Applying Skin Care Products in the Right Order

by Eileen Bailey Health Writer

If you are like most people, you have a variety of skin care products and cosmetics that you use every day. You may have medications for acne, psoriasis or eczema, wrinkle creams, moisturizers, sunscreen and make-up. Each morning you go through your routine, adding layers of product one on top of another, hoping that it all works together. But the order you apply the products can have a big impact on how well your products work.

Morning Routines

  • Before applying any products, make sure your face is clean. You should wash your face with warm water and a mild cleanser. On days you are exfoliating, you don't need to double up - skip the cleanser and rely on your exfoliating product to get rid of dirt and excess oils from your skin.

Pat your skin dry.

  • For those who use a skin toner, apply the toner and wait for it to dry before going on to any additional products.

  • If you are using any medications, including over-the-counter acne treatments, on your face, these should be applied after cleansing to make sure they are absorbed into your skin. Remember, though, you should always talk with your dermatologist about how to apply any medications to your face. Follow their recommendations if different.

  • Eye creams should be used before applying moisturizers or lotions. Dr. Ranella Hirsch, in an article on explains, "Topping an eye cream or serum with lotion will actually seal in its active ingredients." [1]
    Again, be sure your product is dry before going on to the next step.

  • Moisturizer is the next step. Adding it after the other products helps to lock in active ingredients and make the products hold their effectiveness in repairing your skin.

  • Once your moisturizer is in place, you should add sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30.

  • Now you are ready to add make-up primer or foundation.

Nighttime Routine

Your nighttime routine should follow the same order. Use a cleanser for your face, add any medications or treatments and then apply a moisturizer. Nighttime moisturizer may be thicker or in the form of a cream rather than a lotion. You can skip the last two steps of applying sunscreen and make-up.

A general rule of thumb, whether in the morning or nighttime, is to apply products according to thickness. Thinner products should be applied first and thicker, creamier products last.


"Get the Most from Your Skin Care Products; Sequence in Which You Apply Skin Care Products Influences Their Effectiveness," 2012, June 19, Staff Writer,

[1] "What Comes First, Eye Cream or Moisturizer?" Date Unknown, Jolene Edgar,

Eileen Bailey
Meet Our Writer
Eileen Bailey

Eileen Bailey is an award-winning author of six books on health and parenting topics and freelance writer specializing in health topics including ADHD, Anxiety, Sexual Health, Skin Care, Psoriasis and Skin Cancer. Her wish is to provide readers with relevant and practical information on health conditions to help them make informed decisions regarding their health care.