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Skin Care Creams and Serums: How Do You Layer?

Skin Care Creams and Serums: Ask dermatologist Dr. Bailey

How Do You Layer Skin Care Creams and Serums?

Dear Dr. Bailey, I love to read your blogs! Thank you for all the information you provide for us! I have an issue with how to apply moisturizer too…now my question is, how can you do this when you also have to apply serums like Hyaluronic Acid and Vitamin C?? By the time you put the moisturizer on, your skin will already be dry. I like to do this tip mostly with oils, I mix my own like Extra virgin, coconut, argan, jojoba and grape seed, put them in a spritz bottle and after I wash my face I leave it damp and put some oil from this combination…however that would mean not applying the serums for that day…. Also in regards with oils and moisturisers, do we put oils first, and if we do…does the moisturizer penetrate into the skin due to the oil I have applied before ? I really hope I can get these questions answered….I have been wanting to know this for a long time! Best, Stella

Dear Stella,

These are great questions and exactly the ones I like to think about. There are no exact right or wrong answers which leaves us to figure this out on a case by case basis. I approach that with the overriding concept that works best depends on what is layered. If you read into my writings in my posts you will see that I layer water based to more occlusive products and finish w/ mineral sunscreen then mineral makeup if applied. Based on that principle I figure out how to layer products for my patients. In my practice I tell patients to focus on the end result and experiment. There are no good studies to guide so it's at-home experimentation that's required. I like your spritz with oil, that's a nice way to disperse a thin layer of potentially more occlusive ingredients. I also love oils applied to the skin. They are one of the "actives" in a moisturizer.

Step 1: Moisturizer

Thus, with your example, I would apply the hyaluronic acid (which is similar to using the Green Tea Antioxidant Therapy in my routine Best Green Tea Antioxidant Skin Therapy Creamwhich has extraordinary levels of green tea plus a ton of hyaluronic acid) and/or vitamin c right after washing. I let that dry for a few seconds or so depending on a person's time and then layer a more occlusive product. In my routine that layer is the vitamin C because that product contains dimethicone which is more occlusive. Remember, the skin is not entirely dry after each layer because the first product has trapped some water ideally. I have each subsequent layer lightly applied over so as hopefully not to "lift off" the preceding layer. Again, there are no studies to guide us so we have to try to figure this out as best we can. I let each layer sit for a few seconds or so and then finally layer of moisturizer is lightly rubbed onto the skin. Products slowly absorb into the skin over time and do not need to be rubbed vigorously to do that.

Step 2: Sun Screen

Citrix Sunscreen dermatologist recommended for teensAfter the moisturizer step, I recommend doing something for a few minutes to let the layers of product dry before applying sunscreen. Your spritz for the moisturizer step would be a very lovely light application that would not unseat any of the previously layered serum type products. Again, another vagary to this whole skin care routine process is that there is no hard and fast definition of a "serum". You will find products of varying consistency labeled as such. In my routine, the two product I mentioned are lighter and less occlusive than the moisturizers so they go on first. Most serum type products fit in that description. I hope that helps, I know it is not a specific answer guided by science, but to my knowledge there is none to help as it would have to study each specific product layered with regard to skin binding and absorption. Warm Regards, Cynthia Bailey MD, Dermatologist

PS I have included some recommended product links in my answer above that will help with your great skin care creams and serums question.

PPS Thanks Stella and fellow blog readers for your comments, questions and sharing. If you have found my "Ask Dr. Bailey" advice on skin care creams and serums useful, thanks for "Liking" and commenting in the Facebook window, sharing in Google +, Tweeting and Pinterest.

  Disclaimer: Please realize that availing yourself of the opportunity to submit and receive answers to your questions from Dr. Bailey does not confer a doctor/patient relationship with Dr. Bailey. The information provided by Dr. Bailey is general health information inspired by your question. It should not be a substitute for obtaining medical advice from your physician and is not intended to diagnose or treat any specific medical problem (and is not an extension of the care Dr. Bailey has provided in her office for existing patients of her practice). Never ignore your own doctor’s advice because of something you read here; this information is for general informational purpose only. This post is adapted from an excellent comment that Stella sent to me in a blog post.  I wanted to be certain everyone had a chance to see it because I know that many people share this question.