Understanding how skincare products work and pair together is important when it comes to achieving visible results. Like any good recipe, you need to know what to use and when to use it. This rings especially true where serums are concerned, because they are packed with active ingredients at higher concentrations than in other skincare. But while care is required, if correctly done, layering serums can transform your skin.

We’ve unpacked the basics of a great skincare routine, and created a guide to serums and product combinations to ensure real results for every complexion. Read on…

What Makes A Good Skincare Routine? 

It doesn’t have to be complicated, but an effective skincare routine does need to perform a few key functions to encourage optimal skin health:

Cleanse: It’s important to cleanse your skin daily, not only to remove makeup and sunscreen but pollutants and excess sebum, too. This reduces the risk of breakouts and premature ageing. 

Hydrate: All skin needs water-based hydration, even skin prone to breaking out, or shine. Hydration can be effectively added via serums, moisturisers, or both. 

Target: This is where serums shine! By introducing active serums into the fold, you can target personalised concerns like wrinkles, pigmentation, irritation, congestion and dullness. More on this below.

Protect: Arguably the most important aspect of any skincare routine is environmental protection, especially against UV rays. The takeaway? Wear a broad spectrum SPF every single day – rain, hail or shine. 

The Role Of Serums…

Serums typically contain a higher percentage of active ingredients, designed to help them zero in on specific concerns. Some common active ingredients – and Skinstitut favourites – include antioxidants such as Vitamin C and Niacinamide, hydrators like Hyaluronic Acid, chemical-based exfoliators, and Retinol. 

The details of serum layering depend on where you are in your skincare journey. If you’re starting out, one serum is sufficient, but for those of us looking to overhaul our complexion health, or more invested in skincare solutions, serum layering is an effective way to see real results. You can also cycle different formulas in the morning and evening, or on alternating days. Below, we unpack what to use – and when. 

What Serum Ingredients Should I Be Using? 

There’s no shortage of proven skincare ingredients out there, including the following lineup of hardworking actives we work with, and the serums you’ll find them in:

Glycolic Acid: A water-soluble Alpha-Hydroxy Acid (AHA), Glycolic Acid works to exfoliate the skin’s surface, leaving it brighter, smoother, and firmer-looking. 

Best for: Pigmentation, congestion, dullness.

Use it: A few times a week, at night. 

Formula to try: Even Blend Serum.

Hyaluronic Acid: A five-star ingredient, Hyaluronic Acid pulls water from the surrounding environment into the skin, keeping it plump, smooth and hydrated. 

Best for: Dehydration, fine lines. 

Use it: Daily, morning or evening. 

Formula to try: 1% Hyaluronic Complex Serum.

Niacinamide: Also known as Vitamin B3, this ingredient soothes and strengthens the barrier while refining skin texture. It’s also known to balance oil production. 

Best for: Discolouration, redness, irritation, breakouts. 

Use it: Daily, morning or night.

Formula to try: 10% Niacinamide Power Serum.

Retinol: Retinol is a form of Vitamin A that improves skin function and cell turnover. It’s clinically proven and a jack of all trades when it comes to complexion health. It’s safe to say we’re big Retinol fans! 

Best for: Pigmentation, wrinkles, breakouts, dullness. 

Use it: A few nights a week, gradually building up frequency to every night, or every second night.

Formula to try: Retinol Serum.  

Vitamin C, or L-Ascorbic Acid: Vitamin C is an antioxidant that protects the skin against environmental aggressors by neutralising free radicals. It’s also essential for collagen production – think of it as a glow-booster and anti-ager. The most common form used in skincare (and the most researched) is L-Ascorbic Acid. 

Best for: Pigmentation, fine lines, dullness, environmental protection. 

Use it: Daily in the morning, under your sunscreen.

Formula to try: 10% Vitamin C Super Serum.

Botanical Extracts: This broader category encompasses plant ingredients with skin-improving benefits. One of our favourites is Botanical Lanablue, a blue-green algae extract, that works as a gentle Vitamin A and Retinol alternative to deliver similar anti-ageing benefits without the associated sensitivity. 

Best for: Uneven texture, tone, and signs of ageing.

Use it: Daily, morning or evening.

Formula to try: Rejuvenate 15 Serum.  

Serum Layering Combinations We Love

When layering serums, it’s worth following a few general rules: 

  • Apply from thinnest to thickest.
  • Use the most ‘active’ formula first on clean dry skin (this includes Retinol and exfoliating acids like Glycolic Acid).
  • Follow up with nourishing or hydrating ingredients such as Hyaluronic Acid or Niacinamide.
  • One exception to this is if your skin is ultra-sensitive: if this is the case, apply hydrating or more gentle formulas first to act as a bit of a buffer.

Now, onto some high-performance serum pairings!

Morning duos: 

10% Vitamin C Power Serum + 1% Hyaluronic Complex Serum to firm, protect and hydrate.

Rejuvenate 15 Serum + 1% Hyaluronic Complex Serum to fortify, firm and smooth.

Evening duos: 

Retinol Serum + 10% Niacinamide Power Serum to firm, clarify and boost luminosity. 

Even Blend Serum + 1% Hyaluronic Complex Serum to brighten, smooth and plump. 

When To Go Pro 

Obviously, there is a disclaimer here: topical products aren’t always enough to completely resolve skin concerns. Our skin is unique and complex, and while our cosmeceutical formulas are proven to work, there’s limits to what they can achieve. 

If you want to take things up a notch, or you’re dealing with a tricky skin situation (we see you, pigmentation and acne), it’s best to consult a professional. 

We work with Laser Clinics to utilise our products in a clinical setting. Our AquaFacial is a great place to start, combining a deep cleanse, acid peel, microcurrent, and cool therapy to purify, resurface and tighten the complexion. If you want to really dial up results, this is an excellent place to start. 

Combine this pro intel on serum layering (and building a routine that works) with understanding how to glow in every season.

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