We live in an age where the cosmetics industry is evolving at lightening speed. Almost no longer is a person using only face cream. Most of us use at least 3 products or more at a time. This is called cosmetic layering. The layering method has many advocates, but more and more opponents are also found.

Layering is a skin care technique that comes from Asia. This technique consists of applying various cosmetic products to the face in a certain order. We often think that this technique is popular only among Asians. Layering is a technique that is used by more and more people who dedicate more to their skin than just face cream.

How bad is layering cosmetic products really?

So, the opponents of layering accuse this method of applying amount of preservatives that exceeds the maximum concentration on the skin. Manufacturers rarely use the maximum amount of preservatives allowed. Maximum allowable concentrations are set so that even the most sensitive skin does not develop a reaction. Another thing to know here is that concentrations do NOT add up! Just as SPF does not add up, so do concentrations.

If you have 100 ml of tonic containing 0.1% phenoxyethanol and 250 ml serum containing 0.15% phenoxyethanol this is not 0.35% phenoxyethanol. Unfortunately, the calculation is not so easy. While you need to know that you cannot calculate the concentration of two different preservatives. The calculation is only possible for the same ingredient.

The calculation shows that the total concentration is 0.13%, which means that the concentration increase is minimal. Such deviations would only cause problems for people with really sensitive skin. So if you want, you still use face tonic as these preservatives will not “eat away” your face because of one coat anymore.

About the layering of several different preservatives, have you ever wondered that even in many cosmetics, many different preservatives are used to maximize product protection? If there is no scare on that product, then we don’t need to scold it here either.

How to layer Cosmetic Products Properly?

In the case of layering, there is one simple rule: always apply the least viscous product first. Then we continue with more viscous products. The skin care process is always started with water-based products, ie tonic, moisturizing serum, serum with active ingredients based on water. Water-based products make it easier to cross the skin and therefore need to be applied first.

Why would water-based products cross your skin?

We should think of the skin as a structure containing large molecules such as squalene, fatty acids, waxes, esters and triglycerides. These molecules are huge compared to water, but they are not clustered together like bricks, but there is some space between them. Because of this space between the larger molecules, water can flow from the skin (transepidermal water loss) and into the skin!

The most viscous products such as creams, oils or butter should be applied at the end. For the most part, these ingredients act emolliently and occlusively. Occlusive action means that these products form a water-tight film on the surface of the skin. So it is a good idea to apply a water-based serum before the cream or oil, as moisture will lock into the skin. Namely, the problems with applying oil first and then water-based serum are more problematic.

• The active ingredient in the serum would not reach the skin – water and oil were repelled, so the water-based serum would remain on the surface of the oil

• A drop of serum that would be on the surface of the oil would evaporate over time

So it’s a shame to throw serum away. However, we should be aware that no product forms an occlusive layer on the skin for a very long time. Also, occlusive creams that are designed to prevent moisture loss and other substances from penetrating the skin are not exactly flowering in the performance of their function.

Particular attention should be paid to the active ingredients

Some cosmetically active ingredients are very effective, but they are known to have poor skin penetration. An example of such an active ingredient is vitamin C (ascorbic acid), which crosses the skin barrier very poorly. Therefore, such ingredients should be used in the first stages of care so that they are as close as possible to the skin and thus have a greater chance of reaching the desired site.

What is the correct order of product layering?

We first start with a tonic to restore the skin’s natural pH. We continue with a water-based serum designed to moisturize the skin (hyaluronic acid, glycerol, ..) or a serum containing active ingredients (acids, vitamin C, vitamin B, peptides). The last step, as mentioned above, is to apply a cream or oil that locks all previously applied ingredients into the skin. During the day, make sure to apply sun cream!

Excessive use of the active ingredients can irritate the skin!

There is nothing wrong with layering cosmetics. As long as you layer products that mostly provide moisture, there are few things that could go wrong. However, the same does not apply to active ingredients. Using too many active ingredients increases the potential for them to “fight” with each other. This can cause skin irritation or incomplete passage into the skin. Incomplete passage causes the ingredient to remain on the skin, which can clog pores and subsequently cause pimples.

Because ingredients are more active and effective than ever before, they can also irritate the skin if you overdo them or use them in combinations that are not suitable for your skin type. One of the common mistakes with which we overload the skin is to combine products containing glycolic or salicylic acid with retinoids at the same time – so that we use both in the evening.

The stronger the product, the more conservative we are about the amount of application and the frequency of use.

What is your opinion on the layering of cosmetics?

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