Layering your skincare in order is the underrated selfcare ritual - learn how here

Layering skincare correctly is an artform. To ensure your skin sings all day long and that you never waste drop of product, we've compiled an easy to follow how-to guide to help you morning, noon and night.

Doing your skincare properly — the operative word, properly — is the daily self-care ritual that we all should be doing to take time out in today's world. And, it ensures that you get the best from your products.

Skincare like serums, moisturisers and oils can be a serious investment, and it's all the worthwhile to know what to layer on first to ensure one doesn't negate the other, or vice versa. It’s not an easy game, especially if you’re using a disciplined and targeted approach to fight specific skin issues and fend off new ones.

MECCA retail skincare manager Lucy Shaw advises to “apply your products in order of thinnest consistency to thickest”, a trick she picked up in Korea, the home of skincare layering.

“It can often be confusing,” says Shaw, adding, “if in doubt, apply a pump of each product onto the back of your hand, turn your hand to one side so that they start to run, then, you will know the product that drips first goes on first and then so on and so forth.” Though, of course, there are some outliers and time of day does play into perfecting your layers too. Here’s a step-by-step guide to getting it right.

A.M. Routine

Cleansers, exfoliators, toners and treatments

Whether you’re a firm believer in cleansing in the morning or simply prefer a splash of water, follow up with your exfoliant, chemical or physical, if you use one. If you prefer a physical exfoliant, only reach for this every other day so as not to disrupt your skin’s natural barrier function and always follow up with your toner or mist. If, however, you prefer a chemical exfoliant (one that you don't wash off) reach for that after your toner or treatment lotion.

The Origins Mega Mushroom Soothing Treatment Lotion is a water-based tonic that helps to reduce inflammation and redness while hydrating and soothing — it’s the perfect next step and can be used day or night before serums. Targeted acne or dark spot treatments, if you use them, should be applied next.

“It is best to apply them before your other steps so that they have a chance to absorb first and won’t be diluted by any other products, to get best results we need them to be as concentrated as possible,” Shaw says of these types of concern-specific treatments.

Essences, serums and boosters

Follow up with your preferred cocktail of serums, boosters and essences, always keeping in mind to layer on the thinnest to the thickest formula. These products are generally your protectors and should be packed with skin-loving antioxidants and other environmental aggressor-fighting ingredients. Mecca Cosmetica’s Antioxidant Serum is ideal for daytime use given that it’s packed with vitamins A, E and D to help keep your skin strong and healthy.

Oils, eye creams, moisturisers and SPF

If dry skin is a particular concern, you may want to squeeze an oil in before your moisturiser. Keep in mind that adding an oil to a moisturiser with SPF to boost potency can affect the efficacy of the product, so pat on first rather than mixing together. Eye cream — pat, don’t rub — can be applied just before your daily moisturiser.

And whether you believe in oils for daytime use or not, you do want an easy to wear moisturiser that sits neatly under your make-up but also helps your skin too. The Multi Active Day Cream from Clarins does just that by fighting free-radicals and hydrating while helping to fend off wrinkles.

Lastly, slather on the SPF and don’t skip delicate areas like your eyelids, ears or décolletage. SPF sits on the skin rather than penetrates it, so if it goes on first your other layers will be wasted. Mecca Cosmetica’s To Save Face SPF50+ Superscreen Oxybenzone Free Formula leaves a non-greasy matte finish that primes the skin for make-up and UV rays. SPF should extend to the lips too and be topped up throughout the day. We suggest keeping the Mecca Cosmetica To Save Lips Superscreen Protective Lip Balm with SPF50+ and the Dermalogica Solar Defense Booster SPF 50 on hand to keep your sun protection in check. The balm will slot easily into your daily skincare regimen and the booster, designed to mix in with your foundation or moisturiser or be worn solo, will help with top ups on the go.

P.M. Routine

Cleansers, exfoliators, toners and treatments

All great nighttime skincare routines start with a reliable cleanser or two. If you are one for the double cleanse always be sure to reach for your balm or oil before reaching for a gel or foam-based product. Look to the Oil Obsessed Total Cleansing Oil from Bare Minerals for a lightweight clean that delivers on antioxidants and hydration for step one. This will break down dirt and make-up, while the second step will pick up and clean away any residue. Here, we suggest a pH-balancing wonder like Gallinée’s Foaming Face Cleanser or, if you want this cleanse to treat and clean consider Juice Beauty’s Green Apple Gel Cleanser. Opt out of Juice Beauty’s offering if you have sensitive skin; opt in if fighting dark spots and uneven skin tone is a priority.

If you prefer to exfoliate in the evening, always reach for this product after a good and thorough cleanse. You do not want to rub the day’s dirt and grime further into the skin, especially if you prefer a physical exfoliator. Splash on your toner, mist or treatment lotion to prep the skin for your next steps.

Essences, serums and boosters

Again, these products make up the middle of your evening routine and the same principles apply. Keep in mind though you don’t need to use all products, every single day. Shaw recommends an essence for all routines, given their thirst-quenching abilities: our “skin can carry out all of its usual functions better when it is hydrated, which is why essences have proven to make a real difference in our routines.” If you’re having a flare up or feel like your skin is lacking in a certain department, drop in your booster for a targeted treatment.

Oils, eye creams and moisturisers

But that you can and should dip into an oil when your skin needs a break from more active products or just some TLC; Go-To’s Face Hero oil is lightweight enough to slip on day or night and the nourishing plant and nut oils protect but also brighten your complexion. As for moisturiser, lock in all that skincare goodness you just layered on with a richer more nourishing cream like the Mecca Cosmetica Hydrating Moisturiser. The ultra-rich formula is perfect for evening and is packed with amino acids and plant peptides.


Vitamin A treatments like retinols can make the skin more sensitive to the sun so it's generally recommended to apply in the evening. Depending on the texture of your preferred retinol it can slip into your routine anywhere. If it’s lightweight, apply pre serum and after your exfoliant or cleanser, depending on what steps you prefer. Retinols that are cream-like should be applied before moisturisers and after serums. If new to vitamin As, mix in with your moisturiser to get a feel for the product first.

Masks and mists tend to be outliers when discussing skincare layering, especially when we consider our rule of thumb. Masks should always be applied to cleansed and clean skin and removed before serums or oils are applied. For those with parched skin, a thin layer of your favourite hydrating mask can sit neatly under moisturiser and on top of serums without issue. Though we suggest opting for this when you’re having a make-up-free day. As for mists, you can apply these post cleanse and pre serum for added moisture. The iconic Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour range now extends to a mist that you can spritz on day or night for a soothing boost to the skin that actually lasts.


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