Cleanser, Toner…Then What? How to Layer Your Skincare Products

When it comes to layering your skincare products, it doesn’t have to be complicated. Here’s your comprehensive guide, based on our trial and error.


Woman caring of her beautiful skin on the face standing near mirror in the bathroom. Young mexican woman applying moisturizer on her face at home. Smiling multiethnic girl holding little green jar of bio skin cream and applying lotion on cheek.


Maybe it’s just us, but it seems like most women struggle with figuring out how to layer their 3 or 5 or 10-step skincare routines. Standing at their bathroom sink morning and night they try a different sequence hoping that this one might be the magical mingling that gives me baby-soft skin. There is a right order and a wrong order. But don’t fret. We’ve got a simple formula into which you can fit all your skincare products. 


For the Morning: 

You’re rushing to get your day started. The last thing you want to worry about is the order your skin care products get applied. You need a straightforward regimen to smooth sail you through the morning. 

  1. You’ll want to begin with a cleanser, like the Obagi Nu-Derm Gentle Cleanser
  2. If you aren’t using a toner, it’s time to incorporate one into your routine. Their light, quick-drying composition means you’ll want to apply immediately after washing your face. We recommend the Obagi Nu-Derm Toner
  3. As a general rule, apply your lightest product next. Serums, ranging from liquid to gels, are applied first for optimal absorption because they have the highest concentration of active ingredients. SkinMedix recommends choosing two or three serums that treat your concerns. For wrinkles, we love formulas with added peptides, like PCA Skin ExLinea Peptide Smoothing Serum. If you’re an oily skin type, look for serums containing salicylic acid, like. Salicylic acid will help to clear out excess oils and reduce sebum levels, which can lead to acne. 
  4. Apply spot treatments next. Target specific problem areas, like a pesky persistent blemish (PCA Skin Acne Gel will tackle those spots while helping to reduce oil production to prevent further breakout) or crows feet. 
  5. Then, apply full-face treatments, like an antioxidant treatment or acne treatment (one that does not require another cleansing) for the entire face.  
  6. Moisturize to seal in your other products. Facial oils, like Eminence Facial Recovery Oil can be applied to any dry spots you find after you apply your moisturizer. But if you’re using two or more serums under your moisturizer, it’s a good idea to skip any facial oils to avoid becoming too greasy. Aaron, founder of SkinMedix emphasizes, “Facial oils can penetrate moisturizers but not vice versa. Always apply your moisturizer before a facial oil.” If you’re choosing a moisturizer with an SPF, opt for one with UVA/UVB broad-spectrum protection with a minimum SPF of 30. We recommend a lightweight, oil-free moisturizing SPF.
  7. SPF. We know. You’ve heard it a million times, but we’ll say it a million-and-one (and then again and again). Never leave home without an SPF on your face. We’ll leave it at that.                      

For the Evening:

  1. After your cleanser and toner, apply retinol products directly to the skin for the highest efficiency. But for those of us with sensitive skin waking up the next morning red and irritated from an evening retinol application, we’ve got a trick for you. Applying a serum or even moisturizer beforehand will create a buffer for your skin and protect it from irritation. Remember: Retinol is applied in the evening due to its sensitivity to the sun. 
  2. After your first layer absorbs, apply any targeted treatments, like a rich eye cream (we recommend Neocutis Lumiere Firm Riche). If you have any other spot-specific treatments like Murad Rapid Age Spot Correcting Serum for dark spots and discoloration, now would be the time to apply. 
  3. Finish with a moisturizer. You’ll want to apply a heavier cream at night if you have a normal-to-dry skin type, especially if you toss and turn in your sleep, are a side sleeper, or a stomach sleeper. You need a hefty cream that will give you deep moisture and won’t be wiped off by your pillow and sheets (we know from experience). Obagi Hydrate Luxe is a great option. If you have oily skin, opt for a lotion instead of a cream as they are less hydrating and often specifically made for problem or acne-prone skin. 

It all boils down to this. Go from the lightest to the heaviest product. Keep retinol for the evenings and always apply facial sunscreen in the mornings. Apply your products with confidence for the best results!

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