How To Layer Skincare Products

Getting confused with your 10-step skin care routine? Do you want to add a serum, or cream to your existing skin care regimen? Or did you develop a new skin problem maybe you suddenly had breakouts, or developed dark spots from a recent trip and you want to layer a spot treatment? Knowing the right order of your skincare is important for optimal use of the products.
A basic rule of thumb when layering skincare the right way is to go by the order of your products' consistencies. That means your lightweight liquids will be the products you start with, and your heavier and thicker creams are the ones you end with.


After cleansing, you start with a toner. This is lightweight and has the thinnest consistency in your skin care regimen.  There are thousands to choose from - just the basic ones that  help balance the skin’s natural pH for better penetration of the other serums or creams to medicated ones with either salicylic acid for acne or glycolic and antioxidants for glowing skin.

Check out Obagi facial toners here.

woman spraying mist on her face


What is an essence? Maybe your skin care product is labeled as an essence? It is a skin care product that has the consistency of a toner and may also contain ingredients for anti-aging, acne, or dull skin. It is usually applied as a mist or spray and it goes after the application of toner.

Obagi Serum


A serum is a water-based formulation that has a thicker consistency than a toner or an essence. They deliver the active ingredient into the skin and is easily customizable.  You may add 2-3 serums depending on your skin needs such as peptides for fine lines and wrinkles or arbutin for skin brightening.

Check out Obagi facial serums here.

3 jars of Obagi Professional-C Microdermabrasion Polish + Mask


Add an antioxidant. Vitamin C or L-ascorbic acid is one of the most powerful antioxidants and is a key ingredient in every skin care regimen for all skin types. It brightens the skin tone and reduces signs of past skin damage.  One caveat: you cannot mix it with an acid toner or essence since this may destabilize the Vitamin C.

Check out Obagi antioxidants here.


Your spot treatments such as benzoyl peroxide for acne, or arbutin for dark spots may have a thicker consistency so you apply this after your antioxidant and under a moisturizer.

Two Bottles of Obagi Hydrate


A moisturizer does more than just add hydration and lock in moisture. It is key to any layering routine because it seals the serum into your skin which can make it more effective. A moisturizer can also dilute the potency of your products to make them less irritating and more tolerable to apply.

Check out Obagi moisturizers here.

Woman holding a facial oil dispenser


If your skin care routine involves an oil, this is the time you can apply it - after the moisturizer. Oils can penetrate moisturizers but not vice versa.
Obagi Sun Shield Matte SPF50

Sun Protection

Should be the last step in every skin care routine in the morning.  It protects from the sun’s harmful uv rays.  It sits on top of the skin so if we apply it first, no other active ingredients can penetrate.

Check out Obagi sunscreens here.

New to layering products? Consult with our board-certified dermatologist about proper skincare layering. It is important to understand the products' active ingredients and how it will benefit your skin type one layer at a time! Book an appointment today!