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What’s the Right Order for Skincare Routine Application?

What’s the Right Order for Skincare Routine Application?

As new steps and products enter the skincare world, the less intuitive it is to know what’s the right order for skincare application. In this post, we’re discussing all the products you may possibly include in your skincare routine as well as the right order in which you should layer them. Your routine should be unique and tailored to your needs, so you shouldn’t feel pressured to use an impossible amount of products. Regardless of how many products you use, here’s the order that you should be applying them. And don’t worry, it’s expectable that you don’t use every product on the list. Come with us and learn how to properly layer your skincare!



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The right order for skincare application

To begin with, we’d like to point out that as it happens for any other rule, there may be exceptions to the order of application that we’re suggesting. This skincare routine order should apply for most cases, and it should potentiate the results of each step! On the list that we’re about to see, most products are for daily use, while others are sporadic guests.

  1. Makeup remover/first cleanse
  2. Second cleanse
  3. Exfoliant*
  4. Face mask*
  5. Toner
  6. Essence
  7. Eye cream
  8. Serum
  9. Ampoule*
  10. Moisturizer
  11. Face oil
  12. Sunscreen
  13. Face mist**

*May not be part of your every routine, and when you use it you may skip some regular skincare steps;
**May be applied at any point of the skincare routine.

Morning VS evening routine

If you’re not that much into skincare routines, it might not be obvious what are the differences between morning and evening regimens. They may be completely different or identical, depending on your goals and preferences. Yet, there are a number of steps that are essential for the morning and not recommended in the evening, like sunscreen in the morning, for example. We’re discussing each step individually, defining what it is and how they may work differently in each moment of your routine.

1. Makeup remover/first cleanse

When to use: Evening.

Let’s start with a good example of a product that you may only use in the evening: the first cleanse, which may also be a makeup remover. An essential step for double cleansing, the first cleanse, or makeup remover, is a face cleanser that has a powerful cleansing action and efficiently removes everything that may be sitting on your skin, from waterproof makeup to impurities and pollution particles. Considering that you’re double cleansing every evening, this is a step that you should skip in the morning.

2. Second cleanse/face wash

When to use: Morning and evening.

The second cleanse, unsurprisingly, is the product that you’re going to use as a second cleansing step in the evening. It’ll also be the only cleanser that you’re going to use in the morning. Why would you need a second cleanse in the evening? Well, there are a number of good reasons. The most important one is that most first cleansers leave residue on the skin or don’t get to remove everything that needs to go, and it’s the second cleanser’s job to take it all away. Keep in mind that there are a lot of products meant to stay on the skin no matter what, so they’ll fight back when it comes time to remove them. It would be a leap of faith to believe that the first cleanse would take 100% of makeup and sunscreen away! Convinced already?

3. Exfoliant*

When to use: (Mostly) evening.

Exfoliants are a skincare product that helps you to eliminate dead skin cells that are sitting on the skin. By removing that upper (very thin) layer, you’re making your skin look and feel smoother as well as more radiant. There are many types of exfoliants, with some of them featuring particles while others find other ways to get the job done (by chemical or enzymatic action). Since this step focuses on removing dead skin cells and may leave the skin slightly more sensitive, it’s recommended to use it in the evening. Depending on the formula, you may only need to use it once or twice a week, while some formulas may even be used daily. If you’re using a face scrub or exfoliator, you should apply it after cleansing and before any caring step like a face mask or moisturizer.

*May not be part of your every routine, and when you use it you may skip some regular skincare steps;

4. Face mask*

When to use: Morning or evening (depending on the result of the mask).

Used to make your skin look its very best, face masks are a shot of energy that’s ready to revive your skin. They come in many presentations, from single-use sheet masks to soft leave-in creams and refreshing rinsing formulations. You should always follow the directions suggested by the brand to get the best results! Most face masks work best after the exfoliant (except exfoliating masks). The trick is to combine the use of these two transforming makeup steps. You may only need to use them once or twice a week, or, in some cases, every day as a leave-in or overnight mask (again, you should go as the brand suggests). When you’re using an overnight mask, that should be the last skincare step for the evening. Face masks may not be a step for every day, but it’s an important one!

*May not be part of your every routine, and when you use it you may skip some regular skincare steps;

5. Toner

When to use: Morning and evening (exfoliating toners should only be used in the evening).

The famous toner is a liquid, most of the time watery product, that’s used to finish the cleansing part and open doors for the caring portion of the routine. When applied with a pad, it helps remove any traces of bacteria or dirt. When used with the hands, it replenishes the skin with a result that depends on the ingredients. It may be hydrating, nourishing, or rich in AHA to refine the texture of the skin. As it happens for many other skincare steps, what’s going to define the product is the ingredients that it contains and what’s the promised result!

6. Essence

When to use: Morning and evening.

Let’s consider that essences are extremely fluid versions of a serum. They’re concentrated as a serum and fluid as a toner! They’re lightweight and absorb quickly, adding an extra layer of good stuff to your skin without adding any weight. Skip the cotton pad—they’re best applied directly with your hands! This may not be an essential skincare step, but you should give it a try to see if you find it a good addition to your routine, morning or evening.

