The Simplest Hack to Applying Skincare in the Right Order

A simple, science-based 4-step routine will usually work better and save you time and money. You can add actives as you go to target specific concerns like oily skin or dark spots. With one simple skincare hack, learn how to get the most out of your products today!

person with nice skin, simple skincare hack
Skincare is like an onion with layers – source

Skincare can be confusing when you have 12 steps and no guide on how to layer them right. Spoiler alert though, you don’t need 12 steps. Find out an easy way to know how to layer skincare today! It has to do with skin concern, active type, and what you want your skincare to do for you.

What are Actives in Skincare?

Actives in skincare are ingredients that serve a purpose, such as oil control, hydration, or reducing dark spots. A simple list of actives and their purpose is found at the end of the article.

Layering Actives Correctly (not the simple skincare hack)

This applies to any ingredient that is for a specific purpose in leave-on treatments. Any actives in cleansers, while important, are just washed off within a few seconds.

Actives serve more purpose when they are in toners, serums, essences, lotions, and moisturizers. These are skincare leave-on products that allow the actives to skin deep into the skin.

In theory, you want to start from the thinnest consistency to the thickest consistency. This means toners and essences are first, followed by serums, and finally moisturizers. Check out the hack below though to truly get the most out of your skincare routine and actually see changes!

Simple Skincare Hack for Layering Products 

The best thing to take into consideration is that the first product you put on after cleansing is usually going to be the one that penetrated the deepest. If you have skin concerns pertaining to dark spots or hyperpigmentation, you want the first leave-on ingredient to have a brightening active like vitamin c or niacinamide. If you struggle with redness, reach for a product with chamomile or azelaic acid. A complete list of actives and their purpose can be found at the end!

In actuality, you don’t really need a toner. Toners were used to balance the skin’s pH, but nowadays, cleansers usually come pH balanced. So skipping toners, unless it’s a toner with good active ingredients, may be the best step.

Choose a serum with actives that you need to help you on your skincare journey. 

Quick Tips for Layering Products

Here is a list of quick tips for layering skincare!

  • Skincare fridges, while preserving the product, affect absorption. Warmer temps will absorb better than colder ones.
  • Use a couple of fingers to apply skincare instead of palms. If you use your entire hands, your skincare is mostly absorbed by the hands.
  • Use circular motions to apply skincare to increase absorption to the max.
  • Pat the skincare products in gently
  • Make sure your hands are clean to not trap dirt and germs in the layers of your skincare! I hand product containers with the thumb and index and use my ring and middle fingers to apply.
  • Try skin cycling to get the most out of your actives while avoiding sensitivity and damage to the skin barrier.
  • Patch test any new product on the wrist, inside of the forearm, or side of the neck before applying it to the face to make sure you do not have a bad reaction to it.
  • Treat skincare as self-care.

Skin Concern and Which Active to Use

Here is a quick list of common skin concerns and what actives you want to find in products!


For acne, look for products with benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, or azelaic acid. Use retinal to increase skin cell turnover as well.

Dry Skin

For dry skin, use products with ceramides, mineral oil, hyaluronic acid, and vitamin E. Try slugging with petrolatum products if needed.

Oily Skin

Use products with niacinamide, azelaic acid, or salicylic acid for oily skin

Dark Spots

Ingredients good for hyperpigmentation are lactic acid, glycolic acid, vitamin C, azelaic acid, retinal, caffeine, and kojic acid. Use sunscreen as a preventative measure or to stop dark spots from getting darker.


Niacinamide, aloe vera, chamomile, resveratrol, or azelaic acid are all good for reading with redness. Use products with sulfur ingredients as well if the redness is bad.

The Takeaway

Layering can be simple with this simple skincare hack. Find products with actives that target the skin concerns you have and watch the issues disappear. Usually, you want to use products from the thinnest consistency to the thickest. The first product you apply will usually be the one that penetrates the deepest, which is why you want to choose serums with active ingredients that will help you along your skincare journey.

Remember, skin care is about progress, not perfection. Have fun trying new products, do a patch test, and be kind to yourself.

Many skin concerns come from within. Excess stress can lead to an imbalance of hormones detrimental to the skin and overall health. Never forget that health starts from within. These small steps can make a big difference in your wellbeing.

Even the gut microbiota plays a role in skin conditions, such as eczema or acne. Unbalanced gut microbiota may lead to weakness in the muscle, mental health issues, and even a compromised immune system. Learn all about taking care of the gut here for free with these resources today!

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