How to layer your skincare - AM & PM

Dos and Don’ts to get the best out of your skincare routine

Skin Education | 


5 min read



Whether you are a no fuss, quick out the door person with a minimal routine or one who appreciates a more elaborate layering ritual, understanding the order in which to layer skincare both in the morning and at night is essential. Especially so if you really want to maximise the benefits of every product without rendering them ineffective. In other words, it's important to make sure you are getting the order in which you apply products right in order for your skin to truly benefit from them.


First things first, the basics.

Before we get into the nitty gritty of layering, here is a very basic skincare routine that could be an entire skincare routine in itself or a great start point before you start layering. This routine is not about addressing any targeted skin concerns but more about doing the minimum to keep the skin protected, soft and hydrated.


STEP 1: Cleanse

This is to remove any leftover dirt, bacteria, oils, skincare or makeup that may be sitting on your skin and preventing the absorption of your skincare. 

STEP 2: Moisturise

A key step for many that helps lock in hydration to maintain dewy, healthy looking skin.


STEP 3:. Sunscreen

A non-negotiable step during the day to protect yourself from the irreversible damage that UV rays can inflict on the skin.


skincare layers    

It’s all about the layers

Now, the fun part: this is when we start to add more targeted treatments to address how your skin feels and your current skin concerns. This can be anything from the onset of breakouts, sensitivity, dryness, dehydration to under the skin bumps (congestion), dullness, dark circles etc. Targeted skin solutions are a crucial step in helping you think and feel confident in your skin so you want to make sure you're paying attention to how and when to apply these treatments.

Very quickly- before you get started with layering just remember to always check the packaging for any contradictions and start with a quick patch test to err on the side of caution as anyone can react to anything. If it’s all good, you can go ahead and start following these tips to layer your targeted treatments more effectively


1. Protect delicate areas: Eye cream and lip balm

If you use an eye cream or lip balm, it is best to apply it first so that the next active ingredient you are about to apply doesn't seep into this delicate skin area. This applies particularly if you are using Retinoids/Vitamin A at night which can cause a lot of irritation around the mouth and eye cream for some.

2. Make sure your skin is well cleansed

This needs no explanation. After cleansing, the skin is clean and pores are cleared. This is the best stage to introduce active ingredients to promote maximum absorbency of products before sealing them in with a moisturiser. These active ingredients often come in serum form. Next we will discuss which “actives” work best when layered in the morning and which work best for evening layering. 

3. Layering - AM routine

In the morning, you want to be layering plenty of antioxidants like botanical extracts (Triphala), Glutathione, Silymarin and Vitamin C. These work best to protect the skin from oxidative stress, pollutants and UV & IR induced damage. Other hydrating ingredients like Hyaluronic Acid, Aloe Vera and Beta-Glucan are also great to use during the day to keep the skin hydrated, plump and glowy. Their skin reparative properties that work well for post-sun care too. In short, hydrating serums incorporated with antioxidant protection are ideal to save on applying too many layers and run the risk of pilling. 

4. Layering - PM routine

In the evening, you want to layer ingredients that focus on regeneration and repair, those that easily break down with UV exposure (like Vitamin A) or those that might lead to skin sensitivities under the sun like exfoliants (which help shed layers of the skin). Just be careful when using retinoids and exfoliants in the same routine especially if you are a beginner to both. Ideally you might want to alternate use between the two. In other words, one night Vitamin A, one night Exfoliant and one night rest/repair. When in doubt, always check product directions on the packaging.

5. Layer in order of thinnest to the thickest

Ingredients work well in any layer of the routine, as long as they are properly absorbed. This means allowing watery products like toners and essences to absorb into the skin first and then layering on more viscous/emollient or thicker serums and creams to make sure no ingredient is stranded in between layers. Some trial and error is needed here to know the consistency of products. (Just a quick note, retinoids are an exception to this rule. They are best applied over moisturisers for beginners to decrease the risk of a sensitive reaction).

6. Wait in between layers

This is not a hard-and-fast rule, but waiting about 30 seconds for products to dry in between each layer can make it easier to apply the next step without mixing around products in the face too much. This also helps prevent pilling, especially if you are applying makeup during the day and have a long routine.

7. Spot treatments at the end

No matter the consistency of the product, if you are spot-treating areas like targeting a blemish with a drop of Salicylic Acid, Complexion Clarifying Accelerator or Benzoyl Peroxide, it’s best to push it to the final step of treatment to keep it as localised to the spot as possible.

8. Ingredient compatibilities

Which ingredients can I use together and which combinations should I avoid? Some ingredients (usually hydrating, moisturising and healing) can be paired with anything since they promote skin health. Some combinations can be risky (usually exfoliants and Retinoids) due to build-up of irritation. 

Be cautious about layering the below in case of irritation. Try rotating them in a weekly routine if you want to benefit from all of them.

A little risk of instability/irritation

L-Ascorbic Acid + AHAs/Retinoids

╳╳ Avoid. Likely to cause irritation

AHAs/BHAs + Retinoids

AHAs/BHAs/L-Ascorbic Acid + Benzoyl Peroxide 

While layers are a great way to get the most out of your skincare products remember that you don’t have to layer all your products into one routine! Experiment with texture and comfort. There is no right or wrong way here—it’s all about what works best for your skin needs.  A quick and easy rule is to layer from thinnest (watery) to thickest, be mindful of ingredient contradictions.

Remember to enjoy your skincare routine from top to bottom and as always, we wish you happy healthy skin!

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