the ordinary: 3 posts

A Guide to Skincare Layering

If you were to read beauty magazines, you’d be forgiven for thinking that layering skincare is a skill beyond the ken of mere mortals. One is expected to have a working  knowledge of organic chemistry, active ingredients and the latest in Asian skincare discoveries. Failing that, one should simply follow the magazines’ recommendations and splurge for the editor’s favorites.

In reality, layering skincare is fairly simple. All of us do it to an extent when we start with a toner and finish with a moisturizer. It always helps to know what Vitamin C does to one’s skin or how to use AHA as part of a routine, but layering doesn’t have to be a complicated process. Nor does it have to take up a big chunk of your morning.

The other day I timed how long it took me to finish my skincare in the morning, and I discovered that it was around 5 minutes. So, I thought that it might be a good idea to describe what I do in more detail, demystifying the layering process. Whatever skincare products you use, you can tailor your routine to your skin type and your goals.

From Light to Heavy

The main principle of skincare layering is to start from products with the lightest texture and build up to the heaviest. The idea is to ensure that all layers absorb properly without diluting each other. Toner goes on first, if you’re using it. Wait for it to be absorbed, which should take a minute and then move onto the serum, moisturizing lotion or moisturizing cream. It’s a good idea to wait a little before moving onto another product, 30 seconds to a couple of minutes.

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A Brief Guide to Vitamin C Serums

When I shared my skincare routine, the most frequent questions you asked concerned vitamin C, so here is my short guide on how I use it, why I like it and what are some of my favorite Vitamin C products.

Out of all the ingredients that skincare companies advertise as miraculous, vitamin C (along with retin A and retinoids) has been shown in independent, clinical studies to have real benefits. It’s a potent antioxidant that prevents sun damage. It increases the production of collagen, even in adult skin. It brightens the skin and helps to lighten sun spots. It’s anti-inflammatory, which means that it’s a good ingredient for those who struggle with acne or rosacea.

This is all good news. The bad news is that Vitamin C is highly unstable. Because it’s such a potent antioxidant, it begins to bind to free radicals of oxygen even when it’s still in the bottle. Which means that it becomes potentially damaging to the skin! The sure way to tell is if your Vitamin C serum has changed color and turned yellow or orange, but many brands cheat and add botanical colorants. Then, there are formulations that use so little Vitamin C, it makes no difference. Or they use a type that doesn’t convert to the active form in the skin.

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My Skincare Routine and Layering Technique

Many of you have asked me about my skincare routine, and of course, I’m happy to share it. Skincare is my favorite part of my beauty routine, and while it may sound like blasphemy for someone who works in fragrance, I’d rather imagine going without perfume than without sunscreen. I also enjoy researching the best products, reading studies in dermatology and comparing active ingredients, and skincare offers plenty of such geeky delights. At the same time, I don’t want to spend an hour each morning and evening doing my skincare treatments, and I’ve worked out a routine that takes me a maximum of 10 minutes from start to finish–and it can be compressed even further, as I will explain below.

skincare routine2

The main principles of my skincare are cleansing, hydrating and sun protection. I don’t use particularly expensive products, apart from the eye cream, and I prefer to layer products. In other words, instead of using one moisturizer, I use several layers of moisturizing products. My skin is combination, and layering helps me to keep my skin hydrated and soft, without a risk of blemishes.

Such layering skincare routines are usually described as “Asian,” but of course, you don’t have to use Japanese or Korean brands. In fact, most of my favorites come from North American and French lines. The only exception is sunscreen, since no other country makes more effective and cosmetically elegant products than Japan. The main principle of layering to keep in mind is to start with the thinnest products and finish with the heavier creams.

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