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14th Mar 2024

The importance of skin care routine order – how to apply your products effectively

Sophie Collins

Skincare routine

When it comes to skincare, there’s no one-size-fits-all routine 

However, the order in which you apply your products in your routine can significantly impact their effectiveness. 

Whether you prefer a minimalist approach or indulge in an extensive routine (I’m guilty of the latter), understanding the right order of application is key to achieving the best results for your skin.

The Basics

The sequence in which you apply your skincare products is so important to ensuring they work effectively. 

Typically, cleansing comes first to remove impurities and prepare the skin. 

This is followed by applying products from thinnest to thickest consistency, with active ingredients layered before moisturisers. 

Finally, sunscreen is applied last to provide essential protection against UV damage.

Dr. Morgan Rabach, a dermatologist from LM Medical NYC, emphasises the importance of this order, told Glamour: “The principle behind ordering is to cleanse your skin, open your skin so products can soak in, add actives on, then seal with moisturising products.”

The routine breakdown

To simplify the process, refer to the table below for the ideal order of your morning and nighttime skincare routines:

Morning Routine

  1. Cleanser
  2. Serums/Treatments
  3. Moisturiser
  4. Sunscreen

Nighttime Routine

  1. Cleanser
  2. Serums/Treatments
  3. Moisturiser

Dr. Lauren Penzi, a board-certified dermatologist at MDCS Dermatology in New York City, reinforces this approach, advised: “Essentially you want to use cleanser first, then apply your products from thinnest to thickest. And always apply SPF last.”

Why it matters

The order of application impacts the penetration and efficacy of skincare products. 

Dr. Penzi highlights this and told Glamour: “Order is important because the correct order improves penetration of the products and maximises their efficacy.”

Dr. Gendai Echezona, an aesthetic physician, echoes this sentiment and said: “Cleansing sets the stage by removing impurities, while serums and treatments can penetrate deeply when applied before moisturiser. 

“Moisturiser then seals in hydration, and sunscreen provides essential protection against UV damage. 

“This systematic approach maximises the efficacy of each skincare product.”

So, while there may not be a single “correct” skincare routine, adhering to the optimal order of application ensures that your skincare products deliver the best possible results for your skin.