Serum layering: It’s very much allowed.

Mar 6, 14 • Skincare!56 CommentsRead More »

Over the past few days I’ve had the delight of meeting many of you on my book tour. (… And have you purchasing the very first round of Go-To in our sold-out, 48-hour pre-sale. THANK YOU!! I was completely taken aback with your enthusiasm and support. You gorgeous bloody bastards. My goodness.)

Invariably during these events a few beauty questions will arise, for the same reason I always have furniture questions around interior designers, and food questions around nutritionists and kneepad questions around rollerbladers.

One that struck me as being a great one to clarify and confirm for all fruits was: Can you layer serums, or is that too much for the skin, and you should just use one?

And as I told sweet Alice fruit on Monday night: Yes! For the love of lactic acid, yes. I layer my serums every single day.


They are treatment products. They are concentrated, far more active and effective than skin creams, and tend to cost more because they have more potent ingredients and you use less of them. So, think about it: what exactly do you need to treat? Which area does your skin need help? Dehydration? Acne? Dryness? Sagging and loss of firmness? Big pores? Pigmentation?

Choose your serum(s) on this basis, and keep in mind what you use should change according to your skin’s needs, the seasons and hormonal changes, like the pill and pregnancy. There are do-it-all serums, (such as Estee Lauder’s Advanced Night Repair) which are great for skin that is relatively normal and not yelling for attention in any area, and of course a good rosehip oil with anti-oxidants can act as a great serum, but if you have specific issues, I say go for specific serums.

As an example of layering and the reasoning behind it, here’s what I do each morning as a pregnant woman waging war against hyperpigmentation:

1. Cleanse

2. Apply five drops of Skinceuticals Phloretin CF, which features a filthy amount of potent anti-oxidants (Phloretin and Ferulic acid) to protect my skin from free radical damage (“premature ageing”) which also brightens the skin (thanks to the Vitamin C). It’s non-sticky and far more pleasant to use than Skinceutical’s cult serum, CE Ferulic I reckon.



3. Apply some Aspect Pigment Punch serum, which helps to stop pigmentation from coming up in the first place.

4. Apply a zinc-based physical sunscreen, such as O Cosmedics Mineral Pro Tint, which by now you all know I adore. Physical sunscreens go on TOP of serums, remember. Chemical sunscreens, by comparison, go first and onto clean skin… making it hard to get serums to penetrate, and another great reason to make the switch to a physical.


5. Slap on Smashbox CC cream for a lightweight, glowy look but still medium coverage.

OR! if it’s a fancy day and I need to do a full face of makeup:

5. Tom Ford Illuminating Protective Primer (INSTANT FACIAL IN A BOTTLE, but best left to those with dry, not oily skin.)


6. MAC Face and Body foundation and then colour makeup.

At night, I cleanse, apply Pigment Punch, then a beautiful hydrating and nourishing Sodashi face oil (that is almost but not yet available to buy, I’m sorry), and then an anti-oxidant filled moisturiser that just happens to be from my own line.

So, as you can see, I definitely layer my serums.

I do this to ensure in the morning I am going out into the world fully defended and ready to prevent UV damage from causing the signs of ageing and also pigmentation, and at night to confirm my pigmentation has been “punched” and then add some lovely deep hydration and more anti-oxidants for all-round skin health and healing.

Others might use something for controlling congestion and oily pores followed by an anti-oxidant broth, or even a very active Vitamin C serum coupled with a hydrating, juicy one for a day where bright, glowing, plump skin is needed more than plain old treatment solutions. It all depends.

Things to note:

- Layering two is fine; three is probably the limit… bit much for your skin, and probably a sign you need a more all-round serum.

- Not all serums are good for night AND day – retinols or retinoids and AHAs, for example should be saved for PM use.

- Make sure your serums aren’t fighting each other, or you’re doubling up on ingredients or benefits, or the cumulation of the ingredients doesn’t mean you’re basically giving yourself a mini chemical peel each day. In other words, get professional advice before you embark.

- Serums cannot rollerblade very well and will be embarrassed if you ask them about the best kneepads to buy.

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56 Responses to Serum layering: It’s very much allowed.

