Medically reviewed by Minimalist Health Specialist -  Written by Sritama Dutta (Medical Science)  on 20th Jan 2021

How to layer your skincare products toners, serums and moisturizers correctly

How to layer your skincare products toners

Perplexed about serums, moisturizers, and a hundred other skincare products in your regime? We can help you to figure out what's best for you. This article would properly discuss the right way to layer your skin with different skincare products and why it is necessary. Keep scrolling to know more, and become a pro in skincare.

Taking care of your skin is not an easy task. With so many products and ingredients to cater to your skin woes, it becomes difficult to understand what to use when. Whether you are using serums or moisturizers, or any other products, jumbling them up while applying them to the skin isn't going to help. If you prefer using multiple products on your skin, you need to follow a basic rule for your skincare. 

The Basic Ingredients of Skincare: A Brief Introduction

1. Cleanser 

Cleansers are products meant for cleaning the skin. A cleanser helps wash dirt, debris, excess oil, makeup remnants, and other pollutants off the skin. Cleansers can be of two types: Oil-based and Water-based and can be included in your daily skincare regime. They are available in various forms, such as foams, gels, creams, and micellar water. It will help clean clogged pores, exfoliate the superficial layer of dead skin cells, and help prepare the skin for its natural reparative process.  

2. Toner 

Toners are liquids used for cleansing the skin. They help in contracting enlarged pores to make the skin firmer. The toners are especially beneficial for oily, acne-prone skin as they aid in some extra skin cleaning. They also help moisturize the skin cells, restores the skin's natural pH balance, and add a layer of protection to the skin.  

3. Exfoliator  

Exfoliators are products that help in getting rid of the dull and dead superficial skin layer. They can be available in physical or chemical forms. The physical exfoliators act as scrubs that, on manual rubbing, remove dead skin cells and other pollutants from the skin. Whereas chemical exfoliators, usually facial acids, help slough off the superficial dull skin cells, unclog congested pores, and make your skin cells more receptive to other ingredients. 

4. Moisturizers 

Moisturizers are ingredients that help in moisturizing the skin cells. They are usually a combination of three different types of ingredients: 

  • Humectants: These are ingredients that, when applied topically, draw in moisture from the surroundings and adequately hydrates the skin.  
  • Emollients: Emollients are topical ingredients that get absorbed in the skin and form a skin layer. This layer helps in retaining moisture in the dermal layers and soothes irritation and inflammation.  
  • Occlusives: Occlusives are moisturizing ingredients that form a physical film on the superficial layer of the skin. They have an oily or waxy texture. They help to lock the moisture in the skin cells and prevent it from escaping.   

5. Antioxidant Serum 

Antioxidants can potentially neutralize the free radicals in the skin that can develop from exposure to sun rays, pollutants, and even due to advancing age. Serums such as Ascorbic acid, Ferulic acid, and Retinol can help reduce aging signs, brighten the skin complexion, and diminish photodamage effects.   

6. Face Oils 

Face oils are ingredients that have various benefits on the skin. For instance, jojoba oil helps moisturize the skin, has antibacterial properties, controls sebum production, and speeds up wound healing. Squalane is another facial oil that has excellent moisturizing ability. Rosemary oil helps in reducing dark spots and blemishes and greatly improves skin complexion. It also has some anti-inflammatory effects.

7. Sunscreen 

Sunscreens are gels or creams which protect the skin from the harmful effects of UV rays. They form a protective layer over the skin, which prevents the sun from directly reaching the skin and reduces photodamage risk.  

8. Mask

A facial mask or face masks are sheets or creams placed or applied on the skin, respectively. They, too, impart multiple benefits to the skin. They can hydrate the skin, draw in essential nutrients in the cells, and keep the skin healthy.  

The Rule of Thumb:  

In case you are a skincare enthusiast, you would have found multiple ingredients that promise to cater to your skin problems. And, naturally, you would like to use it all to get the best possible benefits. But, it so happens that most of us have been layering the different skincare products in the wrong way.  

