Medically reviewed by Minimalist Health Specialist -  Written by Akruti Khandkar (Journalist)  on 14th Dec 2020

A Beauty Cocktail: Learn Everything About Layering Skincare Ingredients

Everything About Layering Skincare Ingredients

There is much fuss over some ingredients like vitamin C or retinol, or niacinamide. Many more are a blessing for your skin. However, very little is said about layering these ingredients together. A specific combination of ingredients, when layered over others, can work like magic. Only the key here is to understand what ingredients go well with the other.

So here is our guide on how to layer your favorite ingredients.  

How to layer skincare ingredients in your everyday routine: 

1. Start light  

Serums — the lightest and thinnest items should go first. This is because: 

  • they work well, and 
  • they carry the active ingredients into the skin properly
  • they are uncomplicated to customize.  

Pick a few serums that each treat one of your interests. 

2. Add an antioxidant 

Vitamin C is one of the most wanted ingredients that every skin type needs. It protects your skin from sun damage, advances collagen creation, and brightens your skin.

Don't pair vitamin C with a moisturizer or toner with an alpha hydroxy acid (for example, glycolic), destabilizing vitamin C. In case you're utilizing an acid, pick an antioxidant green tea instead.  

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3. Take a quick rest  

A basic skincare routine consists of cleanser, toner, moisturizer. A toner helps eliminate dead skin cells, which allows your moisturizer to penetrate better. You can also increase penetration by letting each product ingest for a moment — during this time, you could probably brush your teeth or prepare a cup of green tea — before proceeding forward. 

4. Seal it in

Many dermatologists suggest sunscreen is the most important product in your skincare routine, but another superior product must be a moisturizer. Moisturizer is critical to any layering routine since it seals serums on your skin, making them more effective.  

5. Know when to reverse

Pay attention to the reaction of every product you are using on your skin, especially your face. If your delicate skin irritates or reddens after using a product, try using a simple, fragrance-free moisturizer first and the used serum over it. The moisturizer will lessen the serums' strength, and they'll additionally be less inclined to cause a disturbance. 

6. Add oil  

In little portions, oils make skin greasy. Apply them on dry regions after creams — when in doubt, oils can enter lotions, however not the other way around. Avoid the oil, in case you're wearing multiple serums under your cream. However — sooner or later, you can't try to look oily.

7. Remember security

Sunscreen is your last and an essential step in your morning routine. It sits on the topmost layer of your skin, so if you apply it initially on cleansed skin, it keeps different ingredients from entering the skin layer.  

8. Have a nightcap  

Finishing your evening skincare routine with a retinoid makes you look a ton more youthful.

Retinol is suggested in the evening time because it breaks down in sunrays and shouldn't be layered or combined with certain ingredients, like salicylic acid and vitamin C. With retinol, cleanse, add an essential moisturizer on top, and skip exfoliation for the following two mornings. 

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The Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State (Uni)University states that when both vitamin C and E serums are paired together, they can be more effective in preventing photodamage than applied alone. Both work as a team in nullifying free radical damage. When you add vitamin C and E serums into your skincare routine or use products with this combination, you are giving your skin two times more antioxidant ammunition to fight ultraviolet radiation and free radicals.  

Derm's Advice:

Dr. Alexis Stephens advises not to apply hyaluronic acid after retinoid because it can irritate your skin.  

So What Actives Should you Layer? 

When you start aging, your skin is at the cusp of crumbling: it begins to lose its vitality and requires an additional lift to maintain a youthful appearance. You may begin seeing that your skincare doesn't appear to be as compelling, or new issues crop up, for example, sensitivity or fine lines. That is where active ingredients come in — they can vamp up a daily schedule to address these developing impacts. Here are certain actives that cooperate to focus on your skin concern:

1. Against Aging = Retinoids/Retinoids + Moisturizer  

Retinoids are a kind/type of Vitamin A that is incredible at battling aging. It is astounding for cell turnover, which implies that they can enable your skin to fix itself at a quicker rate. While our skin does this naturally, this cycle slows down as we age. Skin damage inversion is likewise conceivable with this powerful active!

One drawback is that retinoids can be drying on the skin. That is the reason it's critical to combine it with a hydrating moisturizer to rebuild water-loss. 

2. Glowy, Hydrated Skin = Vitamin C + Hyaluronic Acid  

This is the best couple you could root for in this chaotic ingredient market. Hyaluronic acid is a humectant that ties moisture from the air and your skincare items to help hold moisture in your skin. This acid can hold up to multiple times its weight in water, making it an effective moisturizer. Well, hydrated skin gives a plump and lively complexion.

Vitamin C works to light up your complexion while advancing elastin and collagen creation. It likewise shields the skin from destructive UV harm that our skin is a victim to every day. While vitamin C makes for a precarious accomplice, hyaluronic is a steady friend that supplements it. Together, they change your skin into a brilliant canvas.  


Dr. Stephens proposes to apply hyaluronic acid after anti-aging treatment but before an acne treatment  

You ought to apply Vitamin C items first before any hyaluronic acid is injected into the skin in a perfect world.  

