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The Ultimate Guide To Layering and Mixing Skincare

Posted by Adeline Yeak on
The Ultimate Guide To Layering and Mixing Skincare

Image via Kim Carpenter

by Shilpa Bhim

Skincare products have the power to take your skin from zero to 100, and by 100 we mean healthy and glowing. 

No matter what your skin needs, there is a product out there that can help. Want to brighten your skin and fade dark spots? Say hello to vitamin c. Want your skin to glow? Slap on some hyaluronic acid.

But as we all know, with great power comes great responsibility. With skincare, that means knowing when and how to apply your products to maximise their full potential. 

That’s where we come in, Zovers. We’ve compiled the ultimate guide to layering and mixing skincare so that your skin can thrive.

First up, we’re breaking down the order you need to apply your skincare in.


The basic rule of applying skincare is to start off with products that have the thinnest consistency through the thickest consistency. This allows the ingredients that are most critical for penetrating the skin, like antioxidants in serums, to work their magic before being sealed in with a thicker product.

Belinda Hughes, a Melbourne based professional beauty therapist who works with natural and organic products breaks this down:

“After cleansing you should follow with a treatment toner if that's in your routine. Followed by serum and moisturiser.”

Belinda has a couple of pro tips for you to follow too:

  1. always apply SPF in the morning (in addition to your moisturiser); and 
  2. add a few drops of oil into moisturiser at night for extra hydration and glow. 


Your skincare basics (cleanser, serum and moisturiser) should be done every morning and night. 

Belinda notes that “anything that makes you UV sensitive like retinoids and AHA based serums should be used at night, and a good SPF during the day is just as important.” Definitely apply your SPF every morning, Zovers! That’s our holy grail skin care rule after all.

Finally, Belinda advises using treatment exfoliants and masks weekly to give yourself a little at home facial experience.


You can. But in order to maximise the effectiveness of your skincare products, you do need to be mindful of mixing certain ingredients together. It also depends on what type of skincare you are using. 

As Belinda highlights, “in natural skincare there really aren't many rules because everything we use is plant based.”

Belinda also notes that it’s important to always follow the instructions on your skincare label. So if it says to use only 1-2 drops of a product, then only use this much!

So, what are the skincare mixing rules? We’ve broken them down for you below.


Benzoyl Peroxide and Retinol

These ingredients work to prevent breakouts and are often a go-to for anyone dealing with acne. While they can be used during the same day (benzoyl peroxide in the morning and retinol at night) they should never be mixed and used at the same time. Skincare experts highlight that benzoyl peroxide can inactivate topical retinol product, meaning you won’t maximise its effectiveness.

Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs)or Beta Hydroxy Acids (BHAs) and Retinol

AHAs and BHAs are effective exfoliants for your skin. Combine these with the powerful, but somewhat drying, effects of retinol and you are likely to have some pretty irritated skin. Most skincare experts recommend alternating your AHAs and BHAs with retinol so you can maximise their effects without irritating your skin. As Belinda notes, “generally it's a bad idea to layer exfoliating serums with something like a retinol because it's too much exfoliation and will overwhelm the skin.”

Retinol and Vitamin C

On their own, these two skincare products are a godsend for your skin! Both are effective in combating the signs of ageing such as fine lines and uneven skin tone and support increased collagen production. While some people can use these two ingredients and experience their benefits, be mindful if you have sensitive skin. Being such powerful ingredients, retinol and vitamin c combined can lead to skin irritation.


Hyaluronic Acid and Retinol

Hyaluronic acid is a powerful humectant that can draw and hold water molecules to the surface layers of your skin. In lay person’s terms, this means it does an incredible job of hydrating the skin. Pairing hyaluronic acid with retinol will help you to combat acne and/or the signs of ageing without drying your skin out. We all know that hydrated skin is happy skin.

Ferulic Acid and Vitamin C

Ferulic acid is a plant-based antioxidant that is often used in anti-ageing skincare products. It’s become well known for its ability to fight free radicals while also enhancing the effectiveness of other antioxidants, especially vitamin c.

Retinol and Glycerin

By now we’ve established that retinol works wonders for your skin, but it can be pretty drying. Cue: glycerin, another powerful humectant that helps to hydrate the outer layer of the skin, protects against skin irritants and improves the skin barrier function. With their powers combined, retinol and glycerin will have your skin thriving!

Vitamins C and/or E and Sunscreen

Wearing sunscreen daily is a must to protect your skin from the sun’s harmful UV rays. This is particularly the case if you are using AHAs and retinol which can make skin more sensitive to the sun. Research shows that layering an antioxidant serum, like vitamin c or e, underneath your sunscreen allows your skin to soak up all the good stuff while also minimising photodamage (pigmentation and fine lines).


Besides following the general rules around mixing or not mixing certain ingredients and following the instructions on the label, it’s also important to figure out what works for you.

For Belinda, this means having a play around or talking to a professional. “If you feel like you need a boost and want to try a new hydrating serum or oil have a play and you might just find your new favourite. Otherwise I always advise asking a skincare professional for advice, that's a pretty sure way of getting the correct products for your skin without wasting a bunch of money.”

Don’t forget to use your facial roller or gua sha tools to help massage your skincare products into your skin, Zovers. It’s the most relaxing way to maximise the effectiveness of the ingredients after-all.

Let us know if you have any further questions about layering and mixing your skincare either via the little icon on your right, via Instagram or email us! 

Shilpa is a freelance health, beauty and travel writer from Melbourne, Australia. You can keep up with her adventures over at @skb.ontherun and check out her latest articles here.

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