March 03, 2023

How To Layer Serum And Moisturiser For Your Skin Type

Consider this your comprehensive, dermatologist-approved guide to layering your hardworking skincare. Yes…there’s a right (and a wrong) way to layer your serums and moisturiser.  

Layering your serum and moisturiser should never feel like a riddle. But with the various active ingredients found in our bottled investments alongside our refined 10-step skin care routines, making sure that your layers work in synergy can sometimes prove to be a tale of woe. Yes, we might have the urge to slap on everything we can get our hands on but experiencing a compromised skin barrier caused by a not-so harmless skin cocktail can make you think twice. Here, LA-based anti-ageing and integrative medicine specialist and Upkeep partner, Dr. Rahi Sarbaziha breaks down what to look for and how to layer based on your skin type.

So, What’s The Difference?

Think of moisturiser as a protective back bone—a substance that helps hydrate—and consider serums as a bioactive vehicle that targets skin concerns. Sarbaziha notes that certain serums can act as moisturisers but, as a general rule, serums are more liquid in nature and contain active ingredients that can both help hydrate and treat certain skin conditions.

Vitamin C is the quintessential example. “It works better in serum form because it is better absorbed via this route, and when applied as one of the first layers it can help create a layer of protection and immunity to the skin,” Sarbaziha explains. She also recommends that we should always start with the lightest products and progressively add on to the thickest, allowing each layer to absorb. The final step? Always SPF.

Skin Type: Oily

For those of us with a natural shine, less is more. “Use serums that help regulate oil production on the skin and avoid combining too many serums and moisturisers,” advises Sarbaziha. “Anyone with significantly oilier skin should use lightweight water based moisturisers to complement their serum of choice and be cautious about how many serums you mix.” 

While there’s a common misconception that oilier skin types don’t need to moisturise, Sarbaziha notes that all skin types need to. “Each individual should adjust their skincare routine to meet their needs, something which can be assessed by trial and error.”

layer serum and moisturiser

Try Layering…

Naturium Niacinamide Serum 12% Plus Zinc 2%

If you find you always have a natural sheen, you can find solace in Naturium’s Niacinamide Serum. Why? Well, niacinamide—aka as vitamin b3—is a multitasker that pairs well with an array of active ingredients. You’ll find it brightens, reduces fine lines and best of all stops the skin from going into overdrive as it regulates excess sebum production. This clinically tested formula is also fragrance and cruelty-free.

SHOP NOW: Naturium Niacinamide Serum 12% Plus Zinc 2%, $31.50

Summer Fridays Cloud Dew Oil-Free Gel Cream

Summer Fridays Cloud Dew Oil-Free Gel Cream is a water-based lightweight heavy hitter. Infused with hyaluronic acid, ceramides and pineapple enzymes—it not only deeply nourishes but simultaneously brightens dark spots and provides antioxidant support. It also makes for the perfect hyaluronic cream hydrator as it doesn’t leave behind a tacky feel, rather a fresh glow.

SHOP NOW: Summer Fridays Cloud Dew Oil-Free Gel Cream, $74

Skin Type: Dry

If you regularly battle with dryness, finding the right hydrating serum is important. Sarbahiza recommends opting for a serum that contains hyaluronic acid. While hydration is one factor to consider, “incorporating antioxidant ingredients to protect against free-radical damage and resurfacing ingredients can help combat the signs of ageing” and are equally important. 

Sarbahiza advises that “skincare should not only be tailored to the dryness of your skin but to your age and environmental exposures.” It’s also important to time your applications, she says. “Nighttime moisturisers are usually more hydrating but too thick to wear during the day” so switch between lighter formulas in the day and add an oil based serum to help seal moisture in the skin.

Try Layering…

La Roche Posay Hyalu B5 Hyaluronic Acid Serum

A fast-absorbing, instant dose of hydration. French pharmacy brand La Roche Posay calls on a combination of hyaluronic acid, vitamin B5 and their famous thermal spring water to soothe, plump and deeply hydrate the skin barrier. 

SHOP NOW: La Roche Posay Hyalu B5 Hyaluronic Acid Serum, $71.95

Drunk Elephant Lala Retro Whipped Cream

The Drunk Elephant Lala Retro Cream is rich, restorative and a fan favourite (it’s won a tonne of beauty awards for good reason). It feels velvety on the skin and is spiked with plantain extract, marula oil, ceramides and fermented green tea seed—a smoothie that works to improve the skin’s firmness and elasticity, protect against external aggressors and a formidable opponent against dry skin.

SHOP NOW: Drunk Elephant Lala Retro Whipped Cream, $100

Skin Type: Sensitive

Sarbaziha suggests consulting your aesthetic provider before switching skincare products. “It’s always recommended to use high quality skincare and to work with a professional to find the products that work for you.” At times it may require some trial and error and a slow and steady introduction of active ingredients.

If you feel as though you need to forgo many beneficial yet highly potent ingredients, Sarbaziha says “your skin is your biggest organ and is as adaptable as you are.”

Try Layering…

REN Clean Skincare Evercalm Redness Relief Serum

Looking for relief from discomfort, irritation and redness in the skin? Look no further. REN’s Evercalm serum is a vegan powerhouse thanks to mushroom extract, REN’s defence complex and squalane. With consistent use it builds up the strength of your skin barrier. Say no more.

SHOP NOW: REN Clean Skincare Evercalm Redness Relief Serum, $91

CeraVe Daily Moisturising Lotion

You can’t get more classic than CeraVe. This Fragrance-free lotion comprises three types of ceramides and also touts the benefits of hydrating hyaluronic acid. Ultra gentle on the skin, the formula just gets us and is why it’s widely praised by dermatologists and beauty editors alike. 

SHOP NOW: CeraVe Daily Moisturising Lotion, $13.39


This is a great article on layering serum and moisturiser according to your skin type. I'm really interested in the hydrating properties of La Roche Posay Hyalu B5 Hyaluronic Acid Serum and Drunk Elephant Lala Retro Cream. Could you tell me more about the differences between these two products?

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