Recently I had a flashback of the time when I was a beginner in the colorful world of skincare.
I got asked by a reader “can I use two moisturizers?” and this transported me back in time, to my first years as a skincare enthusiast.
So, is it OK to mix moisturizers?
In short, yes, you can use double moisturizing for your face.
However, the full answer is not as simple.
There are several things you need to know about mixing moisturizers. And I’m here to share all of them with you.
In this article, I’ll answer whether can you use two moisturizers at the same time, in more detail.
What is a moisturizer?
Before you can understand the answer to the question of whether you can use two different moisturizers at once or not, you should first have a clear grasp of what a moisturizer is.
A moisturizer can come in the form of a cream, lotion, emulsion, ointment, or balm.
Its formula usually contains emollients that provide hydration for the skin by moisturizing its surface layers.
Moisturizers work by locking moisture and nutrients within the skin, not allowing them to evaporate into thin air.
At the same time, they offer protection against external factors like environmental pollutants.
In addition, certain moisturizers can help recover the lost moisture in the external skin layers.
Now let’s dig deeper into what moisturizers contain to make them so powerful for hydration.
Most moisturizing products have these four types of ingredients:
- Occlusives – petrolatum, for example, creates a protective seal around the skin.
- Humectants – hyaluronic acid, for example, which pull in and attract water.
- Emollients – glycerin, for example, smoothes out the skin by filling in any cracks, thus eliminating roughness.
- Ingredients that repair the skin barrier – for example, ceramides and polyhydroxy acid (PHA) gluconolactone, act as a substitute for natural fats and skin conditioners. As a result, they enable the skin barrier to restore its proper functions.
Moisturizing lotions and similar products have one core mission – to prevent transepidermal water loss.
However, certain creams offer additional benefits, like barrier restoration, anti-aging effects, skin soothing, improved skin tone and texture, and more!
Serums and moisturizers can eliminate dry skin, support sensitive skin, prevent wrinkles, and even help with the treatment of some skin-related issues. Some of them come with extras such as sun protection and antioxidants.
And because every moisturizer is unique and has an independent ingredient list, a lot of people are tempted to mix together moisturizers to get the effects of multiple products.
But can you use two moisturizers without worrying about any negative side effects?
Let’s find out.
When in a routine do you apply moisturizer?
Moisturizers have a special place in your skincare routine.
They’re usually applied towards the end of a skincare routine, after all of your serums, but before any oils.
Remember, moisturizer is there to help you fight post-wash dryness. They’re perfect for application after you’ve cleansed your face, to damp skin.
Some of the truly dedicated skincare fans from my readers may already have read of two moisturizing tactics that can help you reduce skin sensitivity towards specific ingredients, like retinoids.
These two tactics are sandwiching and buffering.
If you’re sandwiching, you’re applying moisturizing cream before and after the retinol to lock in the product, buffer its strength and provide additional moisture to the skin.
On the other hand, if you’re buffering, you’re only applying the cream before retinol.
This is a popular method too, as the moisturizer lowers the retinol’s potency. It creates a barrier, which the retinol must penetrate.
The method is especially appropriate for users who have recently introduced retinol to their skincare regimen as it makes it less irritating.
What does layering moisturizers mean?
During my early days of skincare research, when I was asking myself “Can I put on two layers of moisturizer?” I was missing one key element.
The definition of layering moisturizers.
As I spoke to professionals and researched the topic, I concluded that there is more than one way to layering moisturizers.
Applying one moisturizer over another
Out of all the layering options you have, applying one moisturizer over another is perhaps the most tricky one.
Because you’re risking creating a reaction that could potentially lead to negative side effects.
Every moisturizer is different, as I already mentioned. Even if some of the ingredients overlap, there will surely be ones that don’t.
You may have selected two moisturizing products that have ingredients that are not to be used together. Once combined and applied to the skin, they could cause allergic reactions, irritations, inflammation, redness, and more.
Furthermore, applying two moisturizers to the same area of the skin could mean that you’re getting a higher dosage of a certain ingredient (too much hyaluronic acid, for example). This could also trigger negative reactions and lead to problems.
Applying different moisturizers on different parts of the face
Applying different moisturizers to separate facial zones is a whole other story.
