I updated this post because my routine has changed, the information remains the same!
So, is it possible?
There’s a short and simple answer to that question. Yes…and no. At the same time. Not even a full paragraph into this post and you’re already confused, aren’t you? It’s okay. Let me clear your confusion. It is possible to over moisturize. It’s also possible to correctly layer multiple different moisturizers so they are all still effective.
What Is A Moisturizer vs A Hydrator?
Before we dig any deeper, let’s first define what a “moisturizer” is. A moisturizer is anything that prevents transepidermal water loss. Evaporation, as you may have learned in 8th-grade science, is when water particles are drawn from a surface back into the air. This can occur on your skin, too. It’s called transepidermal water loss and it leads to dryness and dryness leads to everything bad regarding your skin (aging, oiliness, peeling etc). A hydrator is a product that draws water into your skin from your environment. “Hydrating” and “moisturizing” are not synonymous but are commonly used interchangeably.
How Would I Be Over Moisturizing?
There are 2 different types of moisturizers; occlusives and emollients. And one type of hydrator, humectants. Occlusives and emollients are great for sealing moisture into your skin…but occlusives, specifically, do not allow anything else in or out. What does this mean for you? If you apply an occlusive moisturizer, then continue to layer your other moisturizers on top, they become pointless because they will not be absorbed into your skin at all. This is an example of over moisturizing. Occlusives are necessary for your skin because they do not let water out, meaning they prevent transepidermal water loss from occurring rapidly. This promotes a healthy moisture barrier.
If you use a hydrating serum on top of a moisturizer, the serum will be ineffective because it cannot absorb into your skin because of the moisturizer creating a barrier underneath. It all comes down to molecules, products with smaller molecules (usually more lightweight and watery) have an easier time absorbing into your skin, which is why they go first. Moisturizers tend to have ingredients with larger molecules and this is how they create a barrier for the smaller molecules and prevent dehydration from occurring, so they go later in your routine.
Humectants draw water from the air into your skin. Their only problem is that if you live in a dry area, they will actually draw water from your skin which can make it drier. It is important to seal in humectant products with emollients and occlusives, which prevent TEWL (transepidermal water loss). Hyaluronic acid and glycerin are common humectants.
A general rule of thumb is to always layer from lightest to heaviest, which we will discuss next. You can’t go wrong if you’re layering from lightest to heaviest. (Related: Guide to Creating an Effective Skincare Routine)
Properly Layering Moisturizers
I am the biggest advocate of properly layering moisturizers simply because different products typically offer different benefits for your skin. Depending on your skincare needs and wants, I would highly recommend you incorporate multiple hydrators and moisturizers with different purposes that can both hydrate/moisturize and treat secondary concerns.
Here’s how I layer my current moisturizers:
I start with The Ordinary’s Marine Hyaluronics because it is practically water for my face, then Garnier Moisture Rescue because it is super lightweight and its gel formula is easily absorbed by the skin. In between the Marine Hyaluronics and the Garnier, I’ll use any other treatment serums like my vitamin C serum or my alpha arbutin serum or niacinamide. Then I’ll move on to my second hydrator, the Garnier.
Next, I use the Cerave Moisturizing Lotion because it has ceramides and hyaluronic acid which are great for the skin’s barrier. Lastly, to seal everything in, I use the Cerave Healing Ointment which is occlusive. Occlusive products are typically heavy and can clog your pores, if you are acne prone I would not suggest using them nightly. I prefer CeraVe over Vaseline (a commonly known occlusive) because CeraVe contains ceramides and hyaluronic acid that help your skin repair its barrier. It’s essentially vaseline on crack. Another occlusive I use frequently is The Ordinary’s Borage Seed Oil or their Squalane Oil.
If I have time, I press each product into my skin until it is fully absorbed rather than rubbing it around. Layering your hydrators and moisturizers at night will yield the best results because there are no environmental factors like there are during the day that may cause some ingredients to break down and become ineffective after a while. During the day, I prefer to do a light serum, moisturizer, and sunscreen. That’s it. At night, I focus on heavy moisturizing and overall repairing my skin.