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A Foolproof Guide To Layering Skincare

Are you layering your skincare?


Applying our skincare products every morning (and evening!) should be nothing less than a pampering ritual, where we massage our faces with luxurious oils and products to get us ready for the day, or for bedtime respectively.

But, why do most of us feel uncertain when it comes to layering our face creams? It’s because a good skincare regimen is not a spontaneous choice, but the result of good research and experience.

Layering skincare products has become a skill, and just like every skill, it needs to be learned and then practiced. It can be difficult to follow through, which is why only 37% of all women worldwide claim to stick to their routine religiously!

Order matters when applying your products, otherwise you might end up with ‘pilling’ - which looks and feels like tiny flakes on your face when your skin hasn’t had the time to absorb the previous product before you apply the next one.

We know it can be confusing trying to figure it all out, so we’ve put together a step-by-step guide to ensure you get the most out of your products, and come out at the other end of this article with a well-defined, efficient skincare routine:

1. Layering Skincare: Cleanser

Your face is your canvas, and you want to make sure it is free of all makeup and impurities before you start applying your skincare products, as even the most advanced serums and moisturizers won’t penetrate your pores unless they are clean! A good cleanser will remove dirt, oil or makeup residue, and also help balance your skin.

Depending on your skin type, there are different types of cleansers you can use: those with dry or sensitive skin will benefit from a milky, non-foaming or hydrating cleanser, while people prone to acne and dealing with oily skin should go for a gel cleanser that balances sebum production.

2. Layering Skincare: Toner

You might have heard that toners (or more accurately, astringents) are too harsh for your skin - however, today’s toners are specifically formulated to deliver more moisture to your skin and help clarify it, rather than dry it out.

While they don’t physically shrink your pores (no skincare product ever will), toners serve multiple purposes, acting as a delivery system for antioxidants and serums. Each type of toner is intended for a different skin type or issue, so it’s important to choose the best one for you.

To use, apply to a cotton pad, and gently wipe all over your face to remove any impurities missed by your cleanser.

3. Layering Skincare: Serums

Now it’s time to apply those thinner face products, before working your way into thicker ones.

Serums are highly concentrated formulas designed to deliver their benefits into the deeper layers of the skin, which is why they should be applied first after cleansing and toning. As well as this, thinner serums aren’t able to penetrate thicker moisturizers or creams, so applying them at a later stage will be a redundant step.

Filled with active ingredients, serums distribute ingredients to your skin more efficiently than other products, and can help brighten your skin, and boost the power of your SPF!

Cel Pro Tip: In order the avoid the aforementioned pilling (which often happens when incorporating more than one serum into your skincare routine), try to fit your beauty regimen in between your daily activities; for example, apply a product, then have your coffee, then apply the second product, then brush your teeth, and so on. This way you create a 5-minute gap between applications, and allow them to better seep into your skin!

4. Layering Skincare: Eye Cream

Are your eyes puffy from the wild night you had before, or simply from a lack of sleep? Good eye cream or eye serum can help fix that!

This product is applied before your moisturizer (both in the morning and evening), and can help alleviate puffiness, reduce fine lines, or diminish dark circles. Start at the inner corners of your eyes and work your way outwards, using your ring finger to tap the product in. This method of application maintains a gentle touch and prevents tugging, both extremely important in preserving the thin, delicate skin around the eyes.

Most people don’t know this, but it is recommended that you start using eye cream as early as your 20s, even before you start seeing signs of aging such as crow’s feet or wrinkles.

It's always better to prevent, than to treat!

5. Layering Skincare: Moisturizer

Moisturizer is a non-negotiable skincare product – even for those with oily skin!

This essential beauty staple must not be missing from anyone’s routine, whatever your skin type may be, so make sure you choose the right product for you. The reason why you apply moisturizer on top of your previous products is that it seals in your serums and eye creams, adding an additional moisture barrier that nourishes and hydrates your skin. And since hydrated skin is crucial in fighting off wrinkles and blemishes, skipping this step when doing your skincare routine is a big mistake!

Cel Pro Tip: At night time, use a different moisturizer than during the day. Night creams are often thicker and more hydrating and can promote skin regeneration as they don’t need to go under your makeup.

Retinol-based moisturizers have amazing properties, deeply nourishing your skin making it appear younger, so try using a retinol product in your evening routine and see how it can help you.

Learn more about retinol here!

6. Layering Skincare: Sunscreen

Leaving the house without applying a broad spectrum SPF product can be very damaging for your skin, even on cloudy days! Most of our UV exposure happens during regular activities (such as walking to your car or driving to work), so remember to apply sunscreen even if you won’t be outside in the sun for too long.

Sunscreen should be your last skincare routine step in the morning, and should be applied at least 15 minutes before heading out; however, if you want to cut down on the time it takes you to get ready every day, try using a moisturizer which has SPF included (anything over 30+ protection level is recommended).

Makeup containing SPF does exist, but more often than not, their SPF concentration is not enough to provide adequate protection, and might not even act on both UVA/UVB rays like a good sunscreen product would, so it’s a good idea to top up with a potent SPF lotion before applying your makeup.

Final Thoughts On Layering Skincare...

The main idea in applying your products correctly is going from thinner textures (like serums and eye creams) to thicker ones (such as moisturizer and SPF), and to give them time to act on your skin.

Rushed applications will lead to ineffective products, as skincare items require a certain time and order to fully deliver their benefits, so take your time and listen to your skin.

Maintaining a balance in your skincare routine is one of the most important steps, and while you think that using a drying product is going to help regulate your face’s sebum (oil) production, it actually will have quite the opposite effect. Look for products adequate to your skin type – remember that you are unique and so is your skin, so find what works for you and stick with it!



Clara Hallifax

As an avid follower of all things hair care, I love to create content that educates and entertains, while also learning more myself! I’ve been a writer for a few years now, specializing in scientific research on hair growth and hair loss. When I’m not typing away, I’ll be doing crosswords, or attempting to do a tricky yoga pose.