Serum before oil? Oil before serum? And is that before or after moisturizer? Oh yeah, and what about retinol? Where does that come in to play?
Skincare can be confusing. With more and more products drowning the marketplace, it’s no wonder we’re all totally baffled over when and where to use things.
And yes, the order of your skincare products matters. It matters a lot. Because if you don’t layer your products correctly, you could either render those expensive serums completely ineffective or even scarier, irritate your face to the point of cherry-shaded redness.
To get the most out of your products (and prevent any undesirable side effects!), we’ve created some quick and easy guidelines for applying skincare products in the right order.
Different skin types have different needs. It all depends on your skin type and what issues you’re currently dealing with.
“For example, dry and reactive skin will not need a toner, and oils aren’t suited to every skin,” says Ksenia Selivanova, co-founder of skin consultancy Lion/ne.
As a rule of thumb, celebrity facialist Shani Darden says, “In general, you want to apply products thinnest to thickest.” This ensures that all the product penetrates the skin and allows it to work its best.
Rules on layering, summed up:
And then there are certain ingredients that simply shouldn’t be mixed. More on that later!
First things first, remove your makeup and wash your face before applying your products. Nobody can afford to miss this step – it’s essential for all skin types.
“Cleansing your skin is the most basic part of a good skincare routine and ideally should take place twice daily,” explains dermatologist Dr. Anjali Mahto. “It functions to remove dirt, sweat, grime, microbes and pollution from the skin surface, as well as creating a clean base to then apply further products.”
Because if you want your ingredients to absorb properly, you’ll need a fresh canvas. Slathering them over oil, grime, or leftover makeup will make them virtually ineffective.
Skip the makeup wipes – they’re irritating and don’t actually do much cleansing. It’s better to invest in a gentle cleanser for daily use like Truly’s Super Matcha Facial Cleanser.
People tend to get confused over toner’s role. Probably because they used to be those alcohol-based liquids that left your face feeling tight and itchy. Now they’re much gentler and more hydrating, making them an important step in providing an additional layer of moisture to prep the skin for other products.
Not all skin types need a toner.
If you have dry or sensitive skin, you may want to skip this step as toner could irritate your skin and dry it out further.
But if you struggle with breakouts, toning is a necessity. Opt for products that contain AHAs or BHAs like glycolic acid or salicylic acid to decongest pores and speed up skin cell turnover.
Truly’s CBD Toning Solution blends salicylic acid with glycolic acid, aloe, and tea tree for a gentle yet effective anti-blemish formula.
Next is serum. You’ve probably got a line of them sitting in your cabinet, only you’re not exactly sure what to do with them.
“Serums are essentially just shots of extremely concentrated nutrients, hydrators, and antioxidants that really amp up your skin health as soon as you apply them,” explains dermatologist Dr. Mona Gohara. “People often skip out on using them, but they’re honestly the heavy lifters of your skincare routine.”
In the morning, opt for a vitamin C serum to offer your skin protection throughout the day, like Truly’s Vegan Collagen Facial Serum.
In the evening, choose a more hydrating formula like hyaluronic acid to nourish your skin while you sleep. Truly’s Glass Skin Facial Serum is an excellent choice.
The purpose of serums is to treat, so make sure you’re using something that actively addresses your skincare issues.
You need to be moisturizing, day and night. Whether your skin is oily, dry, sensitive or combo, moisturizer keeps your skin healthy and radiant.
And an even bigger benefit, “a moisturizer not only infuses your skin with hydration but also helps trap in all the products underneath it to make the ingredients even more effective,” says cosmetic dermatologist Dr. Sheerene Idriss.
Ideally, you want something gentle and lightweight that won’t clog your pores, like Truly’s Cream Skin Face Moisturizer.
Not everyone needs to use a facial oil. This is just an optional step for anyone wanting to boost hydration and the effectiveness of their preceding products.
“Oils can easily penetrate moisturizers, serums, and treatments, but no products can penetrate an oil, which means they need to be applied last,” says Dr. Gohara.
Sunscreen is non-negotiable. If you want to protect your skin from UV rays and prevent skin damage and premature aging, you’ll want to wear this daily – inside and out.
Obviously, this step is just for the daytime as you don’t need to wear it during the night.
Don’t go any less than SPF 15.
And What About Retinoids?
At night, using a retinol-formulated product will help enhance collagen product in the skin, improve skin tone, and even prevent breakouts.
However, retinol is quite potent, so you’ll want to introduce it gradually into your skincare routine to avoid irritation and sensitivity. Start by using it every third day and slowly increase your usage.
Even when your skin has adjusted to it, it can still cause flareups when paired with several other acid-containing products. That’s why it’s best to use it on days when you don’t use other serums containing many active ingredients.
Avoid using retinol in the daytime, as it can increase your skin’s sensitivity to sunlight.
Now you know how and when to apply your products … here’s to many great, glowing skin days ahead!