A Guide to Layering Your Serums, Moisturizers, and More

So you’ve finally found the best cleanser, an effective serum, the most plumping moisturizer—not to mention an eye cream, a lightweight sunscreen, a miracle potion that actually zaps zits—and anything else you might want to put on your face. But how in the world are you supposed to apply all that stuff? Does the order matter? What about the method of application? Yes, there are rules, and yes, they matter. We turned to the experts for guidance.

The Order
"As a general rule, you go thinnest to thickest,” says Dallas-based esthetician Renee Rouleau. Toner—if you use it—should be the first thing you reach for post-cleansing. “It goes on like water and you want to leave it damp so that whatever you put on next seals in all that hydration and any other active ingredients.” Serum, which can range in texture from liquid to gel, comes next, followed by the moisturizer of your choice. Many experts also recommend applying your eye cream before moisturizer, to allow the product to absorb into the delicate eye area. Once your skin’s moisturized, sunscreen is up next.

The Method 
There are two schools of thought regarding how you actually apply products. First, that you should rub everything into your skin. “When you rub, you’re stimulating a bit of blood flow to the skin,” says Rouleau. On the other hand, there’s patting, a gentle method championed by Clarins. Instead of rubbing, Clarins teaches their customers how to press the products into their skin, starting from the center of the face and moving out toward the lymphatic nodes behind the ears.

The Neglected Spots
While speaking with Fayard, she detailed how to pat eye cream into and around the brows. Huh? It turns out you should be applying all the way around the socket! “Warm the product in the hand first and press with three fingers starting at the inner corner of the eye, out toward the outer corner, and massaging into the upper cavity,” Fayard says of the circular motion.

The Extras

As for sunscreen, an alarming amount of people depend on their tinted moisturizer, BB Cream, or even foundation for sun protection. But you’re applying minimal amounts of those (usually low-SPF) products, you probably aren't getting enough sun protection. It's recommended that you include a dedicated SPF in your routine to protect your skin. Experts also advise against mixing your sunscreen with foundation.“Sunscreen is a drug that’s been tested and approved by the FDA in its final form,” Rouleau says. “And anytime you alter a drug, you don’t really know what’s going to happen; you can’t feel 100% confident that it’s going to protect you.” (Check out our favorite SPF moisturizers in the slideshow below.) If you’re treating a pimple, Rouleau recommends rubbing a wet Q-tip on the spot to remove the products you’ve already applied and then applying treatment as your last step.

NxN beauty serums
NxN Beauty Vitamin C and Hyaluronic Acid Serum Duo $38
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Aveeno Aveeno Positively Radiant Daily Moisturizer Broad Spectrum SPF 30 $15
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Lancome Lancome Bienfait Multi-Vital SPF 30 Lotion High Potency Daily Moisturizing Lotion $45
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