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How to Layer Your Skincare Products

“Do I apply facial oils before or after moisturizer?” Good question. We get asked about product layering all the time on our Skin Hotline, so let’s settle it once and for all. The order in which you apply skincare products is directly related to how your skin is going to absorb them. To truly get the full benefits of your products, there is a rule of thumb: apply your skincare from thinnest to thickest. That means liquid-y products, like toners and serums, come first and oil-based, creamy, or whipped products are applied last. To see the best results from your regimen, follow this order:


Step 1: Cleanser 

Whether you’re looking for a clean slate to start your day or to remove your makeup at the end of it, wash up with your favorite cleanser. Opt for one that is pH-balanced and free of sulfates, soaps, and detergents (like our Gentle Cycle Milky Cleanser), which can strip skin's natural oils and create that uncomfortable squeaky clean feeling. Or, double cleanse

As far as physical exfoliation goes, use something like Day Maker before or after cleansing 1-3 times a week to lift dirt and grime before washing it all away with your face wash. 

Step 2: Toner (Or Essence)

A good toner can restore the skin’s pH, remove hard water residue, and replenish skin. The water-like consistency of toner penetrates quickly and preps your skin for the rest of your regimen. If you're into chemical exfoliation, Weekend Glow is a great option to use here. While different from a toner, an essence can be applied here as well. Stemming from Korean beauty, an essence is a lightweight booster that delivers a dose of hydration before the rest of your routine.

Step 3: Serum

Serums are packed with active ingredients that target specific concerns. During this step, really take the time to pat the product in with your hands or a facial roller. You can also add in a booster, like a couple drops of hyaluronic acid or a shake of vitamin C, to, over, or under a serum (just follow that thinnest to thickest rule). Regardless, always wait 2-3 minutes for serums to sink in before moving onto your next step.

Step 4: Eye Care 

As you may know, the skin around your eyes is the thinnest on your body—meaning your eyes can easily show signs of dark circles and bags. Once serums have absorbed, focus on the eye area with your favorite eye gel or cream. *You may choose to apply your spot treatment at this step, too (more on that below).

Step 5: Moisturizer and/or Facial Oils

Seal your routine in with a moisturizer. Moisturizers are usually thicker in consistency because they are designed to absorb slower than your other products—this helps to lock in the moisture and protect your skin. Gel-cream, lotion, or rich cream? You decide. If you use facial oils, layer on top of or use instead of moisturizer. Psst: Since our Sunday Morning Oil-Serum is a hybrid, you can use it as a replacement for your oils and serums or, if you're extra dry, layer beneath or on top of your moisturizer.

Step 6: Spot Treatment

When it comes to addressing pimples, you have two options. Moisturize first (avoiding or using a light layer over the breakout) and then spot treat or use the blemish treatment first before moisturizing everywhere but the affected area. This will prevent any smearing and make sure your product gets where it needs to go. Depending on the size of the breakout area, one way may work better for you than the other. 

Step 7: Sunscreen

And finally, let’s not forget to protect our skin from the sun (every single day, all year round). Applying sunscreen should be the last and final step in your AM skincare routine. The AAD recommends choosing SPF 30 or higher with broad-spectrum protection to ward off both UVA and UVB rays. Our Daily Mineral Sunscreen protects against environmental and electronic pollution (like screen time), too.

*Incorporate Weekly: Masks and Peels 

These targeted treatments can work their way into your rotation typically 1-3 times a week. For wash-off masks and peels, use after cleansing and toning but before applying your serums. For leave-ons, like The Shortcut, apply after serums or simply on freshly cleansed skin.  
Get a fully-stocked routine by shopping bundles (or make your own through our Skin Decoder).