Free shipping on all domestic orders over $39

Get Your Regimen in Order

how to layer skin care products
January 18, 2012 Reviewed by Marta 8 Comments

Even for devotees and junkies, skincare is becoming sophisticated to the point of overly complicated. With so many products – from serums to sunscreens – being deemed to be absolutely essential, it is hard to know where to start let alone finish. A frequently asked question in my mail box is “which order should I use my cosmetic products”. So here’s how to get your regimen in order and some ideas for a basic regimen that covers the bases without being too fussy.

First: A Clean Start

I am a big believer in starting my cleansing routine with dry brushing. Electronic or sonic brushes such as the Sirius Sonic or Clarisonic (read this comparison) are extremely effective at removing dead skin cells and debris whilst being gentle (for more on brushes and scrubs, see my exfoliation 101 post). You can brush with a cleanser, but my personal preference is for dry brushing followed by washing my face.  Now would be the time to use a toner to help balance the skin. However, what kind and how often will depend on skin type. I use toner a couple of times a week when my skin feels oilier than usual or a little out of whack.

Next: Serums and Moisturizers

Serums started to nudge moisturizers out of the spotlight about a decade ago. Although the cynic in most of us wondered if they were little more than the beauty business’s way of getting us to spend more money, serums have proved to be an important part of the anti-aging arsenal.

So what’s the difference between a serum and a moisturizer? A serum has smaller molecules and should be packed full of actives that will penetrate the skin. Serums deposit nutrients and actives. Moisturizers hydrate the skin.

As we get older, a good anti-aging serum is more important than a moisturizer and, unless you suffer from dry skin, you may not need both.  To some extent, it will depend on the serum: I never feel the need to use a moisturizer with the MitoQ Moisturizing Anti-Aging Serum, but I find the AQ Active Serum a little too drying to use on its own. My advice, is to choose a good serum first and then only add a moisturizer if (and where) needed.

If you do use both, then a serum should be used first, after cleansing.  The other issue to bear in mind is that some serum actives can be neutralized by other ingredients (see this article for ingredients that don’t combine).

Last: Sunscreen and Finishing Touches

Sunscreen should go next – before makeup or concealer, if worn. Obviously, if you need to top up sunscreen throughout the day, it will have to go above makeup. This is one of the reasons why Colorescience’s powder sunscreen is practical choice for girls on the go.

A Basic Regimen

Here’s a suggested regimen that will efficiently touch all bases and without breaking the bank: Skinfinite Purify Facial Cleanse ($30), Trinite Organiques Trinity The Signature Serum ($45), La Vie Celeste’s Day/Night Cream ($65 in the shop) and Nutra-Lift’s Maximum Sun Protection ($22) – all for under $165!

  • March 4, 2013

    by sweetbabycakes

    When I click the link for Super Antioxidant Foaming Facial Wash ($13 in the TIA shop). It doesnt seem to bring me to the product and I cant seem to find it when I search for it. Is it still available?

    thank you

  • March 4, 2013

    by ValerieB

    Apologies, TIA no longer sells the Creo Super Antioxidant Foaming Facial Wash, and the link has just been removed.

  • June 5, 2012

    by Emilia R

    Hi Marta~
    I've been lookng into the products you recommended (just waiting until the golden day of payday arrives, lol).
    In the interim, in reading other articles on the TIA site, I've also started to wonder about both a sunscreen for sensitive skin & Vitamin C. I took note of the Five best...for sunscreens & hope to also pick up one of those this week as I'm not completely happy with my current facial cream w/ SPF.

    Can you tell me more about the Vitamin C regimine & how that (along with a sunscreen) will interact with the Day/Night cream you suggested previously?

    Many thanks!!

  • June 1, 2012

    by Emilia Ruiz

    Thank you, Marta! I'll start in on my homework with each of these ;^}

    I appreciate the suggestions! (Will have to let you [all] know where things go from here.)

  • May 31, 2012

    by Marta

    Hi Emilia,

    For simplicity and effectiveness (and gentle on sensitive skin), you might like La Vie Celeste's Day/Night cream
    It also sounds as if it is worth investing in a decent eye cream - I would recommend Your Best Face Refresh

    Or Sevani's

    Here is a post on a regimen for a 30-something that may give you some other ideas: <a href="" rel="nofollow"></a>

  • May 31, 2012

    by Emilia

    I'm a 30-something (ahem) who isn't dealing well w/ the "something" part :(
    I'm noticing more & more the lines on my forehead & around my mouth (laugh lines my...grumble grumble grumble!). The dark areas under my eyes are more pronounced as well.
    Let's top it all off with having VERY sensitive skin!
    I'm looking for a regimine/routine/products that will get me back into smile mode. When I look in the mirror now, I'm not happy with the old chick staring back at me.
    I like to keep products & a routine as simple as possible and also with as little scent as possible. I do wear makeup during the day, so it's difficult to re-apply anything throughout the day. Usually just in the AM, pre-makeup, and PM, before bed. Please help!!!

  • February 25, 2012

    by Lynne

    Hi Marta, I'm 59 and here's my regime:
    AM: wash with an olive oil soap, Reluma serum, YBf correct on eyes and Define on lips, then I use Juice Beauty oil moisturizer because I really like it, plus I have dry skin. Sometimes I reapply it during the day, or use rose oil instead.
    PM: wash and use Mia sonicare, apply Tri-Retinol Complex ES, then the next night skin-lasting super hydrator mixed with Revision retinol facial repair.
    So far so good.
    Thanks for your site and if you have any words of wisdom about my regime, I'd love to hear your thoughts!

  • January 19, 2012

    by Ann

    Thanks Marta, now I just have to sort out the products that I use....I seem to have several serums and moisturizers which I've been layering...perhaps to no effect. I'll have to review the article you recommend.

Join the discussion! Leave a comment below.

My Comment

Add a comment...

-or- Cancel Comment
* Required Fields
truth in aging's five best

Truth In Aging's Five Best

The very best to choose from for your skin concerns.

Read More

truth in aging videos

Truth In Aging Videos

Helpful how-tos and reviews from Marta and friends.

Watch Now

meet our contributors

Meet Our Contributors

The TIA community consists of our trusted reviewers.

Meet Them

be inspired

Be Inspired

Inspiring thoughts and women who are aging gracefully.

Read More