How to Layer Products in Your Skin-Care Routine Correctly

There is no such thing as a single “correct” skin-care routine, but there’s definitely an optimal way to apply your products. Whether you’re a minimalist who prefers sticking to a three-step routine or the type of person willing to undertake 11 steps daily in pursuit of glass skin, the way you layer your chosen products has a big impact on how well they work. The more product-intense you go, the more important this order becomes.

There’s a reason cleansing comes first, serum sits beneath moisturizer, and sunscreen goes on last. Understanding this order will ensure your favorite skin-care products work effectively—because no one wants to splurge on a luxury serum only to render it useless because of misapplication. If you’ve ever looked at a tube of retinol or a bottle of face oil and wondered exactly how (and when) to use it, wonder no more. Below, dermatologists and skin-care experts explain the most effective way to apply every single product in your routine.

The Best Order to Apply Skin-Care Products

The easiest way to break it down is to refer to the table above, which lays out the best order for your separate morning and night skin-care routines. “The principle behind ordering is to cleanse your skin, open your skin so products can soak in, add actives on, then seal with moisturizing products,” says Morgan Rabach, M.D., dermatologist and co-founder of LM Medical NYC. Below, the detailed breakdown of every single step in your daily skin care routine.

1. Makeup Remover/Cleansing Oil

Unless you went to bed with makeup on (please don’t), there’s no reason to do this step in the morning. But at night it makes your cleanser’s job a lot easier.

Removing all makeup from your skin should always be your first step at the end of the day,” says Loretta Ciraldo, M.D., dermatologist and founder of Dr. Loretta Skincare. Look for formulas that are effective enough to melt away waterproof mascara, but still gentle on your face—like micellar water. You can also double-cleanse with an emulsifying oil, which gets rid of the need to buy cotton rounds.

2. Cleanser

Do this step: Morning and night.

Now that your makeup layer is gone, you can proceed with washing your face. “A cleanser gets rid of dead skin, pollutants, oils, dirt, and bacteria,” says Rabach. Both she and Ciraldo recommend also doing this step when you first wake up in the morning, in order to prep your skin to absorb the active ingredients in your other products.

The best cleanser for you will depend on your skin type. “It’s important to pay attention to what’s in your cleanser and what’s not in it,” says Ciraldo. She recommends avoiding sulfates, which can have a harsh, stripping effect on your face, and looking for actives that suit your needs. “For normal or dry skin, I favor a hydrating cleanser with peptides,” she says. “If you’re oily or acne-prone, use a mild exfoliating cleanser with salicylic acid, which dislodges the dead cells that can clog pores.

3. Eye Cream

Do this step: Morning and night.

The first product to go on your face? Eye cream. The reason is simple—because you’ll probably forget to do it otherwise. Ciraldo recommends patting eye cream on gently with your ring finger (this way you’ll tug less at the delicate skin there) all the way around your eyes, not just underneath them. If you’re worried about eye cream causing your concealer or eye makeup to smear, choose a more lightweight option, like a hydrating gel that sinks in quickly and stays put.

For the best results, look for ingredients like peptides—which help tighten your skin and depuff—as well as antioxidants. Rabach recommends formulas that contain hydrating hyaluronic acid, brightening caffeine, and ceramides (these lock in moisture and help strengthen your skin barrier).

4. Toner/Essence

Do this step: Morning and night.

Both toners and essences are meant to help further prime your skin to absorb active ingredients, but the one you choose will depend on your skin type. Old-school toners were meant to balance skin pH and counteract alkaline soaps, before soap-free cleansers became popular. Now toner usually refers to liquid formulations geared toward oily skin that’s in need of gentle exfoliation and resurfacing. Ciraldo says those with oily or acne-prone skin should look for toners with ingredients like glycolic or salicylic acid.

Essences, on the other hand, tend to be more hydrating. Rabach recommends looking for actives like hyaluronic acid, which will flood your skin with moisture that you can lock in during subsequent steps. To apply, soak a cotton pad in liquid and gently pat it over your face. Alternatively, you can use your hands to do the same thing.

5. Serum

Do this step: Morning and night.

