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skin layering


Skincare routines can quickly become complex, with a plethora of serums, creams, mists and toners all competing for their place. Even once you’re fully informed regarding the basic questions of which ingredients and product types work well for your skin, the question of how to layer skincare presents a dilemma of its own. Which products should be applied first when layering skincare and what are the must-know rules of an ideal skincare routine order? Our guide to skin layering will cover these topics and more, alongside explanations of the reasoning behind how to layer skincare and product recommendations from SkinCeuticals.



 Skin layering is a name for the optimal order to apply skincare products and ingredients in order to maximise absorption and skin benefits, while avoiding any undesirable interactions between ingredients. For example, learning how to use retinol with glycolic acid together and which one you should use first requires an understanding of the fundamentals of skin layering.


Imagine carefully curating a library of skincare products only to discover the way you’re applying them is at best sub-optimal, or at worst counteracting their benefits. That’s the simple reason learning about  skin layering is so important. Certain skincare ingredients work in a complementary fashion, enhancing each other’s benefits. However, the opposite is also true, with some ingredients hindering the efficacy of others. Similarly, the differing textures of skincare products can also cause problems with absorption if the correct procedure for layering skincare is not followed.


Now you’re aware of the benefits and importance of skin layering, we’ve put together a practical routine detailing how to layer skincare. This routine follows the common rule of moving from the thinnest to thickest textured products, but there are also more detailed considerations. Read on for step-by step instructions and the reasoning behind each stage.



Using a facial cleanser must always be first in the order to apply skincare, for reasons that are likely obvious. Starting with a clean complexion free from impurities will help minimise blemishes and maximise absorption once you start layering skincare products.

Start your skin layering process with a mild cleanser like our Gentle Cream Cleanser which is formulated with allantoin to help soften the skin, while also incorporating the benefits of glycerin for skin.


Next in the order to apply skincare products is your facial toner or mist. The purpose of these products is to deeply hydrate the skin and prime your complexion to absorb subsequent products – that’s why they’re best applied immediately after cleansing.

 If you have oily skin, use our Blemish and Age Toner after patting your face partly dry. This clarifying formula will help minimise clogged pores and dead skin cells, clearing the way for the rest of your skincare to sink in. For those with normal or dry skin, use our Phyto Corrective Essence Hydrating Mist to reap the benefits of hyaluronic acid.



There’s no need to wait between toning and applying facial serums, but can you layer serums? Each serum has different ingredients with their own interactions, so it’s best to read our articles such as ‘What is glycolic acid?’ and ‘What is resveratrol?’ for ingredient-specific advice. However, general rules do apply.

Hydrating serums like our HA Intensifier Hyaluronic Acid Serum should be layered directly over your toner to allow them to attract moisture to the skin’s surface. After waiting a minute for the serum to penetrate, layer on either an antioxidant serum or an exfoliating serum, but not both. This will avoid unwanted interactions.

Discover vitamin C benefits for skin, vitamin E benefits for skin and ferulic acid benefits with our C E Ferulic Vitamin C Serum. This high-potency serum combines powerful antioxidants to protect against photoageing. On alternate days, we recommend skin layering our Blemish and Age Defense Salicylic Acid Serum after your hydrating serum to target blemishes and signs of ageing.

triple lipid cream


After you’ve given your serums a moment to absorb, day creams are next in the order to apply skincare. This is because the thicker texture would hinder serum absorption. Applying a moisturising day cream like our Triple Lipid Restore 242 Anti-Ageing Moisturiser also helps lock in the moisture and nutrients from your serum(s). Apply a thin layer of this ceramide face cream to further nourish your skin.


When it comes to how to layer skincare ingredients, remembering to use sunscreen last is a crucial step to maximise its effectiveness. Finish your daytime skin layering with our Ultra Facial Defense Sunscreen SPF50, a broad spectrum formula that will glide easily over layers of skincare.

ALWAYS READ THE LABEL. FOLLOW THE DIRECTIONS FOR USE. Apply 20 minutes before sun exposure. Sunscreen is only one part of sun protection so wear protective clothing and seek shade. Avoid prolonged sun exposure. Reapply every 2 hours and after swimming, towelling and perspiring in accordance with directions.



In the evenings, vary your skin layering technique to include a night cream enriched with retinol. You might be aware that although this ingredient is one of the most powerful anti-ageing options, it can sometimes induce temporary redness or discomfort. To avoid this, we recommend using our Retinol 0.3 Anti-Ageing Night Cream as the last layer of your skincare routine to create a buffer between your complexion and this potent formula.

Dos and don’ts of how to layer skincare ingredients

In addition to knowing the best order to apply skincare products, here are some dos and don’ts to further fine-tune your skin layering technique.

Skin layering dos

● Do use peptides, hyaluronic acid, niacinamide and other antioxidants with vitamin C. Read our article on what skincare ingredients can you use with vitamin C to understand more.
● Do apply hydrating serums, toners and mists to damp skin.

Skin layering don’ts

● Don’t use too many powerful ingredients at once, as this may overwhelm the skin or compromise the skin moisture barrier.
● Don’t layer retinol and vitamin C – instead read our guide on how to use retinol and vitamin C together for advice.
● Don’t apply potent ingredients such as retinol or chemical exfoliants to damp skin, as this can increase the possibility of discomfort.

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