How to Layer Skincare Products Correctly for Beginners

How to Layer Skincare Products Correctly for Beginners

Your skincare routine doesn’t have to be complex for it to work. However, knowing the proper layering order is important to get the full effect.

So you’ve done your skincare shopping and are excited to use these products, but you just don’t know which one to apply first? We got you!

In this guide, we’ll explain the importance of layering skincare products and provide a step-by-step breakdown of each product type, ensuring you get the most out of your routine.

What is the Importance of Layering Skincare Products?

What difference does using one skincare product make over the other first? Well, an effective skincare routine is more than just slathering on various products and calling it a day; it’s about applying them in a specific order to ensure optimal absorption and effectiveness. 

Every product in your skincare regimen serves a unique purpose, from cleansing to hydrating to protecting the skin. Applying them in the correct sequence can enhance their performance, allowing active ingredients to penetrate more deeply and work more efficiently.

Layering correctly also helps prevent your products from pilling. Pilling is when the products clump together and roll off your skin. This ruins your entire skincare routine and you have to start over.

Also, layering ensures that heavier, occlusive products don’t create a barrier preventing lighter, more active ingredients from reaching the skin.

So, what is the proper order of applying skincare products? 

1. Cleanser

The first step in any skincare routine is cleansing. Cleansing removes dirt, oil, and impurities that can clog pores and lead to breakouts. It's important to choose a cleanser suitable for your skin type. Foam cleansers such as theDermalogica Oil to Foam Total Cleanser or gel-based cleansers like this one fromCosmedix work well for oily or acne-prone skin. On the other hand, if you have dry or sensitive skin, cream-based cleansers like theIsClinical Cream Cleanser or oil-based cleansers such as thePCA Skin Daily Cleansing Oil are ideal.

You should cleanse twice daily—in the morning to remove overnight sweat and sebum and in the evening to wash away makeup, sunscreen, and pollutants. Use lukewarm water and gently massage the cleanser into your skin in circular motions for about 30 seconds to a minute. Rinse thoroughly and pat your face dry with a clean towel, avoiding harsh rubbing that can irritate the skin.

2. Toner

Toners are often misunderstood but play a crucial role in balancing the skin’s pH and preparing it for better absorption of subsequent products. They remove any residual impurities left after cleansing and provide an additional layer of hydration. Make sure that your toner is suited for your skin type, as well. This toner fromSkinCeuticals is excellent for most skin types!

To apply toner, dispense a small amount onto a cotton pad and gently swipe it across your face, or pour a few drops into your palms and pat it directly onto your skin. This step ensures your skin is primed and ready for the more potent ingredients in your serums and treatments.

3. Spot Treatment

Spot treatments are targeted solutions designed to address specific skin issues such as acne, dark spots, or hyperpigmentation. These treatments are highly concentrated and should be applied directly to problem areas after toning and before applying broader treatments like serums or moisturizers.

The key to using spot treatments effectively is patience and consistency. Apply a small amount directly to the affected area and allow it to fully absorb before moving on to the next step in your routine. Avoid spreading the treatment over unaffected areas to prevent unnecessary irritation. Products containing benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, or hydroquinone are common choices for treatingacne and dark spots, respectively.

4. Serum

Serums are potent, lightweight formulations packed with active ingredients designed to address specific skin concerns. They can directly deliver a high concentration of antioxidants, peptides, hyaluronic acid, or other active ingredients to the skin. Since serums have smaller molecules, they can penetrate deeply and deliver these active ingredients more effectively than your thicker creams or lotions.

When applying serum, use a small amount (a pea-sized drop is usually enough!) and gently press it into your skin with your fingertips. Focus on areas that need the most attention, such as fine lines, uneven skin tone, or dry patches. Allow the serum to fully absorb before proceeding to the next step, ensuring its powerful ingredients have time to work their magic.

