The Best Order to Apply Your Skincare

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what order should I apply my skin care to my face

Did you know that you could be missing some of the benefits of your expensive skincare? Simply because you put things on in the wrong order? Skincare needs to be absorbed to work. If it can't get to the right location in your skin, it just can't do its job.

Over in the May 2014 issue of Martha Stewart Living there's a great beauty article about applying skincare in the right order, and they recommend the same things I do (here's my Babble article on skincare order).

I modified the image from the article a bit to show it off here (so, go buy the issue and you'll see what products their derm experts recommended and why), but I thought it was probably time to have a post on 15 Minute Beauty going over skincare application order.

Here's the order you should be applying your expensive skincare?

1. Cleanser
This is obvious, wash before applying expensive products.

2. Toner
This step is optional. Old school toners had a lot of alcohol or even acetone (!! Yes!) to help them evaporate off of your skin quickly. This was drying and obviously is the cause of toner's bad rap. There are new formulations out now, they're gentle on your skin and many include anti-aging ingredients like anti-oxidants and peptides. If you have dry or sensitive skin, skipping this step is probably a good idea.

3. Eyes
If you are worried about anti-aging, you definitely should be using an eye cream! Check out do you need an eye cream and the favorite eye creams of dermatologists.

4. Treatment
This is where things start to get a bit tricky. I usually recommend sticking to one treatment product to make things a bit easier, but you could certainly add additional products, especially if there are products that you're only using every 2 or 3 nights.

You should always start with any prescription medications. Those are the most important, you need them to absorb and do their job. Next, apply the lightest treatment product and work your way up to anything greasy or thicker. Those thicker, oil based products prevent lighter products from being absorbed into your skin.

5. Boost/Serums
I like to recommend a lightweight and gentle serum for every night. Look for ingredients like anti-oxidants and peptides that will help prevent aging but are non-irritating and you will be able to use them every night. If I'm using a night cream with these ingredients, this step can become optional.

6. Moisturize
I use a heavier moisturizer at night, and I like to use a lighter weight moisturizer with SPF 15 or 30 during the day.

7. Protect/Sunscreen
If my morning moisturizer doesn't have a sunscreen or I'll be spending quite a bit of time outside, I add an extra layer of a lightweight sunscreen on top of everything.

In general, you do need to allow a few minutes in between each product to let it sink into your skin, but you shouldn't need a lot of time. I'll usually wash my face, apply eye cream and my first treatment product (Clindamycin prescription for my Rosacea) at the same time, because they go on different areas of my face. I brush my teeth while those sink in, and then depending on what product I'm using for a review, I either apply another treatment, serum or my night cream. I usually have about 1-2 minutes between products, but that's about all you'll need.

Martha Stewart


  1. For night time, would oils (argan, emu, marula etc..) go last or are they considered serums for best absorption?

  2. I'd put an oil after treatment products, but before your main moisturizer. If you're using a serum, I'd probably put the serum on and then the oil, simply because the oil is a similar consistency but would probably block the serum's absorption.

  3. Love this! So basically 1. cleanse. 2. eye cream. 3. rosacea meds (can swap this for a brightening lotion) 4. super antioxidant serum. 5. night cream.

  4. I usually skip the toner, too. Love the idea of brushing teeth in between applications-- saves time and makes the routine less boring with all the waiting. lol

  5. Great post! I have enjoyed reading this and I have really learned a lot here. Never knew that my skin care routine is kinda wrong, good thing that I have read this. So now I got to plan my routine well.

  6. Well, I'm mighty pleased. I passed with flying colors, if that's possible! I probably ought to start using a moisturizer that has SPF, even though I don't get in the sun very often, with the exception of driving.

  7. Wow very informative! Thanks!

  8. How is the Clindamycin working for your rosacea? Do you have a fairly mild case or more severe? Mine's pretty mild but still drives me CRAZY!

  9. The Clinda works pretty good for me (except for the last few months.... hormonal issues this trimester!), I'm much more mild. I was amazed at how much less red my face was after starting it, I didn't realize how red I had been!

  10. I love everything about this post, especially the inclusion of eye cream and SPF which are my two favorite things to use every day.

  11. What kind of (drugstore) serums do you recommend for combination skin?


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