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Skincare 201: Offers Tips on How to Layer Your Skincare

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Used to be working a skincare regimen was easy. Wash face. Dry face. Moisturize. But as the skincare market, anti-aging in particular, expands with hot new ingredients, new formulations and new ways to improve the delivery of said ingredients beneath the skin's very top layer, the more complicated skincare becomes. Wash-dry-moisturize doesn't seem to cut it anymore. Now we have smoothing/firming/lightening serums, clarifying toners, treatments, vitamins, hydrating face mists, day creams, night creams, self-tanner, sunscreen -- and we have to figure out when to apply what to get the best results. In fact, since we realized the primary cause of premature aging is unchecked sun exposure, one of the most common questions I get is, "does sunscreen go on before moisturizer or after?"

In an effort to help their consumers learn how to layer skincare products most effectively, Neostrata has added an Application Tips feature to its website. The Canadian company's extensive product range includes cleansers, toners, serums, sunscreens and more, and for various skin types. According to communications manager Patricia Tiramani, the idea is to reduce application confusion whether the site visitor uses the full range of products mentioned in the tips, or just a few.

And it should help even if her products aren't all Neostrata. Each tip also includes an explanation of why that can be applied to skincare in general. For instance, a click on the Serum step offers: "Applying serums or products containing vitamins before your day cream and/or moisturizer will allow them to penetrate to maximize their benefits. Your moisturizer creates a barrier which keeps your skin hydrated and locks in the benefits of the vitamins."

At the moment my arsenal includes cleanser, moisturizer, serum, glycolic-acid toner, eye cream, Vitamin C, SPF and a night cream. According to Neostrata's application pointers, I should layer for my day as follows:

  1. cleanser
  2. toner
  3. eye cream
  4. SPF
  5. Vitamin C
  6. moisturizer

If I were to use an SPF moisturizer, I'd apply it after the Vitamin C. In the case of mineral or physical sunscreen -- titanium dioxide/zinc oxide formulas, those go on last, after moisturizer. For night, I'd follow the same order unless I decided to do a lightening or hydrating mask, which comes right after cleansing.

The tips lineup doesn't include a step for a daily exfoliating scrub, probably because Neostrata is more about exfoliating with glycolic-acid toner and/or creams (the Neostrata Skin Resurfacing Duo is a microdermabrasion treatment; the tip advises using it at night after cleansing). If you use a daily manual exfoliant, though, you probably already know to use it after cleansing, yes?

Whatever your regimen, pop over to for a look-see. You'll either confirm you've been doing things perfectly, or learn something new -- that's a win-win.