This is the step where you’ll deliver the bulk of active ingredients to your toner/essence-primed face, and it’s important to do it early on in your routine. “Serums are formulated with smaller molecular-weight actives so they penetrate into deeper skin layers,” says Ciraldo. “If you apply your serum after a thicker formulation, the active ingredients may not penetrate as well.

While you should apply serum twice a day, you shouldn’t be using the same formulation. “Serum actives differ for day and night,” says Rabach. During the day, she likes to choose serums with antioxidants that protect skin from daytime stressors like free radicals (caused by UV rays), pollutants, and blue light. The most popular ingredient for this is vitamin C, which you will have no problem finding in serum form. (Just make sure to choose one that’s properly stabilized for maximum effect.) At night, opt for a serum with peptides and growth factors to repair skin.

For both daytime and nighttime serums, Rabach also has a general list of ingredients she likes to look for across both formulations: Niacinamide to reduce redness, hyaluronic acid to pull moisture into your skin, and alpha and beta hydroxy acids (AHAs and BHAs), which help boost collagen and even out skin pigmentation. Ciraldo further splits up her preferred serum ingredients by skin type. “For acne-prone skin, look for stem cells, retinol, and green tea,” she says. “For dehydrated skin, look for lipids, hyaluronic acid, and peptides. And for hyperpigmented skin, look for vitamin C.”

6. Retinol

Do this step: At night only.

Retinol truly deserves its own essay, but the short version is this: The vitamin A derivative boosts collagen production and increases the rate of cellular turnover. “Retinol reduces fine lines, reduces pore size, increases collagen and elastin production, takes off dead skin, reduces oil production, unclogs pores, and evens out skin tone,” says Rabach. Whether you want to clear breakouts or fade fine lines—or basically do anything to your face—retinol is your friend.

On the flip side, this is a strong ingredient, and beginners should proceed with caution when adding to their routines. Potential side effects can include flaking, dryness, retinol burn, and increased sensitivity to the sun, which is why you should stick to applying it at night. Dermatologists often recommend easing into daily application slowly. “Start three times a week for the first week or two,” says Ciraldo. From there, you can gradually increase the frequency of application.

Most will apply their retinol layer after their serums and before moisturizer, but there is one exception. If your skin has trouble tolerating retinol and you want to minimize its side effects, you can buffer it instead. Retinol buffering refers to a technique whereby you mix your retinol with your moisturizer and apply it as a single step. This helps you still get the benefits, but decreases the potential for irritation. To take it a step further, you can also apply retinol over your moisturizer. Experiment with this step, and see where it fits best in your routine.

7. Moisturizer

Do this step: Morning and night.

Moisturizers are there to simultaneously hydrate and seal in hydration, which is why these formulas tend to be heavier than the layers that go underneath. “You should use moisturizers with humectants like glycerin and hyaluronic acid, which pull in water,” says Rabach. “I also recommend looking for ceramides, which seal the outer layers of skin.”

Ciraldo says that many of her patients prefer to use separate formulas for their morning and nighttime routines. This has more to do with how moisturizers feel than anything else. You can use a lightweight formula in the morning that blends better with your makeup and reserve a heavier cream for evening. Ciraldo’s additional tip is to double up on your serum and moisturizer actives. For example, if you use a vitamin C serum in the morning, you can layer a vitamin C moisturizer right on top to boost the benefits.

8. Spot Treatment

Do this step: Morning and night.

You need to use spot treatments on active breakouts only, but if you’re experiencing acne, you can apply a leave-on spot treatment both morning and night to speed up its healing cycle. According to Ciraldo, you should spot-treat after you’ve applied your moisturizer, not before. This helps make sure the product stays on top of the pimple, and doesn’t go on the rest of your face. “If you’re using a strong acid and then smear moisturizer all over your face, you run the risk of the product getting on more sensitive areas,” she says. You’ll also dilute its effectiveness. Wait for your a.m./p.m. moisturizer to sink in, then carefully pat over the affected areas.

The two most common over-the-counter ingredients for spot treatments are benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid. Rabach differentiates them like this: Benzoyl peroxide helps kill acne-causing bacteria, while salicylic acid gently exfoliates and dries out your oil glands.

9. Face Oil

Do this step: Morning and night.

