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What Is the Order for a Skin Care Routine?

There’s a method to the madness.
July 21, 2023

If you like to apply your skin care products on a whim, working in no particular order, it might be time to re-adjust your regimen. That’s because there’s actually a method to the madness of skin care, and you should be layering serums and skin care products in a specific order. From facial cleansers to serums to face moisturizers to eye creams, sequence is majorly important if you want to get the most out of them. 

If you’ve always wanted to know whether your moisturizer should go on before or after your eye cream and where your SPF and night serums fit in all of this, keep reading. We’re giving you the ultimate guide to layering your skin care products because the order of your skin care routine can make a difference in whether your products are effective (or not).

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Does Skin Care Order Matter?

Skin care order matters because if you want to get the most benefits out of your products and actives, they have to be applied in the right order. For max absorption, it’s best to apply your products from thinnest to thickest. If you have a lightweight serum, it’s going to absorb better on freshly cleansed skin than on skin that’s already slathered in moisturizer. 

How to Create a Skin Care Routine

When you’re creating a skin care routine, here are some things to consider that will affect the order in which you apply your products. 

Your Skin Type

When you’re creating your skin care routine, it’s very important to take your skin type into account. If you have dry skin, hydrating, occlusive serums and moisturizers will be very beneficial for your skin type. If you have oily skin, you’ll want to look for an exfoliating serum or tonic that can help break down dead skin cells and oils that lead to acne. You’ll also need a lightweight moisturizer to keep your skin hydrated without feeling heavy. If you have combination skin, you may need a mix of both of these products depending on the time of the year. 

Skin Concerns You Want to Tackle

Once you’ve identified your skin type, then you can pay attention to what skin concerns you want to target. Dullness, dark spots, hyperpigmentation and enlarged pores are a few common concerns that all skin types can experience, and the best way to target that is with a facial serum. Facial serums are packed with concentrated amounts of active ingredients that work to hydrate, brighten, exfoliate and more. If your skin is congested, L’Oréal Paris recommends using the L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Derm Intensives 12% Pure Vitamin C + E + Salicylic Acid Serum in the morning, and the L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Derm Bright Reveal 12% [Niacinamide + Amino Sulfonic + Ferulic Acid] Dark Spot Serum at night to brighten and correct. 

If you’re looking to address fine lines and wrinkles, hydrate skin with the L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Derm Intensives 1.5% Pure Hyaluronic Acid Serum in the morning, and reduce fine lines with the L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Derm Intensives Night Serum, 0.3% Pure Retinol at night.

Ingredients You’re Layering

Retinol and glycolic acid are two ingredients that can do really wonderful things for the skin in terms of exfoliation, brightening and refining. But when you pair these two active ingredients together (in the same routine), it can lead to irritation, dryness, skin flushing (redness) and even acne. Furthermore, Harvard Health reports that both of these ingredients on their own are known to cause irritation to the skin. When you’re using both of these ingredients in your routine, apply them on separate nights. This way, you’ll get the benefits of both without the irritation. Generally, hyaluronic acid and niacinamide help to boost hydration and soothe the skin, per the Cleveland Clinic

How to Layer Skin Care Products

At its essence, layering your skin care products is pretty simple. You’ll just need to remember one rule: thinner goes first. That means you should start your skin care routine by applying skin care products that have the thinnest or lightest consistencies first, and then work your way up to heavier ones. Of course, since this is a guide to layering skin care products, we’re not stopping there. We’re going beyond the basics and giving you a step-by-step breakdown of how to layer every skin care product in your routine.

Step 1. Facial Cleanser

While you may not technically be layering on a facial cleanser since you’re washing it off, it should still be said that this is the very first step in any skin care routine. Reach for a cleanser that best suits your skin. If you want a face wash that gives you a deep cleaning, opt for the L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Radiant Smoothing Cream Cleanser, which gently exfoliates impurities and removes all traces of makeup. For skin that’s looking dull and needs a pick-me-up, try the L’Oréal Paris Pure-Clay Detox & Brighten Cleanser. It transforms from a clay to a mouse, removing dirt, oil and other toxins from the surface of your skin without over-drying it. 

Step 2. Toner

Traditionally, facial toners were used to swipe away any residual dirt and grime that might be sitting on the surface of your skin. However, skin care has evolved and most cleansers remove all the impurities already — at least the ones from L’Oréal Paris do. Modern day toners can act as a light exfoliation step to prep skin for serums. On exfoliation days, skip a product in wash format and pick up the L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Derm Intensives 5% Glycolic Acid Peeling Toner instead. This liquid exfoliating toner is infused with aloe vera to soothe the skin while the five percent pure glycolic acid penetrates pores to increase cell turnover, leaving skin softener and (over time) with a glow.

