How to layer beauty products correctly

By now most of us are au fait with using a serum, moisturiser and sunscreen daily. But when we talk about layering products, we mean applying six or seven of them. Yes, it might take longer, but your skin will thank you for it. Here’s how to give it a go:


L’Oréal Skin Perfection Correcting Serum, $30.

L’Oréal Skin Perfection Correcting Serum, $30.

1. Start light

It may seem obvious but put the lightest and thinnest products on first; ie, your serums. “The general rule is the finer formulations go first,” says Lauren Harding, skin team leader at The Face Place.

“Layering can be appropriate because serums and their ingredients have different functions in your skin, thus often multiple serums are required.” Pick two serums that treat your concerns: peptides for wrinkles, salicylic acid for oily skin and licorice to calm redness.

Our picks: Elizabeth Arden Flawless Future Caplet Serum, $121; Nellie Tier Face Serum Sea Buckthorn & Anar, $65; and L’Oréal Skin Perfection Correcting Serum, $30.

Joyce Blok Serum C20, $108

Joyce Blok Serum C20, $108

2. Add antioxidants

Vitamin A or C should be the cornerstone of your beauty regime. “Vitamins A and C are easily destroyed by UV light, which is why in New Zealand we are chronically depleted of the vitamins in our skin,” Harding says. The addition of an antioxidant will stimulate collagen production and reduce inflammation and the production of pigmentation.

Our picks: Joyce Blok Serum C20, $108; Body Shop Vitamin E Overnight Serum-in-Oil, $45; and Radical Youth Infusion Serum, $248.

Don’t mix: Vitamin C and beta or alpha hydroxy acids: The acid changes the pH of theVitamin C, meaning its antioxidant properties will be ineffective.


3. Coffee time

Most serums absorb almost instantly. However, Harding says, “Some serums need a chance to penetrate for best performance prior to a moisturiser being applied. This is why leaving a few minutes between application of the products is advisable.” Work this in with your morning routine; apply a product, boil the jug; put on another, make a coffee; put on another, brush your teeth, etc.


Trilogy Daily Defence Moisturiser with SPF15, $56

Trilogy Daily Defence Moisturiser with SPF15, $56

4. Lock it in

The addition of a moisturiser will help to lock in hydration.

Our picks: Dr Hauschka Rose Day Cream, $54; Clarins Super Restorative Day Cream, $154; and Trilogy Daily Defence Moisturiser with SPF15, $56.

Don’t mix: Benzoyl peroxide and retinoids – you’ll be wasting your time as these two ingredients deactivate each other.


how to layer beauty products

Murad Sensitive Skin Soothing Serum, $100.

5. Sensitive skin

If your skin gets easily irritated with more than one product, go in reverse. Try a fragrance-free moisturiser first then apply serum on top. Of course, this will reduce the serum’s potency, which may not be what you want. “A more effective treatment would be to choose a serum designed for sensitive skin,” Harding says.

Our pick: Murad Sensitive Skin Soothing Serum, $100.

how to layer beauty products

Evolu Facial Serum, $65

6. Just add oil

If you’re only using a drop or two, oil can really make your skin look more radiant. Apply to dry areas after creams as oils can penetrate moisturiser but not the other way round.

Our picks: Sans Ceuticals Activator 7 Body + Hair + Face Oil, $56; Linden Leaves Facial Oil, $65; Kiehl’s Midnight Recovery Concentrate, $98; Evolu Facial Serum, $65; and Pure Fiji Dilo Oil, $69.

how to layer beauty products

Prevage Anti-aging Triple Defense Shield Sunscreen SPF 50, $155

7. Don’t forget protection

Sunscreen should be your last step, before makeup; if you apply it first it could inhibit absorption of the active ingredients in your serums. “A sunscreen is most effective when applied as a standalone product and not as part of a moisturiser, to ensure its full protection benefits,” Harding says.

Our picks: Prevage Anti-aging Triple Defense Shield Sunscreen SPF 50, $155; Clinique City Block Sheer, $50; and Model Co Daily Face Mattifying Sunscreen, $45.

how to layer beauty products

Environ Retinol 1, $77.

8. At night

Ending your nightly routine with a retinoid can help take years off. Apply your retinol over a serum and a cream to lessen any irritation.

Our picks: Kate Somerville RetAsphere 2-in-1 Retinol Night Cream, $130; Dr Brandt Do Not Age Transforming Pearl Serum, $234; and Environ Retinol 1, $77.

Don’t mix: Beta or alpha hydroxy acids (like salicylic, glycolic, and lactic) with retinoids – layering these over each other can leave you peeling. You can use both – but apply one in the morning
and one at night.