What beauty tools do you use the most?
This will help us personalize your experience.

How to Layer Your Skincare Like a Pro

Photo by Anna Efetova/Getty Images

There seem to be more skincare products on the market than ever, and depending on your TikTok algorithm, there are endless beauty hacks to get the skin of your dreams. As beauty experts, we’ve spent years interviewing dermatologists, estheticians, and skincare experts. Through all our research, we’ve learned that though there are many skincare regimens to choose from according to your unique needs, yet there’s only one appropriate way to layer your skincare products.

Whether you’re new to skincare or more experienced, we’re going to break down the “why” behind your skincare routine. Keep reading to learn how to layer your skincare like an expert.

How to Layer Your Skincare the Right Way

Step 1: Wash Your Face

• Cleanser

Always start with a clean base before treating your skin with additional products. Gentle cleansing is key for overall skin health—especially at night—so don’t skip this crucial step. If you’re wearing makeup or sunscreen, you’ll likely benefit from double cleansing. Double cleansing involves first using an oil cleanser or cleansing balm, like the CLINIQUE Take the Day Off Charcoal Cleansing Balm, and then cleansing with a gentle yet purifying cleanser, like the SATURDAY SKIN Rise + Shine Gentle Cleanser.

It’s also great to use an exfoliating cleanser periodically. Start with once a week and work yourself up to two or three times a week. The THE FEELIST Juice Shot Exfoliating Facial Polish is a great place to start gently buffing away dead skin while repairing it with shea butter and almond oil.

Step 2: Balance

• Toner

Think of your toner as the last step in your skincare routine. Not to be confused with the harsh astringents of the early 2000s, toners are intended to remove any makeup or impurities that your cleanser left behind and balance your skin to help leave it refreshed. These days, toners will often have a skincare concern in mind. Whether you’re looking to hydrate, even your complexion, or minimize pores, there’s a toner out there for you. The FIRST AID BEAUTY Ultra Repair Wild Oat Hydrating Toner is a great option to help soothe and balance your skin.

Step 3: Treat

Now’s the time to treat your skin. With so many products to choose from, this is where things can get tricky. A great rule of thumb for layering your skincare products is to always remember to apply products from thinnest to thickest.

• Essence

The thinnest, most lightweight product you can use to treat your skin is an essence. Essences are watery products with active ingredients to hydrate and balance your skin while also prepping it for the following steps in your regimen. If you prefer a quicker three-step skincare routine, then there’s a case for skipping this step, but take note that an essence will help your following skincare products to be more effective. The BYROE English Breakfast Tea Treatment Essence is a fan-favorite for its firming and hydrating effects.

• Serum

After your skin has been properly cleansed and prepped, now it’s time to reach for your favorite serum. Serums are lightweight in order to penetrate the skin barrier, and they tend to have a high concentration of active ingredients. Most serums target specific skincare concerns, such as aging, hyperpigmentation, or dryness. If you’re ever using more than one serum at a time, layer the lightest serum underneath the heavier one. A heavy-hitting serum that tackles multiple issues is the GOLDFADEN MD Plant Profusion Supreme Serum. Use it overnight to help plump, protect, and nourish your skin.

• Eye Cream

If you were born in the 1900s, it’s time to start using an eye cream. (You might need to start even younger, depending on your lifestyle and genetics.) After you apply your serum and before you apply your moisturizer, use an effective eye cream that is going to target fine lines, wrinkles, and dark circles to help keep you feeling your best. The DR. BRANDT SKINCARE Eye Cream has an energizing blend of caffeine and plumping peptides to help tackle common eye area concerns.

Step 4: Hydrate

• Moisturizer 

Whether you have dry or oily skin, it is always important to find a nourishing moisturizer that is going to help prevent dryness while also offering the specific benefits you want to see in your skin.

For acne-prone skin, we recommend the FIRST AID BEAUTY Ultra Repair Oil-Control Moisturizer. It uses hydrating hyaluronic acid and soothing oat extract to leave your skin feeling soft and supple without any greasy residue. For combination skin, FEEL BEAUTY Probiotic Moisturizer is a great place to start. It’s loaded with high concentrations of probiotic actives to help your skin battle all kinds of negative environmental stressors. It also helps smooth your complexion and boost firmness and hydration levels, so you feel ready to take on the day. For very dry skin, we love the BYOMA Moisturizing Rich Cream. This hero hydrator features BYOMA’s proprietary Tri-Ceramide Complex (a blend of ceramides, cholesterol, and fatty acids that support and help restore skin’s barrier), bakuchiol (hailed as a natural, more gentle retinol alternative), and nourishing shea extracts to help soothe your complexion.

Step 5: Protect


To protect skin during the daytime, always use an SPF as the final step in your skincare routine—yes, even in the winter. Many moisturizers today are formulated with SPF, like the NEOGEN DERMALOGY Day-Light Protection Airy Sunscreen. It delivers intense hydration plus sun protection for an easy two-in-one step. To reapply sunscreen throughout the day without ruining your makeup, try a sunscreen mist or setting spray. It has a beautiful botanical aroma and is touchless, so your makeup stays intact.

• Face Oil or Overnight Face Mask

When it comes to face oils and overnight face masks—should you choose to use these products—make them the last step in your skincare routine at night. Both of these product categories are designed to lock moisture in and create a barrier over the skin. One of our favorite face oils for hydration and even skin tone is the SUNDAY RILEY C.E.O Glow Vitamin C + Turmeric Face Oil. For overnight masks, we can’t get enough of GLOW RECIPE Watermelon Glow Sleeping Mask to soothe and strengthen your skin while you sleep.

Interested in boosting your skincare knowledge even more? Check out the best skincare routines for morning and night. Want in on all the IPSY fun? Take our Beauty Quiz now to get started with your own IPSY beauty subscription. Already an IPSY member? Refer your friends to earn points, which you can use toward products. Either way, don’t forget to check us out on Instagram and TikTok @IPSY.

Like this article? Share it with your friends by clicking the icons below!

About the author
Kindra Moné
Kindra Moné is a writer and content creator who works with brands and magazines to create culturally relevant fashion and beauty content. She is also the founder of The Moné Edit: a community and podcast at the intersection of style and wellness.
Share Article
Article Last Updated February 6, 2024 12:00 AM