The Ultimate Guide to Layering Skincare Products: A Step-by-Step Routine for Every Skin Type

By Kelly McColough

Navigating the world of skincare can be overwhelming, especially when it comes to layering multiple products in the correct order. In this guide to layering your skincare products, we'll break down the step-by-step routine for every skin type, as well as share expert tips to ensure you're getting the most out of your skincare regimen.

Step 1: Cleanse


Whether you have dry, oily, or combination skin, cleansing is the essential first step in any skincare routine. This step removes dirt, oil, and makeup from the skin, ensuring a clean canvas for the rest of your products. Choose a gentle cleanser suited to your skin type, and cleanse in gentle, circular motions.

Expert tip: To ensure a thorough cleanse without over-stripping your skin, use lukewarm water instead of hot water. Lukewarm water effectively loosens dirt and oil without causing irritation or exacerbating skin concerns like redness and dryness.

Step 2: Exfoliate (2-3 times a week)


Exfoliation removes dead skin cells and helps to unclog pores, promoting a smoother and more radiant complexion. Depending on your skin type and sensitivity, choose between a physical exfoliant (scrubs) or a chemical exfoliant like AHA.

Expert tip: Over-exfoliation can lead to skin irritation and compromise your skin barrier, so always follow the recommended frequency for your chosen exfoliant.

Step 3: Tone


Toners help to balance your skin's pH and remove any lingering impurities after cleansing. Opt for an alcohol-free formula that suits your skin type, and apply it with a cotton pad or clean hands.

Expert tip: For an extra hydration boost, consider using a hydrating toner or essence with ingredients like hyaluronic acid or glycerin.

Step 4: Treat


Now it's time to apply any targeted treatments, like serums, or targeted creams. These products often contain concentrated active ingredients, such as antioxidants, peptides, or plant stem cells, designed to address specific skin concerns.

Expert tip: If using multiple treatments, apply them in order of texture, from thinnest to thickest.

Step 5: Moisturize


Regardless of your skin type, moisturizing is essential for maintaining healthy, hydrated skin. Choose a moisturizer that suits your skin type and addresses your specific concerns.

Expert tip: For an added boost, consider mixing a few drops of facial oil with your moisturizer, especially during colder months or for dry skin.

Step 6: Sun protection (daytime)


Sunscreen is a non-negotiable step in your daytime routine. A broad-spectrum SPF 30 or higher protects your skin from harmful UV rays, preventing premature aging, hyperpigmentation, and skin cancer.

Expert tip: Remember to reapply sunscreen every two hours when outdoors or after swimming or sweating.

Bonus Step: Night Cream


While not required, using a night cream can provide extra nourishment and hydration to your skin as it repairs itself overnight. Night creams are often richer in texture and may contain additional active ingredients, such as plant stem cells, niacinamide or HA, to target specific skin concerns.

Expert tip: Apply your night cream at least 30 minutes before going to bed, allowing it to fully absorb and avoiding product transfer to your pillow.

Layering skincare products in the correct order is crucial for maximizing their effectiveness and achieving your desired results. By following this ultimate guide and incorporating expert tips, you'll be well on your way to a customized skincare routine that leaves your skin looking and feeling its best.

* Reminder: When introducing new products into your routine, be sure to patch test on a small area of your skin to check for any adverse reactions.