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How To: Layer Skincare

You don’t need to be a math whiz to learn how to multiply the benefits of different ingredients by using them together. We sat down with three skincare experts to get the scoop on how to get the most out of your regime.

Light to Heavy

You’ve got a bathroom shelf filled with products, but which comes first? According to New York-based facialist Elena Rubin, a good rule of thumb is to go from lightest to heaviest and layer water-based products under oil-based products. Start with a good serum. These highly concentrated blends of actives are generally a brand’s most potent formulas—celebrity facialist Joanna Vargas calls them “multivitamins for your face.” Next, seal in the serum and prevent water loss with a moisturizer. If you’re using a face oil, that goes last.

Skincare Boosters

There are certain magical ingredients that amp up the effectiveness of your products. Dermatologist Rebecca Giles, founder of FIX Malibu, is a huge fan of vitamins C and E, which protect your skin from sun damage and help prevent collagen loss (her Immaculate Complexion has both). Vargas loves hyaluronic acid, which plumps skin and helps other actives sink in more deeply. Try layering a hyaluronic acid-loaded serum like Borghese’s CuraForte underneath your moisturizer.

Ingredient No-Nos

Although they’re great wrinkle-reducers, synthetic retinoids should never be paired with hydroxy acids (glycolic, lactic, and salicylic are the most common forms of these). Rubin warns that these combos can make your skin more vulnerable to UV damage. In general, don’t use two anti-aging exfoliants in a row.

Find a Routine That Works

Don’t be afraid to mix and match from different brands. “If you’re ingredient savvy,” Giles says, “you can create a regimen out of products whose formulas suit you best.” Do your research beforehand, and use trial-and-error to learn what works for your skin. There’s also something to be said about being loyal to a single brand. Rubin says that the best skincare lines are designed so that the active ingredients in each product work in sync to balance skin. When in doubt, stick to a single line that you trust. We love Origins, because their cleansers, serums, and moisturizers are loaded with good-for-skin plant extracts.

Last Step: SPF

Don’t leave the house without SPF, even if you’re just heading to the office. Vargas also suggests brushing on a mineral sunblock powder over your makeup (try our favorite formula from colorescience). It may seem like a pain now, but doubling up on sun protection will pay off in the future.

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