Feb 20, 2014 Deven Hopp Face

The Product Order: How to Layer Skin Care

There’s no shame in admitting your skin care regimen can feel more like a challenging puzzle than an exercise in good grooming. We get it; you’ve got a bathroom shelf full of products and it can get confusing. There’s face wash, then toner, then…what, exactly? Does it matter if that anti-aging serum goes on before the antioxidant cream? We asked Mona Gohara, Associate Clinical Professor of Dermatology at Yale School of Medicine, and it turns out product order does matter. Never fear. Now, armed with the derm’s expertise and this handy blueprint, you can layer your skin care products like a pro.

   how to layer skin care products

In the Morning

As a general rule, apply product lightest to heaviest. If you start with a thick moisturizing cream, your peptide-packed serum won’t be able to penetrate the skin underneath it. And remember to allow each layer to sink in for a few minutes. That way each product is able to deliver its specific benefits without disrupting the functions of the next layer.

1. Serum

Gohara says serums go first because they are packed with highly concentrated ingredients. A serum serves as the perfect primer for additional layers, even increasing the effectiveness of your other products.

2. Targeted Treatments

Next, target your problem areas. That means use any topical prescriptions, apply a spot treatment to any burgeoning or existing breakouts and cover the crow’s feet with your favorite eye cream, preferably one with SPF.

3. All Over Treatment

Then Gohara says you can apply any products that are meant to go over the entire face, whether that’s an antioxidant treatment, all-over acne-fighter or even a facial oil.

4. Moisturizer

Your moisturizer will seal in all your other products. That’s why Gohara puts moisturizer and sunscreen last in the AM product order. If you choose a moisturizer with built-in sun protection, look for one with SPF 30 to adequately protect against the UV rays.

5. SPF

You’ve heard it all before, but we’ll say it anyway. Never leave the house without SPF on your face. And we’ll just leave it at that.   

At Night

In the evenings, the product order stays relatively the same. But at night we use products that are much more potent than what we wear during the day, so there are a few adjustments to be made.

1. Retinol, Prescription Product OR Serum

For retinols to be effective they need to be applied directly to the skin. Never apply them on top of any other product. “After washing, apply a pea size amount of retinol to your entire face (1/4 of a pea in each quadrant of the face) and rub it in,” instructs Gohara. If your skin requires a different prescription treatment, use it here and follow Gohara’s application advice. If you’re not using retinol or a topical prescription, this is where you would apply your serum. Because these products are so strong, you should only use one at a time.

2. Targeted Treatments

After layer one has sunk in, but before applying your night cream, apply a rich eye cream and if you have any other spot-specific prescription treatments to apply, now is the time.

3. Moisturizing Cream

Lastly, Gohara recommends you “moisturize with a thicker cream to avert retinol irritation.” She also notes that if your face is too oily for a night cream use a lotion instead (lotions are less hydrating than creams).   Have you been following the proper product order? Tell us below.  

Photo: thinkstock



    About the Author:When Deven's not behind the scenes producing our photo shoots, she's behind her computer writing about everything from nail art to new lipstick.