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How to Layer Serums Correctly

To master the art of serum layering, read our guide on the benefits and steps to effectively apply serums in your skincare routine for maximum results.

Serums on skin

Face serums can be a powerful addition to your skincare routine, considering just a few drops can make a noticeable difference to how your skin looks and feels. However, with so many different serum options available, it can be hard to know the best way to apply serums as part of a multi-step skincare routine. Things can get even more complicated if you use more than one face serum, with some formulas best suited to certain times and some ingredients unable to be mixed together.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the prospect of how to layer skincare and serums correctly, this guide contains everything you need to know. Keep reading to learn how to layer serums and which serums work well together. We’ll also provide some tailored face serum recommendations for common skin types and concerns.

What are facial serums?

The term face serum refers to a category of skincare products defined by their potent formulas and lightweight texture. Face serums are heavier than a toner and lighter than a moisturiser, signifying their place in your skincare routine.

The purpose of a face serum formula is to target particular skin concerns with a high concentration of powerful ingredients designed to penetrate the skin before being sealed in with your moisturiser. For example, different serum formulas commonly target visible fine lines and wrinkles, pigmentation, acne-prone skin and more. There’s a common misconception that formulas need to be watery or water-based to be considered a serum, but this is not the case. Serums vary in their consistency and may incorporate oils or be oil-based.

Benefits of facial serums

The specific benefits of your face serum will depend on your chosen product, its formula and its ingredients.

  • If you’re looking to target the signs of visible skin ageing, we recommend choosing a serum containing retinol to help accelerate skin cell turnover and stimulate collagen synthesis.
  • If acne-prone skin is your primary concern, look for a serum with hydroxy acids like salicylic or glycolic acid.
  • If your skin is looking or feeling dehydrated, try a serum with hyaluronic acid to help attract water molecules to the skin’s surface.
  • Finally, hyperpigmented or dull skin can benefit from the impressive brightening powers of a vitamin C serum.

Most people have more than one skin concern they’d like to target, so it can be tempting to use many serums all at once to try and maximise the benefits. Using more than one serum can definitely be beneficial, but we recommend using a maximum of 2-3 for optimal results. If you use more than three, it may become more difficult for each formula to properly penetrate the skin.

layer serums correctly

Can you layer serums?

When you’re using multiple facial serums, knowing how to layer each formula will help you make the most out of your chosen products. There are two main ways to apply serums together: mixing and layering. We recommend layering your serums based on texture, molecular weight and viscosity. The lightest textured serums have the lowest molecular weight and can therefore penetrate your skin the deepest. For this reason, you should order your serum application from lightest to heaviest. Apply a few drops of serum as needed, before gently patting (not rubbing) into the skin to aid absorption. Wait a minute before applying your next serum, or until the previous formula looks and feels like it has been absorbed into the skin.

Learn the order of applying skincare

Now that you understand how to layer serums, it’s worth noting where they sit within the order of your daily skincare routine. There’s no point applying beneficial ingredients to an unclean canvas, so be sure to use a facial cleanser and toner before your face serum. Next, apply a moisturiser suited to your skin type to help seal in the ingredients of your serum.

Which serums can be used together?

Many serums can work well together for enhanced benefits, but there are also many ingredients that shouldn’t be used after each other. Here are some general rules and tips to follow:

  • Avoid mixing oil based and water-based serums together in your hands as it will hinder absorption.
  • In terms of how to layer vitamin C and hyaluronic acid serums, always apply vitamin C first for optimal benefits.
  • Serums with salicylic acid and retinol also need to be close to the skin for optimal benefits.
  • Avoid mixing retinol with other potent ingredients such as hydroxy acids.

Despite a common myth, you can mix vitamin C and niacinamide.

Serum recommendations for each skin type

Every serum formula is designed for specific skin types and individual concerns. Follow our serum recommendations from the Kiehl’s range to help you choose a formula suited to your complexion.

Vital Skin-Strengthening Hyaluronic Acid Super Serum

Our Vital Skin-Strengthening Hyaluronic Acid Super Serum delivers powerful hydration, protecting against skin ageing stressors and helping visibly reduce signs on intrinsic and extrinsic skin ageing. This non-comedogenic formula contains hyaluronic acid, an ideal option to hydrate oily skin without causing congestion.

Powerful-Strength Line-Reducing & Dark Circle Diminishing Vitamin C Eye Serum

Our Powerful-Strength Line-Reducing & Dark Circle Diminishing Vitamin C Eye Serum is best suited for mature skin with fine lines and wrinkles. Not only does the vitamin C in this eye serum help minimise the appearance of dark circles, this formula also helps visibly diminish fine lines, crow’s feet and puffiness seen in dry, mature skin. Read our guide The Truth About Vitamin C Skincare to learn more about this powerful ingredient.

Clearly Corrective™ Dark Spot Solution

Our Clearly Corrective™ Dark Spot Solution is suitable for people with all skin types experiencing dark spots and hyperpigmentation. Our unique combination of white birch extract, Activated C and peony extract provides deep, visible correction and breakthrough clarity.

Precision Lifting and Pore-Tightening Concentrate

We recommend our Precision Lifting and Pore-Tightening Concentrate for those with  mature, oily or combination skin prone to enlarged pores. This clinically tested serum improves elasticity for more toned, uplifted skin. Micro-filtered yeast extract helps lift and tighten pores, while geranium essential oil provides antioxidant protection.

Now that you’re educated on everything you need to know about layering skincare, why not learn more about retinol, a powerful ingredient often found in face serums. Read our article What is Retinol and How Does it Work


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