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Confused About Which Order To Use Your Skincare? Your Ultimate Guide To Layering Skincare Products

By: Dr Poonam Jatana, MD Dermatology
August 24, 2021

Oils before moisturizer? Moisturizer before oils? Toner after or before cleansing? And where on earth does SPF fit into all of this?

If you’re confused about the right order in which you should be using your skincare products, look no further! Believe it or not, there is actually a correct order, and today, Bare Beauty Babes are proud to present the ultimate guide to which product goes where and when.

No more worrying if your serums are having an effect or being blocked by other products. No more wondering if you should have waited to the end to use your oil, or frantically googling with half a face of moisturizer already applied.

The ideal order in which you should layer your skincare products begins with cleansing:

Step 1: Cleanse

Perhaps the most self-explanatory step, a cleanser should come before all other products.  Not least because any products you apply before cleanser will not be given enough time to work before being washed off, but clean skin also provides the optimum base for skincare.

Single cleanser, double cleanse, triple cleanse, or more, this step should always come first. In the evening, this is where you will remove any makeup and wash off impurities from the day. In the morning (yes, you need to use a cleanser AM as well as PM!), this is where you will remove any excess oil and create a smooth base to apply your SPF and makeup.

The only product that should be used before your cleanse is a mask that must be washed off before going on.

Step 2: Toner/Mist

Whether you use a toner or mist or both, these products are most effective when applied to newly cleansed skin. Once your skin is dry from cleansing, you can apply these products and leave them to sink in before moving on to the next step.

Step 3: Serums

Serums are probably some of the most important aspects of your skincare routine so need to be applied early on to allow them to work most effectively at improving your skin. Apply your serum to the skin as soon as your toner and or/mist has been absorbed. If you are using multiple serums, you can apply these one at a time, giving each one time to sink in before moving on to the next.

Note: this step does not apply to retinol serums.

Step 4: Topical Treatments

After serums, is when you will apply your topical treatments such as eye creams and spot treatments. You may not need these every day - or even every week - but they should always be layered on top of your serums.

Step 5: Moisturizer

Next comes moisturizer, a staple product in all of our routines. Moisturizing creams are highly effective products and therefore can be applied towards the later stages of the skincare routine. Make sure your moisturizer has fully absorbed into the skin before moving on to the next step.

Step 6: Retinol (PM only)

Retinol isn’t for everyone, though it can be a miracle ingredient when used correctly. Due to the potentially irritating effects of retinol, products containing it should be layered on top of other products to minimize any damage that it may cause to the skin.

If you choose to use a retinol product in your skincare routine, make sure to only use it before bed and never as part of your morning routine. Don’t forget to wear an SPF the next day after application to protect your skin against the sun sensitivity that retinol can cause.

Step 7: Oil

Your face oil is the product that should be applied last of all. The molecules in oils are large and can prevent other products from reaching the skin. This makes facial oils great for sealing in all of your products and keeping them close to the skin. However, if you layer any products on top of them, they are unlikely to have an effect.

The only product that should be applied after facial oil is sunscreen, see the next step for more details.

Step 8: SPF (AM only)

Sunscreen works by blocking the sun’s UV rays from reaching your skin. It is meant to sit on the top layer of skin meaning that it does not need to be absorbed. Therefore, it is best utilized after facial oil.

SPF is a crucial part of any person’s morning routine, no matter who you are or where you live, so make sure you never skip this step before you leave the house for the day.

If you choose to apply makeup, you can do this after layering on your SPF

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