Step 3. Facial Serum

One of the most popular questions when it comes to layering products is whether you should start with serum or moisturizer. As long as you consider the aforementioned rule (thinner goes first), the answer is an easy one — serum should go first. Apply the Revitalift Derm Intensives 1.5% Pure Hyaluronic Acid Serum onto clean skin on your face, neck, and jawline, smoothing it in until it’s thoroughly absorbed. This lightweight serum helps to make your skin plumper and reduces the appearance of wrinkles with continued use over time. 

Serums are also the category where you might have more than one in a skin care regimen, but it’s important to know that not all serums can be used together. Most exfoliating acids, alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) and beta hydroxy acids (BHAs) should not be layered back to back as they can increase the risk of skin irritation. When layering serums, swap out the days you use certain ingredients to protect the skin. 

Some dermatologists recommend using vitamin C in the morning and more harsh acids like glycolic, retinol and lactic acid in the evening. Regardless of the serums that you decide to use, always wear sunscreen during the day as certain ingredients can cause the skin to be more photosensitive. 

Layering skin care can be complicated if you’re creating your own regimen. If you want the skin softening and exfoliating benefits of multiple serums but don’t want to deal with the ins and outs of what can and can’t be used together, grab a serum with multiple effective ingredients like the L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Derm Intensives 12% Pure Vitamin C + E + Salicylic Acid Serum. This product contains vitamin C and vitamin E to make skin look brighter and feel softer, with salicylic acid added to help minimize large pores.
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Step 4. Facial Moisturizer

After serum, it’s time for moisturizer. If you have a preference for lightweight lotions or thick creams, this is when you’ll want to spread your moisturizer of choice onto your skin. Whether you have dry skin or oily skin, we suggest sticking with a moisturizer formulated for your skin type. 

For normal to dry skin, pick up the L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Triple Power Day Lotion SPF 30, which includes pro-retinol, vitamin C and hyaluronic acid to brighten, firm and hydrate skin. Those with oily skin will enjoy the water-based L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Derm Intensives Micro Hyaluronic Acid + Ceramides Line-Plumping Water Cream; it has a lightweight texture that deeply hydrates and visibly plumps skin without feeling sticky or greasy. 

Step 5. Eye Cream

The delicate skin surrounding your eyes deserves attention, too. Go ahead and grab your favorite eye cream or treatment like the L'Oréal Paris Age Perfect Cell Renewal Anti-Aging Eye Cream Treatment and apply it around your eyes, gently tapping (with your ring finger because it has the gentlest touch), or massaging in until absorbed. 

When applying eye cream, take into consideration the consistency of the product when layering it with your other skin care. The aforementioned eye cream has a thicker consistency so it can be layered before or after moisturizer. However, eye serums like the L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Derm Intensives 1.5% Hyaluronic Acid + 1% Caffeine Eye Serum should always be applied before moisturizers due to their thinner consistency. 

Step 6. SPF

This next step will depend entirely on the time of day. When we’re talking about your daytime skin care routine, sunscreen should always be your final step — even during the winter months. After moisturizer, apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF value of at least 30 daily, as directed. We love the L’Oréal Paris Bright Reveal Broad Spectrum SPF 50 Invisible UV Fluid for exceeding the SPF minimum recommendation, all without leaving a sunscreen white cast. The lightweight formula blends well with all skin tones and won’t leave any oil buildup that can cause pilling with any makeup applied on top. 

If you’re spending a lot of time outdoors, make sure to reapply sunscreen at least every two hours or immediately after swimming or sweating. You should also limit your amount of time in the sun (especially between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., which are the sun’s peak hours), seek shade and cover up with long sleeves, pants, a broad-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses.

Swaps to Make at Night

If it’s nighttime, instead of SPF, you can opt for a serum and moisturizer that work to repair your skin overnight, like the L’Oréal Paris Age Perfect Cell Renewal Midnight Serum and the L’Oréal Paris Age Perfect Skin Care Cell Renewal Midnight Cream, Antioxidants. These products are made with a L’Oréal Paris patented antioxidant complex that boosts skin’s renewal overnight while reducing the appearance of fine lines and brightening. Plus, you can skip the SPF since UV rays won’t be an issue. 

Next: How to Layer Hyaluronic Acid in Your Skin Care and Makeup Routines

Photographer: Nelson Huang, Art Director: Hannah Packer, Producer: Becca Solovay, Beauty Content Director: Shalwah Evans, Visual Designer: Sarah Duvivier, Wardrobe Stylist: Alexis Badiyi, Wardrobe Assistant: Jazmine Alzado, Makeup Artist: Jonet Williamson, Hair Stylist: Akihisa Yamaguchi, Digi Tech: Jacky Jiang, Photo Assistant: Tyler Andrews, Model: Erin Williams

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