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

Derms Explain the Skin-Clearing Benefits of Turmeric

Health-food-inspired beauty potions can be a little absurd. But turmeric-laced skin care isn’t that. Studies have shown that curcumin, a chemical compound found in turmeric, can decrease UV damage (it’s a natural antioxidant) and clear up acne (it’s also antibacterial) when applied to skin. It may also reduce collagen breakdown when taken orally, says Rachel Nazarian, a dermatologist in New York City. In fact, there are several dermatologists who take a turmeric supplement every morning. “It can prevent conditions, including skin redness, hair loss, and cardiovascular disease, which are caused by inflammation,” says Kavita Mariwalla, a dermatologist in West Islip, New York. She’s a believer — she pops a 500-milligram pill daily.

First Aid Beauty Hello FAB Ginger & Turmeric Vitamin C Jelly Mask

I don’t think you’re ready for this jelly…mask? First Aid Beauty’s Ginger & Turmeric gel-based mask is supercharged with ginger, turmeric, and vitamin C to invigorate tired, stressed-out skin.

$32 (Shop Now)

Kora Organics Turmeric 2-in-1 Brightening & Exfoliating Mask

If it’s good enough for Miranda Kerr, it’s good enough for me. I love her Kora Organics Turmeric 2-in-1 Brightening & Exfoliating Mask, which contains exfoliating alpha hydroxy acids to address hyperpigmentation, dullness, and uneven texture.

$48 (Shop Now)

Peach & Lily The Good Acids Pore Toner

Pores? What pores? Peach & Lily’s The Good Acids Pore Toner features soothing turmeric, alongside a slew of other nourishing ingredients like aloe, to balance skin while seriously turning up the glow factor in your complexion.

$39 (Shop Now)

Kiehl’s Turmeric & Cranberry Seed Energizing Radiance Mask

The Kiehl’s Turmeric & Cranberry Seed Energizing Radiance Mask does exactly what its jar says: brightens and energizes skin. Spread this creamy mask across your cheeks and let it dry. As you wash it off, the cranberry seeds gently break down dry, dead skin on the surface of your skin, leaving it glowier and feeling incredibly refreshed.

$32 (Shop Now)

Volition Turmeric Brightening Polish for Face and Body

Volition’s Turmeric Brightening Polish for Face and Body looks and smells earthy right out of the tube, but on contact, the gritty brown paste melts into a smooth, hydrating milk. It combines turmeric with sandalwood and olive oil (which hydrate and tone skin), leaving skin visibly brighter after one use.

$38 (Shop Now)

Clarins Double Serum

The amber-colored Clarins Double Serum is bi-phase, meaning it’s made up of a water-soluble formula and a fat-soluble one that, when combined, deeply penetrates and nourishes skin. The bottle is dual-chambered, so every pump contains just the right amount of each formula — two-thirds water-based ingredients and one-third oil-based ones — including, yep, you guessed it, turmeric.

$89 (Shop Now)

Tula Pro-Glycolic 10% pH Resurfacing Gel

The clear Tula Pro-Glycolic 10% pH Resurfacing Gel does it all (though, you may not notice it right away). With a blend of probiotics and glycolic acid, it restores skin’s pH level, brings down inflammation, exfoliates, and moisturizes. Swipe it over your skin, and in about five minutes, skin will feel smoother and suppler.

$34 (Shop Now)

Jane Iredale Skin Antioxidant Capsules

As Nazarian mentioned, turmeric’s effects can also be seen when ingested. With a blend of antioxidant phytonutrients (including a 12.5 milligrams of turmeric), the Jane Iredale Skin Antioxidant Capsules protect and repair skin from damaging free radicals from sun and smog.

$50 (Shop Now)

Aveda Tulasara Wedding Masque

Massage the ultra-rich Aveda Tulasara Wedding Masque all over your face before bed, and you’ll wake up with your skin feeling soft and supple in the AM. Plus, it smells amazing — a citrusy, flowery combination of jasmine, chamomile, and grapefruit oil.

$65 (Shop Now)

Perricone MD Pre:Empt Series Daily Brightening Moisturizer

Loaded with antioxidants, just a few pumps of the Perricone MD Pre:Empt Series Daily Brightening Moisturizer gives skin the hydration it needs for the day. Think of it as a three-in-one treatment: a hydrator, a makeup primer, and skin protector (thanks to SPF 30).