5. Retinol

Retinol, a derivative of vitamin A, is renowned for its anti-aging benefits, including reducing the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and hyperpigmentation. It works by increasing cell turnover and stimulating collagen production. However, retinol can be quite potent and may cause irritation, especially for those new to it. This may be an additional step for some, so make sure to consult with your dermatologist if you should incorporate this into your routine.

Start by using it once or twice a week, gradually increasing frequency as your skin builds tolerance. After your serum absorbs, apply a pea-sized amount to your entire face, avoiding the eye area. It’s best used in the evening, as retinol can make your skin more sensitive to sunlight. Always follow with a moisturizer to help mitigate potential dryness and irritation.

6. Eye Cream

The skin around the eyes is thinner and more delicate than the rest of the face, making it more susceptible to signs of aging and fatigue.Eye creams address concerns like puffiness, dark circles, and fine lines. They contain ingredients that are gentle yet effective for this sensitive area.

To apply eye cream, use your ring finger (which applies the least pressure) to gently pat a small amount around the orbital bone, starting from the inner corners and moving outward. Avoid applying too close to the lash line to prevent irritation.

7. Moisturizer

Moisturizers are important for maintaining the skin’s hydration levels and creating a barrier that locks in moisture and other beneficial ingredients. There are many different formulations ofmoisturizers, including gels, lotions, and creams–again, it all depends on your skin type. Hydrated skin is more resilient, appears plumper, and can better defend against environmental stressors.

Put on moisturizer while your skin is still slightly damp from previous steps to help seal in moisture. Use an amount appropriate for your skin type – lighter gels or lotions for oily skin and richer creams for dry skin. Gently massage the moisturizer into your face and neck in upward motions, ensuring even coverage and absorption.

8. Face Oil

Face oils provide an extra layer of nourishment and can help seal in moisture, especially for those with dry or mature skin. They are rich in essential fatty acids and antioxidants that can enhance the skin’s natural barrier and promote a healthy, glowing complexion. Since it’s potent, you don’t need much when applying it to your face, particularly if you have oily or acne-prone skin.

To apply face oil, dispense a few drops into your palms, rub them together to warm the oil, and gently press it into your skin, focusing on areas that need the most hydration. You can use face oils in the morning or evening, but they are particularly beneficial at night when the skin undergoes its natural repair process.

9. Sunscreen

Don’t forget your SPF!Sunscreen is arguably the most crucial step in any skincare routine, as it protects the skin from harmful UV rays that can cause premature aging, hyperpigmentation, and skin cancer. Daily sunscreen use is essential to maintain healthy skin and prevent damage, regardless of the weather or season.

Choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 and apply it as the final step in your morning routine. Use a generous amount (about a nickel-sized dollop) and cover all exposed areas, including the face, neck, and ears. Make sure to reapply every two hours!

What is the Difference Between a Morning and Night Skincare Routine?

Should your morning skincare routine be the same as your nightly one? That depends.

A morning skincare routine focuses on protection and prevention, while an evening routine is about repair and regeneration. In the morning, the primary goal is to protect your skin from environmental stressors such as UV rays and pollution. This is why sunscreen is a non-negotiable step in the AM. Morning routines typically include a cleanser, toner, serum, moisturizer, and sunscreen.

At night, your skin shifts into repair mode, making it the ideal time to use more potent, reparative treatments like retinol and heavier moisturizers. Evening routines often involve cleansing (sometimes double-cleansing if you wear makeup or sunscreen), followed by treatments like serums, retinol, or other actives, and finishing with a nourishing moisturizer or face oil.

At the end of the day, your night skincare routine should involve more cleansing, especially if you are out that day. This ensures there’s no makeup or dirt residue left behind before sleeping.


Layering skincare products correctly is an art that can significantly enhance your skin's health and appearance. Following a structured routine and applying products in the proper order ensures that each product works effectively and delivers maximum benefits. 

Looking to upgrade your skincare routine? VisitTotality Skincare and check out our extensive range of skincare products–curated for convenience and guaranteed to carry your next go-to product!

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