I’ve been on a deep cleaning mission to get all of my “junk drawers” and other cluttered areas of my home organized since New Year’s Day.

I’ve tackled and conquered the junk drawer, the pile of dermatology journals and skin care magazines, the closet in the guest bedroom, filing cabinets in my office……and then I got to my bathroom! Eeek!

I didn’t realize how many skin care products I have that I’m going to “try out”. I’m kinda a skin care junkie and don’t have very sensitive of skin so I love to experiment with lots of different products so I can share with you my findings and experience with them.

As I was looking at my bathroom counter to see how I could minimize the clutter I thought I could put some under the bathroom sink….but there were even more products there….and in the bathroom cabinets! So I decided to organize them instead and then would come up with a plan on how to rotate thru them to test them out.

I started separating out all of the cleansers and then the toners and moisturizers and facial oils etc and realized I was ordering them in the sequence of how I typically recommend my patient’s apply their skin care products to their skin.

I’m asked about layering of skin care products by patients in my clinic every day and looking at the myriad of products on my counter, I saw just how confusing this can all be, especially with all of the marketing of the different skin care products. And if you have to work in a prescription product with all of these it can be challenging to figure out where to fit it in!

So, this week I would like to share with you a practical guide of how to layer your skin care products, including prescriptions!

To make it simple, I separated the skin care routine into morning and night and also the different routine for face and body.

Face, Neck and Chest


  1. Cleanse
    1. Morning routines are best for using a gentle cleanser and then pat dry.
    2. I prefer to do deeper cleanses and exfoliation in the evening especially if you wear makeup so your morning facial cleanse can be lighter.
    3. You have some options on what type of cleanser to use for your gentle morning cleanse. Feel free to experiment and pick which works best for your skin type: cleanser that foams with water, micellar water alone or with a cleanser, facial oil cleanser etc. Typically I advise to avoid using cleansing wipes as I commonly see irritations and reactions to these
  2. Hydrosol/Toner
    1. Hydrosols or toners work best after cleansing, but I don’t find them essential to most skin care routines. So if you are looking for a step to skip and simplify your routine or if you looking to minimize cost of products, I think your skin will do just fine without these.
  3. Treatment/Serum
    1. The best time to use your morning skin care prescription treatment cream (ex: acne prescription cream) or an antioxidant serum (ex: vitamin c serum) is after cleansing and before moisturizing.
    2. If you are using both a topical prescription treatment and a serum, typically applying the prescription first is recommended so it has direct contact with the skin prior to any other products that you will layer on top of it.
    3. Face
      1. You only need a pea-sized amount of your prescription cream or serum for the ENTIRE face. It takes some practice to get the hang of how little this is and how to get it to spread across the whole face.
      2. Typically I recommend placing a pea-sized amount of the product on your hand and then applying tiny dots of the pea -sized amount on different areas of your face and then rub in.
      3. A good strategy is to place one dot on your chin, one in the middle of each cheek, one on each side of the forehead and one dot on the nose. Then spread gently across the face.
    4. Neck & Chest
      1. Don’t forget to also apply your serums to your neck and chest (and back of the hands). These are areas where we tend to forget to apply treatment serums but also show aging. You will need a few pea-sized amounts to cover these areas.
      2. NOTE: The neck and chest area tend to also be delicate areas of the skin and some acne products will irritate and dry out the skin on your neck so if you don’t tend to break out there, you may want to skip applying your acne treatment here.
  4. Moisturizer
    1. After your serum, apply your moisturizer.
    2. If you are using both a moisturizing cream/lotion and an oil, I recommend applying the cream/lotion first and then the oil.
    3. Depending on the moisturizer, two pea-sized amounts of your moisturizer/sunscreen (close to size of a nickel) for your whole face should be enough, feel free to be more generous with that amount if you are dry.
  5. Protect
    1. If you use a moisturizer with sunscreen in it, then your moisturizer can both fulfill the moisturizer and protect steps. If there is no sunscreen in your moisturizer, then you will need to apply moisturizer first and then sunscreen on top.
    2. For sunscreen, I recommend size of a nickel for whole face rather than pea-size. You will need about the size of a quarter for your neck and another 1-2 quarters for your chest depending on how much is covered with your clothing.
  6. Makeup Enhancement
    1. After you have applied all of your treatments/serums, moisturizer and sunscreen, then you may apply your clean beauty makeup to enhance your natural features.
      1. NOTE: Some makeup has sunscreen in it and it will help protect you but typically it does not contain enough sunscreen or SPF for adequate protection and I recommend you use a separate sunscreen under your makeup.


