Believe it or not, the way you layer your skincare range can make a huge difference. In fact, if you’re applying your products in the wrong order, you may not only diminish the overall effectiveness of your routine, but it could even leave your skin irritated, dehydrated or broken out. Dr Lev Naidoo reveals how to layer like a pro…
There has never been a time with quite as many incredible skincare products on the market, with the science behind the selection, formulation and concentration of ingredients having advanced to a level that essentially can translate into self-preserving elixirs.
However, with so many options and certain buzzwords in skincare constantly popping up, the final selection of the products that are best suited to you can be daunting. Never-mind that… what about the anxiety one inevitably feels once you have shopped and popped the products into your bathroom cabinet – after all, which ones do you reach for first? And what time of day should you choose to apply them?
With that freeze-frame in mind, we asked a member of our expert panel, dermatologist, Dr Lev Naidoo, to put together a guide on how your products can be layered effectively to deliver maximum benefit.
Step 1: Cleanse
Try to cleanse twice a day. This picks up surface impurities and residue, thereby ensuring you start with a clean slate that facilitates maximum absorption of your selected skincare products.
Step 2: Application
Applications of topical antioxidants can protect from reactive oxygen species generated during the day from common environmental exposure such as pollution, toxins and smoke. And with environmental free-radical stress depleting our level of vitamin (as well as the human body lacking the capacity to generate its own vitamin C), the need for external application and replenishment has become vitally important.
An antioxidant selection I recommend includes vitamin C and vitamin E. Why apply your vitamins topically? Well, the level of vitamin C attained in the skin by topical application is a notable 20-40 times more achievable compared to that of oral vitamin C. Similarly, the concentration of vitamin E in the skin increases by a factor of 10.6 when applied topically in comparison to oral intake.
Synergistically, the benefit of applying these two vitamins together is that the topical l-ascorbic acid combined with α-tocopherol gives a four-fold protection against UV-induced erythema, redness and unwanted thiamine dimer formation.
Furthermore, topical vitamin C promotes collagen formation, decreases inflammatory response within the skin and regulates activity of pigment-producing cells. Meanwhile, topical vitamin E protects from sun damage, improves the strength of the skin barrier, and is an anti-inflammatory molecule. I personally prefer my antioxidants in a light, rapidly-absorbed serum formulation.
Step 3: Eye Cream – Always
The delicate skin beneath the eye area is the thinnest on the face, and with its constant activity via repetitive blinking and facial expression, it’s no wonder this specific area is prone to an earlier appearance of fine lines at rest.
I usually recommend application of a hydrating preparation that maintains skin suppleness. Additionally, the product should be well-absorbed and not sit heavily on the skin, as this can make you prone to the development of milia. Milia are small, white bump- like cysts that form from applying a product that is too heavy at this sensitive site.
Step 4: Please Moisturise
People with a skin barrier on the dry side often make use of a moisturiser. Ingredients that are beneficial for dry skin types include low-to-medium molecular weight hyaluronic acid preparations, as well as ingredients like gluconoclactone, lactobionic acid and neoglucosamine.
At the other end of the scale, individuals with a normal to combination skin type (which presents itself as dry or normal skin in some areas while silmutanously being oily with a grease-like sheen in others), often omit the moisturiser step, believing it may lead to an even shinier appearance on certain parts of their skin.
Unfortunately, this is the worst thing once can do, as taking a pass on the moisturiser actually makes the skin appear even more greasy and slick (strange, but true!)
Bottom line is, whether your skin is dry, normal, normal-to-combination and oily, the use of a quality, hydrating moisturiser is always paramount in maintaining a healthy, nourished and pH-optimal skin barrier. That said however, it’s equally important that the correct moisturiser is used – one that is specifically formulated for your skin type.
For instance, individuals with oily or blemish prone-skin may look to preparations which are lighter, whilst incorporating ingredients that regulate sebum production such as mandelic acid.
Step 5: Photoprotection – Super important!
It goes without saying that daily photoprotection is essential, even on days that appear cloudy and grey as the sun’s rays are still present. So if there’s one thing I will insist on, is to please, please apply sunscreen every day. I recommend selecting a sunscreen with broad-spectrum UV, visible light and infrared protection, which you must apply on all exposed surfaces.
It must also be noted that while a mineral-type or physical-blocker sunscreen is active from time of application, a chemical-filter sunscreen takes at least 20 minutes to become effective from time of application.
Now, when it comes to evening skincare, this is a different story altogether (although thankfully, the skin regime is not as involved as the day routine).
Ingredients selected for the evening should work with the skin’s regenerative capacity, as this synchronises with our body’s period for maximal repair. The evening regime would still include a cleanse as a first step, which is then followed by the application of an eye cream (as you do for the day skincare regime).
Yet this is where it changes slightly. After the eye-cream has been massaged in, a retinoid must be applied.
Retinoids are a firm favourite, and is a frequently prescribed ingredient amongst dermatologists because of the multiple benefits they deliver. These include enhanced epidermal cell turnover, improvement of elastic fibre content, reduction in dermal micro-inflammation, and the pigment cell-regulating capacity they confer (amongst others).
As for prescription retinoids, these include tretinoin and adapalene, whilst over the counter preparations contain retinol,retinaldehyde and retinoid esters.
However, it’s vital that the introduction of a retinoid should be gradually introduced, as they may initially cause dryness, redness and sensitivity until the skin has developed capacity to tolerate the ingredient. Another caution for retinoid use is that it must not be used in females planning to conceive, or those who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Take home message
Although layering your skincare synergistically results in visible results that speak to the science in skincare, we must consider and respect our skin’s ability to tolerate the layers. This can be done by introducing a single agent and gradually increasing the dosage and frequency. You must then ensure your skin has reached maximal tolerance of the first agent before progressing to the next.
Here’s wishing you happy layering!
Written by Dr Lev Naidoo – MBChB (cum laude), FC Derm (SA) (with distinction), MMed(Derm)
- Specialist Dermatologist in private practice and founder of the Dermatology Room in Hyde Park thedermatologyroom.com
- Awarded the Jannsen Gold Medal for Recognition of Academic Excellence
- Member of The Skin Cancer Foundation and The Vitiligo Society of South Africa
A2 Disclaimer: This article is published for information purposes only, nor should it be regarded as a replacement for sound medical advice.
This article was written by Dr Lev Naidoo and edited by the A2 team EXCLUSIVELY for the A2 Aesthetic & Anti-Ageing Magazine Dec 2019 Edition (Issue 32).
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