The final answer to the right skincare layering order

Ciao, welcome back to my blog!

Today's post will be the final answer to the right skincare layering order, meaning the correct and definite list of steps we should follow in our morning and night skincare routine to have healthy and glowing skin.

I am not an expert. I am just very passionate about the topic and, despite being a minimalist, I consider myself a skincare junkie.

The reason behind my obsession with skincare is that I believe this is something that everybody, men included, should do regularly to take appropriate care of themselves. After all, we've only got one face.

The days where I used to simply wash my face and not even applying moisturiser religiously are long gone.

I would have appreciated that someone explained to me how crucial it is to have proper skincare me when I was 20, along with the notion that your neck should be included in said skincare routine as well.

I am writing this post because I have been reading many articles and watched an insane amount of tutorials about the right skincare layering order but I am still deeply confused.

The doubt is killing me.

Every beauty guru, skincare expert, a dermatologist on earth wrote a list of very specific steps on how to layer skincare products in the right order.

Now, some of you might think: who cares about the order? It's not a big deal.

What matters is to put them on our face.

Well, apparently this is not true:

"If you don’t layer your products in the right way, or if you use the wrong moisturizer with, say, the wrong toner, you could render them straight-up ineffective—or, worse, hardcore irritate your face and slowly lead to your own demise."

This is exactly what Chloe Metzger, deputy beauty director at Cosmopolitan, states in a very popular article on the website's blog. The second one on Google when typing in "skincare layering".

Below, another extract from Dermstore's blog:

"We asked skin experts the question we wonder every time we buy a new skincare product or add a step to our routine: In what order should I apply my skincare products, and does it matter? (After all, we absorb the same amount of sugar in sweets even if we eat them last, right? Unfortunately…) Turns out, it does matter! (...)

Sequence Matters Here’s Why

According to board-certified dermatologist and dermatologic surgeon, Dr Heather Rogers, applying your skincare products in the proper order ensures that your skin receives the full benefits of each product.

“The order of application is incredibly important,” says Dr Rogers. “The skin’s job is to keep things out, but many of the skincare products we use have ingredients we want to get in. Only a very small amount of these key ingredients can penetrate the skin, even when perfectly formulated and perfectly applied. If you don’t apply products in the correct order, you will not see the best results from your skincare regimen.”

More from Lauren Sharkey, Healthline:

"There isn’t much point in having a skincare routine if your products don’t get a chance to penetrate your skin."

So, just to be blunt...what is the point of buying the boujee stuff to put on my face to be pretty if I am not doing it correctly? Wasting my money and time.

Going back, it all this faff started for a reason:

I honestly thought I was doing ok so far when, one lovely day, I thought I could try a tanning lotion I bought recently.

My first doubt is: can I use it on my face? On the leaflet that comes with it says yes. Ok, good.

But then, when?

Before the moisturiser? After? Or maybe right after cleansing? Mah. It doesn't say.

I had a look online and I have found trillions of step by step online guidelines but none of them is listing in which part of my skincare routine I should apply the bloody tanning lotion.

Maybe it falls under the subcategory of treatments? Not sure. It is like the Hamletic question: which came first, the egg or the chicken?

I came across an article that filled me with more perplexity by Alexis Teasdale from Mamamia

"It’s not quite as easy as slapping it all on and expecting results. You’re going to need a clever routine because face fake tan is not friends with retinol or alpha hydroxy acids (two of the main players.)"

Mmm...and so what should I do then?!

After that, the very recent post by Bridget March from Harper's Bazaar in which she interviewed the self-tanning authority James Harknett finally gave me some answers:

"The face should be cleaned before applying the tanning lotion as any surface oils will make your tanning product less effective."

Basically, "the tan is going to have more staying power if you can avoid your skincare right before application".

He then goes into further instructions:

"There is a lot of debate around product use on tanned skin, as currently, people can have skincare regimes with many complicated steps. While I am obviously hugely in favour of looking after your skin, I would try to keep it as simple as possible the morning after you have applied your facial self-tanner. While it’s certainly not a time to exfoliate, it is a good time to hydrate the skin (...) I would avoid active ingredients like retinoids and exfoliating acids while using your facial tanner (of course, hyaluronic acid is fine as it retains moisture!)."