  1. Make up remover & Cleanser
    1. If you wore makeup during the day, don’t sleep with it on. Be sure to remove it every nite as part of your evening beauty routine.
    2. I prefer oil based eye-makeup remover and you can cleanser of your choice to remove the rest of your makeup. This is a good time to use your cleansing brush, pad, sponge or sonic device to ensure your makeup is removed with minimal residue and without being too abrasive or scrubbing too hard.
    3. If you exfoliate with a mask once a week, applying mask after you have removed your makeup and cleansed your face is a good time to add this into your regimen.
  2. Hydrosol/Toner/Astringent
    1. This step is optional
  3. Treatment
    1. If you have a prescription treatment cream (tretinoin, etc.) this is a good time to apply it and then you can layer your moisturizer on top.
    2. Remember pea-sized amount is all you need for your face and a little bit more for neck and chest.
  4. Moisturizer
    1. Since you will be getting your beauty sleep, this is a perfect time to apply a thicker moisturizing cream or a cream and then a facial oil to hydrate your skin overnight.


Skin care regimens for the body are a little simpler. You only need to cleanse once a day and for some every other day. Typically prescription treatment creams are applied to the body twice daily and moisturizing is recommended twice daily or sometimes more often if needed. Here are the details:


  1. Cleanse (only once per day)
    1. Use a gentle cleanser on most days of the week and a few times a week or once weekly you can exfoliate with an exfoliating mitt, pouf, loofah, etc. Remember to be gentle with your skin and don’t exfoliate so much that the barrier of your skin becomes broken and your skin is easily irritated.
    2. After cleansing, be sure to pat dry and don’t rub so you don’t irritate your skin.
  2. Treatment (typically twice daily)
    1. As a board-certified dermatologist, the fingertip unit (FTU) is a standard guideline to measure how much of a topical prescription cream you should apply to your skin.
      1. A fingertip unit is the amount of product that you squeeze out that covers the tip of your finger measuring from the end of the finger up until the first crease.
      2. The reason why dermatologists love the FTU as a measurement tool is because everyone’s fingertip amount is different depending on the size of your finger, but it will be perfectly proportionate to your body.
      3. Apply as many Fingertip Units as you need to get coverage of the area of your skin that needs treatment. Typically, each area just needs a thin layer of the treatment.
    2. You may skip this step if you don’t need a prescription treatment cream.
  3. Moisturizer (typically twice daily or more)
    1. To get enough moisturizer to cover your body, you can think of it in Fingertip Units if you’d like. Each Fingertip Unit covers about size of both palms of your hands put together.
  4. Protect
    1. To protect from excessive sun exposure, use clothing (long sleeves, long pants, hats, sunglasses etc) to cover areas you can that would be exposed to excessive sun and apply sunscreen to areas not covered by clothing.
    2. A guideline for how much sunscreen to apply is about the size of a shot glass to cover the non-exposed areas of your face, front and back and inside ears, front, sides and back of neck, chest and back of your hands and fingers. Most of us are not applying enough sunscreen so feel free to be generous with the amount you are applying. Remember it wears off and loses its effectiveness after 2 hours and you will need to reapply.


  1. Cleanse
    1. If you cleansed your body in the morning, you can skip evening cleanse. Washing your skin more than once or twice a day can irritate the skin and create an imbalance in your skin barrier.
  2. Treatment
    1. If you are prescribed a prescription treatment, use your prescription again as above and then seal it in with your moisturizer.
  3. Moisturizer
    1. Evenings are a good time to use a thicker moisturizing cream for your body and even an ointment base for your dry feet and hands.

I recommend keeping your skin care routines simple and focus on the main steps of Cleanse, Treat, Moisturize, and Protect. Minimize how many products you use on your skin. Find clean beauty products that work well with your skin type and once you’ve found something that works for you, stick with it. Touch base with your dermatologist if you have any questions about what skin care products and prescriptions are right for your unique skin.