The Correct Order To Apply Skincare Products

We talk a lot about skincare here on Life with Lovely, and while I always try and mention the order in which I apply my products, I realized this topic probably deserves its own post. We all have skincare products we love, right? Here’s the thing, no matter how amazing your products are if you’re applying them in the wrong order, they’re not going to work, and your skin won’t receive all the benefits. There is a correct order to apply your skincare products.

You want your products to do what they promise. Applying your skincare in the correct order ensures that each product is penetrating your skin and not just sitting on the surface of other products. You also want the ingredients to work together and not against one another. In general the way, you want to apply your skincare products is from thinnest to thickest – for example, start with watery products like toners and essences before using lotions and oils. Remember 6th-grade science class, oil and water don’t mix. Water can’t penetrate through oil, so that means oil-based products are last.

Now, don’t get overwhelmed. I promise, although it sounds a bit complicated, it’s not. When someone started telling me the science behind applying skincare in the correct order, I remember feeling so overwhelmed. I went home and Googled the ingredients of all my products, researched their pH levels, examined each product’s consistency, etc. By no means do I want you to do that LOL! Don’t overthink or overcomplicate yourself. I’ve always told you, skincare should be fun and should be a moment for yourself both morning and night to engage in some self-care. Once you get into a routine, it’s very simple and you should notice a difference in your skin.

I put together a step-by-step guide to help you apply your skincare in the correct order. I’ve actually had a little post-it on my bathroom mirror for years that has this order so that  I can reference it every day.

Your Step-By-Step Guide To Skincare

1. Cleanse

The first step in your skincare should always be to cleanse your skin. You’ll want fresh and clean skin so that all of your other beauty products can properly absorb and work their magic. If you double cleanse, use the oil cleanser first and follow with a gel cleanser. If you’re curious, I don’t double cleanse. I always cleanse with this brush for a deep clean, so I don’t find a double cleanse necessary for my skin.


My Favorites For The Morning: Summer Fridays Cleanser, Tata Harper Purifying Cleanser, and Tatcha’s Exfoliating Cleanser

My Favorites For The Evening: Summer Fridays Cleanser, Tata Harper Purifying Cleanser, FRESH Soy Face Wash


2. Toner

Think of toner as the last step of your cleansing routine. Toner works to balance the pH level of your skin after you cleanse. By rebalancing your pH, your skin will be primed to absorb the ingredients of your skincare. Don’t underestimate how important toner is to your routine. To apply toner, just apply a bit to a cotton pad and pat it on your face. A good toner should not be abrasive and should feel light on your skin.


My Favorites: Klairs Toner and Fresh Rose Toner


3. Essence

Essence is the first step of your skincare and my favorite step! I swear by this essence. It completely cleared my acne within a couple of months. I’ve never felt so confident about my skin.


My Favorites: SK-II Essence (I swear by SK-II, but I recognize it’s a splurge. I have several friends who use this essence and love it.)


4. Serums 

This is likely the most exciting part of your skincare. I always look at this step as my self-care/home spa treatment. Everyone has their own opinion when it comes to serums, I’m someone who only uses one at a time based on what my skin needs. Right now, I’m focused on brightening, softening, and anti-aging. In my experience, Vitamin C is the best serum to treat your skin daily. Vitamin C protects, brightens, and lightens dark spots.


My Favorites: Drunk Elephant C-Firma


5. Eye Cream

Because eye creams have high concentrations of active ingredients, you’ll want to apply these before your moisturizer. This is a good rule of thumb to follow in general when it comes to skincare – apply products with the high concentrations of active ingredients first or an easier way to look at it is to apply your products from lightest to heaviest. The skin under your eyes is very delicate and thin, therefore you’ll want a cream that’s extra hydrating.


My Favorites: Tatcha Eye Cream (feels like silk)


6. Moisturizer

Always, always, always moisturize your skin – even if you have oily skin! Moisturizer does so much more than give your skin a boost of hydration; it also works as a barrier for your skin and locks in all of your skincare products to maximize their effectiveness. Make sure you apply moisturizer on your neck too.


My Favorites: Summer Fridays Jet Lag


7. Face Oil + Retinol

Face oils are an extra lock-in place measure for other products. They work to seal the moisture on your skin. Always apply oil last, oil can easily penetrate through other products, but other products can not penetrate through oil. If you aren’t already using retinol once a week, start now. Once a week, apply retinol before your face oil. This will be the last step of your evening skincare. Don’t use retinol as part of your morning routine.

My Favorites: Biossance Rose Oil, Colleen Rothschild Face Oil, Colleen Rothschild Night Oil, Colleen Rothschild Retinol Supreme Eye Serum


8. SPF

The last step of your morning skincare routine will be SPF – ALWAYS! The absolute bare minimum of SPF that you should be applying on your face is SPF 30. Ladies, if your foundation or moisturizer has SPF 15 – sorry, it doesn’t cut it.


My Favorites: Supergoop! SPF


I hope this was helpful! I’ve found the easiest way to remember the correct order to apply skincare products is to write it on a post-it note that I keep in my bathroom. I keep an updated list of all my favorite make-up and skincare products in The Beauty Shop.