3. Acne-prone or Sensitive Skin = Retinol + Niacinamide

If you have delicate skin, exploring active ingredient can be an exhausting task. Numerous blends don't work since they are very strong! But here is a combination that might work for you- retinol and niacinamide may be the ideal pair to begin joining into your daily schedule.

As referenced, retinol is an incredible warrior of aging. Yet, that is not by any means the only advantage it has at its disposal. Vitamin A ingredients were first advertised as an acne solution because of their capacity to tighten pore size while advancing cell turnover. Thus, retinol assists with quieting aggravation prompted acne by controlling oil creation.

However, for those with sensitive skin, utilizing retinol alone can be excessively drying. That is the place where niacinamide ventures into the picture. Niacinamide is an exceptionally steady active that can help lessen the aggravation capability of retinol. Without anyone else, niacinamide is likewise a top pick ingredient: it settles the skin obstruction and guarantees hydration. They are additionally past rivals of acne — by forestalling dirt and debris development, your pores get no opportunity to transform into bothersome pimples.  

4. Whiteheads and blackheads = Beta Hydroxy Acids + SPF  

Beta Hydroxy Acids is an umbrella term for different compound exfoliants that treat further skin concerns. They reach profoundly into your pores to break down sebum and dead skin, successfully clearing up clogged pores and whiteheads. The most well-known acid that falls under the BHA class is salicylic acid.

However, BHAs can make your skin more powerless against UVA and UVB beams. So either you can use it in the evening time when you are not exposed to sunlight, or if you want to include it in your daily schedule, it is critical to slather on a solid SPF after.  

Daytime and Night-time skincare routines

Morning skincare and night-time skincare routine can differ at many levels. AM routine is about antioxidants, sun protection, and insurance from environmental factors, especially pollution. 

Your morning routine might consist of these steps:

  • Cleanser (if you have a normal type of skin, you can also wash your face from tepid water, but for those of us with oily skin types, it's ideal to utilize a delicate cleanser.)
  • Toner  
  • Serum with antioxidants – Vitamin C
  • Eye cream (it depends individually)
  • Moisturizer (avoid oily moisturizer that can clog the pores)
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  • Sunscreen (Sunscreen consistently comes as the last advance of skincare.
  • Makeup

Night-time routine consists of these steps: 

  • Double cleanse (to eliminate residue and dirt, and oil) 
  • Toner  
  • Eye cream  
  • Treatment Serums/Creams (like retinol – Vitamin A/ AHAs/BHAs/ anti-aging serums with peptides).
  • Face oil or cream cover 
  • Moisturizer to seal everything and forestall trans epidermal water misfortune during the night.

Remember that you don't need to utilize some skin treatment every night, particularly if your skin doesn't need it. There are a lot of times where you can hydrate your skin and head to sleep. The abuse of medicines would build the danger of bothering, and we don't need that.  

Does the Concentration Of Actives Matter?  

YES. Yet, it's significantly more complicated than that. Different active ingredients work best at various degrees of concentration. To an extreme, and it very well may be impeding your skin obstruction, and too little it will have no impact.  

These are the overall rates for the active ingredients that you should look for:  

However, note that relying upon how extreme your concern, the necessary rates may shift! As usual, do a patch test before applying it to your face.  

Why is following the right order while applying skincare products important?  

When you don't follow the right order, you can run into three issues:

1. They may not infiltrate:

This issue occurs if you're putting light and thin, liquid or water-based items on top of thick, smooth, or oily ones. Thick products will pose an obstruction on your skin that forestalls the successful application of any other product. 

2. They might be less successful:

If certain items can't enter your skin appropriately, you clearly can't get their full advantage. Besides, when the certain active ingredient is intended to be applied away from one another, utilizing them together can deactivate them or even make another ineffective. In one or the other case, your routine won't be as viable as it should be. 

3. You could hurt your skin:

Using faulty items could even cause new skin issues. For instance, applying serums on top of oils could leave your skin dry since insufficient water arrives at your skin. Or then again, in case you're layering your serums, creams, and oils on top of your mineral sunscreen, you'll be weakening the efficacy of other skincare products applied to your skin. Your skin can also run the risk of becoming defenseless. This will leave you more powerless against skin malignancy and untimely maturing!

The 3 "Rules" of Product Layering

There are four general "rules" to remember while figuring out what request to apply your skincare items:  

· Thinnest to the thickest surface:

Move from light to heavy products. Start with the most watery items, for example, toners and serums. Heavier, and the more saturating ones—like moisturizers, creams, and afterward oils—come straight away, followed by sunscreen.  

· Water-based before oil-based:

Oil and water don't blend, and oil can impede water from entering. That implies water-based items must be applied first. Let them assimilate into your skin, and afterward, apply your oil-based product.  

· Lowest to highest pH:

If you're utilizing active ingredients, it's essential to realize their inexact pH levels and go from least to most elevated.  


Layering skincare products can be a daunting task, but there is no pressure or compulsion to include them in your skincare routine.

The main thing is finding a healthy skin routine that works for you and that you'll follow. Regardless of whether that includes everything or a streamlined custom, have a good time experimenting. In any case, you feel confused, always consult your dermatologist for a recommendation.