Are You Applying your Skincare in the Right Order?

the proper order of skincare

With so many skincare products, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with what your routine should be. Which products you should use and when, not to mention the order of said products (does the serum or the oil come first?!). After pretty much winging it my entire life, I finally asked my dermatologist when I visited a couple weeks ago. I was specifically interested in the proper order of products, as I’d read competing answers online. This was the order she suggested—and she’s the best!

The Correct Order of Skincare Products


As a first step in your skincare routine, you should always cleanse your face to remove dirt, makeup, pollution, etc. from your pores. That means in the morning and at night. By skipping your morning cleanse, you’re more prone to breakouts because oil builds up on your face while you sleep! Plus, whatever product you’re putting on your face in the a.m. won’t soak in if it’s not penetrating a clean surface. For a quick wash in the morning, I usually use a cream cleanser that’s super nourishing (but still cleans) to add in some much-needed moisture to my skin.

 At night, I personally love using an electronic skin brush with my same cleanser to help me get deeper. My facialist once told me that using my Clarisonic daily was safe, as long as I wasn’t pressing hard or exfoliating that same night.

For removing makeup at night, I love using a cleansing balm to remove makeup without over-drying my skin.


For some reason I used to always exfoliate my skin first, and then cleanse it right after. Something about that squeaky clean feeling from the cleanser just made that order feel right. But huge shocker (to me at least), you’re actually supposed to cleanse first, then exfoliate.

Apparently if you exfoliate before cleansing, you’re rubbing all the dirt and oil from your skin deeper into your pores. That’s not exactly going to give you the radiant skin you’re probably after! Depending on your skin type, you should exfoliate no more than every other day, but twice a week is probably enough.

Two of my favorites are this gentle exfoliating cleanser and this one. For a deeper exfoliation, try using this peel twice a week. They also make a pregnancy-safe version!


I never realized how important toner was until a few years ago. I like to think of toner as sort of what a base coat does for your nails—it preps your skin for the moisturizers to follow. Toner should be applied with a cotton ball right after cleansing/exfoliating for the best results.


Think of serums as a super light, super nourishing moisturizer. You wouldn’t ever want to use them in place of an everyday moisturizer, but they work wonders when applied first (right after toning). A lot of daytime serums will have vitamin C in them to help with your skin’s texture and moisture levels. Nighttime serums are usually anti-aging and meant to increase skin firmness and reduce wrinkles. There are a bunch of multi-tasking serums out there, too—you can pretty much find a serum to combat any skin issue you’re facing.


As a last step, applying moisturizer is a must. What happens when you don’t moisturize is your skin kicks into overdrive and actually produces excess oil. Don’t skip this step, even if you have oily skin (something I did wrong for years)! This moisturizer is one of my favorites as it adapts to your skin throughout the day!

There are different moisturizers for daytime, which are usually a little lighter, and heavier creams and facial oils for nighttime. I was always confused as to which order I should apply lotions vs. oils, so I asked. As a general rule of thumb, you’ll want to apply lighter consistency moisturizers first, followed by oils, which are heavier.

When it comes to facial oils like rosehip and argan, which are chock-full of beneficial ingredients, my skin soaks them up way better if I mix them with my facial cream. I’m a huge fan of using multiple moisturizers together like this, especially at night.

Have you been following this type of a routine for your skincare? Would love to hear anything you do differently that’s been working well.

BTW, 8 simple tips for clear, glowy skin, and my favorite clean beauty brands.

Today’s post is written by contributor Chelsea Becker, a San Diego native, living and writing in San Francisco. Follow her on Instagram & Pinterest.

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