What order you apply your skincare products in matters almost as much as what you’re putting on your face. Apply certain products in the wrong order, and they could be rendered ineffective or simply not work as well.
If you’re new to the skincare world and this is all a little overwhelming, consider writing out the order we suggest here and taping it to your mirror, that way you always have a reference nearby. Or order your products on the bathroom counter, so you can just move down the line!
What Order Should I Apply Skin Care Products?
A good rule of thumb is to apply products from thinnest to thickest—toner, serum, moisturizer, oil. Be sure to always start with a clean face.
Step 1: Cleanser
After removing all your makeup, cleanse your face with an oil-based or water-based cleanser—or both if you’re doing a double cleanse! Depending on your skin type, you might only need to rinse your face with warm water in the morning. Use a more robust cleanser in the evening, especially if you have acne-prone or oily skin.
Step 2: Toner
Toner is designed to pick up all of the dirt and oil left behind after you wash your face. It can also act as a very gentle exfoliant to prime your face for whatever products you will apply after it.
If you have dry skin, you might skip this step. If you have acne-prone skin, consider using an alcohol-based toner or witch hazel.
Step 3: Serum
Serums are the powerhouses of your skincare routine. With just a few drops gently pressed onto your skin in the morning and evening, you’re allowing your skin to take in whatever nutrients you want it to. Whether you’re looking to reduce oil production, improve textural irregularities, or increase firmness, you can find a serum that will help. Vitamin C serums are often recommended as an all-around good serum if you don’t have a particular concern or are just getting started.
Step 4: Spot Treatment
Having zits or pimples is no fun—combat them with spot treatments. Spot treatments are concentrated products that you apply directly to the affected area. (Do not apply spot treatments over your whole face.) The powerful ingredients work to shrink your blemish without drying out your entire face.
Skip this step if you don’t have any blemishes currently. If your acne is persistent or cystic, we recommend seeing a dermatologist.
Step 5: Eye Cream
If you’re in your 20s or older, eye cream is mandatory. The skin around your eyes is especially sensitive, so it’s important to gently moisturize the area. Using your ring finger, gently tap your eye cream onto the area beneath your eyes, avoiding the skin closest to your eyes. By applying eye cream every morning and night, you’ll likely reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles over time.
Step 6: Moisturizer
Lock in your serums and moisture with a face moisturizer. If you have dry skin, you can use a thicker cream, but those with oily skin will want to opt for something a little more lightweight. Even if you have oily skin, you still need moisturizer!
Step 7: Face Oil
Face oils are used to further lock in moisture and all the goodness from your serum! Oils cannot be penetrated, so they serve to protect your skin. You’ll also get a nice, dewy glow from them!
If you have oily skin, you might consider skipping applying a face oil on top of your moisturizer. If you’re hesitant to apply an oil because you have acne-prone skin, consider trying rosehip oil, which can decrease oil production.
Step 8: Sunscreen (AM Only)
If your moisturizer doesn’t contain SPF, you will need to apply an additional sunscreen. We recommend looking for something around 30 SPF to ensure your skin is protected from harsh rays. Even if you aren’t going to be in the sun all day, you still need sunscreen.
Step 9: Retinol (PM Only)
Retinols are essential to reducing fine lines and wrinkles and textural irregularities. It’s a synthetic form of Vitamin A, and it works to help skin cells regenerate quicker. It’s often used to prevent and reduce the appearance of acne scars, pigmentation, and fine lines and wrinkles.
You may experience what is called purging, which is where your skin is adjusting to the retinol, so you may experience blemishes. After a month or so of use, your skin should adjust, but ask your dermatologists if you have any questions.