In my opinion (and that of experts and professionals), you can’t really go wrong in this case, unless you’re allergic to a specific ingredient in one of the lotions.
You may be wondering why you’d apply different moisturizers on different parts of the face in the first place?
Well, imagine that you have a very oily T-zone, but your cheeks are dry.
What if you have acne around the nose or chin because of genetics or hormonal reasons but your forehead is very dry?
In such scenarios, your face is calling for different types of moisturizers that can successfully tackle the peculiarities of every zone. Or a unicorn-type of product that can tackle all concerns successfully.
If you’ve been wondering “can I use two different moisturizers at the same time”, in this case, you have my full support and approval!
Go for it, just remember to choose moisturizers that contain ingredients that will help with the specific zone challenge.
Using two different moisturizers for day and night
Another way to layer your moisturizer is to use different creams during the day and the night.
And no, this isn’t just a marketing gimmick.
It’s an actual concept based on theory and research.
The skin is exposed to different kinds of factors during the day and the night. So is it okay to use two different moisturizers for day and night?
Absolutely. I’d even recommend it.
For example, throughout the day, your skin may come into contact with many pollutants, hot or cold weather, wind, sunlight, you name it. Most daytime moisturizers are formulated to hydrate, plump, brighten, and normally come packed with vitamins, minerals, and other compounds to protect the skin.
On the other hand, during the night, you may be asleep, but your skin isn’t. Throughout the night, the skin repairs and renews the cells, and restores itself.
Night creams are a vital component of your skincare routine as they’ll support these processes.
Most night moisturizers are thicker, creamier, and extremely soothing. A lot of people also opt for double moisturizing at night and use the second layer of cream with anti-aging properties for extra rejuvenation.
Which moisturizers to never mix?
In one of the previous sections, I mentioned that some ingredients in moisturizers simply don’t work well together, which is why you should never mix creams containing them.
Here is more information on the moisturizers that you should never mix by layering them one over the other on the same parts of the skin, as part of the same skincare routine.
Moisturizers with Retinyl palmitate, Retinol, Retinaldehyde, or Adapalene with prescription retinoids (Tretinoin, Tazarotene)
Retinoids, in a nutshell, are powerful anti-aging agents that are popularly used in skincare products.
However, they’re also commonly associated with a range of different side effects, like purging, irritation, and dryness. This makes them extremely difficult to use and mix with other similar ingredients.
Having this in mind, it’s safe to say that if your moisturizer has non-prescription retinoids and you decide to use it in a combo with your tretinoin-tazarotene treatment, you’re probably going to get some irritation, skin redness, and dryness.
To protect your skiing against these threats, make sure you’ve carefully read the ingredients contained in your creams and moisturizing products.
Non-prescription retinoid ingredients:
- Retinyl palmitate
- Retinaldehyde (also known as Retinal)
Prescription retinoid ingredients:
Moisturizers with AHAs or BHAs with moisturizers containing Retinoids
Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) and beta hydroxy acids (BHAs) are both chemical exfoliants that aim to strip away the dead skin cells from your upper skin layer and clear out your pores.
They can be found in skincare products in different concentrations.
They are also helpful for evening out your skin tone, enhancing the skin texture, fighting inflammation, and even treating acne and rosacea.
However, they’re a certain no-no when it comes to layering moisturizers containing AHAs or BHAs with those that have retinol or other retinoids.
What’s the reason?
Basically, the ingredients mixed together will irritate the skin and lead to dryness. Make sure to always use moisturizers with these ingredients separately and don’t apply them one after the other on the same parts of the face.
My personal advice would be to have AHAs or BHAs creams in the morning and use creams with retinoids before bed.
- Glycolic acid
- Lactic acid
- Tartaric acid
- Citric acid
- Malic acid
- Mandelic acid
- Salicylic acid
Moisturizers with Vitamin C with moisturizers containing some other actives
Other actives e.g. Retinoids, AHAs, BHAs, Niacinamide, Benzoyl Peroxide, Hydroquinone.
As magical as vitamin C can be for your skin, it’s also among the most unstable ingredients in the skincare industry.
I’ve personally seen a lot of positive effects from using vitamin C, but I’m always careful about how I use it.
