Layering Serum Products

Is More Really Better?

One of the most common questions I get asked is about layering serum products. Is it safe? Is it more effective? Is there such thing as putting on “too much” product? So, today I want to discuss some of the most common questions and concerns when it comes to layering serum products. Q: Why layer serums? What's the advantage of using 2 or more serums versus one? A: Serums often only target one specific skin concerns, and people often choose a serum because they usually have a higher concentration of a needed active to address one of those specific concerns. Some may be focused on delivering antioxidants, others on delivering retinoids, others on skin discoloration such as brown spots or sun spots, and others simply feature a special active that is popular. If you want to cover all of these bases, and enlist a more focused approach to targeting specific skin concerns, you may very well need to layer on more than just one. A few serums (such as Stemology’s Cell Revive Serum Complete) have actives that address multiple skin aging issues. But even so, layering can offer a more targeted approach. Q: Is there a limit to how many serums you should use at one time? A: No, there is not. However, with that being said, the best practice would be to use a multi-purpose serum and then one to two additional serums to further address and target a particular skin concern. However, it’s important not to apply too much of any one serum. People often apply too much thinking it will be better, which is not usually the case. A thin layer pressed into skin is best and will get the same result, without all the extra layers and the time needed to let serums dry-down or set in between applications. Q: Are there any products that should not be used together? A: Be careful about using products that have topical retinoids. There is a limit to the amount that can used before irritation begins. You might be using multiple products where each contain retinoids and, even though individually they are fine, the summation can be irritating to skin. And be careful not to over exfoliate skin – too many products containing glycolic acids and AHA’s can also cause irritation to the skin. Q: What should I look for if I want to combine treatment products? Treatment products, such as serums, contain the most potent dose of anti-aging ingredients -- antioxidants, peptides, collagen, skin brighteners, etc. -- you can find in nonprescription products. It is really the combination of active ingredients that defines the serum – with the main six categories being antioxidants, peptides, retinol, growth factors, alpha and beta hydroxyl acids, and unique botanicals. A well designed serum which addresses a particular issue will select multiple actives that are proven to help with the issue, and not just rely on a single active (e.g. such as Ferulic acid, or Vitamin C). Be sure the serums you use together do not perform the same function or you will end up with duplication and wasted money. Also, if you have a tendency for oily skin and/or breakouts, be sure that combining products does not deliver too much oil to your skin which can cause further break outs. Q: What's the best way to apply treatment products when layering? A: Once you have cleansed and toned skin, apply serums beginning with the singularly focused serum, and then adding on a multi-purpose serum. Press each serum in well before adding the additional layer. You do not have to wait for the layer to feel completely dry, just be sure that there is none left on the skin surface and all has penetrated well into the stratum corneum. The carrier ingredients of the next serum layer will assist the previous layer in good active delivery. Special area serums (such as eye serum) should be applied prior to face serums. After all serum layers are applied, and sufficiently dry, then apply your daytime or nighttime moisturizer to complete your regimen Q: Should the serums I layer be changed seasonally? If so, what combination works best for cooler fall/winter temperatures? A: Serums are usually designed to address or prevent various aging issues. One aging issue is definitely sun exposure, which is normally much greater in the warmer seasons of the year. Adding an additional antioxidant serum or an environmental exposure product would be useful during this time of year. A good day-wear sunscreen will also be full of antioxidants as well. Additionally, as summer comes to an end, often times we will experience an increase in sun induced hyperpigmentation in the way of brown spots, sun spots and uneven skin tone. This is the perfect time to add a brightening serum to your regimen as a way to reduce the appearance of any brown spots that may have appeared on the skin’s surface as a result of increased sun exposure. Do you layer your serums? If so, tell us which serums you use in the comments.