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How to Layer Your Skin Care Products in the Correct Order


There are a lot of ways to nurture your skin from serums to essences, moisturizers, and beyond. Let’s cut to the chase: we’re going to provide general guidance for layering these products to achieve the most out of their active ingredients and avoid pilling and antagonistic effects. 


There’s an even split between which actives are water or oil-soluble so it’s likely that you’ll have both types of products in your comprehensive skin care regimen. If you think of your freshly washed face as a wet sponge,you’ll want to apply water-based products (e.g. toners, serums, essences) first and then use oil-based products (most moisturizers or oil-containing products) to seal in your skin nutrition at the end. It’s also best if you move slowly through your skin care routine. Effective layering and allowing time for each layer to penetrate will reduce the likelihood of products pilling up. 


The difference between morning vs. nighttime skin care ingredients has focused on two main products: sunscreens and retinol-containing creams. Traditional knowledge says retinols at night and sunscreens during the day. However, the reason for this may actually surprise you. We’ve long thought that because retinol thins the top skin layer and increases cell turnover, it’s dangerous to wear during the day when exposed to the sun.Recent research has concluded that retinol and other vitamin A derivatives are actually safe to use during the day as long as we still layer up with sunscreen. The effects of retinol keep working long after application so limiting it to nighttime for this reason actually doesn’t matter.However, research also shows that it is light-sensitive meaning that UV rays can prematurely break down the ingredient so this may be a case for reserving it in your evening skin care routine.

Daytime skin care should focus on antioxidants that help prevent and repair oxidative damage followed by a monolayer of both moisturizer and sunscreen; think of it as putting your armor on for the day. Do not mix moisturizer and sunscreen because this dilutes the SPF value of the sunscreen.Nighttime products should be focused on deeper cellular mechanisms like autophagy, repair, stem cell support, and microbiome support. Targeting these mechanisms may require more expensive active ingredients so using them at night allows for greater opportunity to reap the benefits uninterrupted by daytime oxidative stress. 

The most important fact to keep in mind is that at night, subdermal blood flow increases and your skin goes into repair overdrive. Furthermore, you’re not accumulating oxidative damage from pollutants or sun exposure in the evening.This means that whatever products you use at night are often more effective than they would be during the day.