paula’s choice: 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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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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Favorite Unscented Sunscreens

I’m going to let you in on a secret–there is something I’m even more obsessed about than perfume, travel, food, and books. It’s sunscreen. I realize that it may not sound like a particularly interesting passion. It sounds a little boring (or plain odd, depending on your thoughts about tanning). In my world, however, sunscreen is wonderful and fascinating, and searching for the next perfect product can be an exciting adventure. I learned Korean to read sunscreen labels. (Yes, I admit, I’m a little odd, but I assure you that my eccentricities are mostly harmless.)

sunscreens1

My interest in sunscreen was precocious. I never enjoyed tanning, and I figured that it would be easier to keep my skin in its natural pale state than try changing it into something it refuses to be–fashionably bronze. Little by little, I started exploring sunscreens and accumulated quite a repertoire. I wear sunscreen every day, and I enjoy the process.

I also enjoy the results from using sunscreen. It helps to keep my skin smooth, resilient and free from sun spots. No other cream or skin care trick will achieve the same effect over the long run. But when people say that they don’t like sunscreen, I can easily understand their sentiment. Many sunscreens available in the US and Europe are far from ideal.  Their finish is either too greasy or too white. US sunscreens don’t offer full spectrum protection, because many active ingredients still haven’t been approved by the FDA. Also, they are often too strongly perfumed. As much as I love scents, I don’t want to smell my sunscreen.

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