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  • August 20, 2022 5 min read


    Some people like to wait for application but in fact, a slightly moist skin absorbs serums and skincare products more effectively. The answer is that you don't need to wait a long time to apply the moisturizer. A moist skin allows the moisturizer to lock into the skin and penetrate deep. The locking action of the moisturizer prevents products from evaporating and also moisture loss from the serum. Serums generally have a smaller molecular size that is designed to penetrate fast and deep. So, you don’t affect the serums from penetrating by affecting a moisturizer immediately.

    Serums are usually more active than moisturizers. They also have different functions and they are designed to function in unison. So, you can apply your serum, and straight onto the moisturizer. Ensure you work each step into the skin. You get much more out of your routine once you massage each step in for approximately 10-20 seconds. The article will outline how the skin handles different products at once, and how long it takes after applying a product before adding another.

    How Can the Skin Handle Many Products at Once?

    Applying skin care products one after the other will not interfere with their ability to permeate through the skin or hinder its efficiency. Atolani et al. (2020) explained that the Skin may easily handle many beneficial ingredients at once as it is more about preference. Some users just need the feel of waiting between skincare steps, while others prefer moving through the skincare routine very fast. Below is the optimal order of skincare applications.

    • Cleanser
    • Toner
    • Chemical exfoliant
    • Apply the rest of the skincare treatments such as concentrated boosters, serums, and moisturizers according to their order of thinnest to thickest.
    • During the daytime, always finish with the sunscreen as your last step before adding makeup.

    How Long Should it be Between Serums and Moisturizer?

    No waiting is required between applying the serum and the moisturizer. You can as well choose to mix them in the palm before applying. A daytime moisturizer with moisturizer should not be mixed with other formulas because doing that may hinder the level of protection.

    How Long Should One Wait Between Using Retinol and Moisturizer?

    Truchuelo et al. (2017) explained that you don't need to wait as retinol products and moisturizers can be applied together. Doing that will not deactivate the retinol effectiveness. Some people find that using a water-based, and non-occlusive moisturizer before a powerful retinol product helps the skin tolerate better.

    How Long Should One Wait Before a Toner and Serum?

    You can apply the serum immediately after the toner. With skincare products, there is no concern about interfering with the effectiveness of the other.

    About AHA and BHA Exfoliants

    A well-formulated AHA or BHA exfoliant works effectively regardless of what you apply and also how soon you apply it. It may pave the way for the products you apply later to work more effectively. The concern that people have is that other products may change the AHA or the BHAs pH, leading to diluting and changing its efficiency. The fact is that the pH of a product doesn’t change fast. More so when the care products you apply also have pH. Which the product you apply should be, because the skin pH is naturally acidic, or a pH of seven which is neutral.

    Hydrating Serums Can be Added Straight

    According to the experts, you don’t need to waste time between washing and applying the hyaluronic acid serum. Salimi et al. (2022) explained that Hyaluronic acid-based serum benefits from being used on slightly damp skin directly after cleansing and toning as they draw in moisture like a sponge. However, failing to wait for seconds for the serum to absorb afterward could risk the rest of the routine. Pilling refers to when products are layered one after the other and build up so much and form little balls of the product on the face. This means that the product is not absorbed fully into the skin. It may not just be a waste of a good product, but also the benefits of the skincare routine are not delivered.

    Vitamin C Serums

    Experts agree that vitamin C should ideally be left for a little while before going to the next step. But the recommended time varies dramatically. The average suggested time is between 1-2 minutes. The issue is that vitamin C is a very unstable ingredient, so the products are carefully formulated to keep it as potent as possible. Vitamin C enables you to get the best out of the product by not diluting it. Waiting for some minutes is enough for the product to dry down before going to the next step. To maximize the effectiveness of each product that you use or need, either the toner, serum, moisturizer, oil, or sunscreen. You need time between each application to allow the skin to absorb the incredible properties of the product. Enders et al. (2022) explained that despite that the research is limited, experts seem to agree that waiting for every product to dry before applying the next is the best option, whether it takes a few seconds or some minutes.

    Most experts think that waiting a certain period makes the products more effective. Usually, they recommend waiting for about a minute between the serum, sunscreen, and a moisturizer. It provides a moment to get absorbed before you apply the next product. The reason is that certain product formulas and textures can roll up once you apply the immediately one after the other. Waiting time can also help in the penetration of the product that is designed for a specific place like a spot treatment on a blemish or an under-eye cream.

    You don't need to set time in between applying products, you need to wait until each product dries before adding the next in 30-60 seconds. There is no magic number because the time it takes for a certain product to penetrate through the skin and feel dry is different depending on the product type and the quality. The quality of the product matters. Experts believe that the better the quality of a product, the better it absorbs into the skin. When you use a high-quality product like retinol, the waiting time is less and possibly non-existent because they are of different chemistry and they mix and absorb fast into the skin.


    Generally, it is good to apply the serum before the moisturizer. This provides the active ingredients in the serum with the best chance of working. The best order and time of the day for the skincare regime depends on the products’ ingredients and also the personal goal. The experts described the best approach based on a person’s concerns and needs. You can look for a dermatologist about any persistent skin issues, like dryness, scarring, acne, or hyperpigmentation.


    Atolani, O., Baker, M. T., Adeyemi, O. S., Olanrewaju, I. R., Hamid, A. A., Ameen, O. M., ... & Usman, L. A. (2020). COVID-19: Critical discussion on the applications and implications of chemicals in sanitizers and disinfectants. EXCLI Journal19, 785.

    Enders, K., Lenz, R., do Sul, J. A. I., Tagg, A. S., & Labrenz, M. (2020). When every particle matters: a QuEChERS approach to extract microplastics from environmental samples. MethodsX7, 100784.

    Salimi, L., Saghati, S., Amini, H., Karkan, F., Moharamzadeh, K., Sokullu, E., & Rahbarghazi, R. (2022). Application of microneedle patches for drug delivery; doorstep to novel therapies. Journal of Tissue Engineering13, 20417314221085390-20417314221085390.

    Truchuelo, M., Cerdá, P., & Fernández, L. F. (2017). Chemical peeling: a useful tool in the office. Actas Dermo-Sifiliográficas (English Edition)108(4), 315-322.