Here’s How to Layer Skincare Serums Like A Pro

Layering serums

So, after months of scrolling through Sephora trying to find the perfect products, you’ve finally found an effective cleanser, skin-boosting serums, a white cast-free sunscreen, and a miracle ingredient that zaps zits.

However, one thing keeps bugging you. How in the world are you supposed to apply all these ingredients?

Which one comes first?

Are there any rules concerning the mixing of ingredients? And what the hell are AHAs and BHAs?

Well, before you give yourself a migraine, here are dermatologist-approved ways of layering serums.

But first…

What Are Serums?

Serums are the powerhouses of a skincare routine. They’re specifically designed to handle various skin concerns (think acne and hyperpigmentation).

These products are also meant to be applied post-cleansing and before a moisturizer.

The Order

Before you become too giddy and start slathering on sunscreen before your water-based serum, you need to understand the prescribed order of layering serums.

As a rule of thumb, go from the thinnest serums to the thickest.

That means that if you’re using a toner, make sure you apply it right after double-cleansing. Toners go on like water, and they leave you damp so that whatever product goes next seals in all that moisture and other active ingredients.

Serums, which range in texture from liquid to gel, come next. With these, the viscosity will help you figure out which one to slather on first. Remember, thinnest to thickest.

Eye cream goes next, followed by a moisturizer. Once your skin is hydrated, sunscreen (SPF 35 to 50) is up next.

  • Cleanser
  • Toner
  • Water-based serum
  • Creamier Serums
  • Eye cream
  • Moisturizer
  • Sunscreen

So, what do you do if all the serums have the same consistency?

Well, in this case, apply the most essential product first to ensure it has a clear pathway.

Serum Layering Rules

Now that you know the approved order of application, here are some rules you need to follow to the letter:

Patch Test First

Before cocktailing your serums, make sure you do a patch test first to see if your skin is pleased and you don’t have an allergic reaction before trying to layer them.

To do this, test one serum for two weeks and then the other for another two weeks to see how skin reacts to both.

It might take time, but this will help prevent any adverse reactions.

 Stick With Two Products (At A Time)

As a rule in skincare, don’t layer more than two serums at once. Any more, and you’ll just be layering a ton of necessary products on your face.

It’s why many dermatologists today are recommending cutting down the ten-step skincare routines to five-step routines.

Moreover, layering too many products at a time can affect their efficacy.

Layering is Best Done At Night

Certain ingredients, like retinol and hydroquinone, might cause skin sensitivity when exposed to sun-induced UV rays, so it’s best to layer such cocktails in the PM.

Not only that, the skin tends to overwork when you’re asleep, which means better penetration and more efficacy.

However, if you prefer layering serums in the morning, ensure that your skin is safeguarded with a broad-spectrum sunscreen.

Now that you know the golden rules of serum layering, here’s a detailed account on how to best pair your products.

Skincare Serums That Layer Seamlessly

To simplify your serum-shopping escapades, here’s a detailed list of ingredients that pair perfectly, those that need extra care, and those that you shouldn’t use together.

Hyaluronic Acid and Retinol

Hyaluronic acid (nature’s skin plumper) and retinol (Vitamin A) are the ultimate anti-aging pair and can be layered together.

Perfect for all skin types and compatible with most products, hyaluronic acid helps seal in moisture and enhances your skin’s natural barrier.

The best thing about this active ingredient is that it gives you plumper, smoother and dewy complexion.

On the other hand, retinol improves cellular turnover, reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, and helps repair damaged skin.

However, this powerhouse ingredient can sometimes be drying, and hyaluronic acid’s hydration-boosting abilities can help combat this.

Vitamin C and Hyaluronic Acid

So, hyaluronic acid plumps and retinol evens out skin tones – what’s the work of Vitamin C, or rather, ascorbic acid?

Well, as many skincare gurus will tell you, Vitamin C helps protect your skin from free radical damage due to UV rays and pollution exposure.

It also stimulates collagen production, brightens your skin, and offers significant anti-aging benefits.

Hyaluronic acid and Vitamin C exist naturally and work harmoniously to offer you’re a firmer, more radiant, and lit-from-within glow.

You can layer these serums at the same time or even at different times of the day. If you’re spacing them out, ensure to apply Vitamin C in the morning and hyaluronic acid at night.

Hint: Can’t seem to find hyaluronic acid stocked in your local department stores? Well, sometimes it’s often listed as hyaluronate – HA, so be sure to check that.

Retinol and Niacinamide

Niacinamide is the real MVP of skincare products. The active ingredient enhances your skin’s natural barrier and is ideal for sensitive, aging, and acne-prone skin.

Niacinamide also helps reduce redness, boosts hydration, and regulates oil flow.

When layered, retinol and niacinamide make a complete skincare package – retinol stimulated, and niacinamide strengthens.

The two also have a neutral base, which makes them the perfect serum pair.

Skincare Serums To Layer With Extra Care

Some active ingredients require extra care when layering. This is because they work better when applied at different times or because using them together can trigger skin irritation.

Retinol and Acids (AHAs, Salicylic Acid, LHA)

While skincare experts don’t necessarily frown on the combination of retinol and alpha hydroxyl and beta hydroxyl acids, you need to exercise caution when applying these serums, especially if you’re using them in high concentrations.

Sometimes applying products with similar actions and ingredients can trigger compounding irritation, redness, or peeling.

So, be sure to space them out. You can use the acids in the morning and retinol in the evening.

Note: AHA and BHAs are powerhouses when it comes to reducing imperfections and signs of aging.

Vitamin C and Retinol

If you’re looking to get brighter and more refined skin, retinol and Vitamin C are the real deal. Nevertheless, while you can layer them together, the best way to apply these serums is according to their actions and concentration.

Vitamin C works as a powerful antioxidant, making it perfect for your morning routine.

On the other hand, retinol works as a repair ingredient and improves your cellular turnover, making it the perfect nighttime pick.

Many retinol-infused products can make your skin more sensitive to the sun, so PM use is excellent.

Vitamin C and Salicylic Acid

The world’s most popular beta hydroxy acid, salicylic acid, is incredible at handling acne and blackheads.

It features potent ingredients that penetrate your pores and exfoliate from within, giving you brighter and blackhead-free skin.

However, combining salicylic acid and ascorbic acid can dry out your skin. So, it’s often advisable to use the BHA at night and Vitamin C in the AM.

Benzoyl Peroxide and Vitamin C

If you’ve been struggling with acne for years, then you know benzoyl peroxide is a dream. The gold star ingredients tackle breakouts even before they happen, leaving you with smooth, clear, and bright skin.

However, applying Vitamin C and benzoyl peroxide can cause a rude or somewhat red awakening.

Moreover, benzoyl peroxide is powerful so, it might reduce the efficacy of your Vitamin C serum.

So, instead, use the ascorbic acid in the AM and your benzoyl peroxide-infused product in the PM.

Now that you’re well-versed with serums layering, what’s stopping you from getting that radiant, lit-from-within glow?



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