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How To Properly Layer Your Facial Products (What Goes On Next?!?)

There are millions of facial products on the market today and when someone buys a new product from me one of the first question asked is usually “how do I use this with my other products?” It is actually a complicated subject with a long answer so read on and learn how best to use your products. The general consensus in the cosmetic industry is to use the thinnest product and finish with the thickest product so if you want to just keep it simple you can layer your products that way but there are a few exceptions to those rules:

Layer One: Liquid or Gel Products (Hylauronic Acid, Vitamin C Products, Liquid Gel Based Serums, Toners, Tonics)bottle dropper

Generally speaking you want to layer your runnier liquid or gel products on first. The thinnest of the solution will penetrate better if used under your other products. This includes most liquid gel based products like Skinceutical’s Hydrating B5 Gel or CE Ferulic or any other magic potion you’ve purchased from the cosmetic counter. If it comes with a dropper, or needs to be applied with a cotton round it should be used first.

Layer Two: Heavier Serums, Glycolics, Pigment and Stem Cell Products

tns-essential-serum_detailNext in line would be your thicker treatment products, most stem cell serums, glycolics and pigment products have a heavier texture than liquid gel products. Example of those would be SkinMedica’s TNS Essential Serum or Lytera products, or if you are using prescription TriLuma for lightening. There are tons of thicker formulations sold at the beauty counter, if your product comes in a pump it would fall into this category. If you have more than one in this category just use your best judgement on its thickness level to determine which goes first.

Layer Three: Seal It With A Moisturizerdermal-repair-cream

Generally speaking, your moisturizer should be next in the line up. Even if you have breakout/acne prone skin I recommend that you use some kind of moisture. My personal favorite light moisturizer is Skinceuticals Daily Moisture and my favorite rich moisturizer would be SkinMedica’s Dermal Repair Cream. You should use the moisturizer that works best on you and use it to seal your other products in, I do recommend pausing after it’s application to let it sink in before you put anything else on top.

Layer Four: Eye Cream

Eye cream should be the last product at night or before your sunscreen. It’s meant to sit on the skin and keep those lines and wrinkles plump and happy. My all time favorite eye cream is certainly Neocutis’ Lumiere Eye Care (the Lumiere Riche is awesome too.)

 Layer Five: SunscreenSunShield matte

The best sunscreens for your face are definitely zinc and titanium based sunscreens and they are always the last step in your morning routine. These sunscreens sit on your skin like a wall between you and the sun and that’s why they need to be last. My personal favorite face sunscreens are Obagi’s Nuderm SPF 50 and ZO’s Oclipse Sunscreen + Primer. Both are great at protecting your face without feeling the weight of sunscreen on it.

Specialty Products

There are a few products that don’t work with the thinnest to thickest rules, certain prescriptions and acne topicals as well as retinol products have their own rules.

Acne Treatment Products

If you’re using an acne pad or a salicylic acid toner they should always be applied first in the line up. It’s also important to let them dry sufficiently before topping them off with anything else. If your acne product is a gel or cream product (like benzoyl peroxide or Aczone) it should be applied last in the line up and dry completely before putting on makeup so that it doesn’t pill up.

Retinols and Retin A

retin a

If you are using a non-prescription retinol it should be applied nightly and layered under moisturizer. BUT if you are using prescription Retin A then it’s best used with serums only and layered last to drive serums deeper into your skin. It’s important to NOT use moisturizer on the nights that you use Retin A because it cuts the strength of your prescription and makes it less effective.  To read more Retin A VS Retinol… What’s The Difference?

Peel Pads

If you are using an at home peel pad it will work best by using it at night, completely by itself with no other products. Personally, I love ZO’s Offects TE-Pads and use them twice a week to keep my skin in shape.

That should cover most of your bases. Anything outside of these categories, just ask a professional!

Jennifer Warmann-Bloss


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