Ask Jean: What Order Do I Put My Products On?
We want to answer your most pressing questions—or, you know, just the things that you’re curious about. Please keep them coming to: [email protected]. Below, a q for our beauty director, Jean Godfrey-June.
Dear Jean, I never quite understand what order to layer on the skin-care products for my face. Does it even make a difference? And if so, what comes first, what goes last, and what goes in between? —Nicola P.
Dear Nicola, I get asked this question a lot, and the truth is it’s a pretty inexact science. In general, you want active treatment ingredients—vitamin C, peptides, alpha hydroxy acids, and the like—on as-close-to-bare skin as possible. And you want moisturizing, protecting ingredients layered on top.
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Multi-Active CreamMACRENE actives High Performance
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Multi-Active SerumVintner’s Daughter Active Botanical Serum goop, $185SHOP NOW
Part of the answer also very much depends on your skin type, as well as the products you know work for you. Below, my rough order of operations for skin care, with the caveat that if a step doesn’t work for you, don’t feel you need it.
The Prep: Exfoliate
Exfoliating regularly allows treatment ingredients to get into your skin better, and some exfoliants—like AHAs—are glow-boosting treatments in and of themselves. So it’s always the first step for me. Once a week, I do an overnight peel. Then every few days (never within at least twenty-four hours of the peel, though, as exfoliating too much defeats the purpose), I massage my skin with GOOPGLOW Microderm while I’m in the shower; the water softens up my skin before I even get started, so it works even better.
goop Beauty GOOPGLOW 15% Glycolic Acid
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goop Beauty GOOPGLOW Microderm
Instant Glow Exfoliator goop, $125/$112 with subscriptionSHOP NOW
I use the Microderm every other day or so—it depends on my skin and how it’s feeling. Some people can do it every day—GP does, for instance. Other people need to do it less. It’s really just a personal thing.
After you’ve exfoliated, you’re ready to do your routine. The dead skin cells, dirt, and everything else have been swept away, so the products in the routine are going to go right in and work harder, for better results.
I love a tonic. The G.Tox one is made with all kinds of good things for your skin—copper peptides, mild AHAs, mineral-rich deep-sea water, niacinamide, hyaluronic acid—to get everything into the layers of your skin where you need the treatment. Because it’s mildly exfoliating, you may not want to use it right after exfoliating more intensely. But it’s a great starting point, morning or evening (or—so good—after working out), if you haven’t just exfoliated. You press it into your skin, and all those peptides and everything go to work, leaving your skin smooth and soft and fresh and your pores practically invisible.
In the mornings, I treat my skin with vitamin C, and in the evenings, I use a superserum packed with all manner of active ingredients. Note: If your skin is super oily, you probably need only one of these serums—you don’t need another moisturizer on top.
Everybody’s skin benefits from vitamin C in the mornings, first thing: It smooths and brightens your skin tone, and there’s nothing like it for glow. Start using this one, which has hyaluronic acid in it for weightless moisture, and it shouldn’t be more than a week before someone asks you what you’re doing with your skin.
In evenings, I use one of our all-time cult-favorite products on goop. People look at it and think, Oh that’s a face oil. But it’s called a treatment serum because it is a treatment. Whether you’re breakout-prone or you’re concerned about wrinkles or whatever your concern is, the results are amazing.
goop Beauty GOOPGLOW 20% Vitamin C +
Hyaluronic Acid Glow Serum goop, $125/$112 with subscriptionSHOP NOW
Vintner’s Daughter Active Botanical Serum goop, $185SHOP NOW
If you need more moisture, you’ve got options. If your skin is oily or you don’t like the feel of a richer moisturizer, hyaluronic acid is great because it hydrates your skin but sinks in on contact, almost like a gel. You can have the oiliest skin in the world and hyaluronic won’t bum your skin out, and you can have super dry skin and use it as an extra layer.Dr. Barbara Sturm Hyaluronic Serum goop, $300SHOP NOW
Some people love oil; some people love moisturizer. I personally layer both if I’m feeling super dry, but I love oil. My feeling is humanity has been using oil for thousands of years, so there must be something to it, and it just feels so good (and makes your skin look so good instantly—I love a gleam). This one from May Lindstrom is technically a serum but so rich and soothing that I slather it on like an oil (particularly to reawaken my skin during the 4 p.m. slump). It feels so good, it smells so good…May Lindstrom The Youth Dew
Hydrating Facial Serum goop, $140SHOP NOW
Despite my love of oils, I also use moisturizer. This can be chalked up in part to my being a beauty editor, I think. You can layer moisturizer on top of everything, or you can skip the oil step and go straight to moisturizer. This one is from Alpyn Beauty is amazing—powerfully hydrating and sinks right in.Alpyn Beauty PlantGenius Melt
Moisturizer goop, $60SHOP NOW
The Champion Youth
Nothing—no serum, no cream, no procedure, even—preserves the fresh, firm glow of youth like mineral sunscreen. You may have heard dermatologists recommending that sunscreen should go on as a first layer—that’s if you’re using chemical sunscreen, which you shouldn’t use because it contains some of the more irritating chemicals in the beauty industry, not to mention potential endocrine disruptors capable of killing coral, and it degrades in sunlight. Chemical sunscreens work by absorbing dangerous rays, so they need to sink into your skin; mineral sunscreens sit on top of your skin to deflect rays, so I put them on last.
Bonus: The Supercream Option
If five is at least three steps too many, consider this all-in-one, fifty-plus-active-ingredients, rich moisture cream. (I often also use it as my moisturizer step, too.)MACRENE actives High Performance Face Cream goop, $225SHOP NOW