Skincare Discovery: Layering Multiple Products Part 2

In Part 1 we  talked about the techniques of layering skincare regardless of which products you use:

Part 1 contents:
  • It's not always about the products you have, sometimes it's the way you use them
  • Buy skincare, not makeup
  • Application: pat, tap, or press to apply instead of rubbing
  • Layer several different products, instead of an all-in-one product
  • Layer 'fat over lean', like a oil painter

Onward to discussing products designed for layering so you avoid the pitfalls of over-moisturizing!

In this post:
  • Sometimes more is more, when it comes to the number of products
  • You can and should build your own custom lineup
  • Examples of Brand lineups
  • Example of a custom lineup
In Part 1, I linked info about Korean women using ten or more daily products, which boggled my mind, because I was used to cleanser, toner, and moisturizer.  Since layering is all about using different types of moisturizer in the 'fat over lean', it's easier when you have the right products, so I get that you need more than just one but still  ... 10+ products daily?!

The 10-20ish products don't even include semi-regular products like exfoliators, clay masks, wash-off masks, treatments, peels, deep cleansers, etc.  This is a little less shocking if you consider 'day' vs 'night' routines.  'Day' routines focus on gentle cleansing, protection from the elements, SPF, lighter moisturizers, retention of hydration, and primers for makeup.  'Night' routines feature deep cleansing to remove BB creams/SPF/makeup, unclogging pores and removing sebum/dirt, intense treatments, whitening, and moisture-bombing the face via layering or a 'night pack', which works on your face as you sleep.

Brands usually develop specific 'lines' or 'collections' designed to be used all at once, sometimes with specific order of application, for example the Mizon Snail Repair line, which is to be used after "basic cleansing" which in itself can include multiple cleansers and at least a toner.

That's a cream, serum, eye cream, gel, BB cream, and hydrating/setting mist.  With "basic cleansing" that's at least 8 products in the morning, not counting any sort of additional acne spot treatment or makeup primer.

Or how about the Skin79 White Reviving collection?


  • Softener (to prep the skin to receive the other products, dissolves dead skin)
  • Solution (strongest concentration of whitening, I am currently testing this for review)
  • Emulsion (thin moisturizer, like a milk)
  • Eye serum (standard eye cream)
  • Cream (standard moisturizing cream, reviewed here)
  • Sunblock (SPF 40, PA++) 
  • Sheet mask (used at night, not necessarily daily as they are 1-time use)
Again, this is a line meant to be used after "basic cleansing", so we're looking at 8 products minimum, not counting primer if you are using it in the morning, spot treatment, or night packs if you are using it at night. 

And the lines can get ridiculously involved, such as Etude House's Moistfull line, which is a massive group of products which will take you through cleansing and even includes a BB cream.  In addition to being frequently sold out, by which I assume it's popular, it's extremely complex collection that features two essences??  I was totally bewildered by what everything is for, but luckily for me prettyandcute carries most of the line and they painstakingly explain what each one is for in the item description, so I have linked them below because I would have been totally lost otherwise.

Includes massage cream (cleansing), first essence (hydration), skin freshener (toner), essence (serum), eye creamemulsion (thin moisturizer), cream (strangely I was only about to find it as a mini set on prettyandcute or ebay), and of course the BB cream which looks too dark for me.  I'd like to note that I've never tried any of these products, they were just a good example of how dizzying the number of products can get.

You can and should build your own custom lineup.

It's a bad idea to try too many new things at once; it's better to slowly add things into a proven routine to accurately gauge if they work for you or not.  

Personally, I use 12 products daily, although that's split between day and night routines: 3 cleansers, 2 toners, 2 serums, a gel, a cream, an acne treatment, a facial mist, a BB cream for my SPF (and a partridge in a pear treeeee!)  I also change things around depending on how dry or oily my skin is feeling.

**March 2015 update: This post, and routine, are two years old; to see my ever-changing routine, check out My Routine and Spreadsheet Organization for ongoing updated info on what I'm currently using!

**April 2015 update: I have posted a visual guide to my Winter/Spring 2015 routine here: Multi-Step Korean Skincare Routine: Winter/Spring 2015, which not only has the current products I am using, but some basics on how to build your routine using simple, key steps!

