A woman layering skincare for aging skin

How to Layer Skincare: Aging Skin

It can be difficult to layer skincare for aging skin: what’s essential, and what “extras” do you need? Not to mention the order to apply them, especially when you’ve got multiple serums or creams. We spoke with our founder, Dr. Sandra Lee (aka Dr. Pimple Popper) for her tips on how to layer skincare for aging skin.


4 minute read

With so many well-aging skincare products available, it can be difficult to decide what’s essential, and what “extras” to add to meet your goals. Not to mention what order to apply all of those products in. Skincare layering guidelines that go by consistency — moving from thinnest to thickest products — generally apply for well-aging routines. But what happens when you’ve got multiple serums, or several creams?

We spoke with our founder, Dr. Sandra Lee (aka Dr. Pimple Popper) for her tips on how to layer skincare for aging skin.

PS: Think a well-aging skincare routine doesn’t apply to you yet? Think again: your skin is aging every day. But there’s no need for alarm — keeping your skin in optimal condition as you get older doesn’t have to be complicated.

How to layer products for aging skin

Skin aging is more than just a cosmetic concern, says Dr. Lee. Because our skin plays such a crucial role in our overall health, maintaining our skin health as we age is very important. Skincare designed to manage aging skin typically focuses on a handful concerns, including:

According to Dr. Lee, most people looking to minimize signs of aging could benefit from incorporating a few key ingredients into their cleanse, treat, moisturize skincare regimen. Here are her suggestions.

How to layer your essential well-aging skincare

AM: Cleanser + Antioxidant Treatment + Moisturizer + Sunscreen
PM: Cleanser + Retinol Treatment + Moisturizer
Cleanse AM/PM

Unless you have very dry skin, Dr. Lee recommends using cleansers with gentle chemical exfoliants and skin brighteners for aging skin. This will help promote the removal of dead cell buildup and keep pores clear. Very dry skin types, try a moisturizing cream cleanser, or just use water in the morning and a mild face wash at night. If you’re dealing with oily or acne-prone skin that’s aging, we’ve got you covered here.


Treat AM
After cleansing, apply an antioxidant treatment, like a serum containing vitamin C. Dr. Lee recommends choosing one with a stable, gentle formulation that includes hydrating ingredients.


Treat PM
Retinol has been clinically proven to minimize the signs of skin aging — which is why Dr. Lee recommends adding it to a nighttime well-aging routine. She suggests starting with over-the-counter versions, which are less likely to lead to irritation (which means you’ll likely be more consistent). Oily or acne-prone skin types should stick to lightweight retinol serums, while normal to dry types can experiment with lotions or creams that contain more moisturizing ingredients.


Moisturize AM/PM
As we age, our skin produces less sebum — and it also loses more water. This makes moisturizing even more important, says Dr. Lee. She suggests using products that are nourishing, but still non comedogenic, so they won’t cause clogged pores or contribute to hormonal (or menopausal) acne. Sunscreen is vitally important every morning as a final layer in any well-aging routine.

SLMD skincare to try:

How to layer additional products in your aging skin routine

Here are some additional products (in bold) that you can incorporate into your well-aging skincare routine described above, and where to layer them in. Aging skin becomes increasingly delicate, so it’s important to use potent active ingredients in moderation, and work up to higher strengths only if necessary.

AM: Cleanser + Toner + Exfoliant + Spot Treatment + Antioxidant Serum + Hyperpigmentation Treatment + Hydrating Treatment + Moisturizer + Sunscreen
PM: Cleanser + Toner + Spot Treatment + Hyperpigmentation Treatment + Hydrating Treatment + Retinol Treatment + Moisturizer


Tone AM/PM
Many people skip this step, but toner can help balance skin’s pH levels and provide nutrients like antioxidants prior to treatments. If you’re also using an exfoliant, it’s best to choose a toner that doesn’t also contain one.


Exfoliate AM
If you’re using a face wash or a toner that’s formulated with a chemical exfoliant, you might not need additional exfoliation. But if your skin is looking a bit dull, and/or your pores are clogged, Dr. Lee recommends incorporating a toner or a treatment pad that contains either an alpha or beta hydroxy acid.

If your cleanser is formulated with BHA (like salicylic acid), try adding AHA (like glycolic or lactic acid), and vice versa. Listen to your skin, since over exfoliating aging skin can cause skin barrier damage.


Spot treat AM/PM
If you experience occasional hormonal pimples, it’s smart to keep a couple of spot treatments on hand. Dr. Lee recommends a salicylic acid formula to treat blackheads and whiteheads, as well as a benzoyl peroxide based one to dab on inflammatory pimples. It’s best to apply a spot treatment after cleansing and exfoliating, then avoid adding additional product directly on top of the affected area until it’s healed. If your acne is more chronic, you might need a more comprehensive approach, which you can learn about here.


Hyperpigmentation treatment AM/PM
Dark spots, age spots, liver spots, post-inflammatory hyperpigmenation, and melasma are all forms of skin discoloration. Whether the result of hormones, sun damage, or breakouts, our skin becomes more prone to hyperpigmentation as we age. Adding a discoloration treatment (typically after an antioxidant product) can help minimize the look of dark spots. If you’re layering a hyperpigmentation product with antioxidants and/or retinol, keep a close eye on how your skin reacts. You may benefit from alternating these products if you’re seeing signs of irritation.


Hydrating Treatment AM/PM
Adding a hydrating serum will help draw water into the skin, which can have a plumping effect and promote a youthful-looking glow. Dr. Lee favors hyaluronic acid, because it’s found naturally in the body, making it very well tolerated by all skin types.

SLMD skincare to try:

Dr Sandra Lee

Dr. Lee's Last Word

Our skin experiences many changes as we age: not just the wrinkles and dark spots that get so much attention, but also functional changes that impact our skin health. Putting together a well-aging routine, and layering those products in the correct order, can help minimize the signs of premature aging. My top suggestions? Incorporate retinol, always use moisturizer after cleansing, and follow it up with sunscreen every morning!


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