Having a varied, considered roster of skin care products may be the inaugural step in launching a skin care routine, but did you know there is a correct order for said products to be applied? To maximise absorption and skin penetration, your twice daily skin care routine should be administered in a step-by-step process of layering, with the underscoring rule to apply from heaviest to lightest. Here, we unpack the industry-accepted correct order to applying skin care and why this matters.
Why is the order I apply skin care important?
Ensuring you are applying your skin care routine in the proper order helps provide adequate benefits, nutrients and actives from products to the epidermis. This can be broken down into layers, identifiable through the different types of products used daily, from cleanser to serum to moisturiser.
Out of the key ingredients in skincare products, only a small amount can penetrate the skin as intended, even when intricately formulated and correctly applied. If skin care isn’t applied in the correct order, you may not see the best results attainable from your assorted products than if you were to apply them in a considered, sequential order. In order to maximise return on spend of products and to see their full efficacy working across your face, applying skin care in the intended order can rectify this.
How do I correctly layer my skin care routine?
The simplest breakdown of how to layer skin care products is to apply the thickest products first and the lightest as you near the conclusion of your regime, excluding toner which should always be applied immediately after cleansing and before any other product. Think of toner as your base. Read on to learn how to correctly layer your skin care to optimise absorption and efficacy of products.
Prior to applying product to the skin, one first needs to ensure the skin is clean and primed for the generous actives and nutrients soon to be applied. This is why the humble cleanser is the first step in layering your skin care. Dependent on your skin type, this can take the form of a cream, oil, balm or foaming cleanser both morning and night.
As mentioned, toners are the foundation from which you build your skin care application both morning and night. Common toner ingredients include Alpha Hydroxy Acids for even skin tone, salicylic acid to assist with unblocking pores and Aloe Vera for its soothing, calming properties.
Think of serums as a highly-concentrated batch of nutrients and antioxidants that have an almost immediate effect on the epidermis. They commonly contain retinol, vitamin C and E, peptides and glycerin to help improve the overall texture and appearance of your skin.
In the day, applying a vitamin C serum can help protect the skin from environmentally-induced inflammation alongside a hyaluronic acid serum in the evening to hydrate and plump the skin while you sleep.
Some are skeptical on the efficacy and necessity of eye creams in addition to a regularly-employed moisturiser. In texture, eye creams are generally lighter and thinner than face moisturisers, meaning they need to be applied prior to applying creams and oils across the rest of the face. This helps ensure the cream penetrates the skin’s barrier and product benefits are absorbed. Remember: thin products can’t break through thicker products.
For AM application, an eye cream containing aloe vera and antioxidants and has a roller ball or stainless steel applicator is ideal to soothe the area after hours spent sleeping on a pillow. A simple hydrating eye cream as part of your evening routine will form part of a gentle wind down while repairing the under-eye skin barrier overnight.
Now, enter the moisturiser. To be applied daily, moisturiser is the apex of the skin care routine as the primary product working to protect, hydrate and reinforce your skin barrier. Not only does moisturiser hydrate the skin, it assists in sealing in all products underneath it, thus prolonging their efficacy.
A light, hyaluronic acid moisturiser in the mornings will assist in keeping skin hydrated without resulting in a heavy, greasy feel. When applying moisturiser in the day, ensure you allow at least five minutes between finishing the application and applying makeup.
In the evening, a more loaded, nutrient-dense moisturiser will assist in the overnight renewal process as the skin regenerating and repairing. Lipids, proteins and ceramides are common actives found in evening moisturiser renowned for their renewing properties.
A holy grail ingredient in the rotation of common skin care actives, retinol sinks into the skin and assists in speeding up cell turn over, meaning the face has a fresher, supple and less-wrinkled skin as regular use of the active continues. The vitamin is also known for its ability to even out pigmentation, smoothing scars and promoting brighter skin.
When employing retinoids—all derivatives of vitamin A, including retinol—it’s important to note obvious change and improvement to the skin can take between four and six months to show, with consistent use key in achieving change.
If using retinol for the first time, ensure you introduce it into your skin care routine slowly through applying a pea-sized drop for use across your face once or twice a week for the first two weeks, then gradually building up to applications every second evening.
A fun fact: oil doesn’t hydrate your skin—and you can read more about that in our breakdown here—but when layered over products, it can assist in promoting greater efficacy of other products while concurrently leaving your skin feeling supple and smooth.
Oil can penetrate moisturisers and serums with ease however, your other products cannot penetrate oil, which is why the golden rule of skin care is to apply oils as the final step in your routine.
Jojoba seeds, Argan oil and vitamin C-containing face oils are primed for usage in the morning with Eucalyptus, Lime oil and Rosemary the soothing ingredients your skin will be craving after you have washed the day away.
Yes, we did say oils are the final step in your skin care layering order however, one is never adequately primed to leave the house in the morning unless sunscreen has been applied. As the role of sunscreen is to protect the face and act as a barrier against UV rays, there is no urgent requirement for it to penetrate the skin.
With the UV index of Australia’s capital cities regularly exceeding three, a minimum SPF30+ is recommended to be applied daily across the face and neck.