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How long to wait before applying & layering skincare products?

Have you ever felt like your layering skincare routine has made you look like a glistening donut or maybe a melting oily stick? Well, it could be an indication of something gone wrong while layering. It’s something that most of us would ignore- timing between layering the skincare products. So the next obvious question is how long to wait for each product. Here’s all that you will ever need to know to start waiting between your skincare layers!

Why must you wait before layering skincare products?

Waiting for the skincare products to absorb will help them work better on your skin cells. Till the time it is just sitting on your face, it won’t do anything. 

1. Product Efficacy

Efficacy is nothing but the ability of a product to perform what it is supposed to do. When you layer one ingredient with the next without giving each product enough time to do its job, the efficacy reduces. It’s because the product’s action could now be potentially inhibited by the next product that you’ve applied. To maximise the results, one must let the product sit and be absorbed by your skin.

2. Absorption

Every ingredient has a specific mode of action. And to do so, it needs to be first absorbed by your skin. However, your skin is not a sponge. It has pores that can only absorb so much at the same time. To let the product absorb completely and be able to see its results, you need to give your skin a small break in between layering.

    What happens when you don’t give each ingredient enough time?

    Let’s just say, you did not wait enough between layering. You will probably not see instant adverse events but you won’t even see results because all your products have mixed up with one huge pile of inefficient liquid mess. Let’s understand what happens when you don’t wait enough between your skincare layers-

    1. No results

    When the product isn’t absorbed well by your skin, it will show you no results. So layer all you want but you’re just wasting your money if you ain’t letting the product be absorbed. As we mentioned earlier, product efficacy depends on absorption and there’s no such thing as quick skincare to achieve results.

    2. Skin pilling

    Before the first product could be absorbed, you’ve applied the next product. So now when you massage it, you will see that the product is gathering up or rolling up in small balls like linting. This is called skin pilling which occurs when you don’t wait between products.

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    How long must you wait before some of the common ingredients?

    Each ingredient takes its own time to be absorbed and work on your skin. It also depends on the product formulation for how long you must wait and how quickly the product will be absorbed. The better the quality, the sooner it will be absorbed ideally. On a daily basis, we use certain products and we’ve made a list of these products to help you set your timings-

    1. Moisturiser

    A moisturiser could be of multiple types- humectants, emollient, occlusive, or maybe a combination. This will change the thickness of the product. The thicker it is, the more you must wait for it to be absorbed. Although, even the lightest moisturiser would take around 5 minutes to absorb.

      Sublime’s verdict: Wait for at least 5 minutes before layering.

      Sublime recommends Pure By Priyanka Aloe Moisture Surge. It has Aloe Vera as the key ingredient which is known to soothe and hydrate your skin in no time.

      Learn more about how moisturisers work here.

      2. Hyaluronic Acid

      Hyaluronic acid-based products are meant to be applied on damp skin. It’s because Hyaluronic acid is a humectant that draws moisture to the skin from the surrounding. If there’s no moisture in the surrounding then it will draw moisture from the deeper layers of skin which will lead to dryness. To prevent this, one must apply Hyaluronic acid-based products on damp skin and wait for a minute for the product to settle later.

        Sublime’s verdict: Hyaluronic acid-based products to be applied on damp skin and let it absorb for a minute before layering.

        Learn more about the benefits of Hyaluronic Acid here.

        Sublime recommends Martiderm Flash Ampoules 5 Ampoules Serum that has 5% Hyaluronic Acid and Silicon complex to help boost the absorption of Hyaluronic acid. 

        This is an image of Martiderm Flash Ampoules 5 Ampoules Serum on

        3. Acne spot treatment

        Acne spot treatments are filled with potent ingredients which will absorb in no time ideally. However, it also depends on the composition of the product. Spot treatments should also be the last step while layering in your PM routine. But if you’re going to apply makeup right after skincare then let the spot treatment be for 4-5 minutes before digging into makeup.

          Sublime’s verdict: Wait for 4-5 minutes before layering.

          Sublime recommends The Pink Foundry Overnight Acne Spot Corrector that works overnight to banish any blocked pores.

          This is an image of The Pink Foundry Overnight Acne Spot Corrector on

          4. Acids

          Acids can come in various compositions. If it is a mask then you must not keep it any longer than 10-15 minutes. If it is a toner then let the toner dry off before layering. It would take around 2-3 minutes for the toner to dry off.

