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How to Logically Layer Skincare Products.


Can you mix products, like serums? I live in a very dry climate, also have aging (61 years) dry skin and have started using a hydrating serum AM and PM. But I also want to keep using retin A at night and antioxidants during the day. I wondered if I could mix the hydrating serum with the antioxidant as my first layer in the morning, and mix the hydrating serum with my retin A at night?

I roughly divide our patients who use skincare products into 3 categories: beginners, intermediates and advanced. Beginners…well I can sometimes barely get them to use sunscreen when they go to Hawaii. 🙂 Intermediates are using the basics; usually 1-2 products in the morning and evening.  And advanced users know the basic science, are now layering multiple products and reading labels. At least most of the time they are.

Some Basics on How to Layer

  • Mixing products.  There’s really no need to mix products in your hands usually. Just mix them on your skin, by layering them one after the other with a very short wait to let them absorb. So for example, with the question above, the hydrating serum (I’m assuming this is a hyaluronic acid base), and then the antioxidant serum. After that would go your moisturizer, then sunscreen; or just a hydrating sunscreen if you’re not that dry. Then at night, hydrating serum, then moisturizer, then your retinol or tretinoin.
  • For oilier skinKeep the serums light (try the MadisonMD niacinamide + Copper Deaging Serum) or even drying, skip the moisturizer and use a mineral sunscreen formulated for acne. Same for any foundation – mineral is better usually if oily. If you have prescription acne products, put them on right after cleansing and wait 5 minutes and then apply the other products.
  • For dryer skinDon’t over exfoliate! In fact, if you are using a retinoid, you probably don’t need to exfoliate with a scrub at all. You need your barrier layer to not lose hydration through your skin (TEWL – transepidermal water loss). Layer hydrating serums on first, and you can double moisturize, then sunscreen. Try moisturizers that replace your natural lipids. For example, we carry Natural Lipid Rich Moisturer MMD. These are often marketing as barrier creams. Sure you could use Vaseline or Aquaphor but there are much nicer products on the market now.

Hope this helps,

Brandith Irwin, MD

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