If there’s one step in your daily skin-care routine that surprisingly divides experts, it’s face oil. The most common recommendation is to apply it last at night and second-to-last before sunscreen in the morning. That’s because oils are occlusive, says Mona Gohara, M.D., dermatologist and associate clinical professor at Yale School of Medicine. Meaning, they help trap moisture in your skin. This is why Renée Rouleau, celebrity esthetician and founder of Renée Rouleau Skin Care, says you should think of face oils as a topcoat. “Oils provide a protective barrier to help prevent moisture from evaporating,” she says. “Anything applied over it may not be offering as much benefit to your skin because it can’t get through.”

However, some derms advise their patients to take this step earlier in their routines (usually before moisturizer), depending on the formulation of the oil they’re using. “Some oils are designed with ingredients that hydrate, others to brighten or even to strengthen your skin,” says Joshua Zeichner, M.D., director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. Ciraldo also says it’s okay to mix oils with your moisturizer if you prefer.

Whichever way you land, the important thing is that you don’t overdo it—with face oils, a little goes a long way. To apply, warm about two to three drops of oil in your palms and pat lightly over your face.

10. Sunscreen

Do this step: In the morning only.

What derms unanimously agree on is that you should wear sunscreen every single day to prevent UV damage—whether or not you go outside. Sunscreen needs to go over face oil in order to be most effective. “You do not want anything to stop the sunscreen from working, or making it less effective,” says Gohara. “Putting an oil on top of your sunscreen can decrease it’s efficacy.”

There are two types of sunscreens to choose from for your final step: physical and chemical. Physical blockers contain minerals like titanium dioxide and zinc oxide and work by reflecting light away from your skin. Chemical blockers, on the other hand, work by absorbing light and converting it into heat, preventing it from penetrating into your skin. Rouleau says that mineral formulas are often better for sensitive skin, while chemical formulations tend to be thinner and spread more easily.

Chemical formulas also come with the benefit of not leaving a white cast on darker skin tones. While mineral sunscreens traditionally cast an ashy tone, Zeichner points out that brands have begun formulating better physical sunscreens to counteract that. “The newest formulation technology has brought us micronized sunscreens that rub in to your skin much better than ever before,” he says. “So using a zinc-based sunscreen no longer necessarily means your face will have that white cast. No matter what your personal preference is, there are sunscreens for every need.”

GLAMOUR

10 Best Moisturizers For Dry Skin, According To A-List Facialists

Shopping for a new moisturizer sounds great…until you’re actually shopping for a new moisturizer. Walking the aisles of Sephora or Target can feel a little like navigating the wild wild west of skincare, especially when you have dry skin. Dry types often need more attention: you want something hydrating enough to prevent flaking and painfully tight, parched skin. On the flip side, you don’t want something that’s going to clog your pores or leave you feeling greasy.

Considering not all face creams are created equal, where do you begin? Rather than spend your hard-earned money on products that may or may not work, ELLE editors brought in some major celebrity facialists for their suggestions on the best moisturizers for dry skin. Ahead, shop the products they use on their A-list clients. 

FOR ACNE-PRONE SKIN: iS Clinical Reparative Moisture Emulsion

Top LA celebrity facialist Gina Mari says, “I always treat my acne-prone clients with hydration.” She recommends using Is Clinical’s Reparative Moisture Emulsion because it’s “great for keeping the skin hydrated without causing future breakouts.”

FOR ACNE-PRONE SKIN: Angela Caglia Detox Serum

Celebrity esthetician Angela Caglia, the skin whisperer behind the glowy complexions of Helena Christensen and Minnie Driver, knows a thing or two about multitasking your skincare routine. For dry skin types that are also prone to breakouts, Caglia recommends her own line’s Detox Serum. “It’s made of hyaluronic acid to hydrate, chlorophyll to oxygenate the cells, and tea tree oil to help with breakouts.” She adds, “It’s perfect to replace your moisturizer in the summer for acne-prone skin.”

FOR UNDER MAKEUP: Tatcha The Dewy Skin Cream

Yolanda Mata, better known by her Instagram handle, Yoli Glo, is sought after by YouTube stars like Patrick Starrr and Desi Perkins.  She recommends prepping skin for makeup with Tatcha’s Dewy Skin Cream, saying, “it’s a deeply hydrating formula that glides onto the skin providing nourishment and hydration, while the Japanese purple rice leaves the skin glowing, protected, and prepared for smooth makeup application.” She also adds, “it’s something no one should live without, worth every penny.” Consider us sold.