Cleanser 1: Cream cleanser

When my skin is feeling dry, sensitive, or when I've gone a little overboard with my Clarisonic or Deep Pore Cleansing Oil the night before, I use a creamy cleanser and my current favourite is the Lemon Cleanser from Eminence.  I love Eminence products but they're expensive.  I find most cream or milk-type cleansers don't clean very well, although the lemon in this one helps to cut the richness a bit.  It's formulated for sensitive skin, so it's great for when my skin feels like it needs to be babied. **2015 Update:  Cream, oil, or balm cleansers are also the most effective at removing sunscreen and makeup, and are the first step in the Asian 'double cleanse' standby technique, you can read more about double cleansing here: Skincare Discovery: Cleansing Part 1

Cleanser 2: Foaming cleanser

If I feel like the Lemon Cleanser needs a little more cleaning "oomph" I add a drop of the ElishaCoy BB cleanser.  I use the EC as-is if my skin is feeling greasy, and it's also what I use at night to take my BB cream off, or if I feel like I need a strong cleanser to power through the goo on my face if we've had a dust storm, etc .  I will also use it if I feel like I did not get off all the oil if I did an OCM session.  You can read my full review here.

Alternative Cleanser 2: Clarisonic cleanser

For optimal results, I use my Clarisonic brush every other day.  I needed a gentle, but resilient, foam cleanser that could buffer my skin from the bristles.  My favourite is the Shiseido Perfect Whip (review and demo here) which was usless as a regular cleanser for me but  is brilliant as a Clarisonic companion.  The Clarisonic was the best skincare investment I ever made, and has done more to decongest my skin than any product ever has.  It may also be balancing out any risk I have of clogging my skin via "over-moisturizing" because it does an excellent job of breaking up sebum plugs before they've hardened and start causing me problems. **2015 Update: I no longer use this cleanser as the pH is much too high.  For more information, check out this post on Why the pH of Your Cleanser Matters.

Toner 1: Alcohol-Free Astringent

After cleansing, and only if I feel I need to make certain my cleansing took care of all residue and makeup, I use Thayers Alcohol-Free Rose Petal Witch Hazel Toner on a cotton pad.  I start from the center of my face and sweep outward, following the grain of my skin.  It has an overpowering smell of roses which I do not care for, but it's a great astringent that is alcohol-free, cheap, and doesn't break me out.  **2015 Update:  I now have a routine that heavily features 'Actives' namely Vitamin C L-AA serum, Beta Hydroxy Acid (BHA) exfoliants, and Alpha Hydroxy Acid (AHA) exfoliants. You can read more here: Putting your products in order, including pH dependent acids. I now use a pH-adjusting toner to prep for my actives, which you can read about in the post.

Toner 2: Hydrating Toner

Currently I am testing out the Holika Holika Don't Worry Bee Care Calendula Toner and use it twice daily.  I have noticed that Koreans use toner as a hydrating step to restore the pH in the skin and add nutrients, not as an astringent like we do.  If you watched the video of PBunnieP's skincare routine, she uses the same method I do-- apply on the hands, press or tap onto the face.  This makes the pre-toner products make a little more sense, because why would you put something on only to wipe it back off with toner on a cotton pad?  So no pad, and no wiping with this kind of toner.  It definitely boosts the moisture in my skin.
Serum 1: Whitening treatment

I am also currently testing the Skin79 White Reviving Solution after I had such success with the cream from that line, so I have 2 of the White Reviving products in my daily lineup.  I added this hoping it would speed up the fading of my acne scars.  It's a very watery liquid barely thicker than a traditional toner, and it absorbs very quickly into the face.  It does not add noticeable moisture. It's also a tiny bottle so I am planning on repurchasing it before I review it and confirm whether it works or not.   **Reviewed!  Click here.
Serum 2: Repairing treatment

For wrinkles, hydration, faster healing of breakouts, and infusion of magical snail fairy dust, I am also testing the Mizon Multifunction Formula Snail Repair Intensive Ampoule since I cannot live without the Snail Recovery Gel from the same line (reviewed).  It's more of a standard serum in texture-- sort of in between a liquid, a gel, and an oil.  It melts easily on the hands and absorbs reasonably quickly into my face.  I use this twice daily and pat it gently until every bit of it is absorbed, because it's preciousss. 