Rule 1:  

The general rule of layering skincare ingredients is to apply the thinnest consistency first and then gradually increase consistency. The last thing you should apply should have the thickest or heaviest consistency. So, in your morning regime, the sunscreen must come last, and the night cream should be applied last in your night-time regime. 

Rule 2:  

Skincare products are usually of two types: oil-based and water-based. The water-based ones are absorbed faster in the skin than the oil-based ones. But, while you are layering multiple ingredients together, you need to remember oil and water do not mix. If you apply an oil-based product first and then the water-based ones, the one with lighter consistency would not get absorbed as the oil would block the ingredient from penetrating the epidermal layer. So, always remember to put the water-based products first and then the oil-based ones.  

Rule 3: 

Every product and active ingredient you use has a specific pH. The ones with lower pH are acidic, and the ones with higher pH are basic. As a rule, ingredients with the lower pH should be applied first, and then gradually, the others with higher pH should be layered over.

Products with different pH should also not be mixed because that will decrease their efficiency.  

Layering Skincare Ingredients: What is the Right Way? 

Layering skincare ingredients or what is more commonly known as "Cocktailing" is a science one needs to learn. But fret not; it is not that hard to grasp the concept. Keep scrolling to find the ideal order of layering your skincare products.  

First, the cleansers: 

After a long hard day, the cleansers will help wash off the oil residue and dirt from your face. Some also prefer to begin their day by washing their face with a mild cleanser. For the best effect, one must want a sulfate-free, non-drying cleanser.  

Tone the skin next: 

A toner helps to maintain the natural pH balance of the skin. Also, a toner can help hydrate the skin and remove any remaining dirt and debris after cleansing. Toners with incorporated acids such as glycolic acid or lactic acid will help minimize the skin's open pores and brighten the skin's complexion.  

An antioxidant serum takes third place:  

Antioxidants are necessary for maintaining the vitality of the skin. After toning, it is recommended to apply a potent antioxidant serum such as vitamin C, which will protect the skin against pollution and neutralize free radicals.  

Bring in some active ingredients next:

Not everyone needs to apply active ingredients to their skin. But if you are distressed with skin woes, I am sure you would find one that will fulfill your needs. You can use niacinamide as a versatile skincare ingredient. You can also use Hyaluronic acid for extra hydration, alpha arbutin, and kojic acid serums to improve skin complexion.  

The moisturizer is next in line: 

Adequate moisturization is always important for your skin. A good moisturizer helps attract moisture in the skin cells and prevents it from escaping by trapping it. Moisturizing the skin helps in improving the strength of the skin's natural barrier. It makes the skin firmer and resilient and also boosts the reparative action of the skin.  

You can never miss sunscreen: 

Sunscreens should always come at the end and help build a protective layer over all other products to prevent the UV rays from harming your skin. You must apply ample amounts of broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF above 30 on your skin before stepping out.  

Serum Before Moisturizer! Here's Why! 

Now that we have spoken about layering skincare products' ideal order, a question might arise in your mind. Why do we need to maintain order?

Skincare experts advise that serums should always be applied before applying moisturizer. This is because serums have a lower viscosity than moisturizers.

Serums have a thinner consistency and are lighter on the skin, making them readily absorbable in the skin layers. The moisturizers are of a thicker consistency and form a film over the skin when applied. If serums are applied after moisturizers, they will not penetrate the skin layer as the film will block their passage. Thereby, no beneficial effect of the serums will be evident.  

The Bottom Line: 

Maintaining a rigid skincare routine is very important for protecting the health of your skin. Thus, we have tried to impart some basic concepts to help you build the ideal regime for yourself. Just keep in mind the few rules of layering, and you can experiment with different skincare ingredients.

However, skincare experts have recommended not to use three active ingredients at a time. Though, you can use cleansers, toners, moisturizers, and sunscreens as suggested. Stay consistent with what you use on your skin, and you can see marvelous effects.