Layering in The Right Order

Applying skincare products in the correct sequence is super important! It ensures you’ll get the most benefit from each one. For instance, if you put a serum on after applying moisturizer, the serum won’t get absorbed as deeply as it should. Time is also something to consider. Think about it: benzoyl peroxide, for example, has a 1 to 3 hour “working time.” So anything else you put on after, like a moisturizer, may interfere with the efficacy of the medicated product.

I’ve broken it all down for you here. The easiest way to remember this is to apply your products first from the thinnest viscosity to thickest! I’ve also included advice I give to my clients on the types of products to look for and how to apply them correctly.

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1. Cleanse

Removing dirt and oil buildup from the day is an important step for anyone and everyone! Ladies: if you like using makeup wipes, use one first and then do a double cleanse. I always recommend double cleansing when wearing makeup, or when you’re excessively oily. Washing with tepid water in the sink with your hands or in the shower is ideal. If you prefer to use a washcloth to cleanse, make sure to use a clean one every time. It’s also important to be using the correct cleanser for your specific skin type! You don’t want something too stripping if you’re dry. I advise using a cleanser that’s only job is to clean your skin really well, and help control oil if that’s an issue. Opt for something non-medicated.

2. Exfoliate

Alright, we have many choices when it comes to this. Of course I have my own opinion on what’s best and so I’ll explain.

There’s mechanical exfoliation – this includes scrubs, Clairisonics, microdermabrasion. These work by abrasiveness, and more often than not, we’re more aggressive than we need to be. If your scrub has large granules, use it on your body instead and opt for something with granules that has the consistency of sugar. The key to using mechanical exfoliation is to use them very gently. If you don’t, over time collagen and elastin will breakdown and that can lead to wrinkles.

Then there’s chemical exfoliation. What more do I need to say – this is obviously the winner. Reason is, because it’s such a clean way of removing dead cells without the consequence of mechanical exfoliators. The way acids work is they just break apart the peptides that hold skin cells together and get them to shed. Make sure to let the acid completely dry, or set, before going on to the next step if you’re using an acid that stays on overnight. There are many types of acids such as glycolic, which is from sugar cane. Lactic, from milk. Salicylic, from willow bark, and mandelic from almonds. There’s many others too!

Exfoliation is such an important step to having healthy skin! It removes dead cell buildup on the surface, which in turn speeds up new cell turnover. Removing that dead cell layer before applying any products is crucial in allowing active products to go deeper into the skin and work more effectively.

3. Tone

I tend to skip this step because my feeling is this: if your cleanser is doing it’s job well, there won’t be any left over residue on the skin and it’ll be pH balanced… so, no need for a toner. However, some people love them and they’re certainly not doing any harm so if you like to add this step, go for it! Also, skip this step if the exfoliator you use has to stay on the skin, like acid pads for example. In that case you’ll want to use a toner before exfoliating.

4. Medicated Treatment

Medicated products, like benzoyl peroxide, need to be applied as closely to the skin as possible. That’s because it’s job is to kill bacteria and dry up oil, so you need it right at the source. A lot of people love to do spot treatments when they start breaking out but don’t realize that products like these are very strong, and applying them in such a concentrated area will likely burn the skin and can cause a ring of hyperpigmentation or scarring. I advise applying a super light thin coat all over the skin, that way it’s blended. Always use a small amount, apply to the forehead first, and then go from the perimeter of your face to the inside, avoiding the eye, nose and mouth corners from burning. The skin is thickest on the outer areas and thinnest towards the middle of your face. Another medicated product could be Retin-A, which you would apply in the same manner.

4. Serum

These are nutrient-dense, ultra concentrated, and meant to be “active” on the skin. Serums are always tailored to your main skin concern. Someone who is working on hyperpigmentation may be using a lightening serum, as opposed to someone with acne may use one with acids. These are great for anti-aging and hydrating benefits!

5. Eye Cream

If you love using eye creams, this is when you’d apply.

6. Moisturize

Apply this last, as it tends to be the thickest of them all and helps to lock in hydration! I think of moisturizer in the same way as how we use chapstick. The more you apply it, the more your skin needs it to feel balanced. Use common sense here – if you’re oily, your skin is already producing enough hydration. If you feel dry, apply it. If you don’t then skip it.

7. Sunscreen

Look for mineral sunscreens which contain zinc and/or titanium. These will give you maximum protection, are great for sensitive skin types and you won’t have to reapply as often.


This is a general guideline, and of course, not every skin type needs all of these steps! We can get sucked into thinking we need to have excessive routines and expensive products to get our skin to where we want it to be. Let me just say, expensive products do not necessitate higher value to something less expensive. And do we really need to over-complicate our lives with having 20 extra steps to do in the morning before work? I say no way! Just keep it simple and know what works for you.

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