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Here’s how to layer your skin care products like a pro, according to a licensed esthetician

So I know there are so many skin care products on the market, and it might be a little overwhelming trying to figure out which products you should use, if the products are even worth it and how to layer your skin care products for maximum results.

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As an esthetician and skin care expert working in the beauty industry, I take pride in helping my clients (and everyone, really) reach their “glow goals” by making sure their skin care regimes are best optimized to their skin types. Plus, I’ve literally tried, studied and tested so many products on the market over the last six years, so you don’t have to!

I hear very often, “Does my eye cream go after my moisturizer?” “What step should I use my serum?” and, “Wait, I should be using a toner?”

These are common questions, and you should never be afraid to ask! For starters, you need to identify what your skin needs and make sure you truly understand your skin type. Then, you’ll know the exact ingredients you need to address your skin concerns. I’ve often heard of people who thought they had dry skin because their skin was red and peeling, where, in fact, they were experiencing inflammation due to certain products they were using.

It’s so important to pay attention to your skin, understand what specific ingredients actually do to your skin and not necessarily always try the trending product on TikTok. Skin care routines are not one-size-fits-all, so it’s best to do your research and find out what works best for you.

If you already know your skin type and understand your skin care concerns, I’ve listed some of the best expert-level, tried-and-true products below for you to try! But stick around and keep reading to make sure you’re layering them in the right order.

Also, I’ve listed my top recommendations below (and in order) before getting into why each step is important.

By now, you may be asking yourself, “Is layering your skin care in the correct order really that important?” Yes, I promise it is! When you don’t, you could be affecting the efficacy of the products. In turn, your skin won’t receive the products’ maximum benefits.

To start, the most important rule to remember is to make sure to apply products from the lightest to heaviest. My recommended order is cleanser, toner, serum, eye cream, and then moisturizer. I prefer using a moisturizer with an SPF so I can limit that extra step, but if your moisturizer doesn’t already have SPF in it, then you need to make sure SPF is your final step in your skin care routine.

Step 1: Cleanser

Top Cleanser For Normal, Combo & Oily Skin: CeraVe Foaming Facial Cleanser, $17.99

This is my go-to cleanser for combination and oily skin. It’s formulated with hyaluronic acid to hydrate (without clogging pores) and ceramides for skin barrier support.
$18 at Ulta

No matter your skin type, make sure your cleanser is gentle and non-stripping. Even if you have oily skin, you may feel the urge to over-cleanse and somewhat wash the “oils” away. Don’t do this! Your skin still needs moisture, no matter how oily it may feel.

And for my makeup girlies, it’s so easy to accidentally over-cleanse and incorrectly double-cleanse while washing off your makeup (adding more oils or stripping necessary moisture from your skin). To prevent this, try YouthForia Night Off Cleanser in the evenings before bed. Its gentle formula removes makeup and sunscreen buildup and is formulated with antioxidant green tea to gently exfoliate dead skin cells, helping your skin care products absorb better.

Step 2: Toner

Best Toner For Balanced Skin: Paula’s Choice Replenishing Toner with Hyaluronic Acid, $26

This is a great option to replenish moisture for dry and dull skin.
$26 at Sephora

Toning is an important step in any skin care routine, and this is where I find people skip the most. Toning helps to restore your skin’s natural pH level–and remove any traces of dirt, makeup or impurities that your cleanser may have missed. Plus, toning preps your skin to absorb the other products in your routine much better. For combo and oily skin, my go-to is Clinique Clarifying Lotion 3 to minimize pores and remove excess oil.

Step 3: Serum

Top-Rated Serum For Glowing Skin: SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic, $182

With this one, a little goes a long way. It also improves signs of aging by reducing the appearance of lines and wrinkles while boosting the radiance of your overall complexion.
$182 at Dermstore

SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic is a splurge, I know. But hear me out… It’s so worth the investment, and your skin will be glowing in no time! And a little goes a long way (I got mine two months ago, I use it every morning, and I still have half of the bottle left). Its antioxidant-based formula is a combination of ferulic acid and pure vitamins C and E to protect against environmental damage caused by free radicals (like UV damage and pollution).

Pro Tip: If you’ve never used a vitamin C serum before or have sensitive skin, I would recommend starting with a lower percentage, like CeraVe’s 10% Vitamin C Serum. When it comes to skin-irritating ingredients like vitamin C, retinol, and products containing acids, always start with the lowest percentage of the active ingredient possible to build your skin’s tolerance to the product. And then, you can slowly increase the formula percentage level over time. Lastly, always do a patch test and make sure to wear sunscreen (which is the last step of your routine)!

Step 4: Eye Cream

Most-Loved Eye Cream for Dark Circles & Puffiness: Youth To The People Vitamin C + Caffeine Eye Cream, $69

There aren't a ton of eye creams on the market that simultaneously reduce dark circles and puffiness, but this one actually does.
$72 at Amazon

With vitamin C and caffeine, it’s a super dose of antioxidants that reduces the look of hyperpigmentation, evens skin tone, and visibly firms the skin around the eyes. This is an important step to do before your moisturizer, as the skin under your eye is super delicate, and these eye-loving ingredients absorb first before layering your moisturizer.

Step 5: Moisturizer

Top-Rated Acne Moisturizer: TULA Breakout Star, $52

This moisturizer is oil-free and won’t dry out your skin like many acne products do.
$52 at Ulta

While it’s hydrating and moisturizing your skin, it treats and prevents breakouts with salicylic acid. Plus, it brightens dark spots from past blemishes with niacinamide and azelaic acid. And for combo and oily skin, try Neutrogena Hydro Boost with hyaluronic acid, which will help your skin retain moisture without clogging your pores.

Step 6: Daily SPF (Final but most important step)!

Best Daily Moisturizer with SPF: La Roche-Posay Anthelios UV Correct Sunscreen, $36.99

This SPF is perfect for layering on top of any moisturizer because it’s lightweight, non-greasy, and absorbs quickly with a sheer finish.
$37 at La Roche-Posay

Sunscreen should always be the final step of your skin care routine to protect your skin from UV damage which not only causes fine lines, wrinkles and dark spots but can ultimately lead to skin cancer. This one is formulated with skin care ingredients to help visibly correct uneven skin tone, fine lines, and rough skin texture, leaving your skin more even, smoother and healthier looking.

If you enjoyed this story, check out this $9 hair oil that’s like ‘miracle grow’ for your hair and the industry’s best-kept secret for curing dryness and split ends.

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