You've read all the articles—well, the headlines, at least—followed the influencers, and are doing your best to keep up with every trend in skincare. Now that your beauty cabinet is filled with must-have lotions and gotta-try serums, the question is: "Where do I start?” In other words, what's the smartest and most effective way to apply skincare products so they’ll help you reach your skincare goals?
Well, good news! With insight from board-certified dermatologists, we’ve created a definitive, easy-peasy guide on how to layer skincare products. Whether you’ve got a spectrum of serums juiced up with active ingredients or a family of anti-aging moisturizers—or perhaps a combination of the above—you’ll know exactly how and when to use each after reading.
Layering Your Morning Skincare Products
How to layer skincare products is generally the same for morning and evening. However, there are a few deviations that’ll help you maximize your routine and get the most out of your formulas. Let’s dive into your morning skincare routine first.
Step 1: Cleanser
Washing your face is an important first step in any skincare regimen. It sweeps away excess oil and lingering product from your skin to give you a nice, fresh start to your day. For best results, choose a cleanser for your skin type and use lukewarm water to wet, lather, and rinse. After cleansing, gently pat dry.
Step 2: Toner
A toner is technically an optional step, but we consider it an opportunity to zero-in on your skin concerns. For example, Bye Bye Pores Leave-On Solution Pore-Refining Toner is a great addition to your regimen if you have oily skin. Formulated with kaolin clay, salicylic acid, silk, and coconut water, it gently smooths and mattifies while minimizing the look of large pores. On the other hand, if you have dry skin, we recommend using a moisturizing toner.
Step 3: Antioxidant Serum
Serums may come in tiny packages, but they are powerful in their skin-transforming abilities! These treasured skincare solutions target different skin concerns via high concentrations of active ingredients.
In the mornings, we recommend using an antioxidant serum to protect your skin from free radical damage throughout the day. Vitamin C is particularly praised for its antioxidant powers, and it’s the hero ingredient in Bye Bye Dullness Vitamin C Serum. Simply apply to freshly cleansed and/or toned skin.
“Dull skin can be caused by external factors, such as pollution, UV exposure, and dehydration,” explains Dr. Kavita Mariwalla, a board-certified dermatologist and IT Cosmetics Advisory Board Member. “With vitamin C, this serum helps visibly boost radiance and defend from free radicals. It also contains vitamin E and helps nourish skin with hydration!”
Pro Tip: Some people enjoy layering serums to get even more out of this step. The key is to only layer ingredients that pair well together and always do a patch test beforehand.
Step 4: Eye Cream
The area around your eyes is delicate and prone to fine lines and wrinkles. For that reason, we recommend giving a little extra TLC to it by adding an eye cream step to your regimen. Eye creams are specially formulated for this area, and there are lots to choose from, depending on your skin type and specific needs.
Confidence in an Eye Cream, a slightly richer formula containing ceramides, peptides, and vitamin B3 to create a youthfully smooth appearance and visibly firm under eye area.
Heavenly Skin 2-in-1 Tap & Smooth Eye Cream Brush #706. It features a handcrafted aventurine stone that provides a cooling sensation while promoting even application.
Step 5: Moisturizer
Once you’ve completed the above skincare steps, it’s time to seal in all that goodness with a moisturizer. Again, you’ll want to choose a Confidence in a Cream Hydrating Moisturizer. It boasts 7 benefits in one product, including moisturizing, smoothing skin, reducing the look of fine lines, visibly improving tone, and minimizing pores’ appearance.
Oily skin types still need to use a moisturizer, too, but should seek out an oil-free formulation like Confidence in a Gel Lotion Moisturizer. Thanks to its incredibly lightweight formulation, it absorbs quickly to deliver 72 hours of balanced hydration.
Some people like to add to their skincare routine by layering moisturizers. One example of this is layering your facial moisturizer over your eye cream. Another example would be to incorporate a neck cream into your lineup, such as Confidence in a Neck Cream Moisturizer. You can apply this quick-absorbing formula to your neck, décolleté, and chest to reduce the look of horizontal neck lines and visibly boost firmness and elasticity.
Step 6: Sunscreen
SPF is a vital step in anyone’s skincare routine. Not only does it protect your skin from premature signs of aging—including fine lines and wrinkles, laxity, and dark spots—but it helps prevent skin cancer.
“The backbone to any great preventative skincare routine is sunscreen,” says Dr. Tiffany Libby, a board-certified dermatologist and IT Cosmetics Advisory Board Member. "UV rays not only cause pigmentary changes in the skin, like sun spots, but also penetrate into the dermis to damage collagen, which leads to premature aging. I recommend daily sunscreen use, and absolutely love IT Cosmetics CC+ Cream with SPF 50+ as my final step, because it gives me the perfect coverage with anti-aging and sun protective benefits.”
The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) recommends applying an SPF of at least 15 every day—or 30 or higher if your skin is fair.I Oh, and don’t forget to reapply throughout the day.
Layering Your Nighttime Skincare Products
Now that you know how to layer skincare products in the morning, let’s explore the ideal nighttime process.
Step 1: Cleanser
Cleansing your skin is especially important in the evening. The goal is to ensure you’re removing all the makeup, sunscreen, and other debris that has accumulated on your face throughout the day, instead of letting it sit on your face overnight.
We recommend an oil-based balm, such as Confidence in a Cleanser.
Step 2: Toner
Toning is the same deal here as it is in the morning. If you want to incorporate this into your evening process, make sure to reach for a formula that complements your skin type.
Step 3: Treatment Serum
Here’s where some real magic happens in your skincare routine! The goal is to focus on a skincare issue, and then apply a treatment serum that will help you reach those goals. For example, if you’re concerned about oily skin or large pore size, then Bye Bye Dark Spots, that help target the look of discoloration.
This step of the skincare application process is also where you’d incorporate retinol, such as Hello Results Wrinkle-Reducing Daily Retinol Serum-in-Cream.
“A retinol is actually a derivative of vitamin A,” explains Dr. Mariwalla. “Now, that’s not the same as taking vitamin A, but what it does do in cream form is it helps speed the [turnover] cycle of your cells. It helps build collagen, it improves tone, it makes your texture better, and it makes your wrinkles seem less deep.”
Generally speaking, you’ll want to focus on one active ingredient per evening to prevent potential skin irritation. So, instead of layering these active ingredients on top of each other on the same evening, alternate them throughout the week.
Step 4: Eye Cream
After applying your treatment serum, dab a little bit of eye cream along your orbital bone. Make sure that you’re using a product formulated without active ingredients in order to prevent potential skin irritation, unless it’s formulated with the same active ingredient as what’s in your treatment serum.
Step 5: Moisturizer
After your serum and eye cream, apply a gentle moisturizer that doesn’t contain active ingredients. As always, select a moisturizer that pairs with your skin type. This step is really important to your overall skin health and helps set you up for skin success in the morning.
If you use Hello Results, note that this is a unique skincare product because it’s a serum and cream in one. You could technically skip the moisturizer step here, but if you have a gentle moisturizer—such as Confidence in Your Beauty Sleep Night Cream—it could benefit your skin to layer that on top.
Looking for the TL;DR breakdown on skincare layering? We’ve got you. Always start by washing your face, then apply your products from thinnest to thickest. When it comes to treatments, alternate active ingredients either morning and evening, or from one day to the next. When in doubt, reach out to your dermatologist and they’ll help you out.
Learn more about layering your face serums.
- “Sunscreen: How To Help Protect Your Skin From The Sun.” U.S. Food & Drug Administration. 2019. https://www.fda.gov/drugs/understanding-over-counter-medicines/sunscreen-how-help-protect-your-skin-sun