Amazing. Now we know. Thank you very much indeed.

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Now my thirst for knowledge is insatiable: I want to dig deeper until I can nail it.

One thing leads to the other, I compared the charts I found on various competent websites to check if my current method is ok or if I am actually missing something.

I suddenly realised that they are all a bit different.

If the order really does matter, then why does everybody have a slightly dissimilar procedure?

Some of them are even contradictory.

From what I understood reading around, the general rule to follow is to apply from thin-to-thick (or lightest-heaviest) texture.

Apparently, we can layer multiple products. We just need to pay attention to applying water-based before oil-based and wait around 30 seconds between each other. The daily routine should be slightly different from night one and we should use targeted items for each part of the day.

But then, some of them recommend leaving the eye cream for last, some in the middle, some swear by using facial oils at the very end and others say that it depends on which oil and some claim the moisturiser has to go after. Oh my goodness!!!

Take a look at them yourself:

If your head is spinning, welcome to the club!

Wait, it is not over yet!

I was reading an article from

The best chemical ingredients our creams and serums should contain are:

-Vitamin C

-Hyaluronic acid


I am not going to tell you what they are for and how they benefit your skin.

The key thing to know is that they are all good for you, especially after 25 years old.

Now I am only dealing with the layering order of these products here.

Some of the treatments above can be combined but there is a specific way of doing so.

I am copy-pasting a bit from Health:

"Retinoids can be irritating and drying to the skin, especially when you first start using them,” says Shari Lipner, MD, PhD, a dermatologist at NewYork-Presbyterian and Weill Cornell Medicine. (...)Combine retinoids with other strong ingredients found in cleansers, creams, and serums, and the results can be uncomfortable—and unsightly, too."

Ah. Nowadays we need to be a chemist to apply creams.

That's the list of products that should NOT be combined with retinol then:


-Astringents, toners, and other drying agents

-Benzoyl peroxide (a common ingredient found in acne treatments)

Conclusion: make sure to check the ingredients contained in your creams and serums before applying them or mixing them.

The right procedure to mix Vitamin C, Hyaluronic acid and Retinol is:

-Use the vitamin C serum in the morning to wake your skin up.

-Follow with Hyaluronic acid (which can be found in many face masks or moisturisers) to add long-lasting hydration.

-Use retinol only in the evening on your clean and dry skin.

Do not exfoliate skin when applying retinol as it will lead to irritation.

Apply a nourishing moisturiser after retinol, because it can be drying.

Also, retinol is not safe during pregnancy, so stop to use it if you are or you are planning to be.

It is crazy when I think that sometimes I just used to shop randomly for skincare products online or even in stores and they might not be suitable for my skin type or with the skincare products that I already have.

This taught me that we all need to be more mindful about skincare in general.

These are chemical products after all.

They can be beneficial for our skin but we need to make informed decisions and they need to be handled properly and applied carefully to be effective and without causing damage. On top of it, from now on I will always ask for help from the competent staff when browsing.

What I have done to clear my doubts is testing every single procedure I could find.

I have been testing them for weeks and I have got my very personal answer to the right skincare layering order now.

From my experience and for my type of skin, which is dry and sensitive, sometimes prone to blemish during hormonal changes, that's what works:


1) Cleansing

2) Toner

3) Serum and/or any specific treatment

4) Moisturiser

5) Face oil

6) Eye cream

7) Face roller

8) Sunscreen

9) Makeup

All the charts agree about the first two steps: cleansing and the tone after.

In the morning I would use something gentle and not too stripping for my skin:

The serum (mine is a calming essence that fights redness) should be specific for your skin type needs.

It should be applied in the third step to properly penetrate the skin barrier.

The tricky part: in my opinion, the moisturiser goes after the serum and before the facial oil.

A normal moisturiser can't simply penetrate the skin after the oil.