Advanced Skincare Layering: Maximise Function

I’m a huge fan of skincare layering. I feel it’s the only way that my skin can be satisfied with moisture and nutrients and maintain its plumpness and elasticity. I can definitely notice the difference whenever I get lazy and skip skincare, my skin soon becomes thirsty and deprived.

I talked about skincare layering previously and how you can use different products to build upon a skincare routine. In this post, I’ll take a step further and discuss how to use different functional products in each step of your routine, in order to maximise the function of skincare.

Everyone’s skin condition is different and therefore their needs are different. For example, some people may want to focus on skin brighten where others may want more anti-aging effects. However, I think everyone could benefit from a “balanced diet”, where hydration, brightening and anti-aging are all being considered.

1. Cleansing

Cleansing is the step that you shouldn’t be worrying too much for things like anti-aging or skin brightening. The products usually gets washed-off quickly that it doesn’t enter into the skin layer to make a difference. Therefore, there is really no need to spend a whole lot of money on cleansing products. Instead, a low pH, non-stripping cleanser will help to balance the skin, allowing the following products to absorb better and function better.

Gentle, low-pH cleansers that I love:

2. Toner/Essence

I often use the term toner and essence interchangeably, but referring to the step right after cleansing. Whether you use a toner or essence at this step, it should be lightweight, almost water-like, so that it can penetrate deep into the skin layer, without impeding the absorption of other products in the next steps.

At this step, I would recommend going for a product with skin brightening or whitening effects. The reason is, hydrating products are usually formulated with hyaluronic acid, which can contain larger molecules that prevents the next steps to penetrate deeper into the skin layer. Similarly, anti-aging products usually work better in a more concentrated serum form.

Many effective skin brightening ingredients such as niacinamide, licorice extract and galactomyces are commonly found in toner or essence products, all with extremely light texture that penetrates deep into the skin layer.

Skin brightening toner/essence:

If you have acne-prone skin, I highly recommend using a toner/essence with Artemisia/Mugwort or Houttuynia Cordata/Hearleaf at this step.

Toner/essence for acne-prone skin:

3. Second Toner

Not everyone needs a second toner, but for those with dehydrated skin or aging skin, using a second toner adds the additional boosting effect. In this case, I would recommend a hydrating one. Proper hydration is the foundation of good skin and will double as an anti-aging treatment as it plumps up the skin and adds radiance. Plus, hydrating toners are usually more cost effective than anti-aging toners with more premium ingredients (and at low concentrations).

Hydrating toners that I love:

For acne-prone skins, you could also benefit from using a second toner by layering a brightening toner/essence after the Artemisia or Heartleaf toner/essence.

4. Serum

In this step, you should focus on your pain point, whether it’s hydration, brightening or anti-aging. Serums are usually the most effective step in your routine to “fix” your skin problems. Make sure you choose a serum that’s concentrated enough to deliver results.

If you’re after a “balanced diet” skincare routine, then I would recommend going for an anti-aging serum. Anti-aging products are most effective in the serum form, as the formula is usually more concentrated and with a more emollient texture where the active ingredients are preserved. Often, anti-aging serums will also contain functions of hydration and brightening.

I usually layer two serums, one for brightening and one for anti-aging, and applying the brightening one before the anti-aging one. 

Brightening serums:
Anti-aging serums:

5. Moisturiser

This is the final step of your skincare routine and you’ll want something that is able to seal everything in and retain the moisture in the skin for a long time. Incorporate a Ceramide containing cream will kill multiple birds with one stone, by providing long lasting hydration, anti-aging benefits and strengthening the skin barrier. Not to mention, a good ceramide cream feels so good on the skin – protective but breathable.

Ceramide moisturisers:

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