Whether you’re concerned about blemishes, dull skin, dark spots, or fine lines—or perhaps all the above—layering serums is the secret to meeting your skincare goals way faster. Before layering skincare products, though, you’ll need to familiarize yourself with a few key ground rules. Incorrectly layering products can cause them to pill, cause skin sensitivity, or possibly lead to breakouts. But once you know how to layer serums, don’t be surprised if you find them working better. Scroll ahead for the full how-to.
How to Layer Serums
Before we get into some of the finer details about how to layer serums to target specific skincare concerns such as fine lines, blemishes, or dark spots, let’s cover a few of the basics:
Order Matters: Serums are applied after cleansing and toning and before your moisturizer. If you don’t use toner, then apply serum directly after cleansing.
Keep It Simple: It’s best to layer no more than two serums at a time. Too many layers can possibly prevent the ingredients from absorbing as effectively.
Thin to Thick: Layer by lightest to thickest consistency. Many serums have a similar viscous consistency (including all the Bye Bye Serums) but if you notice one is thicker, start with the thinner formula first.
Take Your Time: Give each serum several seconds to set before moving onto the next.
Know Your Ingredients: Understand which serums are best for skincare application day and night.
Skincare Ingredients Not To Mix
The final rule of how to layer serums is only layering ingredients that work well together. Some general rules:
Don’t mix retinol with alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) and beta hydroxy acids (BHAs).
Avoid mixing vitamin C with AHAs or BHAs. Doing so may cause skin sensitivity.
Be mindful of how many acids you’re applying to your skin in one session. Too much can cause skin sensitivity and lead to breakouts. While some products are pre-formulated with multiple acids, these amounts are carefully measured to ensure the product is safe and effective.
If you want to reap the benefits of two ingredients that don’t play well together, you can use one in the morning and one in the evening.
Pro Tip: When layering multiple formulas in a single regimen, we suggest completing a “patch test” by applying product(s) together on a small area before applying to your entire face. If sensitivity such as redness, burning, or itching occurs, do not use the product or product combination.
Our Favorite Serums to Layer
Here’s some deeper insight into which skincare ingredients not to mix and which ones work better together. We’re also covering what time of day to use each ingredient.
Salicylic Acid Serum
If you deal with blemish-prone skin or oily skin, salicylic acid is definitely a product you’ll want to introduce to your regimen. Our best salicylic acid treatment is Bye Bye Breakout Salicylic Acid Acne Serum. This game-changing formula combines the power of 2% salicylic acid with 3% lactic acid for a blemish serum that can visibly transform your skin.
What does salicylic acid do for breakouts? This oil-soluble BHA exfoliates the skin’s surface to target both existing pimples while helping prevent future breakouts from occurring.
We recommend applying salicylic acid serum during your evening skincare routine. Avoid using this serum for blemishes with other potent actives, such as glycolic acid and retinoids.
To hydrate skin while banishing blemishes, apply three drops of salicylic acid serum followed by three drops of hyaluronic acid serum.
For a brighter-looking complexion, layer three drops of salicylic acid serum with three drops of niacinamide serum.
Hyaluronic Acid Serum
Think of hyaluronic acid as your cool, laid-back friend who gets along with everyone. This ingredient is a humectant, meaning it attracts moisture to help skin look plump and hydrated, and to help smooth the appearance of fine lines. It‘s one of the key ingredients in Bye Bye Lines Hyaluronic Acid Serum, where it’s paired with a peptide and vitamin B5 to create a formula that helps support supple-feeling skin.
You can use products formulated with hyaluronic acid in your skincare application day and night to enjoy its hydrating, skin-smoothing benefits.
For a super-smoothing pairing, apply two or three drops of hyaluronic acid serum followed by four or five drops of glycolic serum as part of your nightly regimen.
For a serious radiance-boosting fix, apply four or five drops of niacinamide serum and then two or three drops of hyaluronic acid serum for your morning routine.
Vitamin C Serum
Known as a skin-brightening powerhouse, vitamin C is an ingredient that is also a go-to for its antioxidant properties. Vitamin C is the shining star in Bye Bye Dullness, a formula that visibly boosts radiance and helps protect your skin against free radicals. In this concentrated serum formulation, vitamin C is combined with vitamin E to help keep your skin in good condition.
Due to its antioxidant powers, we recommend using vitamin C serums in the morning. We also recommend using it in conjunction with your favorite SPF and your CC+ Cream with SPF 50+.
Like OJ and champagne, vitamin C and niacinamide work brilliantly together. Apply two pumps of vitamin C serum followed by four to five drops of niacinamide serum.
For a texture revitalizer, use vitamin C serum as part of your morning regimen, then, before bed, use four to five drops of glycolic acid serum.
Glycolic Acid Serum
A member of the alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) family, glycolic acid is prized for its skin exfoliating benefits. It gently sloughs away dead skin cells from the skin’s surface, revealing visibly refined skin texture and smaller looking pores. Glycolic Acid leads the way in Bye Bye Pores Glycolic Acid Serum, where it’s formulated with hyaluronic acid to support a smoother, more supple feel.
We encourage using products formulated with glycolic acid in the evening since they may cause sensitivity to sunlight (AKA photosensitivity) when used during the day. And remember to always wear your sunscreen every day.
Promote the look of smoother skin by layering four to five drops of glycolic acid serum and two to three drops of hyaluronic acid serum.
To double down, we recommend using your glycolic acid serum in the evening and then your favorite vitamin C serum in the morning.
If you also like to use a retinoid, such as Hello Results Wrinkle-Reducing Daily Retinol Serum-in-Cream, these should be alternated on different nights instead of being used in the same evening.
Niacinamide is part of the vitamin B family (of which there are 12 members), and is arguably one of the more widely used forms of the vitamin. It’s noted for its impressive ability to help even out the look of discoloration. It’s a key ingredient in Bye Bye Dark Spots, which is designed to help visibly improve dark spots and discoloration. This concentrated derm serum is formulated with ethyl vitamin C to help visibly improve overall skin clarity.
You can use niacinamide serums in the morning or evening.
For a skin-plumping dynamic duo, layer four to five drops of niacinamide serum with two to three drops of hyaluronic acid.
For an anti-aging solution that helps refresh your complexion, apply four or five drops of niacinamide serum followed by four or five drops of glycolic acid serum at night.
Learn more about each of our concentrated face serums.