The Correct Order to Apply Your Skincare Routine

Here’s a scary thought: That pricey serum you splurge on every couple of months might not be working as well as it should be. Why? Because you’re layering it over other skincare products in the wrong order

Seriously. The order that you apply your favorite skincare products makes a real and significant difference to your skin. And if you’re not following that specific order, it could be compromising the overall efficacy of your daily skincare ritual. 

If you’re interested in learning more about maximizing your favorite skincare products to get the best results, you’ve come to the right place! Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about the correct order to apply your skincare routine.


Product Sequence Matters—Here’s Why

First things first, why does the sequence matter, anyway? 

When you don’t follow the correct order to apply your skincare products, you can run into three issues:

  1. They may not penetrate. 

This is a huge problem if you’re putting thin, water-based products on top of thick, oily, or creamy ones. Always keep in mind that the richer products will form a barrier on your skin, preventing anything else from getting through.

  1. They may be less effective. 

Consequently, if certain products are not able to penetrate your skin properly, you can’t reap all of the yummy skin benefits they have to offer! Plus, when certain active ingredients are meant to be applied away from each other, using them together can make them ineffective or even create a new, unfavorable chemical reaction. In either case, your daily skincare routine won’t be as effective as it should be. And you deserve the best.

  1. You could actually harm your skin. Oops.

Lastly, using skincare products out of sequence could even create new skin issues. For instance, applying serums on top of oils could leave your usually dewy skin dehydrated and dry since not enough water is reaching your skin. Or, if you’re layering your serums, creams, and oils on top of your favorite mineral broad-spectrum sunscreen, you will be disturbing the coverage, essentially diluting the protection. This will leave you vulnerable to the sun’s harsh UV rays -- AKA premature aging.


The Four Golden Rules of Product Layering

Did you know that there are four general “rules” to keep in when determining what sequence to apply your skincare products? Yup, it’s true! 

The four golden rules of product layering are as follows:

Rule #1: Thinnest to Thickest Texture: Always move in the direction of light to heavy. Begin with your most watery products, such as toners, serums, and essences. Then, your heavier, more moisturizing ones, like lotions, creams, and then oils. To top it all off, slather on what’s usually the heaviest product of them all, your sunscreen.  

Rule #2: Water-based always before oil-based: Water and oil don’t mix, and oil can block water from penetrating deep into your skin. That means your water-based products must be applied first. Give them a few minutes to fully absorb into your skin, and then apply your oil-based products on top.

Rule #3: Lowest to Highest pH: If you happen to be using any active ingredients, it’s crucial to understand what their approximate pH levels are, and go from lowest to highest. Simply put, acidic products (pH 3.0 to 4.0) should always be applied prior to more neutral ones (pH 5.0 to 7.0).

Rule #4: Low and high pH products do not mix. If your daily skincare routine includes products with active ingredients, you can apply them at the same time as long as their pH levels are similar. But if there happens to be a gap in pH of more than, say, 1.0 to 2.0, we suggest waiting roughly 30 minutes or so in between them or using them at different times of the day. That way, each skincare product can work at its intended pH.

In some instances, you may run into a dilemma because the oilier or thicker product will have a lower pH level than the lighter, more watery one. In cases like these, it’s best to use them at different times of the day, rather than risk changing the pH level or having the lighter product not penetrate. 


What is The Correct Order To Apply Your Skincare Routine?

By now we know that applying our skincare products out of order will not only do more harm to our skin than good -- but it’s also a total waste of expensive products! Follow these simple steps to correctly apply your skincare routine and never waste another beauty product again. 

Step 1: Cleanser

Some skin types do just fine with a simple splash of water first thing in the morning. But if your skin type produces a lot of oil or if there’s any residue left on your skin from the skincare products you used the evening before, cleansing is a good idea. Stick with a non-drying, sulfate-free cleanser. 

 Step 2: Physical Exfoliant

Next on the list is using a physical exfoliant. We know there are a ton of exfoliants on the market, but our favorite -- hands down -- has to be our very own Topicals brightening and clearing gel, FADED. This powerful gel is like no other exfoliant and is gentle enough for those experiencing hyperpigmentation and erythema who can’t tolerate more aggressive acids. We love to see it.

Step 3: Toner

A lot of people choose to skip toners, partly because there’s a lingering assumption that most of them are harsh, causing irritation to the skin. Fortunately, that's not the case anymore. 

While they don’t physically “shrink” pores despite contrary belief, the new breed of toners on the market today can serve multiple purposes, like acting as a delivery system for antioxidants, vitamin B derivatives, and even toning acids. Not to mention, each type of toner is intended for a different skin concern, so it’s important to use the right kind for your specific skin issue. 

However, at the end of the day, if you’ve lived all your life without ever using a toner and your skin looks bright, healthy, and happy, there’s no pressure to start using one. Do you!

Step 4: Antioxidant Serum

Serums are highly-concentrated, nutrient-dense treatments that address specific concerns, so it’s better to keep them as close to the skin as possible (hence, why serums are step 4). 

There are many different types of good quality serums on the market but for daytime, stick with an antioxidant serum, which provides a variety of benefits -- from blunting your skin’s natural inflammatory response, to neutralizing damage from the sun’s harsh UV rays and environmental pollutants. 

Step 5 : Eye Cream

Since the area around your eyes doesn’t have any oil glands to help keep it moisturized, you’ll want to give it a little bit of magic with some proper hydration right away. Eye cream should be used twice a day, period.  

Step 6 : Moisturizer

Lock in your serums and moisture with a top-notch face moisturizer. If you have dry skin, you can use a thicker cream, but those with oily skin will want to reach for something a little more lightweight, okay?

Step 7 : Sunscreen

You need sun protection. Rain or shine. Every. Single. Day. Look for something around 30 SPF to ensure your skin is well-protected from the sun’s harsh UV rays. Even if you aren’t going to be in the sun all day -- you still need sunscreen. 

If you’re a person of color, you definitely need to be using sunscreen too.


Bottom Line

Did you know that your skin is the largest organ in the body? It’s true -- that’s why taking care of it is so dang important! Follow the seven steps above and never waste your skincare products again. 

When searching for the best skincare products on the market, look no further and check out Topicals. 

Whether you’re looking for an ultra-hydrating mask to soothe your irritated skin or a top-notch brightening and clearing gel to fade your most stubborn marks, scars, and spots, we can help with dermatologist-approved, scientifically-backed botanicals!