As people who are really passionate about skin care, it’s natural that the more we learn about it, the more questions we have! In Skin Care FAQ, our new ongoing series, we’ll be taking every week one of the top-searched skin care questions and bringing it to top dermatologists, aestheticians, and skin care specialists to give you the most complete and accurate answer. This week’s theme is: What’s the best order to layer skin care products?
Want to know a secret? Although much have been talked about it, many of the best beauty editors still don’t know the answer to this question. Often times, we open up our medicine cabinet before going to bed and stare at all the toners, serums, treatments, and moisturizers and feel an overwhelming sense of anxiety. Which one do we put on first and last? What’s the best order for putting on your products to yield the best results? We’re ending the confusion right here, right now.
Rule of thumb
“When layering products, your general rule is to apply them lightest to heaviest to avoid one product preventing the next from being absorbed,” says Joshua Zeichner, the director of clinical and cosmetic surgery at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. Zeichner says that this means you should start with a toner, essence, then put on a serum, and then finish it off with a moisturizer. Why should you put your toner on before your serum? “Toner will remove any excess of makeup and dirt and, thus, allow the serum to absorb more quickly,” says Kavita Mariwalla, a dermatologist in West Islip, NY.
But what about specific rules for specific treatments? Is there such a thing?
Yes! In the case of retinol, for example, Mariwalla suggests putting that on as your last step after your moisturizer. “Research has shown a retinoid absorbs better over moisturized skin,” she says. But be careful if you also use any products with certain acids in them. “Make sure you don’t stack an anti-aging with an alpha-hydroxy or glycolic under a retinoid because that can cause some irritation unknowingly,” says Mariwalla.