How to Layer Skincare Products

Back to blog
How to Layer Skincare Products

How to Layer Skincare Products

Chances are you’re familiar with the seemingly endless list of many ingredients and products that can comprise a comprehensive skincare routine. However, developing an effective skincare routine is about more than just which products you use.

Effective skincare is also about how you layer those products. Read on for more information on why the layer of your skincare products matters and how to layer your products in the correct order.

How Can You Properly Layer Skincare Products?

Skincare products are made with specific active ingredients designed to target specific skincare concerns. However, if you don’t layer your skincare products correctly, the ingredients may not even properly reach the skin to work their effects.


A general rule of thumb is to layer your skincare products from the order of thinnest to thickest. This way, each product builds on each other without blocking other products from reaching the skin.

For instance, if you were to apply a thick moisturizer before a serum, the thickness of the moisturizer would affect the serum’s ability to reach the skin. This could make the serum less effective, regardless of its formulation. 

Ultimately, this can affect your skin health. For instance, if you apply a thick sunscreen before retinol serum, the retinol won’t be able to reach your skin to address any breakouts or fine lines you may have.


It’s also important to consider how many active ingredients you put on your skin. For instance, using too many exfoliating ingredients can damage the skin barrier and cause redness, irritation, and sensitive skin.

Even using too many powerful ingredients together, such as alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) and retinol, can harm the skin and cause sensitivity. The only exception here is with products specifically formulated to combine these ingredients.

pH Balance

Another reason to be aware of how you layer your skincare products is that different products may have different pH levels that may counteract each other. Many skincare ingredients are designed with specific pH values that contribute to the product’s efficacy.

Plus, the skin’s pH is specifically calibrated to help keep bacteria away from the skin's surface. When this pH balance is disrupted, blemish-causing bacteria can reach the skin and contribute to breakouts.

However, some skincare products are specifically formulated to incorporate products with different pH levels. For instance, some formulations feature both retinol and vitamin C, which typically operate on different pH levels. In these cases, the product’s formulation helps these ingredients work together.

How To Layer Your Skincare Products

When applying your skincare, there’s a generally recommended order to apply products in. Here’s the correct order to apply your products:


First, start with a cleanser. A gentle cleanser doesn’t just rinse away debris—it effectively primes the skin so that it can properly absorb the products to come.

For this step, you can try The MANTLE Skin Conditioning Wash. This hydrating double cleanser washes away makeup, sweat, and pollutants without stripping the skin. It uses fruit AHAs, short-chain hyaluronic acid, and chamomile to gently cleanse the skin while supporting the skin’s moisture barrier, acid mantle, microbiome, and pH levels. 

The result? Skin is cleansed, conditioned, and optimally prepared for product application. 


Next, it’s time to apply your toner if you use one. Toners are formulated to go a step further than cleansers to further cleanse impurities from your pores. Many toners also have astringent properties that can help shrink the appearance of pores, while some toners have soothing ingredients to improve the appearance of redness and irritation. 


Next, it’s time for your serum. Serums are generally designed to target specific skin concerns, so people often have multiple serums in their skincare repertoire. If you like to use multiple serums, we recommend applying them from lightest to heaviest.

Exfoliating serums contain brightening ingredients, such as alpha hydroxy acids (AHA). These include glycolic acid and lactic acid. 

These serums are designed to slough away dead skin cells. By removing these dead skin cells, these exfoliants can help further open up the skin to receive moisture.

Other serums include antioxidant serums, anti-aging serums, hydrating serums, and more. They can feature a wide range of ingredients—from hyaluronic acid to aloe vera to snail mucin.


The next step is to apply moisturizer like the SUPER Hydrator. Moisturizers range in thickness from simple lotions to thick ointment-style moisturizers, but they are typically all thicker than eye cream.

Moisturizers should also be tailored to your skin type. If you use the wrong moisturizer for your skin type, you could experience dryness, irritation, and redness. 

You should also look for both humectant and occlusive ingredients. Humectants are ingredients like glycerin and hyaluronic acid that help draw water into the skin. Meanwhile, occlusive ingredients like peptides can help trap that water against the skin to prevent transepidermal water loss.

Eye Cream

Next, it’s time to apply your eye cream. Eye cream typically has a thicker texture and is specifically formulated for the delicate and fragile skin around the eye.

Eye creams can help brighten the under-eye area, fading the appearance of dark circles and visibly rejuvenating your eyes. For instance, The RETURN Eye Concentrate features diamond powder, marine plankton extract, and short-chain hyaluronic acid to help minimize the appearance of fine lines, puffiness, wrinkles, and dark circles.

Face Oil

Next, it’s time to apply face oil.

Face oils contain mostly occlusive ingredients designed to rejuvenate the appearance, nourish the skin, and lock in hydration overnight. For instance, The SUPER Intensive Face Oil features avocado oil, stabilized vitamins C and E, and vegan squalane to mimic the skin’s natural oils.


Finally, the last step in your daytime routine is to apply sunscreen. Sunscreens are often the thickest skincare products, so applying them before the other products blocks other ingredients from properly absorbing. 

It’s generally recommended to choose a sunscreen that is at least SPF 30 and provides broad-spectrum protection against UVA and UVB rays. 

One sunscreen you can try is our Multimodal Defender Broad Spectrum SPF 30, which provides protection against UV rays, infrared rays, and blue light. This groundbreaking formula also helps fade the appearance of existing sun damage.

The Bottom Line

When you’re building a skincare routine, it’s not just about which products you choose to use—it’s also about how you layer them. Generally, it’s recommended to layer products from thinnest to thickest.

It can be time-consuming to layer a seemingly endless sequence of skincare products in your daily routine, which is why we’ve spent years developing products designed to streamline and simplify. To learn more about this groundbreaking technology and how to use it, visit the U Beauty website today.


Sunscreen FAQs | AAD

Face Toners: The Skin Care Product Gets a Reboot | Cleveland Clinic

What Is Your Skin’s pH and Why Does It Matter? | Cleveland Clinic

Know Your Skin Type Before Choosing Skin Care Products | Cleveland Clinic

You May Also Like