The Art of Layering Your Skin Care Products

With the abundance of skin care products out there, figuring out the order to apply each may seem like an overwhelming task, but we promise it's worth it. Thoughtfully considering the order in which you apply your skin care products will ensure your routine is as effective as possible. The rule of thumb is to consider the product's consistency and apply the thinnest, lightest products first and finish with the heavier, thicker products. 

It's important to remember skin care regimens are different for everyone, so adjust your routine according to your skin's needs. Here's a complete guide for AM and PM routines:


  1. Cleanser - Start by removing any makeup with cleansing wipes or makeup remover, then gently cleanse the skin with your favorite facial wash. If you're exfoliating with a scrub or brush, consider it part of this step. Removing any oil, dirt, and makeup from the face leaves your skin fresh and allows for better penetration of the other products in your regimen. 
  2. Toner - Use a cotton pad to swipe toner across your entire face to rebalance the skin, remove any remaining residue, deliver nutrients, and tighten pores. Toners don't have to be a harsh, irritating astringent to be effective. There's a toner out there for everyone!
  3. Serum - These nutrient rich, super concentrated treatments should be applied to the skin as one of the first steps so they can easily penetrate and absorb into the skin without other products getting in the way. Gently press a light coat of serum into the skin. If you're applying more than one type, apply according to consistency - thinnest to thickest.
  4. Acne Treatments & Fruit Acids - Salicylic acid, alpha hydroxy or polyhydroxy acids, or benzoyl peroxide products should come next. Remember, applying these products in the evening may counteract retinoids, so only use these treatments in the morning.
  5. Lightening Agents - To gradually fade dark spots and discoloration, apply a light coat to the entire face and then a bit extra to darker areas. Skin lightening agents like hydroquinone (HQ) should be applied once or twice a day. 
  6. Eye Cream - The skin around the eyes is very delicate and can be damaged easily. Gently pat the eye cream just along the orbital bone using your ring finger.
  7. Moisturizer - Moisturizers are thicker and heavier than any of the products you've applied so far. They'll help to lock in the other products and keep your skin well hydrated. 
  8. Sunscreen - The last (and arguably the most important) step of your morning skin care routine is sunscreen. Look for mineral based sunscreens containing zinc oxide or titanium oxide with a minimum SPF of 30. Regardless of the season or weather, don't skip this one!
  9. Makeup (or no makeup!) 


  1. Cleanser - Just like in the morning, cleansing the skin in the evening is essential to remove any residue, oil, and makeup. We love to use foaming cleansers to dissolve away the day's grime.   
  2. Toner - After cleansing, glide toner across your face to eliminate any impurities left behind and rebalance the skin. 
  3. Serum - On freshly cleansed skin, start with applying your serums first. Serums quickly absorb into the skin and should be applied as a light coat.
  4. Lightening Agents - If using skin lightening treatments twice a day, again apply a thin layer to your whole face going back to apply a little extra to those darker areas.
  5. Eye Cream - Remember, pat, don't rub, with your ring finger just under the eyes.
  6. Retinoids - Apply retinoids (retinol, retinaldehyde, or retinoic acid) to dry (this is key!) skin about 20 - 30 minutes after cleansing. Make sure to apply to the entire face and, if tolerated, the lower eyelids. Retinoids should only be used in your night routine. 
  7. Moisturizer - Once your retinoid is well absorbed, go ahead and layer on your moisturizer, pulling all the way down your neck to your décolletage.


  • Take a few seconds to allow each product to absorb into the skin before applying the next product.
  • When applying skin care products, apply evenly all the way up to the hairline, back towards the ears, and feather along the jawline and neck to avoid lines of demarcation.
  • Check your labels to make sure your products are all noncomedogenic.

Applying your skin care products properly and in the correct order will ensure that the products work as they're intended to and that your skin receives the full benefits of each.

Put your best #FaceFirst with Nextcell.