  1. Hayley says:

    Hi Zoe, Thanks so much for all you advice…I have learnt so much about caring more for my skin since reading your blog. I recently stopped taking the pill due to the ridiculous amount of hormones it was pumping into my body and decided I was so not ok with that. As a result my skin has gone crazy and I now have a weird combination of hideous pimples combined with dry flaky skin. Is there a serum/combo of serums out there you could suggest that could help with the pimple situation?? Thanks so much!
    P.S I ordered The Very Useful Face Cream from the pre-sale and cannot wait to try that to help keep my face nice too :)

    • fruity says:

      Oh Hayley, when it comes to hormonal crazy skin, I’m afraid there’s not much I can offer in the way of help, because topical solutions don’t always work. Perhaps there is another pill you could try? At the very least, I recommend seeing a good facialist who can sort you out. Much more worth doing that than guessing and buying expensive stuff that might not even work.

      • bee says:

        Gosh Hayley I think we could be the same person!! In exactly the same boat!!
        Zoe, I’m wondering what your best recommendation for an acne/pimple serum would be? At the moment I’m sort of combining Aspects Extreme C with their Exfol but would love to know if you knew of a great serum to use just on the problem areas?? I realise this is more of an internal hormonal issue but anything I can combat on the surface would be great as well.

        • fruity says:

          What you’re using sounds pretty spot on, although maybe both of you could benefit from a hit of the (cult) Alpha-H Liquid Gold? ASAP are also great at acne solutions.

          • Allie says:

            Oh the frustration of searching for an external treatment for an internal hormonal issue. After (too) much searching I can highly recommend ‘Blue Light’ Omnilux. Has worked absolute wonders for me.

        • Sarah says:

          Mario Badescu Drying Lotion is awesome for popping on a aggressive pimple. Works wonders.

      • Sarah says:

        Hi Zoe,
        Can you recommend a reputable facialist in Sydney by any chance?

    • Ems says:

      Hayley (and Bee!) I just came out the other end of exactly the same situation. Always had acne, was on Diane-35 for 15 years and about a year ago I stopped taking the pill altogether and my skin went freakin’ nuts. Huge, sore, cystic acne. Apart from treating it with Omnilux Lights, it’s really about re-stabilizing your hormones through diet. I ordered a copy of The Clear Skin Diet by Alan Logan and Valori Treloar and it’s done wonders. Bascially, it’s a Low GI diet, cut out all dairy and sugar, stick to wholegrains and take stupid amounts of Fish Oil, Zinc and Vitamin E. I saw an improvement to my skin within 48 hours. I’ve stuck to it as best I can and skin is GOOD now. Finally. I can even relax off the diet every now and then without a breakout. I highly recommend finding the book and digging through all the information. It’s got some specifics that are far too much to go into now. They also recommend retinoids, and natural gentle products for treating the actual skin. Good luck, ladies! Adult acne is the worst.

      • Ems says:

        Ooh – I should explain the science. Basically, your hormones are obviously struggling after years on the pill. Cystic acne around the jawline and cheeks is caused by high testosterone. High GI foods spike your blood sugar, your insulin which in turn fuels your testosterone production, which is already in overdrive on account of balancing out after The Pill. So if you take that fuel away from it, it has an easier time evening out. Low GI foods that have no effect on your blood sugar are the way to go. As a separate note, anything dairy or soy also affects hormone production and should be cut out entirely. Luckily, alcohol has zero effect on blood sugar so you can still have a treat every now and then. Dark chocolate (85%) also seems to be okay and there are plenty of Low GI treats around on the supermarket shelves these days.

  2. Charlierose says:

    Thank you Zoe! Is it bad that I’m a 24 pasty face girl who doesn’t wear sunscreen everyday? Oh the wrinkles will be coming I’m sure! I’m going to go and buy some physical sunscreen today, I swear! Now I’m patiently waiting by my mail box til the end of the month so I can open up my swipeys and my lovely new face cream- I saw on go to that it could be used as a base for make up- can I still use my delightful primer on top, or is that a product overload? Thank you :) btw I can’t wait to play with the rest if the go to product line!

  3. Lauren says:

    Hi Zoe,
    Sorry this isn’t really related, but I’d love to see a post on whether you have changed up your hair and beauty routine since you have been pregnant? I am currently in my first trimester of my second pregnancy and I have not been using any product other than soap and bland shampoo and conditioners, as during my first pregnancy the smell of my favourite products made me feel so unwell I wasn’t able to use them without feeling nauseaus. Even a year after pregnancy I couldn’t put on my favourite YSL lippie without feeling really ill from the smell! Devastated! I’m yet to find something that is good and doesn’t really smell, and my skin is suffering because of it… I really don’t want to have to change up my moisturizers, favourite perfumes and lippies AGAIN just because the sickness of early pregnancy comes flooding back each time!