$75 (Shop Now)

Andalou Naturals Turmeric Enlighten Serum

The Andalou Naturals Turmeric Enlight Serum is full of a potent fruit stem cell complex, turmeric, and glow-enhancing vitamin C to address dark spots, counteract free-radical damage caused by UV rays, and boost collagen and elastin production for a truly radiant complexion.

$25 (Shop Now)

ALLURE article

6 Korean Beauty Trends Guaranteed To Give You Glowing Skin

The wonderful world of Korean beauty (or K-beauty as it’s known by beauty aficionados) has inspired countless beauty products in the UK and is responsible for improving how many of us approach our skincare routines. While once upon a time we simply cleansed, toned and moisturised, now we have serums, essences and a duo of cleansers to ensure our skin is spick and span – and that’s thanks to K-beauty. So what are the latest trends, tips and ingredients from our Korean counterparts that we can deploy for better skin? British Vogue spoke to Alicia Yoon, the founder of online K-beauty emporium Peach & Lily, to find out.

Glass skin

You may already have heard about glass skin, one of the biggest skincare trends from the past year. The term describes skin that is glossy, glassy, luminous and translucent, explains Yoon, who launched the first-to-market Glass Skin Serum on Peach & Lily. In Korea, glass skin is more about a general attitude to skin: “It’s an awareness that the skin is your largest organ and that you need to care for it from within. Through that you achieve skin that’s so healthy that ultimately it looks like glass skin,” she says.

Achieving a glass-skin effect, therefore, is all about working on the health of skin with a clever line-up of products. Peach & Lily offer a Glass Skin Discovery Kit, which comprises a hydrating (sulphate-free) cleanser, essence, serum (with peptides, niacinamide and hyaluronic acid) and a lightweight, antioxidant-rich moisturiser – the building blocks of a healthy skincare routine. You can also try COSRX Low PH Good Morning Gel CleanserLa Mer The Treatment LotionAllies of Skin Peptides & Antioxidants Firming Daily Treatment and Murad Nutrient-Charged Water Gel.

Home care

“In Korea, people go to a dermatologist or aesthetician for facials once or twice a week – it’s like going to the gym – and now they want that facial experience from home for the days they aren’t in there,” says Yoon. For that, they rely on “home care”, which is created for them by their dermatologist and offers in-clinic results from home: cue post-facial skin literally every day of the week. 

Referencing the Miwaji Hyalu Serum Veil (contains everything from copper tripeptide to brightening arbutin) as a go-to home care product, Yoon says that super-products like these offer results akin to the facials themselves: “This product in particular imparts a thin, glue-like veil over skin that feels super comfortable. It’s the result of a dermatologist trying to recreate a hydrafacial for home use so it leaves skin plumped with hydration. I love it,” she says.

A number of UK and US-based brands also offer skincare that mimics the effects of in-clinic treatments at home. Take Dr Dennis Gross’s Professional Grade IPL Dark Spot Concentrated Serum, which is designed to recreate the effects of IPL treatment on skin, fading dark spots and discolouration. Skincare tools that (effectively) imitate actual skincare treatments, like Sarah Chapman’s Pore Refiner, have also become popular. 

Skin immunity

We’re more than au fait with keeping our immune system in check – thank you, vitamin C – but the Koreans are also concerned with their skin’s immunity: “Our skin plays an immune function role in keeping out bad bacteria,” says Yoon. “There’s an awareness in Korea about what you need to do to keep your skin immunity up and that’s keeping your skin barrier really strong.” Look to ingredients, such as fatty acids and ceramides, to help reinforce your skin barrier, keeping the good stuff in and the bad out. Sunday Riley’s ICE Ceramide Moisturising Cream is an excellent product to consider in your routine and deeply nourishes while keeping the skin barrier healthy and strong. 

Inner dryness

Is your skin dry… on the inside? That’s one thing that our Korean counterparts make it their mission to avoid: “We know that when our skin is dehydrated, it’s not caused by our lipid levels on the skin’s surface, but rather the moisture levels inside that are lacking,” says Yoon. It doesn’t matter what your skin type is – oily, dry, or sensitive – but if it’s dry on the inside, it won’t function at its best. Yoon explains: “When you’re dehydrated your melanocytes stay more activated and thus brightening ingredients may not work as well to reduce dark spots; it can also trigger an inflammatory response during which the hormone CRH is released, triggering more sebum production and breakouts; and your fibroblasts that produce collagen and elastin may not work as well. Hydration is the foundational to skin health.”

