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Layering Skincare Products for Maximum Results

Vanessa Hathaway
Founder, Your Custom Beauty

One question that comes up often when I’m talking skincare products is “In what order should I apply which products?”  This is crucial to the effectiveness of your skincare routine and deserves a detailed, step-by-step answer.

The general rule is that rinse-off products would naturally come first, followed by lighter-weight products such as serums and retinol/retinoid creams.  Last, but certainly not least, would come moisturizing gels, lotions and creams.  Use these guidelines to layer your skincare products:

Recommended Daily Skincare Routine

Morning Routine:

Cleanser: Use a gentle cleanser that removes oil and night time product residue without stripping your skin of its natural moisture.  If your skin tends to be dry, you can skip the cleansing product in the morning and just rinse your face well with lukewarm water.

These are some of our favorite cleansers, which are suitable for all skin types:

Vitamin C Serum: The powerhouse ingredients found in a good vitamin C serum have been shown to boost the effectiveness of sunscreen while fighting free radical damage caused by the sun, pollution, and other environmental stressors.  Vitamin C also helps to brighten and smooth facial skin, while improving its tone and texture.

Treat your skin to one of these potent anti-aging serums after cleansing every morning:

To see all of Your Custom Beauty’s recommended Vitamin C products, click here.

Target: If you need to treat a blemish with an anti-acne product or apply eye cream, this should be done before applying your sun protection.

See all of Your Custom Beauty’s recommended Eye Creams and Acne Treatments

Moisturizer with SPF 30+: A moisturizer with broad-spectrum sunscreen of at least 30 should be applied every morning, rain or shine. Even those with acne-prone and oily skin should use a good gel moisturizer with adequate sun protection. As sunscreen provides a protective barrier, it should always be the last product applied in the morning.

For dry skin, this is a great option:


For combination/oily skin we recommend:

Click here to see all of our day moisturizers with SPF.

Evening Skincare Routine:

Cleanser: Use a gentle, but effective, cleanser t0 remove dirt, oil, and makeup.  The same cleanser recommended for use in the morning is fine to use in the evening as well.

If you wear waterproof, long-wearing, or heavy makeup, use a makeup remover prior to cleansing.

Another fantastic option:

La Roche-Posay Waterproof Makeup Remover

Exfoliant/Toner:  This would be the time to apply facial masks, Glycolic/AHA acid peels, or other products that need to be rinsed afterward.  When using products formulated for occasional-use, such as strong liquid exfoliants or peels containing alpha hydroxy acids (10% concentrations or higher), you might consider skipping your retinol/retinoid product that evening to avoid irritation.  Follow with a toner or liquid exfoliant formulated for your particular skin concerns.

For dry skin, we really love:

Paula’s Choice Skin Recovery Calming Toner

Sunday Riley Good Genes All-in-One Lactic Acid Treatment

Oily and acne-prone skin will benefit from either of these BHA exfoliant/toners:

Humane Pore Minimizer Clarifying Toner BHA 2%

Paula’s Choice 2% Salicylic Acid Exfoliating Solution

To see all of Your Custom Beauty’s recommended Exfoliants & Toners, click  here

Serum/Retinol: Serums provide active anti-aging ingredients directly to the skin. Apply an antioxidant serum containing a combination of skin-repairing ingredients, such as retinol, vitamins C and E, and peptides to reduce free-radical damage and inflammation.  Retinol and prescription-grade retinoids (vitamin A) are the superstars of anti-aging ingredients.  Retinol works by increasing collagen production, fading sun spots, decreasing fine lines, improving skin tone and texture, and fighting acne – a true multi-tasker! Unless your skin is so sensitive that you cannot tolerate even the lowest concentration of retinol, you should be using it as often as your skin will tolerate during your evening routine.

If you’re new to retinol products, start with a well-formulated serum with a low concentration of retinol, using only once or twice a week – increasing the frequency of use as your skin begins to better tolerate the product.  If you have ultra-sensitive skin, you may want to begin by applying a retinol product after moisturizing or mixing with your moisturizer to avoid irritation.

 This 0.25% retinol complex by SkinMedica is a highly recommended option:

Another favorite:

For those of us with dry sensitive skin, this is an excellent choice:

Target: Spot-treat pimples and dark sunspots and apply eye cream before night cream or moisturizer.

This eye cream by Exuviance would be a great one for use in the evening.

Eminence Organic Skin Care Wild Plum Eye Cream

Night Moisturizer: Heavier creams or emollient-rich balms are best for those with dry skin. These moisturizers typically contain a combination of ingredients proven to provide superior moisture to a parched complexion. Lightweight lotions are usually recommended for normal to combination skin, while hydrating gels are best for oily or blemish-prone skin.

If you suffer from dry, sensitive skin and/or rosacea, you will love this moisturizer from Bioderma:

For combination/oily or acne-prone skin, we highly recommend:

To see all of Your Custom Beauty’s recommended Night Moisturizers, click  here.

This may appear to be a lengthy process, but in reality, it only takes 5 to 10 minutes and is well worth the time it takes to properly care for your skin.  It protects you 24/7.  Don’t you think it deserves a little TLC..?

To find the best skincare products for your particular needs, take our  Skincare Quiz

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