How to layer your skin serums like a boss

How to layer your skin serums like a boss

Hey, fabulous people 🌈✨

You asked for an easy guide to layering your skincare and serums, and we feel you. It can be confusing as we’re all bombarded with so much info (that’s often conflicting) and bazillions of different products and ingredients… No wonder you’re thinking, ‘But what’s right for me?’ 

Fret not! Our mission at CERM HQ is to walk beside you on your best-skin journey with the most effective, easy-to-understand-and-use skin solutions – we are the serum experts, ya know! – and honest, expert skincare advice. 🥰

So, what are the secrets to layering your skincare?

Savvy skincare users know that the secret to healthy, gorgeous skin is maximizing your skincare by layering and/or combining a cocktail of products to address your skin’s needs and different concerns. Think of it as a super-charged custom skincare regime.

The general ground rules 

First, find the right skincare and ingredients for your skin concerns, and then learn how to use them smartly so they play together nicely and give you the best results… 

CERM Skin Rainbow ayer cake illustrating skincare and serum layering order. Image: Nilov

Image: Nilov

Order in the house

Texture rules: It’s a bit like building a layer cake, except flip the cake rule (heaviest to lightest) and go from lightest to heaviest or oiliest texture. So, start with serums, then cream textures (like moisturizer) and finish with oils. Last but best, cap it off with sunscreen in your morning routine. Not negotiable. Your future self will thank you.

BUT if you’re using both water- and oil-based serums, always use the water-based one first. The oil will block water penetrating if used before, and it will also lock the moisture in. Btdubs, All CERM serums are water-based.

Cleanse like a pro: Always start with a clean skin – am and pm. Use a gentle cleanser (plus toner, if you use it) to remove makeup, oil and daily grime, so the product that follows can be absorbed and work effectively.

Give it a rest: Wait a few seconds between layers so the product has a chance to absorb.

Layer with ingredients that like each other. For the ones that don’t, invite them to separate parties – check out the guest list below.

If you’re sensitive or have irritated skin, first build a buffer: It’s possible that you can use some more active ingredients, if you introduce them slowly and use skin cycling (below). 

The best tip to avoid irritation is to always combine soothing ingredients (such as squalene, allantoin, cica, bisabolol, etc.) with ones that can irritate the skin. And layer first with a soothing moisturizer, hyaluronic acid or cica serum before you use retinol, PHA or salicylic acid.

Too much of a good thing is a bad thing. Don’t overdo the strong actives, like retinol and exfoliating acids. You can damage your skin barrier and cause irritation  or skin sensitization and a number of other skin problems. 

Order of serums

Rise and shine serums 😎

Vitamin C serum is typically applied in the morning, on dry skin. It has many superpowers and give an antioxidant boost, working well with sunscreen, and it’s a star at brightening skin. 

Ferulic acid is often combined with vitamin C for enhanced antioxidant benefits. Apply it after the vitamin C serum.

Best of all worlds 😎🌃

Hyaluronic acid is like a big gulp of water for your skin and can be used both day and night, working well with other ingredients. 

Niacinamide serum can be used both morning and night. It's generally well-tolerated with other ingredients.

Peptides can be applied both morning and evening to work their skin firming and collagen-boosting magic. 

Collagen serums aim to boost collagen production and maintain skin elasticity.

Good night serums 🌃

Serum with salicylic acid or polyhydroxy acids (PHAs): apply this first. These help exfoliate the skin and should be closest to the skin to do their job effectively, unless you’re sensitive (see above). Don't use retinol on the same night.

Use retinol serum in the evening, as it can make skin sun-sensitive. You must use SPF 50+ sunscreen and avoid the sun when using retinol.

Cica (centella Asiatica) serum is soothing and calming, so apply it before your other serums.

Which skincare actives work well together?

A shout-out to niacinamide and hyaluronic acid. They can be paired with pretty much every ingredient, including salicylic acid and retinol.

While combining niacinamide and vitamin C is generally considered safe, some people prefer to use vit C in the a.m. and niacinamide at night to minimize any potential interactions.

Which skincare actives should never be combined?

  • Don't layer strong active ingredients like retinol with exfoliating acids such as AHAs or salicylic acid. That’s a recipe for irritation. If you want to use these, use them on alternate nights or on different areas of your face
  • Vitamin C, retinol and exfoliating acids should also never be layered together. Use vitamin C in the morning, and use the retinol or acids at night 
  • And don’t combine benzoyl peroxide with any of the actives above. Use them at different times of the day or on alternate days

Better yet, try skin-cycling

Dermatologist-created and approved skin-cycling slays at keeping your skin cool and calm as it has a game-changing effect on your skin. You just need a bit of patience.

How to do it

It’s generally a 4-night cycle for most skins. But oily and problem skin types might try a 3-night cycle, while sensitive or irritable sorts can push it to 5 nights:

Night 1: use exfoliating acids 

Night 2: use active ingredient like retinoids

Night 3: recovery night (with gentle soothing ingredients)

Problem skin types can stop here, unless irritated

Night 4: recovery night

Add one night if skin is sensitive or irritated:

Night 5: recovery night

Repeat 🌀

This TikTokker nails it!

Words of advice

  • As always, this is general advice and works for most people, but if you have specific skin concerns or conditions, consult a dermatologist for personalized advice.
  • If in doubt, always patch test new products and introduce them gradually. 

And that’s our story

We hope we've helped you crack the code on crafting a skincare routine that's not only lit but also gives your skin the love it deserves. Ready to slay with that happy skin glow-up? 🌟💖