No one is quite certain where the concept of layering began. Was it when Estee Lauder told us to “layer up with confidence”? Or, was it when Sunday Riley told us to “reveal radiant layers”? Is layering grounded in science or is it a marketing ploy to encourage people to buy more product? The answer is a little bit of both.  

If a brand is offering a routine that suggests layering its products in a certain order, it’s a good idea to follow that order as their formulas may build ingredients one on top of the other, but here is the most traditional way to layer:


In an arid climate, it’s good to choose a cream-based or oil-based cleanser to maintain your skin’s moisture barrier and prevent dryness. Never spend more on a cleanser than you would on a moisturizer; it’s just going to be washed off.  

Hydrating Mists or Toners

The buzz about toners is that they help your skin regulate its pH. The truth is that your skin is brilliant at regulating its own pH. Your own enzymes, proteins and lipids work to maintain your acid mantle and protect your skin’s overall pH balance. As far as a toner removing residue, if your cleanser is working, you shouldn’t have any residue.

What you do need in the desert is a hydrating mist preferably infused with hyaluronic acid and hydrating botanical extracts like wheat and quinoa. It’s also great if the mist has a touch of acid in it to help gently exfoliate cells that need to go bye-bye. 

Spray on your face or in the palm of your hand and pat into the skin. Let it sit for a minute while you do something useful like putting in your earrings or giving your dog leftover bacon (like there ever is any leftover bacon).


The word “serum” on a bottle tells gullible buyers that there is a miracle hiding inside that will be worth every penny – exactly like getting a facelift. Be wary. Even though it may feel good and smell great, if it isn’t blessed with a bounty of active ingredients like peptides, oils and vitamins such as C, B and A, it’s a total waste. Remember, on skin care labels, ingredients are listed by amount included (until 1% or less; then it’s free game). 

Use gel serums after mists; use oil serums either first or last. A quick routine may simply include a cleanser, a mist and an oil serum warmed in the palm of your hands and pressed onto your skin.


On the label, look for at least a few words you recognize like shea butter, ceramides and perhaps adventurous oils like tamanu or andiroba. Great moisturizers for mature skin may also contain peptides and vitamins to help with wrinkles and fine lines. 


For desert dwellers, a last step should be a balm. Between pickleball, golf, tennis, dog walks and just existing in the heat, we often find dry patches, flaky skin, bites from unknown insects and scrapes from projects we shouldn’t have been taking on in the first place. Look for a balm that is anhydrous, meaning no water. Look for real oils and butters that have a history of soothing and repairing skin disasters. Apply as a last step.

Eye Cream and Neck Cream 

A good serum, a good cream and a good balm gently patted into the skin around the eyes is usually enough. The only reason you might want to consider a separate product is if it has an ingredient especially for puffiness, like a calming gel, or a peptide that specifically addresses darkness.  

As for the neck, nothing is going to match a neck lift. Period. Feel free to buy creams dedicated to the neck, but unless they have a huge amount of tightening peptides, you won’t see nirvana. The best option is to the find a serum with heavy actives and use sparingly on your neck. Then, quit starring at it in the mirror.


Opt for a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher; those with natural ingredients are recommended. Reapply every two hours if you’re outdoors; wash off when you’re in for the day.

The most important thing about a layering routine is to stick with it twice a day and give it a couple of months. Rome wasn’t built…and all that.  

Brook Dougherty of Indio is the founder of JustUs Skincare and welcomes your questions. She can be reached at (310) 266-7171 or [email protected]. For more information, visit

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