How does one layer skincare products?

Use products with the thinnest texture first, moving on to products with thicker texture and the thickest texture at the end. Apply water-based products before oil-based ones. Give your products one to two minutes to get absorbed, before moving on to the next step. Sunscreen is the only product which needs 15 minutes of absorption time before you apply make-up over it. So, after cleansing your face, use a serum followed by a moisturiser and then the sunscreen. If you are applying make-up, it should be applied over the sunscreen. At bedtime, cleanse, apply a serum, then apply the targeted cream if you need to and top it up with a moisturiser. If you use a mask, it should be applied over the moisturizer. A mask should be the last step in your bedtime skincare ritual.

What goes first, moisturiser or vitamin C?

Vitamin C should be applied before the moisturiser. Any product with a thin consistency should be applied first. Moisturiser, being thicker, is applied later. Apply a few drops of vitamin C, wait for five minutes and then apply a moisturiser.

How should I layer my products in the day and at night?

Daycare routine: Always begin with a cleanser followed by a toner or essence and serum. However, the usage of a toner and serum is completely optional. Then apply a moisturiser for the face and neck and on top of it apply a sunscreen. Make sure that the sunscreen is always the topmost layer. Then moisturise your arms, hands, legs, and feet and again apply sunscreen on all the exposed body parts.

Nightcare routine: Begin with the removal of your make-up if you are wearing any, using a make-up remover or cleansing lotion. Then, wash your face using a facewash that suits your skin type to cleanse your face. Following this, gently dab an under-eye serum on the skin under the eyes. Be careful not to rub the product in as skin under the eyes is very thin. Then apply a face serum that is suitable for your skin type and skin condition. Depending on your need, you can even apply a targeted cream for ageing, acne, pigmentation, pores, etc, but these creams can be skipped, especially if you are under 40 years old. Next, moisturise your face and neck with a suitable moisturiser. You may wrap it up with a mask over the moisturiser.

Do not forget to apply a moisturiser on other parts of your body such as hands, legs, and feet.

Are toners good or bad to use?

Toners are not an essential part of skincare. However, they are used to remove all traces of oil, make-up and dirt from the skin. Non-alcohol-based toners are available. So, if you want to use a toner, it should be used right after cleansing, before using a serum.

Can I skip using a moisturiser if I use a serum and sunscreen ?

If you have oily skin and you are using a niacinamide-based serum, you can skip using a moisturiser. If you have dry skin or if you are exposed to the air conditioner throughout the day, you should not skip using a moisturiser.

When can I use face oil, in the morning or at night? Which step would it be if I have to layer my skincare products?

Face oils are best used at bedtime over a moisturiser if you do not use a targeted cream. If you have extremely dry and mature skin (above the age of 45), you may use a face oil in the morning too. You may even skip the moisturiser in the morning and use a face oil instead. Don’t forget to layer it with a sunscreen on top.

I am in my mid-40s and have oily skin. Can I use a face mask? If yes, what type and when can I use it in my skincare?

Face masks are available as either gels or creams. It is the last layer of the skincare routine and can be left overnight. You should opt for gel-based masks which contain active ingredients such as niacinamide, collagen, retinol, or peptides.

Should one apply retinol as the first layer or the last layer in the night time skincare routine?

Retinol should be used as the last layer over a moisturiser at bedtime. If one experiences dryness after applying retinol, or during winter, it can be applied using the sandwich technique. After applying moisturiser, apply retinol and follow it with another layer of moisturiser.

If I want to use niacinamide and vitamin C serum, how do I layer it?

It is better to use niacinamide serum in the morning and vitamin C serum at bedtime or vice versa instead of layering them one on top of the other. However, if you still want to use both serums together, apply the lighter and thinner one first.

Is glass skin achievable?

Glass skin, a term made popular by Korean beauties, is not a miracle. Glass skin refers to crystal-clear, blemish free, translucent and radiant skin that looks like a piece of clear glass. One cannot achieve glass skin overnight. It takes months of following a regular skincare regime to make your skin look like glass. However, it is not impossible to achieve.

Some of the steps you can follow are, at bedtime, remove all make-up from your face with a hydrating make-up remover or baby oil. Cleanse your face with a facewash that suits your skin type and then apply a hydrating serum containing hyaluronic acid or vitamin C and vitamin E. Hydrating sheet masks (there are plenty of Korean brands available) can also be used instead of serums. The serum or sheet mask is left overnight, allowing the skin to soak in the solution and enhancing complete absorption of the ingredients into the skin. In the morning, cleanse your face with plain water or a soap-free cleanser. Follow this with a moisturiser suitable for your skin type. Top it with a sunscreen that protects your skin from UVA and UVB rays. Make sure you avoid alcohol, nicotine and sugar, and sleep for at least six hours daily. Repeat this simple regime every single day for at least six months and you will see the transformation in the texture and tone of your skin. The results will be gratifying, but the key is to maintain it by following these steps routinely.

Can you provide an age-wise skincare routine as I have a teenager in my house and a 26-year old.

I myself am 48 and my husband is 58. That’s an all-in-one question. Teenagers should keep it simple and use a cleanser, moisturiser and sunscreen in the morning and a cleanser and moisturiser at bedtime. If they have acne, they can add an anti-acne cream as prescribed by their dermatologist.
In your 20s, you can add vitamin C in the morning, before you moisturise. If you have blemishes, add lactic or glycolic acid serum at bedtime before your night moisturiser. However, if you have acne-prone skin, use niacinamide serum in the morning and a salicylic acid serum at bedtime before applying moisturiser.

In your 30s, you can add a retinol or peptide at night, and if the skin is dry, you can also add hyaluronic acid. In your 40s and above, you may need a serum containing vitamin C or AHA or BHA or retinol or peptides or hyaluronic acid depending on your skin type and concern. So, you need to consult a dermatologist before buying any skincare products.

Excerpted with permission from The Skincare Answer Book: Answers to the Most Frequently Asked Skincare Questions, Jaishree Sharad, Penguin.