Stable forms of vitamin C will usually become weaker when combined with other, more potent actives. This means that you won’t be able to enjoy the product’s effect to the fullest.
Vitamin C ingredients:
- Ascorbic acid
- L-ascorbic acid
- Magnesium ascorbyl phosphate
- Ascorbyl Glucoside
Two moisturizers containing active ingredients
When it comes to active ingredients, there’s so much to share that I could literally write a book!
But when it comes to layering moisturizers containing actives, the most important thing that you should know is that they are not to be mixed together. When I say active ingredients, I mean things like retinol, niacinamide, exfoliants, vitamin C, prescription retinoids, and other potent ingredients.
Make sure to alter the use of your active moisturizers and do not layer them on your skin.
Most products use a higher concentration of an active ingredient, to solve a specific issue, like eczema, acne, rosacea, or others.
Using two different moisturizers with two different active ingredients can lead to dryness, irritation, and negative reactions.
On top of it all, using two different moisturizing products with the same active ingredient (such as hyaluronic acid, for example) can also be too much for the skin, especially if you have the same ingredient in the rest of your skincare steps (serums, toners, essences). You’ll be getting a higher overall exposure to the ingredient, which could also trigger reactions.
Too much of a good thing can be a bad thing.
How to use two different moisturizers at once – the step-by-step process
Double moisturizing the face is recommended for some skin types, but it’s definitely not a necessity for all skin types.
For example, oily skin will most likely be better off with a single moisturizer (or two moisturizers applied to different areas of the face), while dry skin types can certainly take two moisturizers at once.
So skin type matters.
Another factor to consider is seasonal changes.
As the temperatures drop and the winter months arrive, the second layer of moisturizer can keep the moisture locked into your skin, making it supple and soft throughout the windiest and coldest of days.
So let’s say you’ve decided that it’s time to test out using two moisturizers at once. What steps should you follow for maximum results?
Step 1: Prep your skin
Before you jump to your lotions and creams, always make sure that your face is clean and rid of all of the accumulated dirt and oiliness.
Wash your face with a cleanser, use your toner, and apply a layer of acne treatments or any serums that you have added to your skincare routine.
I’d definitely recommend starting with your thinnest products and finishing with your thickest to make product absorption easier.
Step 2: Apply your first moisturizer
The first moisturizer that you apply should always be lightweight (or at least lighter than the second one that you’ll use for layering).
A lightweight gel works best.
Because this way, you won’t be locking up the skin and it will be able to absorb the second product too.
Step 3: Apply your second moisturizer
Once you’ve selected an appropriate, thick moisturizer that won’t come into conflict with the first, you’re not allergic to, and can address certain skin problems you have, apply it second.
If you’re layering your moisturizers in the morning, you can benefit from using a second cream that is SPF enriched (I personally love the CeraVe AM Facial Moisturizing Lotion SPF 30 for the days when I’m staying at home).
However, keep in mind that a moisturizer with SPF won’t be enough to replace a proper sun-protective product.
If you’re layering at night, then it’s best to opt for a cream with restorative powers, anti-aging properties, and rejuvenating abilities.
How to layer moisturizers for different skin types
I can’t finish this article without sharing something very important. Using more than one moisturizer is a different process for every skin type.
In the following section, I’ll share with you the different layering methodologies appropriate for different skin types, along with what ingredients and types of creams and lotions you can use.
Dry skin could be something temporary, which you’ve triggered as a result of certain product use or external factors. However, it can also be a condition that you’re stuck with for longer.
There’s also a distinction to be made between dry skin and dehydrated skin. While dry skin doesn’t have enough oil, dehydrated skin doesn’t have enough water. Regardless of the case, moisturizers can help treat the skin and restore the hydration necessary for healthy and young-looking skin.
Layering different moisturizers for dry skin could potentially speed up the recovery process and achieve faster healing. Some of the products that you want to use in this case include antioxidants like vitamin A.
Step 1: Use a calming moisturizer with ingredients like aloe vera to apply to zones suffering from inflammation or conditions like psoriasis, rosacea, or dermatitis. A good example is the Aveeno Calm + Restore Oat Gel Moisturizer.
Step 2: Use an emollient-rich moisturizer like Vichy Aqualia Thermal Face Cream to top that off, if you need to have a good layer of moisture, or apply it only on dry patches of skin.