As I stated in my last review of the ElishaCoy Skin Repairing Snail Cream, after its disappointing results I went straight back to my tried-and-true Skin79 White Reviving Skin Radiance Cream (reviewed) and begged it to give me another chance.  I apply this on my cheeks because they get terribly dry, and after I have patted the majority of it there, I gently pad the residue on my hands everywhere else on my face, and especially my neck.


I swear to you, the only reason I am holding off on reviewing the Mizon Multifunction Snail Recovery Gel Cream (which is really a gel, I promise) is that it's only available from non-US sellers and I prefer to offer people a choice of local vs. international vendors when I review products.  However, has started carrying Mizon and I have been promised they will soon have both the gel and the Mizon Snail BB cream (reviewed here).  I use this to seal in all my other products, or as a general light gel-type moisturizer if I feel that's what my skin wants. **Edit: Prettyandcute is now carrying it, so find it reviewed here!
Optional as-needed products:

Acne Treatment:

I am not convinced this is helping, but I am testing out the Mizon Acence Mark-X Blemish After Cream to combat some nasty breakouts I acquired while I was sick.  The idea of this cream is that you use it on blemishes that aren't going away on their own, or fast enough, or if you have succumbed to the temptation of picking.  I have a nasty habit of absently scratching my face when it itches (which is constantly in this dry climate) so I get myself into trouble with breakouts easily. I will continue to use this, and will be reviewing it once I have reached a conclusion.  

Facial Mist:

Face mists can be used to prevent water loss before you have a chance to apply other products, such as hopping out of the shower, after washing your face, or in-between layering if your skin is starting to dry out.  They can also be used to refresh your tired face during the day, add extra moisture if you're getting dry, or soften/set your makeup if your powder has left you ... well, powdery. I admit I bought it because it was so freaking cute but it turned out to be fairly useful.
I can't do traditional SPF, it makes me break out. (Note: See update below.)  So instead I always wear BB cream if I am leaving the house, and of course my favourite is the Mizon Snail BB cream which sparked my interest in all things snaily. You can read my full review here.  With SPF32 and PA++, it's got enough sun protection for casual sun exposure and I am careful to ensure that's all it has to deal with.  March 2015 Update: I have since learned that my skin loathes chemical sunscreens, and as I now regularly use an AHA serum (which increases photosensitivity up to 7 days after [source: full textadditional source: abstract with conclusion]) I know use an SPF35/PA+++ (up to SPF50/PA++++ if I can get it) physical-only sunscreen. 

So to summarize, I use a cleanser, toner, two serums, a cream, and a gel at minimum, and add in other products depending on whether it's getting ready for work or preparing for bed.  Having a range of products that allow you customize your routine based off what your skin needs at that moment is critical, in my opinion.  

Layering not only gives me control over what products are used in what area of my face, it also lets me control how much product is in specific areas.

So yes, you do need multiple products, with different properties, because more layers of the same thing is just too much of the same thing.

And what's the point in that?

I'd love to hear what products are in your daily lineup, so leave me a comment below!
All the best,

**Since this week was a megapost in two parts, I'll be skipping next week, but I'll be back the following week, I promise!


  1. Hi Cat Cactus!

    First and foremost, thank you for your hard work and diligence with this blog! I had a question regarding the daily line up and your favorite, snails! I recently fell into the rabbit hole that is Asian Beauty and spent a small fortune on Benton (everything but the face wash) and added the Mizon All in One and the Recovery Gel based on your glowing review. Any recommendations on the "daily lineup" in regards to order, as I'm finding crossing product lines somewhat confusing. I'm also unclear on when to use a sheet mask.

    Best to you!

    1. "Any recommendations on the "daily lineup" in regards to order, as I'm finding crossing product lines somewhat confusing. I'm also unclear on when to use a sheet mask."

      I can do one better, I actually have an entire post on putting your products in order!

  2. Hello Cat , your blog is the most informative Asian skincare blog I've read. I'm really glad I found it! ( seriously thank you :) )

    I want to get started on a Korean/Asian skincare routine and I noticed you said that it's a bad idea to try too many new things at once but I'm pretty much starting from scratch ( I have a good low ph foam cleanser and The Precious.)

    Which are the most important steps to incorporate first and should I painstakingly add one at a time or a couple? I can't really buy all the steps at once anyway. I'm on a 17 yr old's budget here. But I was thinking a toner essence and emulsion to start?

