by Alexandra Nicole Nuralam

How To Layer Your Skincare Products for Maximum Effectiveness

The BEAUBIT guide to layering your skincare products; for them to work their magic and for you to reap their benefits.

Image via @othersummers

Honestly, you would think a skincare routine wouldn’t be all that complicated. But with a growing number of products on the market, figuring out whether you should have a 10-step skincare routine (and how) can be a little daunting.

Here’s another scary thought: that expensive serum you apply every night might not be working as well as it should because you slapped on moisturizer first. The way you layer your skincare products is important in order for them to work and for you to reap their benefits.

Ahead, we’ve got a general guide for you on basic skincare layering and building your routine; plus our tips on how to effectively incorporate other products like face oil and retinol.

From thin to thick

The simplest and easiest rule to follow is:

apply from thinnest to thickest in texture.

This ensures that the product is in direct contact with your skin (which is what skincare products are for). Plus, if you’re putting fluid or water-based products on top of thick, creamy ones, they may not penetrate. The richer products will form a barrier on your skin that prevents anything else from getting through.

Adapt your products to your skin

Curating a skincare routine that works is all about choosing the right products at the right time. If you already know your general skin type, choose products that are going to target your particular concerns. You’re experiencing more breakouts when the weather gets hotter? Use an AHA or BHA serum. Is your skin is drier than usual? Maybe it’s time to break out a hydrating face mask. Identifying exactly what your skin needs is key to having an effective skincare routine.

How to layer active ingredients

As they say, too much of a good thing is a bad thing. That’s why it’s no surprise that some active ingredients, which are just as volatile as they are potent, need to be used at separate times or shouldn’t be used in conjunction with other ingredients. 

Vitamin C

There’s certainly nothing against using vitamin C products in the evening, but you may get the most benefit from using them in the morning since vitamin C thrives in the daytime. The one ingredient you should steer clear of when using vitamin C products is benzoyl peroxide, which can oxidise the vitamin C and make it less effective. Try using vitamin C in the morning and benzoyl peroxide in the evenings, or use them on different days.

Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum, SGD114


End your nighttime routine with retinol, which can reduce the appearance of fine lines and pigmentation issues. Retinol is not for daytime use since it breaks down in the sun. It also shouldn’t be paired with some ingredients, like vitamin C, benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid, which can irritate your skin.

Pixi Retinol Overnight Oil, SGD45.50


For best results, apply on cleansed skin twice daily. And the ingredient to avoid? Vitamin C. Their potency is diminished when used together, so it’s best to use them at separate times.

Skin Inc Vitamin B3+ Serum, SGD68

AHAs and BHAs

Many don’t advise using AHAs, BHAs and vitamin C together, but if your skin can tolerate them, it is possible to use acids at the same time as vitamin C. If your skin is on the more sensitive side, it would likely be best for you to use vitamin C during the day, and the AHA or BHA at night (since they do make the skin more prone to sunburn).

Ren Clean Skincare Ready Steady Glow Daily AHA Tonic, SGD44
Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA (Salicylic Acid) Liquid Exfoliator, SGD45

Never skip sunscreen

Always use sunscreen, period. No matter how diligent you are with your skincare, none of it will have any effect if you’re not using a good SPF to protect yourself from the sun’s rays.

Don’t leave your acne treatments to the last

This step is a common mistake for many. Ideally, you’d apply your spot treatments before moisturizers; this is so they can really penetrate your skin without having another barrier to go through. But of course, read the label on your spot treatment of choice for directions on how to use before applying; some should be applied on moisturized skin, like Mario Badescu’s Drying Lotion (SGD36).

The Skincare Routine

Keep in mind that your morning skincare routine might differ from your evening one; you can reserve double cleansing and treatments (like AHAs and BHAs) for your nighttime skincare routine.

Step 1: Cleanser. First things first: always start with clean skin. For evenings, you can do a double cleanse, starting with an oil-based cleanser then a water-based cleanser.

DHC Deep Cleansing Oil, SGD34
Fresh Soy Face Cleanser, SGD63

Step 2: Toner. Next, move on to toner, which removes any last traces of dirt and impurities stuck in your pores after cleansing.

Aesop B & Tea Balancing Toner, SGD45
Pixi Glow Tonic, SGD24

Step 3: Essence or Serum. Layer on your favourite essence or serum. Which one goes first depends on the consistency; make sure to take time to tap it into the skin to lock in all the goodness.

Clarins Multi-Active Treatment Essence, SGD70
First Aid Beauty Skin Lab Retinol Serum .25% Pure Concentrate, SGD92

Step 4: Eye cream. Hydrate the delicate under-eye area and keep fine lines and wrinkles at bay with an eye cream of your choice.

Origins GinZing Refreshing Eye Cream to Brighten and De-puff, SGD52
Burt’s Bees Skin Nourishment Eye Cream, SGD52

Step 5: Spot treatments. Treat any acne with products containing acne-fighting ingredients like salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide. (You can skip this step in the morning!)

Origins Spot Remover Acne Treatment Gel, SGD34
Kate Somerville EradiKate Acne Treatment, SGD29.90

Step 6: Moisturizer. Apply moisturizer to keep your skin balanced and hydrated. If you have dry skin, reach for a thicker moisturizing cream. For those with oilier skin, try a light gel texture.

Drunk Elephant Lala Retro Whipped Cream, SGD86
Skinceuticals Daily Moisture, SGD97

Step 7: Face oil. Always apply face oils last—they are occlusive, which means they seal everything in to keep them from evaporating quickly. And don’t think that oils are just for dry skin—they can help replenish your skin’s natural oils, which can balance sebum levels and keep breakouts at bay.

Sunday Riley C.E.O. Glow Vitamin C + Turmeric Face Oil, SGD113
Drunk Elephant Virgin Marula Luxury Facial Oil, SGD102

Step 8: Sunscreen. The final step to any good daytime skincare routine is sunscreen. (Skip this step in the evening!)

Supergoop ZincScreen 100% Mineral Lotion, SGD62
Shiseido Urban Environment UV Protection Cream Plus SPF50, SGD59.50