You may assume that combination skin is the easiest to handle, right?
However, this is far from the truth.
The reality is that combo skin is a real pickle when it comes to finding the perfect balance. It’s also the skin type that’s perhaps the most appropriate for layering moisturizers because it stands out with oiliness in specific zones.
For example, most people with combined skin admit that their nose, forehead, and chin area are on the oily end of the spectrum, and the cheeks are rather dry.
If you use one single cream, you may end up with an oily T-zone and breakouts. At the same time, if you use oil-control moisturizers for your T-zone on the rest of the face, your cheeks may feel too dry.
What can you do about it?
Step 1: For starters, use an oil-free moisturizer for the T-zone. For example, Benton Aloe Propolis Soothing Gel is a great lightweight option that won’t weigh down your skin in these areas.
Step 2: After that, use a lightweight calming moisturizer with non-comedogenic oils and hyaluronic acid for the cheeks (or any other dry skin zones) for maximum hydration. There is a range of moisturizing gels, but the Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel is my personal favorite.
Oily, acne-prone skin
I’ve spoken to so many people with oily skin and the majority of them shared with me that at some point in their discovery of the perfect skincare routine, they considered skipping moisturizing completely.
And this may sound sensible – why would you want to moisturize skin that is already oily?
However, this is one of the most prevalent misconceptions that people new to skincare have.
Oily skin or skin that suffers from acne could be a result of overactive sebaceous glands, over-exfoliation, improper cleaning routines, poor nutrition, and other factors.
Some of the best ingredients that you can use to treat these conditions and improve the skin include ceramides and humectants. They take proper care of the skin barrier, allowing it to heal quicker and recover from inflammation.
If you’re interested in double moisturizing for oily skin, here’s my advice:
Step 1: Use a cream that includes squalene and hyaluronic acid to provide your skin with concentrated moisture. Again, the Benton Aloe Propolis Soothing Gel is everything you will need in terms of moisturizing oily-prone skin.
Step 2: Apply a mattifying lotion in the areas you get the most oils, or on your entire face – this will help to control the shine throughout the day. I like the Cetaphil Oil Absorbing Moisturizer, but I know that La Roche Posay has a great one too.
Sensitive skin (not sensitized skin) is skin that lacks moisture naturally as a result of genetics or a condition developed at an early age.
On the other hand, sensitized skin is something that you develop over time as a result of different products or ingredients, skincare routines, pollution, stress, lifestyle, and other factors.
In the case of sensitive skin, the skin doesn’t have enough water content and requires a substantial amount of hydration.
However, a lot of people with sensitive skin also suffer from conditions like eczema, flakiness, or tight skin in specific areas of the face. This is why using moisturizers at the same time for sensitive skin could be an option.
By choosing the right creams, you can treat specific zones successfully.
Step 1: I’d suggest starting with a light and soothing gel, and here again, the Benton Aloe Propolis comes in handy as a calming but very light base.
Step 2: For inflamed areas, use a cream with non-reactive ingredients that can reduce redness and inflammation. Some examples include chamomile, lavender, vitamin E, and aloe vera. My personal recommendation for a calming second-step moisturizer is the La Roche-Posay Toleriane Sensitive Fluide Protective Moisturizer.
When it comes to normal skin, there isn’t really a necessity to use two moisturizers simultaneously. This type of skin has usually perfected the art of finding the ultimate balance between sebum production and water content.
However, if you’re looking for extra hydration, you can always try multi-moisture methods using active ingredients or lightweight serums.
Step 1: Start with a light gel cream to give yourself a seamless but well-moisturized canvas. The Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel is a good option for this, but other water gels can do the trick too.
Step 2: Top up with a neutral moisturizer like the Moon Juice Cosmic Cream, which is rich in collagen (a great moisturizing ingredient) and is silky, supporting elasticity, and firmness, and acting as a nurturing agent.
In a nutshell, doubling up on your moisturizer is an option.
However, there are many important details to consider when choosing the way to layer your moisturizers. I hope this article has helped you to make the right choices and provide your skin with all of the moisture and hydration it needs.
Do you have experience with layering moisturizers? I’d love to hear your thoughts! You can share your feedback and stories with me and my readers via the comment section below.
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