Layering Products: The Right Order, Placement, and What to Steer Clear of

Layering your skincare products correctly can make a significant difference in the health and appearance of your skin. It's not just about using high-quality products; it's about using them in the right order to maximize their effectiveness. In this post, we'll explore the intricacies of layering your skincare routine, provide examples of products for each step, and explain what combinations to avoid. We’ll also offer a detailed, step-by-step guide to help you apply each product properly.

Understanding the Skincare Order

The general rule for layering skincare is to apply products from thinnest to thickest consistency. This allows each product to be absorbed effectively without being blocked by heavier creams or oils applied earlier.

Here's the typical order, with M for morning, N for night, and M/N for both.

1. Oil-based Cleanser (N)

Tips for choosing an oil-based cleanser 

  • Know Your Skin Type: Consider your skin type before selecting an oil cleanser. If you have oily or acne-prone skin, opt for lighter options. Dry skin may benefit from richer choices.
  • Look for Non-Comedogenic Oils: Choose oil cleansers formulated with non-comedogenic oils to avoid clogging pores and causing breakouts. Look for ingredients like sunflower seed oil, safflower oil, or hemp seed oil.
  • Avoid Fragrances and Irritants: Fragrances and harsh chemicals can irritate the skin, especially if you have sensitive skin or conditions like rosacea. Opt for fragrance-free and gentle formulas to minimize the risk of irritation.
  • Check for Emulsifying Agents: Emulsifying agents help oil cleansers rinse off cleanly without leaving a greasy residue. Look for ingredients like polyethylene glycol (PEG) or sorbitan oleate in the ingredient list.
  • Read Reviews and Test Patch: Before purchasing a new oil cleanser, read reviews from other users to get an idea of their experiences. Additionally, perform a patch test on a small area of your skin to check for any adverse reactions before using it on your entire face.

If you have oily, acne-prone, or congested skin, it's wise to exercise caution with oil cleansers. They have the potential to exacerbate pore congestion and may lead to further breakouts.

How to use an Oil-Based Cleanser:

  1. Start with dry hands and a dry face.
  2. Dispense a small amount of the oil cleanser into your palm. Typically, a coin-sized amount is sufficient.
  3. Gently massage the oil onto your dry skin using circular motions, paying attention to areas with makeup or sunscreen buildup.
  4. Take your time massaging the oil into your skin to effectively dissolve makeup, sunscreen, and excess oil.
  5. Wet your hands with warm water and continue massaging the oil into your skin. The water will emulsify the oil, transforming it into a milky texture.
  6. Rinse thoroughly with lukewarm water, ensuring all traces of the oil cleanser are removed.
  7. Optionally, follow up with a water-based cleanser to ensure all residue is thoroughly removed.
  8. Pat your skin dry with a clean towel and proceed with the rest of your skincare routine.

Here are oil-based cleansers recommended based on your skin type, and concerns:

Anua Pore Control Oil Cleanser:

  • Skin Type: Oily and acne-prone skin.
  • Concerns it covers: Pore congestion and excess sebum.

You can view the product here: Anua Heartleaf Pore Control Cleansing Oil

Haruharu Black Rice Oil Cleanser:

  • Skin Type: All skin types, including dry and sensitive skin.
  • Concerns it covers: Hydration, anti-aging, and brightening.

You can view the product here: Black Rice Moisture Deep Cleansing Oil 

 Beauty of Joseon Ginseng Oil Cleanser:

  • Skin Type: Normal to dry skin.
  • Concerns it covers: Hydration, nourishment, and anti-aging.

You can view the product here: Ginseng Cleansing Oil

Skin1004 Oil Cleanser:

  • Skin Type: All skin types.
  • Concerns it covers: Deep cleansing, removing impurities and makeup.

You can view the product here: Centella Light Cleansing Oil 

Heimish All Clean Balm:

  • Skin Type: All skin types.
  • Concerns it covers: Effective makeup removal, hydration, and gentle cleansing.

