Skincare Layering: Your Complete Guide to Optimize Results

You know your skin type, you’ve addressed any age-related concerns, and have chosen products based on your skin’s unique needs. What next? It’s time to master how to layer your skincare. Layering skincare starts with the proper skin routine order, while also choosing products whose formulas are designed to work in synergy to achieve optimal results.

Read on for our Erno Laszlo expert recommendations on layering, as well as product suggestions by skin type and application tips to ensure you always get the most from your skincare routine.

What is Layering?
A thorough, results-driven skincare ritual has multiple steps and products, each one serving a purpose. Applying these products in the correct order—known as layering—allows formulas to absorb into the skin effectively, optimizing the full potency of benefits. The general skincare layering order: cleansing > toner or essence > serums & treatments > eye care > moisturizer > sun protection (for day) or leave-on mask (for night). For a rinse- or peel-off treatment mask, it’s typical to mask after cleansing.


How to Layer
For many reasons, we always recommend that you apply products from thinnest to thickest texture. This helps each product absorb effectively into the skin, maximizing the active ingredients and benefits in each product. Applying thinnest to thickest also helps minimize product pilling between applications.

Not only is this thinnest-to-thickest rule evident in your overall ritual order (toners are thinner than serums, and so on), it also applies when layering multiple products of the same category. For example: you might use a hydrating serum and an anti-aging serum. Apply the thinner, more watery formula first.

Application Tip: To ensure certain products fully absorb, it’s best to pat (more details below) and wait about 30 seconds between each step, making sure one product is fully dry before applying the next. This gives each formula time to soak into the skin.

Toner or Essence
Toners or essences are the first step after cleansing due to their lightweight, water-like texture. Astringent toners like Light Controlling Toner remove residue after cleansing, while hydrating toners replenish moisture and prepare skin to receive the ritual steps that follow.

Toners are optional for some people, or essences might be preferred for their thicker texture, more-targeted benefits, and higher level of active ingredients. Those with dry skin might prefer to layer both products, beginning with a toner followed by an essence. Learn more about the difference between toner, essence, and serum here.

How to Apply
Apply toner or essence with either a cotton pad or your hands. For a cotton pad: Saturate with product, then sweep in an upward motion. For hands: Use 4–5 drops and gently pat into the skin, allowing the product to fully absorb.

If you’re using your hands to apply, take a moment to try a Hungarian Facial Massage to help circulate blood flow and energize the skin. Begin by warming up the product between your hands and pressing into the skin, then follow these steps:

Expert Recommendations
For dry skin: Skin Supplement Essence to replenish dryness and revive skin for a comfortable feel
For sensitive skin: Soothing Relief Hydration Lotion to infuse skin with calming hydration for a soothed, balanced complexion
For all skin types: VTM Micro-Essence to hydrate, refine the look of pores, brighten, and improve tone

Micro-Essence Pro Tip: To flood skin with hydration and both instant and long-lasting benefits, use VTM Micro-Essence before and after masking with Vitality Treatment Mask.

Serums & Treatments
Serums are the most-potent step in your ritual as they typically contain the highest concentration of active ingredients. You can choose to use just one or layer multiple serums to target different skin concerns.

Although serums are lighter, due to their high concentration of actives, a little goes a long way. Applying more does not increase the effectiveness—rather, skin can become irritated from overstimulation.

How to Apply
Apply multiple serums from thinnest to thickest. After, apply any spot treatments to target blemishes, such as our Freeze-Dried Targeted Blemish Treatment. Use a pea-sized amount and pat lightly with sweeping motions over the skin to encourage better absorption.

Expert Recommendations
For mature skin: Phormula 3-10 Serum Concentrate to target lines & wrinkles, elasticity, brightness, tone & texture
For sensitive skin: Soothing Relief Hydration Serum to replenish hydration, soothing & nourishing sensitive skin
For all skin types: Timeless Skin Serum to hydrate skin, smooth the look of fine lines & wrinkles, and improve the feel of skin elasticity & tone


Eye Care
If you are using both an eye serum and eye cream, the same rule applies. Apply the thinnest eye serum first, then layer your richer eye cream. Wait between applications to give each product time to absorb into the skin.

How to Apply
Use a pea-sized amount, applying with the ring finger of your non-dominant hand. This is your weakest finger and allows for the most-gentle application to this delicate skin. Gently smooth over the skin moving from the outer to inner corners beneath the eyes, then above the upper eyelid, until the product is fully absorbed. Do not pull or stretch the skin around the eye as this can contribute to signs of premature aging.

For mature skin: Phormula 3-10 Eye Intensive for advanced anti-aging repair, targeting the look of under-eye bags, puffiness, dark circles & fine lines
For all skin types: Day & Night Intensive Eye Cream Duo for around-the-clock brightening, line-smoothing & hydrating benefits

Pro Tip: Pair our Multi-Task Full Circle Eye Serum Mask with our Day & Night Eye Cream to best care for skin on both the upper lid and under eye.

Seal in your previous skincare steps with moisturizer. For dry or extra-dry skin, layer a more water-like emulsion before richer creams. Note that even oil-prone skin types benefit from a moisturizer to ensure balanced skin hydration.

How to Apply
Use a quarter-sized amount and dab into the skin in an upward motion, without pressing or rubbing too hard. Gently pat your skin afterwards to help the moisturizer fully absorb.

Expert Recommendations
For normal/dry skin: Phelityl Night Cream to replenish EFAs for a revived tone by morning; also works nicely for daytime to give skin a hydrated, sheer-matte finish
For mature skin: Phormula 3-10 Skin Repair to rejuvenate & deliver actives to target the 6 key signs of aging—wrinkles, elasticity, firmness, skin tone, skin hydration, skin texture
For combo/oily skin: Mattifying Gel Moisturizer to deliver instant & lasting hydration for a smooth, satin finish
For sensitive skin: Soothing Relief Hydration Emulsion to hydrate, nourish & soothe for a comfortable, supple feel

Day: Sun Protection
Whether a day at the beach or the middle of winter, SPF is an essential final step to your skincare routine. Although the texture of sun protection can vary from a thin, milky consistency to a thicker cream-like consistency, your daytime ritual should always end with SPF. Consistently layering sun protection shields skin from harmful rays that can lead to signs of premature aging and sun damage.

How to Apply
When applying sun protection, apply about two-fingers worth or more of product to any one portion of your body (ex: face and neck). In a similar motion to your moisturizer, dab onto the skin in an upward motion. Note: Not only is the correct amount needed to receive the maximum SPF benefits as labeled, sunscreen should also be reapplied every 2 hours to ensure coverage remains consistent.

Expert Recommendation
For all skin types: Beyond SPF UV Defense Masque offers mineral-based protection from UV & blue light while strengthening the moisture barrier

Night: Leave-On Mask
Unlike other masks that you rinse or peel away, a leave-on mask cloaks the skin in revitalizing benefits while you sleep. Similar to a moisturizer, a leave-on mask seals in all of the skincare steps that come before.

How to Apply
Apply a quarter-sized amount and dab into the skin in an upward motion. Overnight leave-on masks are best used 1–2 times each week.

Expert Recommendation
For all skin types: Hydra-Therapy Memory Gel Sleep Mask to lock in vital nutrients & replenish moisture overnight so skin wakes up feeling plump, smooth, and more elastic

Browse our entire collection to continue your skincare layering journey today. Questions about how best to layer for your skin? Reach us any time at

Leave a comment

All comments are moderated before being published