How to Effectively Layer Skincare & Maximize the Benefits of Your Products

How to Effectively Layer Skincare Products

Healthy skin needs both water and oil. Either one alone won’t do. Without enough oils, the skin becomes dry, and without enough moisture, it will become dehydrated. Having this in mind, we need to ensure that our skincare provides both.

This post was written in collaboration with Sara of Healthy Skin Glows and contains affiliate links

To give our skin enough moisture and nourishment, it is vital that we apply the skincare products in the correct order.

Water-rich products should be applied first, then the oil-based ones.

Why? There are a few reasons.


Have you ever mixed water and oil, only to see oil droplets on the surface? The basic chemistry principle tells us that water and oil don’t mix.

This is why moisturizers, which are simply mixtures of oil (or waxes) and water, need an emulsifier, whose job is to blend the water and oil together.

Your skin uses this principle to its advantage, though. The abundance of lipids (oily substances) on your skin prevents too much water from entering your body. Water molecules cannot easily pass through when there is a thick layer of oil, because that would involve dilution of water in the oil.


Despite the blockage from the oils, some water still passes through, of course (luckily). Water molecules can travel deeper into your skin than oils, due to its low molecular mass. Oils remain mostly on the surface of your skin, and that is a good thing. They act as occlusives, blocking too much water from escaping your skin, which keeps your skin moisturized.

This is why applying the right oils for your skin type will ensure that your skin holds onto its precious water effectively.

Once we understand the principles explained above, we may not actually need a moisturizer per se, but simply apply the correct skincare products in the correct order.

Let’s see how product layering looks in practice.

Applying a water-based product first lets your skin easily absorb that moisture (without much oil to block its passage). After that, a layer of oil locks that moisture into your skin so that it doesn’t evaporate.

1. Cleanser

Cleansing your skin in the evening will ensure that you removed all the makeup and daily grime, prepping your skin for the next steps. In the morning, you may just need a swipe of rose water on a cotton pad to prep your skin or a gentle cleanse with manuka honey. Sometimes doing a full morning cleanse is not necessary, but see what works best for your skin. Check out this post for Becca’s cleanser recommendations based on your specific skin type:

How to Pick A Natural Facial Cleanser: Your Guide to Organic Face Washes

2. Exfoliate

A couple of times per week, include a gentle exfoliation step into your routine, which helps to keep the pores clear, and your skin smooth and glowing.

Becca’s exfoliate recommendation:

Josh Rosebrook Active Enzyme Exfoliator


Related post: “Are You Over-Exfoliating? 5 Totally Natural, Gentle Facial Exfoliators Your Skin Will LOVE”

3. Toner

This is where we apply our moisture boost. Not only that, but most toners will help to balance the natural pH of your skin, which is essential for healthy skin.

Becca’s toner recommendation:

Josh Rosebrook Hydrating Accelerator

4. Serum

Now it’s time to lock in that moisture! Apply a thin layer of your chosen oil, suited for your skin type and its needs. Even better, choose from these wonderful serums that Becca recommends:

7 Organic Facial Serums I Can’t Live Without

You might also choose to use a water-based lotion or something like a thin hyaluronic acid serum in your routine for extra moisture. Again, remember to apply anything with a lighter viscosity first, then the heavier oil-based products as the last step.

5. Spot Treatment

When it comes to spot treatments, gentle but effective is the key. Avoiding harsh spot treatments will keep your skin barrier strong and resilient, which minimizes the chances of future breakouts.

Becca’s spot treatment recommendation:

Osea Corrective Complex Roller

6. Sunscreen

Wearing sunscreen daily is essential for keeping your face youthful and protected. If you don’t wear a foundation that has SPF in it, you can apply a light facial sunscreen as part of your skincare routine.

Becca’s SPF recommendation:

Blissoma Photonic SPF25 Facial Sunscreen


Related post: “8 Best Tinted Mineral Sunscreens & Moisturizers to Protect Your Pretty Face”

7. Primer

If you’re going to apply makeup after following these steps, you might want to use a primer. Primers help fill in lines for smoothness while keeping excess shine away, allowing for better makeup application and wear.

Becca’s primer recommendation:

Alima Pure Smooth & Prime


And now after following these steps, your face will be perfectly clean, hydrated, toned, moisturized, primed, and ready for flawless makeup application! Check out the Faves page for a list of more natural makeup products.

Healthy Skin Glows

Sara Sumic, MSc, is a scientist, mom, and creator of Healthy Skin Glows from Bergen, Norway. She just released a free e-book, Natural Skincare Plan for Vibrantly Healthy & Clear Skin which provides skincare tips, recipes, and more. Visit her website at or follow her on Instagram @healthyskinglows for awesome tips and info for glowing skin!

Sara also has a wonderful online course, Skin Rebalancing Protocol, if you want to learn science-based skincare advice for adult acne-prone skin.


Healthy Skin Glows - How to Layer Products

Written by: Becca

Becca is a blogger, wife, and dog mom living in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Having seen firsthand the benefits of switching to a natural lifestyle herself, she's passionate about helping women make the switch to clean beauty products, organic skincare, and a holistic way of life (without the stress of being perfect about it!).

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