You can view the product here: All Clean Balm 

Onto the next step... 

2. Water-based Cleanser (M/N)

Choosing a water-based cleanser is essential for maintaining healthy skin, as it helps remove dirt, oil, and impurities without stripping away essential moisture. Here are some tips to consider when selecting a water-based cleanser:

  • Know Your Skin Type: Understanding your skin type is crucial in choosing the right cleanser. Whether you have oily, dry, combination, or sensitive skin, there's a cleanser formulated to address your specific needs.

To identify your skin type, conduct the Skin Feel Test: Wash your face with a mild cleanser and gently pat it dry. After 30 minutes, assess how your skin feels. If it feels tight or uncomfortable, it's likely dry skin. If it appears greasy or shiny, you may have oily skin. If your skin feels balanced with no noticeable oiliness or dryness, it's likely normal skin.

  • Look for Gentle Formulas: Water-based cleansers should be gentle on the skin to avoid irritation or over-drying. Look for cleansers labeled as "gentle," "mild," or "for sensitive skin."
  • Avoid Harsh Ingredients: Stay away from cleansers containing harsh ingredients such as sulfates (like Sodium Lauryl Sulfate or Sodium Laureth Sulfate), alcohol, or artificial fragrances, as they can be drying and irritating to the skin.
  • Check the Ingredients List: Opt for cleansers with nourishing and hydrating ingredients like hyaluronic acid, glycerin, aloe vera, or ceramides. These ingredients help to retain moisture and keep your skin hydrated.
  • Consider Specific Concerns: If you have specific skin concerns such as acne, aging, or hyperpigmentation, look for water-based cleansers that address those concerns. For example, salicylic acid or tea tree oil can be beneficial for acne-prone skin, while antioxidants like vitamin C help combat signs of aging.
  • pH Balanced Formulas: Look for cleansers with a pH level close to that of your skin (around 5.5). A pH-balanced cleanser helps maintain the skin's natural protective barrier and prevents it from becoming too alkaline or acidic.
  • Patch Test New Products: Before fully incorporating a new water-based cleanser into your skincare routine, perform a patch test on a small area of your skin to ensure you don't have any adverse reactions.
  • Consider Your Environment: If you live in a humid climate or have been exposed to pollution, consider a cleanser that offers additional benefits such as detoxifying or antioxidant properties to help protect your skin from environmental stressors.
  • Consult with a Dermatologist: If you're unsure about which water-based cleanser is best for your skin, consider consulting with a dermatologist who can provide personalized recommendations based on your skin type and concerns.

Taking these guidelines into account, you can confidently choose a water-based cleanser that thoroughly cleanses your skin without causing any irritation or dryness, leaving it revitalized and moisturized.

Don't forget to incorporate a water-based cleanser, especially if you're using an oil-based one in a double cleansing routine, to ensure a comprehensive removal of impurities and to promote a radiant complexion.

How to use an Water-Based Cleanser: 

  1. Splash lukewarm water onto your face to open up your pores.
  2. Dispense a small amount of cleanser into your hands and rub them together to create a lather.
  3. Gently massage the lather onto your wet face in circular motions, focusing on the T-zone and other areas prone to oiliness or dirt. Continue for 30 seconds to a minute.
  4. Thoroughly rinse your face with lukewarm water to remove all the cleanser.
  5. Pat your face dry with a clean, soft towel. Avoid rubbing.


  • Use lukewarm water to avoid stripping natural oils.
  • Be gentle to prevent irritation.
  • Cleanse twice daily—morning and night—for best results.

