Layering Skin Care Products for Max Results

Shanéa Pebbles, Licensed Aesthetician

Okay, let’s see a show of hands if you are one of those people that gets excited trying out a new skin care product…you are definitely not the only one! There are so many great products out there, and many of us have a drawer full of them. The great thing is that you are taking the time to care for your skin. If you want to get the maximum benefits from your skin care products, you might want to try layering them in a particular order. At Advanced Dermatology & Skin Surgery, we try to demystify the art of layering.

Why is it Important to Layer Skin Care Products?

For some products to be effective, they need to be absorbed by your skin, which takes a little time and patience. You need to allow the active ingredients to get where they need to go. Applying products in the right order is essential, as well as giving each of them a little time before using the next product. A good rule of thumb is to apply them based on consistency. Start with the thinner, lightweight product, then apply the thicker ones last. Remember, this rule applies whether you use a few products daily or enjoy using a wide range of items.

Here is the best order for layering skin care products:

  1. Cleanser
  2. Toner
  3. Spot treatment
  4. Serum
  5. Moisturizer – don’t forget your eye cream
  6. Oil – great for using on dry spots
  7. Sunscreen

Since we recommend you use some products during the day and others at night, we provide an example for each routine time.


Cleanse, add toner to the skin (if you use toner), apply vitamin C serum – wait about 30 seconds to 1 minute, then apply moisturizer and SPF. Sunscreen is always last in the morning as that is your final step in protecting your skin.


Cleanse, apply a pea-sized amount of Retin-A (less is more!), wait about 1 minute, then apply moisturizer. If you are using a prescription tretinoin, you can moisturize first before applying the prescription to help with any irritation.

We all have very different skin, and some may require more individualized skin care products. A variety of specialty products are available to suit individual skin care needs. Some examples are hyaluronic acid, brightening serums, acne medications, products for sensitive skin, and so on. It’s best to discuss these with a Dermatology Provider so they can recommend the most suitable products for your skin and help you incorporate them into your current skin care routine.

Are There Certain Products I Should use Every Day? 

  • Sunscreen – Many sunscreens are moisturizer inclusive now, which eliminates one step in your morning routine. If you feel like you need a little more moisture during the day, layer a daily moisturizer underneath sunscreen.
  • Vitamin C for daytime, followed by a moisturizer.
  • Retin-A at night, followed by a moisturizer. Not everyone is able to, but if you can tolerate a retinol-based product nightly, go for it; if not, 3-4 times per week is just fine.

Make sure to use your sunscreen during the day only, which is why it’s nice to have a separate moisturizer for nighttime. You can use your daily moisturizer for the night, but ensure it has no sunscreen. Since not everyone can tolerate a retinol-based product, we recommend a glycolic or AHA-based serum or moisturizer to ensure you are still exfoliating your skin while minimizing fine lines, wrinkles, and age spots.

Add a Mask to Your Routine

Masks are a great way to pamper your skin, and there is one for all kinds of desired needs. Depending on the type of mask, we typically recommend using them once weekly and in the evening. Like a wash day for hair, plan a mask day for yourself. Exfoliate with a scrub first, then apply a mask appropriate for your skin. Once you remove the mask, follow with your usual nighttime routine.

What is Your Daily Skin Care Routine?

I like to keep things simple, which I also think is very important for people with a busy schedule! My morning routine consists of cleansing, vitamin C, eye cream, then a combination moisturizer/SPF. My evening routine includes cleansing, eye cream, and an AHA moisturizer. I’m sensitive to retinol, so I can’t use it regularly. I also like to use an exfoliating scrub at least once a week, and when I have time, a clay mask or hydrating mask – those I use about once weekly as well.

When it comes to your skin, you should always treasure it and aim to do what is healthiest for it. Our expert, highly qualified, and caring Providers at Advanced Dermatology & Skin Surgery are passionate about working with our patients to help them reach this goal. Book an appointment for any of your skin care needs, including how to use your products to maximize the results.


 Shanéa Pebbles, Licensed Aesthetician – Shanéa specializes in Cosmetic Dermatology at our Coeur d’Alene location. She is also a trained Medical Assistant, giving her a great range of experience in Dermatology. This experience allows her to guide her patients toward optimal skin health. Shanéa enjoys reading, dancing, listening to music, traveling, and cooking with her husband when she is not working.