            Sublime’s verdict: Depending on the concentration of the acid present in the product, leave the mask for anything between 5 to 15 minutes. Higher the concentration, the less time you must keep it on. If it is an acid-based toner then let it dry before layering.

            Sublime recommends Deconstruct Beginners Exfoliating Serum that has 5% Lactic Acid to exfoliate and 1.5% Probiotics that helps you strengthen the skin barrier. Excellent choice for beginners!


            This is an image of Deconstruct's Exfoliating Serum on


            Learn more about exfoliating acids here.

            5. Vitamin C

            It’s a highly unstable ingredient. The stability of Vitamin C depends on the formulation of the product. Vitamin C should be completely absorbed so as to get the maximum out of it. Let Vitamin c dry off for a minute or two before applying the next product. 

              To know more about Vitamin C, click here.

              Sublime’s verdict: Wait for two minutes before layering.

              Sublime recommends Skyn Organic Company Vitamin C Serum that sources Vitamin C from a rich plant-based source- Kakadu Plum. You will start noticing the results after a week itself. Pretty potent!


              This is an image of Skyn Organic Company Vitamin C Serum on


              6. Retinol

              Absorption of the ingredient depends on the quality and hence Retinol takes minimal time to be absorbed. However, if you layer it instantly then it could sensitise your skin due to its potency. The best thing to do after applying Retinol is to wait for a couple of minutes before applying moisturiser which is a must after Retinol application.

              To know all thing Retinol, click here

                Sublime verdict: Wait for 2 minutes before layering with moisturiser.

                Sublime recommends Aminu Wisest Counsellor Bio-Retinol Cream that has Bio-retinol crafted from plant extracts and works exactly like Retinoid. This cream could be your go-to to age well and banish early signs of wrinkles.


                This is an image of Aminu Wisest Counsellor Bio-Retinol Cream on


                7. Sunscreen

                Sunscreen should be worn as the last step and must be applied 15-20 minutes before stepping out. It’s ideal to wait for so long since this allows the sunscreen to form a shield on your skin before you’re out. If you’re rushing then it is better to apply than skip it completely. 

                  Sublime’s verdict: Wait for 15-20 minutes before stepping out or layering with makeup.

                  Sublime recommends FAI Sun Shield SPF 50+ PA+++. That has higher UV A rays protection as well!

                  This is an image of FAI Sun Shield SPF 50+ PA+++ on

                  Learn more on how to read sunscreen labels here.

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                  What should be your ideal skincare layering routine?

                  When we talk about an ideal skincare routine, it depends on the right product layering and to a certain extent, even the waiting time between layering. Here’s how you can time your skincare with the ideal no-fuss skincare routine-

                  1. Cleanse

                  Did you know cleansers need time to work? They do. Massage the cleanser gently for a solid minute before washing off your face. After cleansing, while your face is damp, you can tone without having to wait.

                  2. Tone

                  Toner can be the next item to ideally go for after cleansing. You can spray it on damp skin or even completely dry skin. After a few pumps, let it completely dry before going for the next step. The ideal wait time could be 4-5 minutes.

                  3. Treat

                  A pretty much all-rounder when it comes to treatment is Vitamin C. Vitamin C should be patted on the skin gently and you can then let it dry. Any active treatment should be completely absorbed by your skin before moving on to the next step. The ideal wait time is 5-10 minutes depending on how soon the product is absorbed.

                  4. Moisturise

                  After treatment, your skin might need a little bit of moisture to claim back its pH and bring the balance in the barrier. So the next step after using active ingredients is a good moisturiser that has Ceramides, Peptides, Cica, etc. Massage the moisturiser gently on your face and neck for a minute and then let it rest for 10 minutes before reaching out for SPF. If this is your PM routine then moisturiser could be your last step.

                  5. SPF

                  No matter what your skincare routine is, your AM routine has to end with SPF. Take two fingers of SPF and spread it over your face. This is ideally done 15 minutes before stepping out. It’s non-negotiable. If you’re in a rush then we’d say that do it in a rush but there is no way you can skip SPF!

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                    Final words

                    The timing between skincare definitely makes a difference in the results and also helps you not overwhelm your skin while layering. Layering the right product in the right sequence is just equally important to see results and ensure that you’re not messing with your skin. Once you start waiting between layering and layer the right way, there’s no one stopping you from achieving that glass skin glow!

                    -Divya Salvi

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