FOR UNDER MAKEUP: Sanitas Balancing Moisturizer

If you’re looking for pre-makeup hydration, Gina Mari suggests Sanitas Balancing Moisturizer. She explains, “it contains niacinamide (B3), a powerful vitamin that promotes healthy cell function. It also leaves the skin with a matte finish for consumers who don’t want to look shiny or greasy.”

FOR EXTRA HYDRATION: Koh Gen Do Macro Vintage T3 Premium Oil

If your skin is feeling extra dry (even more than usual), Tokyo-based Koh Gen Do brand director and celebrity esthetician Megumi Setoguchi, recommends upgrading your go-to moisturizer. She suggests adding one to two drops of the Koh Gen Do T3 Premium Oil to your daily face cream. “Its light, water-like consistency easily penetrates dry, hardened surface skin and supports the hydration from within to bring suppleness,” she says. “During the dry winter months, I apply it over my makeup, even on hair and the body—it gives skin a beautiful glow.”

FOR EXTRA HYDRATION: Nurse Jamie EGF Stem Cell Complex

Nurse Jamie, the celebrity skin expert behind big names like Lea Michelle, Jessica Alba, and Lisa Rinna, among many others, recommends a fan favorite for super dry complexions. She says her namesake Nurse Jamie EGF Botanical Complex “provides intense hydration with hyaluronic acid and epidermal growth factor to increase cell renewal.” Finally, added shea butter also helps lock in hydration. Nurse Jamie says, “I love the stuff; I’d bathe in it if I could!”

FOR A NATURAL FORMULA: Burt’s Bees Sensitive Daily Moisturizing Cream

If you prefer to pick up your moisturizer on your next Target run, Caglia suggests you load up on Burt’s Bees’ Sensitive Daily Moisturizing Cream. Packed with rice and cotton extract, and soothing aloe, this formula provides tons of hydration without the addition of harsh irritants. Caglia adds, “this moisturizer is great for all skin types.”

FOR A NATURAL FORMULA: Angela Caglia Soufflé Moisturizer

If natural ingredients are an essential detail in your skincare selection, Caglia recommends giving her own Soufflé Moisturizer a try. “The texture is light, and it’s filled with the most soothing and brightening ingredients, like goat’s milk and essential fatty acids,” she says. But even if natural products aren’t your priority, she boasts the formula “will convert a long time La Mer user after one application.”

FOR A SPLURGE: Amore Pacific Time Response Skin Reserve Gel Crème

Mari says, “for the ultimate splurge, I love Amore Pacific’s Time Response Skin Reserve Gel Creme. At a whopping $450 for a 50ml jar, it’s a splurge, indeed. She describes it as “a gel texture that’s really lightweight and the 24-hour release formula leaves the skin hydrated for hours.” As it turns out, you really can put a price on amazing skin.

FOR A SPLURGE: La Mer The Moisturizing Soft Cream

La Mer’s The Moisturizing Soft Cream is, without a doubt, a cult-favorite in the beauty world. Nurse Jamie suggests it’s worth every penny saying, “incredibly light,” and not just light, “basically weightless, but really great for dry skin types since it is super replenishing.” And it’s a good thing it gets her stamp of approval because, at $335 for a 60ml jar, it’s definitely a commitment.

ELLE article

10 Skincare Products Chrissy Teigen Swears By For Clear Skin

If you have ever wondered what it takes to get (radiant, even-toned, healthy looking) skin like Chrissy Teigen’s, your prayers have been answered. Taking to Instagram on Tuesday to document her “simple” skincare routine, Teigen acknowledged she was feeling pretty pleased with the state of her face: “For you kind folks asking me to drop the skincare regimen, I will admit I am def proud of my skin lately and feeling myself!” she wrote.


True to Teigen’s devil-may-care approach to life, her skincare regimen, she says, consists of “whatever is closest” – but she does take advice from the skincare professionals she works with on which products to use. LA-based facialist Shani Darden, who also works with the likes of Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and Jessica Alba, “forces” her to use iS Clinical’s Cleanser and Face Lotion, Control Corrective’s SPF 30La Mer’s Créme de la Mer and The Concentrate (“$$, I know I know but I gotta be honest”), and a “steady stream” of Bioré’s Chin and Nose Strips.