Here are water-based cleansers recommended based on your skin type, and concerns:

Round Lab 1025 Dokdo Cleanser:

  • Skin Type: All skin types, especially sensitive skin
  • Concerns it covers:

You can view the product here: 1025 Dokdo Cleanser

Anua Heartleaf Quercentinol Pore Deep Cleansing Foam:

  • Skin Type: Oily and combination skin
  • Concerns it covers:

You can view the product here: Heartleaf Quercentinol Pore Deep Cleansing Foam

Mixsoon Centella Cleansing Foam:

  • Skin Type: Sensitive and dry skin
  • Concerns it covers:

You can view the product here: Centella Cleansing Foam 

 Some By Mi AHA-BHA-PHA 30 Days Miracle Acne Clear Foam:

  • Skin Type: Oily and acne-prone skin
  • Concerns it covers:

You can view the product here: Acne Clear Foam

Hopefully these recommendations can help you choose the right cleanser based on your skin type and specific skin concerns.

3. Toners (M/N)

When choosing a toner for your skincare routine, consider the following tips:

  • Targeted Ingredients: Look for toners with specific ingredients tailored to your skin concerns. For example, if you have acne-prone skin, opt for a toner containing salicylic acid to help unclog pores and reduce breakouts. If you have dry skin, choose a toner with hyaluronic acid to boost hydration.
  • pH-Balancing Formulas: Consider toners with pH-balancing properties to help restore your skin's natural pH level. This can help prevent issues like dryness, irritation, and acne.
  • Hydrating Formulas: If you have dry or dehydrated skin, opt for toners with hydrating ingredients such as glycerin, aloe vera, or hyaluronic acid. These ingredients can help replenish moisture and leave your skin feeling soft and supple.
  • Sensitive Skin-Friendly: If you have sensitive skin, look for gentle, alcohol-free toners with soothing ingredients like chamomile or green tea extract. These can help calm and hydrate your skin without causing irritation.
  • Multi-Tasking Formulas: Consider toners that offer additional skincare benefits beyond toning, such as exfoliating, brightening, or pore-minimizing properties. This allows you to streamline your skincare routine and target multiple concerns with one product.
  • Patch Test: Before fully incorporating a new toner into your routine, perform a patch test on a small area of your skin to check for any adverse reactions or sensitivity.

In our professional view at the skincare shop, we recognize the widespread popularity of the 7-layer toner method. While it can provide added hydration benefits, we believe it's largely optional for achieving and sustaining healthy skin.

We're not suggesting you skip it entirely, but feel free to prioritize other aspects of your skincare routine if the 7-layer method doesn't suit you.

To apply toner to your skin, follow these steps:

  1. Start with clean hands and a freshly cleansed face.
  2. Pour a small amount of toner onto a cotton pad or into the palm of your hand.
  3. Application with Cotton Pad: If using a cotton pad, gently saturate it with the toner.
  4. Application with Hands: If applying toner with your hands, pour a small amount into the palm of your hand and then gently pat or press it into your skin.
  5. Allow the toner to absorb into your skin for a few seconds before proceeding with the next step in your skincare routine.
  6. Incorporate toner into your skincare routine both morning and night for best results, unless it contains active ingredients that require less frequent use.

Remember to choose a toner that is suitable for your skin type and concerns, and always patch test new products before using them regularly.

Here are toners recommended based on your skin type, and concerns:

Tirtir Milk Skin Toner:

  • Skin Type: Suitable for all skin types, including sensitive skin.
  • Concerns it Covers: Hydration, soothing, and pH balancing.

You can view the product here: Milk Skin Toner

Axis-Y Purifying Toner:

  • Skin Type: For oily and acne-prone skin types.
  • Concerns it Covers: Controls sebum, acne, and inflammation, tightens pores.

You can view the product here: Purifying Toner

Anua Heartleaf 77 Soothing Toner:

  • Skin Type: Suitable for oily, combination, and acne-prone skin types.
  • Concerns it Covers: Calms, balances, treats acne, reduces redness, controls oil.

You can view the product here: Heartleaf 77 Toner

Selecting the right toner tailored to your skin type and concerns can significantly enhance your skincare routine and contribute to a healthier, more radiant complexion.