    Thank you! :)

  3. Hello Cat , your blog is the most informative Asian skincare blog I've read. I'm really glad I found it! ( seriously thank you :) )

    I want to get started on a Korean/Asian skincare routine and I noticed you said that it's a bad idea to try too many new things at once but I'm pretty much starting from scratch ( I have a good low ph foam cleanser and The Precious.)

    Which are the most important steps to incorporate first and should I painstakingly add one at a time or a couple? I can't really buy all the steps at once anyway. I'm on a 17 yr old's budget here. But I was thinking a toner essence and emulsion to start?

    Thank you! :)

    ps. Sorry this has nothing to do with this post. I originally said this on "Layering Skincare" but I figured you would see it sooner on a new post.

    1. Hi Gabby, that's very sweet of you to say :3

      I would focus on sunscreen, cleanser to remove sunscreen, and a simple moisturizer. Then, once you are ready/able to add in more, I would look for a hydrating step like an essence, serum, etc, to add in. But definitely sunscreen, cleanser, and a moisturizer to start! :)

    2. Thanks for the help and do I need an oil cleanser to remove the sunscreen? I'm getting a physical sunscreen.

  4. Did the Thayers Witch Hazel Toner disrupt your acids? I thought it was at a low enough pH level to "prep" the skin?

    (btw, so sorry if this comment got double posted! I accidentally signed out and not sure if it got sent or not when I signed back in..)

    1. I used the Thayer's Witch Hazel before I learned about pH, so unfortunately I can't comment on its suitability as a pH-adjusting toner. Apologies! :(

  5. Is it possible to layer creams? I know they're like the thickest products, but I was just wondering if it was possible, or would this just clog your skin?

    Also, what happens when your skin is really sticky after your skincare routine? My WIP routine so far is cleanser, emulsion, cream, sleeping pack. I do tap the products into my skin but it still ends up pretty sticky. My pores are kind of small, so I was wondering if that was the reason why? I'm still a beginner, so I hope you can help me out!

    1. Yes, you absolutely can! If you feel your skin needs more layers, you should listen to it. If you find that your products are not absorbing, it could either be that you aren't using the right ones, or you are using too many.

      All of the products that you mention are fairly rich (emulsion, cream, sleeping pack), so it's possible that it's too many heavy products for your skin. Have you tried any lighter layers, like essences, serums, and mists, for hydration before you layer on the thicker creams? It's hard to say (and I am not a dermatologist) but you might want to look at hydrating products instead of moisturizing/oily ones.

  6. I noticed in the Mizon graphic, they recommend cream first, then serum (!), then sunscreen/BB, then mist (!!) This is so counterintuitive I think it might make me physically ill to apply products in this manner. As a Mizon user, do you use them in the order shown, or do you use the lean-to-fat order you describe elsewhere?

    1. Don't panic, the reason is that the names of the products are a little misleading. :) The Mizon All-in-one is actually more like a whipped essence, and it boosts the products that you apply after it. Mists can go anywhere in a routine, but they are often applied last like a setting spray, but for hydration, and then used throughout the day.

      You can see a visual routine laid out here: which should help! ;)

      Take care :)

    2. Ah, I see. Thank you for your answer! I'm diving headfirst into the Kbeauty rabbit hole and it's such fun to explore, especially with excellent guides like you to help things along.

  7. Did you ever do a review on the Mizon Snail Ampoule? I searched and couldn't seem to find one, but I might just be failing at life.

  8. Hi Cat!
    I'm sooo glad to find your blog since I'm very newbie for skincare layers, but now I'm trying to make my own nightcare routine, here they are:
    1. Laneige - Power Essential Skin Refiner (moisture)
    2. Skinfood - Black Sugar Perfect First Serum 2x Essential
    3. Wishtrend - C20 Original Pure Vitamin C Serum
    4. Hadalabo - Koi gokujyun Perfect Gel
    5. Clinique - All about eyes rich (eye cream)
    6. Guerisson horse oil as the moisturizer since it has the heaviest texture

    Do you think I use it in correct sequence? I tried to follow the logic "fat over lean" but I got confuse with the skinfood - perfect first serum and laneige toner, which one I should put first? Should I use the perfect first only to replace toner?

    Thank you very much :*