Tips for layering products

These days there are so many products out there.  Add in getting older or troubled skin and you end up having a bed time routine that rivals painting the Sistine Chapel.

I believe that effective multi-taskers which give you everything you need in one or two steps is like a unicorn that will never be found.  Buy really good products that target what you’re solving for, and layer ’em up.

What actually seems like a straightforward idea is the cause for much confusion.  How do you know what to put on first? Readhead to the rescue!

Getting Started

There are two really great ways that can help you remember how, and which products, layer well and in which order.  One, determining what the individual products are supposed to do and two, the consistency or viscosity of those products.  Read on for more.

Step 1: Determine what the individual products are supposed to do

You’ve got targeted serums high in actives?  Those should go closest to your skin so they can get in there and do their job.  As you layer, the ones closest to your skin are generally more concentrated.  You’ll want your acids, retinoids and peptide powerhouses to be slathered on before your heavier products.

Concentrated serums —> moisturizers —> protectants

Make sure to check out ingredients that play well together and during certain times of the day, and those that don’t.  For instance, vitamin C helps with photoaging and is best used during the day.  Retinoids can make skin photosensitive and may have negative effects if used during the day, especially without a proven form of SPF.  Others, like glycolic acids and salicylic acid work beautifully together to remove and declog layers of the skin but can be irritating to those with a compromised skin barrier or sensitive skin.

It can seem like your local beauty associate is selling you up the creek by suggesting different products for a day and night routine, but if you’ve got the resources (read time and money) you should tailor those routines as much as possible for the most efficacy.  Be aware of products that are high in ‘ones (i.e. silicones) that have a silky or waxy slip as they create a barrier that may be harder for other actives products to break through.  Use those towards the end.

Step 2: Feel the viscosity to know what goes first to last

This trick rings tried and true for me if I get a new product and I’m not quite sure where it fits in the continuum.  The more watery (and usually clear) your product is, the closer to the front of the line it should go.  As products get more occlusive (meaning thicker and sealing down) less and less of the goodies will be able to penetrate it.  For example, my Skinceuticals C E Ferulic is straight like water.  That goes on first.  My retinoid is a slightly thicker watery gel consistency.  The SkinMedica TNS product I use is slightly thicker and my moisturizer the thickest.  Easy!

How long do you wait between steps?

Ideally, you’d want to give each layer 5-10 minutes of dry-time if you can spare.  With busy schedules I say as long as you give time between the different viscosities, you’re OK to speed up using a few products together.

What about oils?

This one is up for debate and tricks even the savviest of skincare connoisseurs, however if you think about the science of oil, it makes sense that oils should be the LAST piece to the puzzle (except for SPF).  If you think of the old term “oil and water” you know that they don’t really mix.  Moisturizers, although made of oils, are meant to hydrate the skin and generally contain water-friendly ingredients, including hyaluronic acid which helps to draw water into the skin.

If you put oil on first, then a moisturizer, your oil is working to keep anything water-friendly out.  By using oil afterwards, it seals the moisturizer in by repelling it until it’s absorbed, and then the oil continues to hydrate. And there you have it, Readhead readers.  Moisturizer first, oil last.

How many steps do you have in your routine? Drop us a line in the comments.

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