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Layering Serums

Layering serums and other skincare active ingredients can be quite tasking.

How to Layer serums and other skincare ingredients

Here is a scenario, you’ve watched all these skincare videos and seen and bought all these amazing products, but you are not sure how exactly to use them effectively.

Should you mix them?

Which one should you apply first?

Should you wait after applying each?

Are there rules on how they should be used?

If you have lots of different skin woes to fix, we recommend you go for a multi-tasking serum and then add an extra one or two to address your most pressing problem. A great example of this is The Ordinary Buffet Serum. As the name suggests, it’s a buffet of skincare ingredients.

Disclaimer: If you need to understand the different serums and ingredients, please refer to our previous article on serums.

However, if you find yourself in a position where you have very many serums that you are trying to incorporate into your routine, here is what you need to know about how to layer serums.

The golden rule is to always apply your serums based on their viscosity i.e. From lightest to heaviest. Products with a low viscosity normally boast a smaller particle too, meaning they can penetrate more deeply into your skin and enhance the results. Therefore, start with your moist fluid watery serum and work your way up to the most gloopy and tacky for optimum results.

Never apply serums after your moisturizers as thicker creams and oils create a protective layer over your skin and hinder absorption.

If you feel like layering multiple serums takes up too much of your time, then “cocktailing” may be the best solution. One important rule to note is that you shouldn’t cocktail water-based serums with oil-based serums and you should never cocktail your SPF either as it makes it less effective. So always allow a few moments for your products to penetrate prior to applying SPF too!

When layering Serums, layer ingredients that maximize efficacy but yield less irritation. For example:
Retinol and Hyaluronic acid
Retinol and Niacinamide
Retinol and Essential Ceramides


For ingredients that cause irritation when used together or decrease efficacy when used together, apply once in the AM and the other in the PM. For example:
Retinol in the Evening and Vitamin C in the morning
Retinol in the Evening and BHA (salicylic acid)/ AHA (glycolic acid or lactic acid) in the morning

Retinol in the Evening and Benzoyl Peroxide in the morning.

Please note that sunscreen is mandatory!

Therefore, going forward, as you stare down at the varying vials and pipettes, we hope you won’t be completely confused, and you will be able to use your serums in the right way.

Remember, you don’t need every single serum there is, just the ones that your skin really needs. And if you have multiple concerns a serum with multiple ingredients is the way to go.