beauty products
skincare routine
skincare tips
BY: LBL Team

What Order Should You Apply Your Skincare Products?

The correct order of applying skincare

Getting tired of staying in 24/7 with the novel coronavirus outbreak sweeping the US? You’re not alone — people suddenly have a lot more time on their hands than they realized. But this doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing. All this free time affords you the opportunity to really focus on your skincare routine. Plus, think of how you’re improving your skin by not exposing it to the sun as well as toxins and pollution, and even makeup. And when this is all over with, you’re going to have totally fabulous skin to show for it!

If we’re being honest, a lot of us aren’t 100% sure which goes first — serum, moisturizer or toner (don’t feel bad…it can get really confusing!). But if you don’t use your skincare products the right way, or if you use the wrong combination of skincare products, it could potentially render them ineffective (or they could irritate the heck out of your skin). You’re in luck, though — here’s a breakdown of the correct order to apply your skincare products:

Step one: Cleanser

Before using skincare products, be sure to cleanse your face thoroughly. That’s because, for ingredients to absorb correctly, you need clean skin that’s free of oil and grime. Consider using a cleansing oil followed by a gentle cleanser.

Step two: Toner

Today’s toners have come a long way. They’re now filled with either gentle, hydrating ingredients or chemical exfoliants to help treat acne.

If you’ve got acne, look for toners filled with BHA or AHA, both of which unclog pores, prevent breakouts, and dissolve blackheads.

For every other skin type, use a hydrating toner. After cleansing your face, apply toner to your entire face and allow it to dry for five minutes.

Step three: Serums

If you’re confused about serums, you’re not alone. They’re mostly just shots of extremely concentrated nutrients, hydrators, and antioxidants that boost your skin health.

In the morning, use a vitamin C serum, which protects your skin from inflammation and damage caused by free radicals. Vitamin C also brightens skin and lightens dark spots with continued use.

At night, apply a serum filled with hyaluronic acid, which pulls water from the air into your skin to plump it up and hydrate it.

Step four: Eye creams

Why should you use an eye cream in conjunction with a moisturizer? Because they tend to be lighter and thinner than most facial moisturizers. Apply eye cream before you slather on creams and oils. A good rule of thumb is to apply lightest first and the heaviest last.

In the morning, use an eye cream that has a rollerball applicator and is formulated with caffeine, both of which reduce puffy eyes.

At night, apply a hydrating eye cream that’ll repair your skin barrier overnight.

Step five: Spot treatments

Apply any spot treatments, like for pimples, scars, and dark spots, at night, since that’s when your body repairs itself.

For dark spots and acne, use a spot treatment with either hydroquinone or niacinamide that brighten marks and scars over time.

If you have pimples, use either benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid, but not together. Dap a thin layer over your zit and wait at least one minute for it to dry.

Step six: Moisturizer

You should apply moisturizer daily. Not only does it hydrate your skin, but a moisturizer also helps to trap in all of the products underneath it to make the ingredients even more effective.

In the morning, look for a light, hyaluronic-based moisturizer to keep skin hydrated without causing it to feel greasy. Choose a formula that contains an SPF of 30 or higher, especially if you don’t want to apply sunscreen separately. Once you apply moisturizer, allow it to sink in for at least five minutes before applying makeup.

At night, use a moisturizer that contains hyaluronic acid, lipids, and proteins for optimal skin repair and health.

Step seven: Retinol

Retinoids, derived from vitamin A, speed up cell turnover, reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles over time. Most people tend to see results after four-to-six months of consistent use. They also trigger collagen production and cellular exfoliation, which means they’ll help smooth scars, clear pores, and brighten skin.

If you’re just starting with retinoids, start slow and work your way up as your skin adjusts. Apply a retinol serum to your skin once a week to start. Eventually, you’ll be able to apply it every night.

Does your night cream already contain retinoids? If so, you can skip this step.

Step eight: Oils

While oils can penetrate moisturizers, serums, and treatments, no products can penetrate oil. This is why they go on last after moisturizer and retinol. They’re also occlusive, which means oils seal in all the ingredients and moisture you just applied to your face.

Step nine: Sunscreen

Finally, the last step! Since sunscreen acts as a protective barrier between the skin and the sun, it goes on last (if your moisturizer doesn’t already contain it). And if you think the SPF in your makeup is good enough, think again — the absolute bare minimum of SPF you need on your face is SPF 50, in an amount large enough to lather on your entire face.

Step ten: Memorize steps one through nine

Be sure to remember all the above skincare steps, paying close attention to which products you only use at night versus morning. Then, congratulate yourself and bask in the glory of great skin!


  1. “The Right Order to Apply Your Skincare Products,” Huffington Post, December 3, 2019.
  2. “Your Skincare Routine Order Explained,” Cosmopolitan, February 4, 2020.
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