floss your teeth
  • 7.Treatment lotion
  • 8.Put on your pajamas
  • 9.Moisturizer

By switching back and forth between skin care and other bedtime prep tasks, you give your skin care products a chance to sink in and start working their magic before you add the next product into the mix.

End with Sun Protection

In your morning routine, as you work your way from thinnest to thickest, your last step should always be the same: sunscreen. Daily sunscreen is critical for lowering your risk of skin cancer and premature aging, but it forms a layer on your skin that will prevent any other products on top of it from reaching your skin. Apply all your other products first and finish with your sunscreen.

Planning Your Dream Skin Care Routine

It can be a struggle to maintain the habit of a twice-daily skin care routine but trust me when I say that the rewards are well worth it. With the right product choices and layering techniques, your skin care routine can give you that gorgeous, healthy glow everyone wants.