You will be glad to hear that the majority of the time there is one hard and fast rule… Working from consistency, start from the thinnest consistency to the thickest. This means that after cleansing, your liquidous essences come first, followed by your thinnest serums, to heavier serums, to moisturisers and on to leave-on masques.
There are SOME exceptions to the rule:
Eye cream – if it’s a particularly potent eye cream full of antioxidants, peptides and/or hyaluronic acid, it should be going on first
Spot treatments – salicylic acid spot treatments and products like Acne Out Active Lotion and Neostrata Enlighten Pigment Lightening Gel should be applied directly to the skin, even before any vitamin A
Vitamin A – topical vitamin A, whether my favourite fat-form retinyl palmitate or retinol, comes before everything else (bar your spot treatments, as noted) as you want it to penetrate very well
So, hypothetically, your skincare regime should be going something like this:
Step 1: Spot treatment & super potent eye creams
After cleansing, apply your spot treatment, whether for spot-spots or pigmentation, directly to the area. The same goes for highly active, cosmeceutical eye creams. This is because you are trying to target an exact area with something strong so you want it to be as close to the skin as possible.
Step 2: Your vitamin A serum
This breaks the rules as it is common for your vitamin A serum to be a little bit thicker than the average serum. In my opinion, vitamin A is usually the most important ingredient in a skincare regime – it is the only vitamin that is proven to change the physiology of the skin and helps the skin to create collagen and elastin, the proteins that give our skin density and stretch.
Step 3: Your lightest serum
The serum with the most fluid consistency is next, like your IMAGE Iluma Intense Lightening Serum (€52.00, available on The Skin Nerd store). This is because we want this product to penetrate into the skin and if we put a thick, heavy moisturiser on before this, the largest molecular size may prevent this from happening. Science!
Step 4: Heavier serums & moisturisers
Next up comes your heavier serums and your moisturisers, the products that are verging towards a more cream-like consistency.
Your final step: Night cream, overnight masques or SPF
This final step depends on whether it is day or night. Your last step before makeup in the AM should always be your SPF and you shouldn’t be mixing it with another product as this can stop the light-protective ingredients from being effective.
At night, it is going to be your night cream or your overnight masque, for example, the new Academie Derm Acte High Vitamin Moisturizing Cream (€65.00). When a night cream or overnight masque contains occlusive oily or lipidic ingredients, it serves the purpose of locking the other skincare products onto the skin too and prevents them from evaporating off while you’re sleeping.
This is a general guide and there certainly are more exceptions out there. Personally, I’m a mixer, a nerdie in-palm scientist, as I will combine some of my serums in the palm of my hand to save time. For the most part, you only want to mix serums and products that are similar in thickness but sometimes it actually makes certain products easier to apply. The IMAGE Iluma Serum I mentioned earlier is notoriously sticky and tacky so when it’s mixed with silkier serums like the IMAGE Ormedic Balancing Antioxidant Serum, it is slightly more simple to smooth it on!
When it comes to leaving time between layers, you can if you like, but for the most part, in my opinion, it’s only truly important when it comes to SPF. Leave a few minutes between the last product applied before your SPF and SPF application so as not to make the SPF less effective. Same goes for applying makeup afterwards.
A nerdie word of advice – if you’re using high-quality skincare, do not fret it too much. If you’re c, using a serum and wearing an SPF, you’re already sucking diesel!