How to layer your skincare products in the right order

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In the grand scheme of things in life, finding the right skin care routine order it shouldn’t be that complicated. But with a growing number (i.e. hundreds of thousands) of product options on the market, including cleansers, serums, moisturizers, and more, knowing when and how to use your skincare routine of the skin in 10 steps can get confusing.

That said, instead of just applying five creams — then washing your face because, seriously, this stuff is heavy — follow the lead of the pros. (And don’t be surprised if your products suddenly seem to work better.) Whether you’re a beginner and need the basics of a beginner’s skincare routine or you’re ready to take it to the pro level and see what that a dermatologist’s range of choices might entail, you’ve come to the right place.

Ahead, dermatologists and cosmetic chemists share their tips for the right order of skincare routine, plus how to effectively incorporate bells and whistles like face oil and retinol.

1. Turn on the light.

A rule of thumb for layering skincare the right way is to follow the consistency order of your products. This means that your light liquids will be the products you start with, and your heavier, thicker creams will be the ones you end up with.

So, after cleansing, start with a toner; with its water-like formula, it will be the thinnest consistency of all your skincare products. Even in the most basic routine, a toner helps slough off dead skin cells so your moisturizer can penetrate better (there are hydrating toners and oil-absorbing toners), says New York-certified dermatologist Marnie Nussbaum. .

You can also opt for toners with exfoliating ingredients. Neda Mehr, MD, a board-certified dermatologist based in California, explains that salicylic and glycolic acids work as exfoliators to loosen dead skin cells and keep pores clear. Dr. Mehr adds that this step should be done before putting on any serum so that the serum can penetrate deeper.

If you want deeper exfoliation, she suggests using peel-off pads like the DermBx peel-off pillows as the first step before toning. Since peels tend to be harsher, this is something you shouldn’t do every day.

2. Work in serums.

A common beauty question when it comes to choosing the right skincare routine: serum or moisturizer? The definitive answer is serum. According to Ranella Hirsch, MD, a board-certified Boston-based dermatologist, serums deliver active ingredients into the skin more effectively, they’re easy to customize.

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