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Everything You Need to Know About Layering Moisturizers

There are so many ways to hydrate your skin, a slew of products to choose from, and plentiful benefits to reap. And because of that, knowing what to apply and when can be sort of confusing. You most likely have a go-to oil, moisturizer, and serum in your beauty collection already, but did you know you don’t have to choose between the three in your daily routine? You can actually utilize all of your beloved facial products to maximize moisture and add topical benefits. 

To understand even more about the layering ritual, we consulted Dr. Loretta Ciraldo, MD, FAAD: a Florida-based dermatologist with over 40 years of skincare experience. She was among the first to study the effects of UVA radiation on skin at Harvard's photobiology lab in the 1970's. “It's becoming very popular — and I think advisable — to layer a serum and then a moisturizer on top,” she tells us. “With many new beneficial ingredients, I highly recommend layering twice a day so you get a multitude of benefits.” Here, some helpful tips.

Consider your skin type.

Generally, Dr. Ciraldo recommends layering for dry or more mature skin. “For acne-prone skin, I highly recommend [layering] if your skin has been overworked by drying acne topicals, in which case you can layer on both an acne treatment serum and then a moisture-replenishing moisturizer,” she adds.

Start with the lightest, end with the heaviest.

Start with your serums, which are lighter, and end with heavier creams and sunscreen. Dr. Ciraldo explains, “Since serums are formulated with ingredients that penetrate more deeply, and the moisturizer is a more surface benefit, you are going to get a wider array in visible improvement from lessening in lines and uneven pigment to improvement in surface appearance, including skin texture.”

Be patient.

While serums can help lock in moisture, pace yourself when applying your products. Take a pause between each to let them absorb into skin. Additionally, with layering, you don’t need to worry so much about applying liberally. A little can go a long way, since you’re utilizing multiple products that work together. “There should be a synergy of benefits,” Dr. Ciraldo says.

Target specific areas.

There was a time when oil was believed to cause breakouts, but now it is a beauty routine essential. If you’re still a little shy, reserve oil for the end of your routine and only apply if there are remaining dry areas. Serums, which can be oil based, typically have a main or active ingredient to address a specific benefit. Consider these benefits when layering and apply to areas of your face accordingly.

Don’t forget sunscreen.

Now that summer’s here, you may feel the added challenge of adding a sunscreen into our daily routine. But the truth is you should be wearing it year-round to protect from the sun’s rays, even when you can’t see or feel them. If your moisturizer (and/or makeup) doesn’t have SPF in it, make sure you apply some last — sunscreen is thicker, and your lighter products won’t penetrate the skin if applied on top of it.

Be mindful of the ingredients you’re mixing.

Finally, be aware that some ingredients may not work well together. “Vitamin C and copper peptides seem to cancel each other out,” advises Dr. Ciraldo. Additionally, don’t mix retinols with benzoyl peroxide and acids (and the sun, for that matter).

By Katie Davidson

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