thinnest to thickest

why product order matters

There’s a product for everything these days. There are oils that protect your skin against dehydration, toners that calm angry skin, essences that plump and hydrate, serums that boost your glow, etc. Most skin ailments appear to be reasonably solvable with the right product. So, what could get in the way of that? 

The order in which your skincare products are applied can have a massive impact on their effectiveness. Layering your products from thinnest to thickest helps guarantee the best possible absorption and ensures that you really get the most out of your products. Following the thinnest to thickest philosophy, here’s the product order that we recommend, post-cleansing: 

1) toner

2) essence

3) serum

4) oil

5) sunscreen

And here’s why:


Y’all already know how we feel about toning. At cocokind, we see it as an essential part of any skincare routine because it helps balance your skin’s pH (which can easily be disturbed by harsh cleansers and makeup removers). 

Additionally, toning serves as a second cleansing step. It helps eliminate any dirt, makeup, or grime left over from your initial cleanse, which is why it absolutely must come directly after cleansing. 


These k-beauty staples prep your skin for the next steps in your routine, by kickstarting the hydration process and helping your skin absorb subsequent products more readily. Your skin after using an essence is like a slightly damp sponge - much more prepared to absorb moisture than a completely dry sponge. 

Essences are ultra-light (lighter than serums, thicker than toners) liquids, which means that they should be applied onto cleansed, toned skin, before serums or moisturizers. 


Serums, which are typically lightweight and almost water-like, are formulated to provide your skin with a highly-concentrated boost of hydration, antioxidants, or nutrients. Applying your serum immediately after applying an essence helps it penetrate more deeply, and allows your serum’s active ingredients to really do their jobs.


Facial oils do a lot more than just hydrate - they also work as occlusives. Essentially, occlusives prevent moisture loss by creating a protective barrier between your skin and the air. When used at the right time in your skincare routine, they can also lock in the products you’ve already used and keep them from evaporating too quickly. 

Oils lock products in; conversely, any product applied over an oil won’t likely be able to penetrate its molecular structure. That’s why facial oils should always be the last step in your skincare routine (besides SPF)!


As you’ve probably heard, you should never skip sunscreen! We always recommend physical sunscreens that use actives like zinc oxide and titanium oxide, as opposed to chemical sunscreens that use chemicals like octinoxate or oxybenzone. You can read more about how we choose a sunscreen here.

A good sunscreen will sit on top of your skin, shielding it from harmful UVA or UVB rays that might prematurely age or damage it. Sunscreen helps keep dark spots from getting darker, and helps defend your skin against environmental stressors like pollution or cigarette smoke.

As we’ve mentioned, products applied over oils most likely won’t be able to penetrate them.  However, in the case of sunscreen, that isn’t necessarily a problem. It’s perfectly fine for a layer of sunscreen to sit on top, where it can create a protective barrier between your skin and the sun.  

we hope you found this helpful! for more skincare tips, tricks, and DIYs, make sure to subscribe to our newsletter below :)



cocokind on

Hi Daisy and Mei!

If using the turmeric stick or another mask spot treatment, apply it after essence, and don’t apply serum until you’ve removed the turmeric! If you’re using a lighter weight, non-mask spot treatment, apply it after essence and before serum. Hope this helps!


Mei on

Hi, what about if I have a acne treatment spot? In which step should I use it?


Daisy on

If we are masking – like the turmeric stick – where would that fall in this list?


cocokind on

Hi Hannah! No, just any oils you’re using as moisturizers!


Hannah on

So when you say “facial oils” do you mean the facial cleanser oil as well?


Delia Fey on

Keep the good info coming!

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