Dylan Mustapich is a NYC-based lead esthetician who has been featured in New Beauty, Teen Vogue, Wired, and The Huffington Post. With a lifelong love of all things skin, he is incredibly knowledgeable about skincare ingredients, routine refinement, and personalized skincare, and follows emerging technology closely.
Figuring out how to layer your skincare products can feel like putting together an outfit:
- The ingredients need to either match or complement one another, and you don’t want to wear something too heavy or too light on top.
- Products need to be applied in the correct order, just like a shirt needs to go under a cardigan.
- Too many actives can overwhelm your skin, not unlike wearing too many statement pieces at once can ruin a look.
With all these rules, it can be hard to figure out how to layer your products. Here are a few of my favorite skincare ingredients you can match and double up on with multiple products, as well as serum and moisturizer ingredients that complement one another.
Hyaluronic Acid (HA)
This is a case of more is more — it’s hard to use too much HA! In fact, there is a benefit to including it in both your serum and moisturizer. Using HA in both products draws and binds moisture into the skin, while also supporting the skin barrier on the surface. This is an excellent combination for those with sensitive skin, as layering too many different actives can quickly lead to redness and irritation. It also multiplies the benefits of HA and is incredibly healing to the skin.
Another example of an ingredient that is difficult to overuse, Niacinamide is well tolerated by the vast majority of people. Even when used in both a serum and moisturizer, it’s difficult to reach the active ingredient concentration where it could become problematic. Many of its benefits are amplified when used in multiple products.
Salicylic Acid (SA)
SA is an ingredient to be used in moderation. It’s been known to cause dryness in some users, and these side effects become more common the more you apply. It's best to use SA in just one product of your AM and PM routine. Using a moisturizer with ingredients that can alleviate any potential dryness are recommended. Oat Kernel Extract and Ceramides can help restore the lack of lipids that causes dryness, while also soothing the skin and minimizing irritation.
The more the merrier! Antioxidants love company, and many work synergistically to help protect your skin from free radical and other environmental damage. Go ahead and double up on the many plant-based antioxidants in your serum and moisturizer.
Vitamin C is a tricky ingredient that is carefully formulated to remain stable in skincare products. There are many different forms of Vitamin C and its derivatives found in skincare products, so mixing and matching is not recommended. Instead, focus on having Vitamin C in either your serum or moisturizer. Another product containing antioxidants would work well to compliment the Vitamin C, increasing its stability and photoprotective properties.
Retinol is an ingredient where it’s important to know what percentage/strength you’re applying. While your skin may be doing well on a low strength retinol serum, adding a moisturizer containing additional Retinol on top could lead to dryness and irritation. It’s best to keep this ingredient in just one of your products and complementing it with skin soothing ingredients such as Aloe and Calendula Extract.
Successfully putting together a skincare routine often requires a certain level of restraint. Active ingredients can deliver exceptional results but can also cause harm when overused or improperly mixed. The key is to start slow with just one or two actives and observe how your skin tolerates them. When you’re certain that your skin is acclimated and is not reacting negatively, you can go ahead and introduce another active into your routine.
Atolla closely monitors the health of your skin with our monthly (Re)Assessment, which includes an at-home Skin TestThe test measures your skin’s oil, moisture, and pH levels, so you can better understand your skin and its varying needs. Your custom products are able to change with your skin as well as the seasons to help keep it as healthy and nourished as possible.