Teigen namechecked iS Clinicals’ cleanser and lotion as her two beauty ride-or-dies, and the only things she uses consistently (“they’ve always been so good to me”). Her chosen skincare products show she’s a fan of a clever formulation that works hard to keep skin in good shape. The iS Clinical Cleansing Complex, as it’s more formally known, contains white willow bark extract (a natural source of exfoliating salicylic acid), and sugar cane extract to refresh, resurface and boost glow in tired skin, without leaving it feeling tight. Meanwhile the Moisturizing Complex contains hyaluronic acid, antioxidants and vitamin B5 to keep the skin hydrated and plump, and the skin barrier strong and intact.

The Twitter queen also regularly deploys the wonders of Dr Dennis Gross’s Alpha Beta Peel Pads “on and around” her nose and chin which, she says, makes a huge difference, as well as Dr Simon Ourian’s Firm and Fade Cream when she’s not feeling great. There you have it: the surprisingly minimal skincare routine behind Teigen’s radiant glow. 

VOGUE article

Chrissy Teigen’s $800 Skincare Regimen Includes This Surprising $8 Product

As a follow-up to my previous post about Chrissy’s expensive & extensive skincare regimen, an inexpensive gem came up! I use it myself and I feel a closer connection to her … I’ll take what I can get, okay?

Chrissy Teigen just got more relatable than ever.

The star recently revealed she uses Bioré’s classic pore cleansing strips while sharing her skincare routine on Instagram. Teigen listed the specific products she uses to get her glow after receiving numerous questions about it. “For you kind folks asking me to drop the skincare regimen, I will admit I am def proud of my skin lately and feeling myself,” Teigen wrote. She went on to list her “very simple” routine, which consists of over $800 worth of products, including cult favorites from brands like La Mer and iS Clinical.

Teigen said she uses a “steady stream” of Bioré’s chin and nose strips, which you can find on Amazon starting at just $8. The classic strips have a following thanks to their blackhead-eliminating abilities.

Bioré Original Deep Cleansing Pore Strips, 14 Nose Strips, $7.49 (orig. $9.99); amazon.com; Bioré Nose and Face Deep Cleansing Pore Strips, 24 Count, $14.47; amazon.com

The brand’s popular pore strips are meant to be used once a week to help reduce the appearance of blackheads and the size of pores. Fans say they’re easy to use and don’t cause any irritation as long as you follow the directions. (Some recommend steaming your face beforehand to get the best results.) Bioré also offers strips that are infused with ingredients like charcoal and witch hazel for an extra deep clean.

Bioré Charcoal Deep Cleansing, 18 Nose Strips, $14.44; amazon.com; Bioré Witch Hazel Ultra Cleansing Pore Strips, 6 Nose Strips, $5.88 (orig. $7.99); amazon.com

Who doesn’t love an affordable celeb buy? Below, shop the rest of the products in Teigen’s skincare routine:

InStyle article

Chrissy Teigen Reveals All of Her Skin Care Secrets

Chrissy Teigen is here to give the people what they want: her cultivated, and clearly effective, skincare regimen. After posting a video featuring husband John Legend, a pull of tangerine eyeliner, and a glowing complexion on Instagram yesterday, Teigen took note of the ample comments requesting (read: demanding) the secret to her luminous skin.

“For you kind folks asking me to drop the skincare regimen, I will admit I am def proud of my skin lately and feeling myself!” Teigen’s caption began on a subsequent post, again showcasing her bright eye makeup moment, which, as her video commentary notes, she is also feeling. Next came a laundry list of favorite products, from La Mer’s cultish Concentrate to Dr. Dennis Gross’s Alpha Beta Extra Strength Daily Peel pads. Teigen wrapped up her share with a welcome caveat for those tempted to channel her routine: her love for iS Clinical’s products is her only constant, and everything else is simply skincare frosting. With the summer sun high in the sky, there’s no time like the present to ensure skin is equally lit. You can thank Teigen for the jumping-off point.

iS Clinical Cleansing Complex

Buy here at $44

iS Clinical Moisturizing Complex

Buy here for $89

VOGUE article