To ensure skin is hydrated from the inside out, incorporate plenty of humectants in your skincare regime as these absorb into skin and help bind moisture in. Yoon recommends her brand’s Wild Dew Treatment Essence, which contains niacinamide, a cocktail of antioxidants, firming adenosine and three different sizes of hyaluronic acid to bind moisture into skin and give you your most hydrated and dewy-looking skin yet. Alternatively, try Tonymoly Ferment Snail Essence.

The one-minute rule

The Korean one-minute rule refers to your skincare regime and the way in which you apply your product. The idea is to take one minute to massage your oil-based cleanser into skin (we love Sisley Triple Oil Balm Make-up Remover & Cleanser), spending time on getting the surface grime and day’s make-up to dissolve, and then to remove it and spend the next minute applying a hydrating formula. “If you don’t apply the subsequent hydrating formula within that minute, your skin becomes bone dry and formulas don’t absorb as much. It’s a great tip,” says Yoon.

Troxerutin

Troxerutin, the new ingredient to know, might be difficult to pronounce but it has sure made its mark in Korean skincare regimes. A super-antioxidant that is lauded for its ability to soothe irritation, reduce inflammation and hydrate, you can find it in Troxederm’s Repair Essence Mist where it’s blended with cica and niacinamide for an ultra calming effect. Yoon says it has gone totally viral in Korea: “All the celebrities started talking about it and Korea’s George Clooney bought $15,000 worth of this product for his fans – that’s how much he loves it.”

VOGUE article

Buzzy Beauty Ingredient of the Moment: Squalane

It seems like every day brings with it a new beauty ingredient we, as a civilization, must know about. (Cue: Eva Longoria over-pronouncing “hy-a-lur-on-ic acid” at us on repeat!) But every now and then, a substance comes along worth really, truly knowing. Hyaluronic acid is certainly one of them — particularly for anyone who favors a hydrated complexion without an oily, slick feel — but what we’re here to focus on right now is a slightly more old-school ingredient enjoying somewhat of a resurgence in the beauty world of late: squalane.

“Squalane is a saturated and stable hydrocarbon. It’s a form of squalene oil (which is a natural component of human skin sebum), which means it’s not subject to auto-oxidation, so that makes the shelf-life longer,” explains Dr. Hadley King, a board-certified dermatologist at Day Dermatology & Aesthetics in New York City. In other words, squalane is a more stable ingredient derived from less-stable squalene, just in case you were about to Google “what is the difference between squalane and squalane?” Got that?

In the past, both ingredients have typically been derived from shark liver oil (like, from actual sharks), but most formulas now rely on cruelty-free, vegan (and much more sustainable!) alternatives made from olive or rice bran oil. It’s these innovative new formulas that have reinvigorated the industry’s interest in squalane, particularly as consumers seek out vegan and cruelty-free products (not to mention dewy, hydrated aesthetics that rely on intense moisture).

Dr. King notes that squalane “has emollient properties which make it a good moisturizer, able to help skin barrier function and prevent loss of hydration that impairs dermal suppleness.” She recommends it for a range of different skin types and concerns, beyond just those associated with moisture. “It has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, so it can help soothe inflammatory skin problems such as eczema, psoriasis, rosacea and inflammatory acne.”

Cosmetic chemist Ni’Kita Wilson agrees there are many benefits associated with squalane in skin care: “It is a great product for all skin types to provide moisture; at high enough levels it has anti-wrinkle properties,” she says. She also notes that while many squalane formulas are thick oils and creams, there are also other options for those who don’t want to feel greasy. “It can be made to feel lighter or heavier on the skin depending on what it’s mixed with. It’s a versatile ingredient,” says Wilson, who also notes that there are few risks associated with it on the whole.

Not all experts are fully sold on the ingredient for every skin type, though. “It can be used across almost all skin types, but I am cautious in recommending it to people with acne because it may contribute to breakouts,” notes dermatologist Dr. Joshua Zeichner, the director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital.

Dr. King also points out that there are times when squalane itself may not be enough, particularly for those coping with severely parched skin. “If the skin is very dry and the environment is very dry, a stronger, heavier occlusive may be needed in addition to or instead of the squalane to lock in the moisture and ensure that hydration is not evaporating from the skin,” she advises.

Fashionista article