A Dermatologist Explains How Long You Need to Wait Between Applying Skin-Care Products

My skin-care routine is simple and extremely swift. As soon as I'm done applying and massaging in one skin-care product, I reach for the next. Other than when I dry my face after cleansing, there aren't really any extensive pauses in my process.

Even though I pride myself on being speedy in front of the mirror, I have always wondered if I should be waiting a specific period of time between applying my skin-care products.

So I reached out to Blair Murphy-Rose, MD, FAAD, a board-certified cosmetic and medical dermatologist based in New York City, for answers.

"I prefer recommending simple skin-care routines that are easy to adhere to and that don't require pausing between steps," Dr. Murphy-Rose told me. "Most of us are busy people that don't have time for a lengthy skin-care routine."

While Dr. Murphy-Rose said you should generally be OK to apply your moisturizer immediately after your serum, there are a few skin-care rules you should keep in mind.

For example, she mentioned that your skin should be clean and dry before applying retinoids to your skin. In other words, don't apply your retinol cream while your face is still wet after cleansing.

There are also certain skin-care ingredients that shouldn't be layered on top of each other or used concurrently, like retinol and vitamin C.

"Instead, prevent skin irritation by using your antioxidant vitamin C in the morning to protect against free-radical damage and the retinol product at night," Dr. Murphy-Rose said.

Another ingredient combo to avoid is retinol and benzoyl peroxide. Dr. Murphy-Rose said that the use of benzoyl peroxide at the same time as a retinoid will make the latter less effective.

Finally, Dr. Murphy-Rose said you should avoid using niacinamide and vitamin C at the same time — or wait at least 10 minutes between applying each — to protect the ingredients' potencies.