You don’t need to commit to a 25-step Korean skincare routine to appreciate the benefits of layering products. But as beauty becomes increasingly sophisticated, it can be difficult to know which product does what, and how it slots into your routine. While proven active ingredients like vitamins A and C deserve their place in the spotlight, it’s worth remembering that hydration is still considered the backbone of skincare regardless of age or skin type.

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However, the days of relying only on your moisturiser to do all the heavy lifting are long gone. A single product now often contains different sized molecules of the same or complementary ingredients, that have the ability to penetrate different layers of the skin for the best possible results. To get the most out of this technology, you’ll need to know two things: what you’re looking to achieve with each step, and what order your products should be layered in. Armed with this information, you can be certain that your hydration levels will be topped up to the max, and you’ll be glowing in no time.


Ditch the stripping foaming cleansers now, please. SLS, the sudsing agent found in almost all foaming cleansers (as well as detergent) is for cleaning your plates, not the delicate skin on your face. Instead, try gentle gels, milks and creams that prep your skin well for what’s to come, instead of leaving it crying out for moisture. Oskia’s Renaissance Cleansing Gel is a lovely way to start the day, as it contains glycerins and oils in a gel formulation that feels fresh without being stripping. Kate Somerville’s Cold Cream, a modern take on your grandma’s Ponds, annihilates makeup and has a comforting yoghurt-like texture, so is ideal for removing makeup, SPF and the day’s grime in the evening, making sure no nasties are blocking the goodness to come.


Just because the sun is that bit stronger now doesn’t mean it’s time to stop exfoliating – you just need to be a little gentler. It’s a good time to ease up on the physical exfoliants and move on to their chemical cousins, acids. Omorovicza Acid Fix contains glycolic, lactic and salicylic acids in a base of hydrating glycerin, so it’s suitable for all but the extremely sensitive; for everyone else, it’s strong enough to feel like it’s working but not so strong as to be disruptive to the skin. Use two or three times a week straight after you cleanse, which leaves skin free from dead cells and oil that can block not only pores, but also the hydrating ingredients you’re about to apply from getting to where they need to go.


When done right, an essence manages to be both refreshing and nourishing. Dior’s Hydra Life Balancing Hydration – 2 in 1 Sorbet Water manages both brilliantly – plus, thanks to the inclusion of jasmine flower water, it smells divine. Hydrating lightly at this stage makes it easier for ingredients in the coming steps to penetrate more effectively, while giving some ‘slip’ to the skin’s surface during the layering process means you can use less product.


You want to maximise the levels of hydration you’ve already started building in previous steps, so look for a serum rich in hyaluronic acid. Seemingly the skincare world’s favourite ingredient of late, it holds up to 1,000 times its weight in water, providing maximum hydration with minimal product – just what your skin needs during our hot, sticky summer. A very effective option is the Peter Thomas Roth Water Drench Hyaluronic Cloud Serum – fragrance-free and loaded with hyaluronic acid, it has the added benefit of releasing the absolutely perfect amount of serum in one pump for the face, neck and décolleté (this sounds simple but trust us, it’s rare not to get too much or too little). If you’re after a more luxurious option, Chanel’s Hydra Beauty Micro Serum contains camellia micro droplets that burst as you smooth it on, ensuring its plumping abilities are kept as potent as possible until the moment of application.


Eye cream still manages to cause great debate of the ‘do we really need it or not’ variety. The answer? If your eye area is sensitive, it’s best to use a discrete product for it. Given many of us are sensitive in this area – the same that is the quickest to show signs of sun damage and ageing – it’s important to look for active ingredients proven to help these concerns, while gentle enough not to cause irritation. Drunk Elephant’s C-Tango Multivitamin Eye Cream is lightweight yet soothingly creamy, so it’s great even on the most sensitive peepers and won’t prevent the final steps in your routine from working if you want to bring them around the eye area, too. Its hero ingredient, vitamin C, is one of the most powerful ingredients in the battle against pigmentation, making this a real go-to option in our sunny climes.


At this stage you want a light layer to help seal in all the good work you’ve done so far. L’Occitane’s Ultra Thirst-Quenching Gel has an oil-free gel texture, a calming marine scent, and a little goes a long way to feeling seriously refreshed. If you just can’t bear to be without a heavier-feeling cream, especially of an evening, try Endota’s Deep Hydration Face Moisturiser. Unlike most thicker moisturisers it is shea butter-free, so still fine on oilier or acneic skins, and is very comforting. It’s also a good option if you use retinoids year round, as it combats their drying effects without being occlusive.


As with eye cream, not everyone feels they need an oil, but we promise you cannot go past one when it comes to benefiting overall skin texture and achieving that ever elusive glow. Formulas are so sophisticated now that there really is one for every skin type – so banish any visions of thick, gloopy products that do nothing but clog pores. You cannot go wrong with Clarins’ tried and true range of plant oils, Blue Lotus being a real stand out for the oilier types who might be scared to add this step to their routines. But if you are going to splurge, this is the step in your routine to do it. La Mer’s The Renewal Oil blends plant and nut oils, and wears like a dream under makeup. Another beautiful choice for those open to the scent of its 22 botanical oils is Vintner’s Daughter Active Botanical Serum, which sinks in quickly while leaving you with its calming and brightening effects for hours.

Story by Zoe Briggs

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