  4. kirsty says:

    great post zoe..loads of products out there, so its great to see it simplified for us mere mortals!! [yes i do believe you are super human at this moment in time]… the skinceuticals serum you mention…is there someting similar on the market that is more in the price range of your ‘Go-To’ line…thanks

    • fruity says:

      Oh, there are plenty of antioxidant serums out there that are nice on the wallet… Aesop have their Parsley Seed one, Philosophy have their When Hope is Not Enough Serum, and of course there is the Trilogy Rosehip Oil with Antioxidants.

      • kirsty says:

        Thankyou soo much…just want to have enough ‘clams’ to buy ALL your products on April 1st…[missed out on the pre-sale] the sound of themn and soo wallet friendly!…

  5. nettyballs says:

    What a great article, i have been confused about layering serums for so long! One quick question, i use the skinceuticals retinol cream twice a week at night time as that is all my skin can take at the moment! Can i use the retinol, then put a rosehip oil over the top of it or will it lose effectiveness? i have been putting a night cream over the retinol but i prefer the rosehip oil.

    • fruity says:

      That should be fine, as long as you make sure you apply your retinol first, and onto completely dry skin. I would recommend keeping the cream in there though, to counter any drying effects of the retinol.

  6. Cindy says:

    Hi Zoe
    I remember you used to love rosehip oil. Do you not use this anymore? Also is rosehip oil considered a serum?
    Cindy :)

  7. Nicole says:

    Hi Zoe, great, informative article as usual. I was wondering if you could recommend a specific serum for large pores? My inner cheeks, near my nose but not my nose (if that makes sense?) have larger pores than the rest of my face and I would love to shrink them. Any suggestions?

    • Ozlicious says:

      It sounds like you need a Vitamin A serum. :) Go and see a beauty therapist for a facial and ask her to recommend one!

  8. Kahira says:

    Hi Zoe,
    Heard a few things about Oil Pulling, and wondering what you and everyone thought and if anyone’s tried it?
    Would love to see an article done by you on this topic.
    Here’s a link :


  9. Karina says:

    Having never used a serum before… what would you suggest is the best to start with? I’ve always been anxious because of the whole oil-on-face eeek kinda thing, even though I know it’s good for your skin! Thanks!! x

  10. Ozlicious says:


    Serum layering can be incredibly effective, and some brands – like one of my personal favourites, Dermaquest – actually prescribe serums to be layered together. But ohhhhh lordy, you MUST know what you’re doing! You must know exactly what ingredients are designed to to what, and what NOT to layer together. For example, recent evidence is showing very strongly that you should not apply Niacinamide and Vitamin C together, as the Niacinamide causes the Vitamin C to oxidise very quickly (even if it’s encapsulated) and the Vitamin C prevents the Niacinamide from being properly absorbed.

    Things like that occur all the time, and you wouldn’t want to waste your precious moolah on serums only to find that they’re completely ineffective.

    That said, I love serum layering. Big fan. Huge. To my mind, serums are the product that do the work, and moisturisers are really only there to lock it in and provide a barrier.

  11. Alice says:

    Today is a fancy day because I am going to your launch tonight! I was actually nervous about doing my make up today and double serummed :) I bought the O sunscreen last weekend and found it is really stinky – is anyone else experiencing this?!

  12. Jen says:

    Hi Zoe,

    I’m in my late 20′s, fair skin, and only get about 5-10minutes a day of sun, my question is do I need to wear SPF30+ everyday? Also do I need to wear some kind of day serum as an aging preventative?



  13. Sarah says:

    I love Aspect pigment punch. It has helped manage my pigmentation better than anything else I’ve tried. I use it morning and night.

    In the morning I usually pair it with a Vit C serum. In the evening, with a retinol every second day. Would you put the retinol on first or the pigment punch??

  14. Ellie says:

    I have to go with simple and cheap here – I love Trilogy’s Rosehip Oil with anti-oxidants. I have had annoying acne scars and it has almost completely cleared them up in 6 months. It is also great paired with smashbox cc cream to make the cream glide on smoothly and give the skin a ‘glow’. Also found Trilogy mosturizers very useful while I have been on Ro-Accutane. Expensive but really lock in the moisture when used at night after rosehip oil. At 20mg the only real dryness while on roaccutane has been on my lips and body – thankfully my face has been fine! Zoe a post on roaccutane skincare would be very interesting I think? Cheers

  15. Chloe says:

    Hi Zoe,
    I would like to wear sunscreen every day, but whenever I do I feel like my makeup (primer, liquid foundation & loose powder) just slides off my face and is all gone in an hour….do you have any tips to stop this from happening?

