Skincare can be intimidating, especially for those who just want something simple and quick. An added complication is not only choosing the right products for your skin, but also determining the science behind how they should be applied. The order of application is actually pretty important to deliver the best results. For instance, layering on an oil-based serum before a thinner, water-based one means that the latter can't effectively move through that oil barrier and you've essentially wasted some precious drops of a serum. Similarly, certain ingredients can deactivate another or cause irritation when combined.
Some fast facts when combining products:
- Vitamin C and acids (alpha-hydroxy acids, such as lactic or glycolic acid or beta-hydroxy acids, like salicylic acid) should never be used together. The change in skin pH when going from Vitamin C to an acid, or vice versa, can deactivate either ingredient
- Vitamin C and Niacinamide: using Niacinamide can affect the integrity of L-ascorbic acid so if you're into both of these products, alternate them
- AHAs and Retinol can cause irritation and increased skin sensitivity so be wary when combining the two if you have sensitive skin
- Vitamin C and Retinol both increase sun sensitivity, which is why it is recommended to use these ingredients at night or to layer a ton of moisture and SPF on top when using it during the day, but they may irritate sensitive skin if combined
When we're inundated by countless creams, serums, and oils to slather all over our faces, it's no wonder that this can get a little confusing. We created a simple guide for layering products. A good rule is always to go from lightest to heaviest in weight and consistency. Water-soluble molecules, like Vitamin C (try OleHenriksen Truth Serum), seep into your skin quickly so they should go first. If you use Vitamin C, avoid other serums that contain Niacinamide or Retinol. Slightly heavier solutions, like Hyaluronic Acid (like Blossom Jeju Pink Camellia Soombi Essence Serum) or Peptides (such as The Ordinary "Buffet") typically go next, and heavier treatments, like Retinol go on last before a face oil or moisturizer. This allows fast absorption of lightweight products while letting more viscous solutions settle in slower and lock in moisture. During colder months when your skin needs more hydration, opt for a face oil, like Pai Rosehip BioRegenerate Oil before your night cream.
Let each treatment breathe and settle into your skin before layering on the next. Brush your teeth in between, apply deodorant, light a scented candle, or sing the chorus of your favorite song. Needless to say that the efficacy of your skincare products are only as good as the canvas you are working with: a clean, toned face means that these products can be absorbed better.
Test this out but know when to go in reverse. If your skin is reactive or very sensitive, perhaps using a light, oil-free moisturizer before the other serums will help to relieve irritation. Take notes in your skincare experiment and see what works for you. Getting to know your skin is a lifelong experiment. Our skin and needs change as we age, undergo major events, like pregnancy, puberty, or menopause, and our environment and diet are major players in our skin concerns.
To simply target the care of skin while ignoring the other interactions is a major disservice. Good skin, as cliche as it sounds, starts from within. A good diet, less stress, and plenty of water will be half the battle in achieving the skin you want. Layering on the right products the right way, wins the battle for you.