top of page

How to Layer Your Skincare Products Like a Pro

Updated: Jan 13

Some years back, I sat at my vanity table staring at all the skincare products I had accumulated and felt overwhelmed. There were just so many that I could no longer keep track of and I had to apply first, second, or last. I became so frustrated that I decided to stick to using just my face scrub and forgot about the rest.

It’s needless to say that was far from enough for a proper skincare routine. This made me realize how hard it is sometimes to keep track of all the products you have. When do I use what? And most importantly why does a particular order matter in developing a skincare routine?

Habiba applying a skincare product from the Skoah brand.

Why Order Matters

The order in which we apply products on the skin has a significant impact on the results we get. This works in three ways, they will either not penetrate enough, lose their effectiveness or worst-case scenario be harmful to your skin, they need to be applied at the right time and in the right order.

Imagine applying a water-based cleanser over a thick cream or lotion. We do not want that happening because most cosmetic products vary in textures and properties. Water and oil do not mix. So, the fluid will not absorb into your skin due to the oily barrier and your product will just be wasted. Do not forget that skincare products both organic and chemical contain acids and bases. If mixed wrongly, they can lead to chemical reactions that could irritate the skin.

The “Golden Rules ” in Layering Your Products

When it comes to layering your skincare products there are 3 rules. I like to call them “the 3 golden rules”. If you stick to these, I promise you will get the best out of all your products.

1) Thick Over Thin

I hinted this above, your beauty products have different textures for a reason. They absorb into your skin at different rates, therefore, you need to work from your water-based products such as your toner or serum up to your oil-based products such as moisturizing lotions and creams.

2) Bid Your Time

Honestly, guys, this is the most important rule and also the hardest for me to follow lol. It is super important to let the products work each in their time. Not only are you going to get the full benefits of each product, but also this will help you avoid reactions between products that could be harmful to you.

I once used a gel cleanser over a chemical peel, and trust me that is not a healthy combo. The pH imbalance caused my skin to slightly burn. I was lucky enough that I rinsed the cleanser in time to have sustained just mild burns on my cheek.

Make sure you read the instructions on your products on how a product should sit on your skin. Also, read the counter-indications in case something else should not be mixed with it.

3) pH Check

I know, I know, reading the ingredient list on our products is not a fun thing to do cuz of the gibberish ingredient names. But checking the pH of the products we use is important. Certain cosmetic products need to be applied at a specific interval from each other to avoid unwanted reactions.

Certain actives (natural ingredients that have been scientifically proven to change the structure of your skin at a cellular level) nullify when mixed or worse could irritate your skin if applied immediately after the other. This is because they function at different pH levels. For example, Vitamin A and Vitamin C are two actives that will nullify each other if applied to one another. This is because Vitamin C has a lower pH (acidic) while Vitamin A or Retinol has a higher pH (Alkaline).

Always apply your products from lowest to highest pH level and never together. Always wait 30mins before you apply a product with a different pH level than the previous


How To Layer Skincare Products in The Right Order

This is the right order in which you should apply your skincare products for the best results.

1) Cleanser

Morning or night make sure you cleanse your face from all residual makeup or free radicals from the environment. Set a clean foundation for the rest of your routine.

2) Toner

Apply your toner after cleansing to help reset the pH of your skin and prepare your skin for the next treatments in your routine. Although an optional step, toners help hydrate the skin and can contain very nourishing ingredients that brighten, soothe and protect the skin's barrier. One of the best toners I have used is the Anua Heartleaf 77% Soothing Toner.

3) Exfoliant

Exfoliating helps get rid of dead skin cells and brighten the skin. After cleansing and toning your skin, go in with your exfoliant at this point as your skin is clean and ready to absorb actives like exfoliating actives. This step in your routine should be done not more than 3x a week to avoid irritation.

4) Serums and Eye Creams

Don’t we just love serums? I consider them as skin superfoods and you want to apply them after your toner. They absorb greatly on freshly cleaned skin and you will want to go for antioxidant serum such as Vitamin C, Vitamin A (which I recommend should be used mostly at night for better results), or Hyaluronic acid serum.

Regardless, pick your serum according to what your skin needs. You may want to give the area around your eyes some extra hydration with an eye cream, eye serum, or even your regular moisturizer especially if you exfoliate.

5) Spot Treatment

If you suffer from acne you will need to apply your spot treatment as close to the skin as possible for full effects. Honestly, I will recommend you consult your dermatologist for the safest recommendations on when to apply your spot treatment as different treatments contain different actives. There is no one rule for all.

6) Moisturizer

Now comes the fun part. I love moisturizing. Your moisturizer will boost the effects of all the previous products applied. Your skin deserves all the love it can get so don’t be shy to moisturize hard.

7) Face Oil

After applying all the previous goodness of your face, you need to lock all of that down. Face oils are great because they penetrate even through thick moisturizers and prevent moisture loss. I highly recommend oils such as rosehip and jojoba oil for hydration and anti-aging, olive oil for even skin tone, and maracuja oil to get rid of bacteria and soothe acne. I recently used this anti-aging product, the Depology Argireline Serum, and it did wonders for my fine lines.

8) Sunscreen

This is super important for protection against UV rays in the day. Sunscreen helps deflect sun rays so they don’t burn your skin. It doesn’t matter what skin type or skin color you are EVERYONE NEEDS TO WEAR SUNSCREEN.

I know this might sound like a lot of information all at once. If you are new to skincare and wish to take it one step at a time, Here’s a LAYER-UP RECAP SHEET for you. It’s free so you can go back to it until you master the order of your skincare routine. I hope my tip will help you achieve your skin goals.


How Many Skincare Products Can You Layer?

The number will depend on how many steps your skincare routine has. But remember always apply your water-based products before oily or creamy products.

How Do You Layer Skincare Products at Night?

At night, apply our cleanser, toner, water-based serums, oil-based or creamy serums, spot treatment, moisturizer, and finally facial oil.

What is the Layer Order of Skincare for Beginners?

For a 3-step beginner routine apply your cleanser, follow up with your moisturizer then go in with your sunscreen.


Related Posts

See All


bottom of page