  16. Jennifer says:

    Great post and very timely as I am wanting to purchase some serums to amp up my skin. I am trying to add more clean, organic products into my routine and wondered if anyone has any recommendations or experience with the comparison of natural versus cosmeceuticals? For example, I am looking at The Little Alchemist Ultra C radiance serum compared to Medik8 Vitamin C. Would be great to see a post on this and hear your thoughts.

  17. Jen says:

    Just wondering what your position on Retinoids/ Retinols was? Are they a necessity in an anti aging skin care regime?

    • etal says:

      i second that Jen…just stared useing Vit A..only twice a week and yes my skin feels smoother but is so sensitive/red in area’s…not sure if its worth it…

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  19. Sarah says:

    Hi Zoe, Firstly, thanks for signing your book! I couldn’t get a ticket to see you in Brisbane but the lovely lady on the counter said she could ask you to sign a book (your book) for me. Love it! Can not put it down. Now just a quick one… THERMAGE. What is your take on thermage? I am 50 this year and bits on the face are starting to sag (just a wee bit admittedly!) and I wondered if this was the answer? I have read ‘rave’ reviews and reviews that say ‘don’t waste your money’ and ‘my skin is now worse than ever’ (in terms of sagging!). SO, I ask you Great Zoe (Oracle of all things beauty and fabulousness) what say yee?

  20. Mignon says:

    Hi Zoe,

    I’m Asian, 56 years old, and have a lot of dark spots and pigmentation. Can you recommend any products? Paula’s Choice states that Asian skin is no different than any other skin types in treating dark spots, but being Asian, I disagree – we tend to scar easily and spots can become worse if using the wrong products. I use Treninoin at night, but it has not helped.

  21. Donna says:

    Hi, I have red skin with broken blood vessels that appear to be getting worse, I have had laser on numerous occasions what skin care would you recommend to combat this.

  22. Lisa says:

    Hi Zoe!

    I have couple of questions for you..
    I’ve been using the Aesop parsley seep anti-oxidant serum as a sole moisturiser on my oily skin along with an eye cream as I found my old moisturiser was making me ever greasier and clogging my pores. Having read this blog on serums I’m not sure if I should be doing this?? Skin is confusing.

    Also, I have been in the sun a fair bit this summer and developed what seems to be a pigmentation moustache. As fun as moustaches are, it’s awful and not Mexican in the slightest. I’ll try some of your tips in the blog above to rid myself of this, are the prods different for those with oily skin? I’ve noticed my skin seems to really hate sunscreen these days, I’ve been using invisible zinc’s 30+ water resistant one but my skin gets so pimply and yuck afterward. Would you mind please suggesting something that might be a bit kinder to my skin?

    Sorry, I realise there’s a few questions there!
    Thank you :)

  23. [...] sunscreen, then again at night. (I layer another serum on for hydration, as I mentioned in this serum layering post.) Also, I exfoluate with AHAs 2-3 times a week, using Go-To Exfoliating Swipeys, of course. And [...]

  24. Tara says:

    Hi Zoe and all other Fruits…can anyone recommend a not too expensive hydrating serum? Something plumping and glowy but suitable for use with a pigment serum.


  25. Camilla says:

    Hi Zoe, I am a rose hip oil fiend… can you add to this routine? Also, what is your night time routine with serums? C. x

  26. Kirsty says:

    Help with order/routine!

    Hi Zoe – could you run through your night time routing – inc self tanner? I’m not quite sure when, how what order to apply body and facial self tanner – then my various acid toner/serum/facial moisturiser/body moisturiser??

    I like to moisturise (and thought it was best to do so) fairly soon after getting out of the shower – towel dried, but skin still holding water from my shower. But I’m not sure where or how I would then fit in self tanner (I’m using santorini at your recommendation).

    Do I – self tanner; wait (and if so, for how long?) then do my normal routine? Can I spray my skin to add moisture between self tanning and moisturising? Or do I add the self tan on top of my normal routing?

    Very perplexing!!

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