7. Eye cream

When to use: Morning and evening.

The eye area demands targeted care, not only for being thinner but also for having specific needs. It’s in the eye area that you’re probably going to find your first lines, and it’s also here that you’ll find dark circles and bags. An eye cream tailored to your needs is an important step that you can include in the morning and evening routine to have the best results. Choose the one that answers your skin and see the results for yourself!

9. Ampoule*

When to use: Morning and/or evening.

Ampoules are one of the most concentrated skincare products and are not always easy to define. If you’re considering European brands, ampoules are single-use glass vials that encapsulate hyper-concentrated active ingredients. While for Korean skincare brands, ampoules are also highly concentrated formulas, that can be in glass vials or in dropper bottles that look exactly like serums. The difference between ampoules and serums is that they’re not meant to be used every day of the year, but rather as a booster whenever your skin needs extra help. Use them before or instead of your serum for the ideal skincare routine order.

*May not be part of your every routine, and when you use it you may skip some regular skincare steps;

8. Serum

When to use: Morning and evening.

The serum is a central step in any skincare routine. Concentrated in actives that grant the results you’re eager to see, the serum is (almost) a non-negotiable part of your regimen, both morning and evening. You may use this step to focus on hydration, to even out the complexion, or smooth the skin texture. The texture is usually thin and easily absorbed, as well as suitable for all skin types. Even those who don’t like to feel much product on the skin shouldn’t skip this step, as it is the one that combines the most benefits and thinner texture.

10. Moisturizer

When to use: Morning and evening.

Moisturizer, the step that gets no one confused or asking “What is that?”. Made to replenish the skin with comfort, the moisturizer is the classic skincare step that most skincare lovers include in their routine. You’ll find formulas that offer mostly nutrition and hydration, while others grant a mattifying finish for hours. Unlike the serum, that’s usually suitable for all skin types, the moisturizer requires attention when it comes the time to buying—it’s really important to choose a formula tailored to your skin type. It is an essential step for dry skin, but oily skin may skip it depending on the other products they use.

11. Face oil

When to use: Morning* and evening.

A must for some and a big no for a few, face oil is a skincare product that’s defined by the texture. Face oils are a nourishing step that adds comfort and nourishing radiance to the skin, especially to dry skin. A few drops after your moisturizer—or even ON your moisturizer—is all it takes to boost the nourishing power of your routine. But it doesn’t mean that oily skin can’t use oils too! The trick is to pick the proper formulation for your skin needs, and you’ll see how transforming this step can be. Most skincare enthusiasts may prefer to use it in the evening. Actually, for those that will leave the house in the morning and will apply sunscreen, you should limit the application of face oil to the nighttime, as face oils may compromise the performance of your sunscreen.

*Only for those whose lifstyle won’t require sunscreen application (when staying at home, shift workers, etc).

12. Sunscreen

When to use: Morning.

Sunscreen is a non-negotiable presence in all morning skincare routines. Providing your skin with unparalleled protection, the sunscreen creates a safety barrier between you and the outside world. You should include it in your routine not only when exposed directly to the sun, but every day of the year. It prevents (at least!) premature aging, sunburn, dark spots, and skin cancer—but it may even provide other benefits depending on the formula. Find one that you just love to use and be generous every time you apply it: you’ll need to apply the proper amount to get the protection promised on the bottle!

13. Face mist

When to use: Morning and evening.

One of the most versatile skincare steps is the face mist. You can use it instead of toner, between skincare layers, or at the end for extra freshness… with face mists there are no rules, just fun! You can apply as many spritzes as you wish, before or after any skincare step—you just can’t go wrong with it! More than a refreshing moment, most face mists offer hydration, makeup-setting abilities, or even anti-aging care. Find the formula that better suits your needs and preferences and spray your skin like there’s no tomorrow.


Your questions about the right order for skincare application

We’ve seen the details about each skincare step, yet you may be left with some relevant questions. Let’s make it all clear, so there are no questions left when it’s time to layer your skincare products!

Does the skincare routine order really matter?

For some steps, it might not be that important, while for others it’s key! It’s not a big deal if you apply the eye cream after the serum instead of before, yet it would be disadvantageous if you’d apply your sunscreen before your serum and moisturizer. You wouldn’t also get much from your serum if you apply it after the face oil. Even if you don’t apply all the products we’ve listed, make sure to apply them in the order suggested, just skipping what’s not applicable. Since you’re making an effort for your skin by applying your products, make sure to follow the suggested skincare routine order.

Which skincare step should I never skip?

For those days when you don’t feel like doing it all, or even if you want to stick to the basics every day, there’s a way of cutting the list short. Take notes: you’ll need to cleanse, moisturize and use sunscreen. That’s it! If your sunscreen gives you enough comfort, you may even skip moisturizer in the morning. This leaves us with a routine that looks something like the following.

  • Morning: Cleanser + Moisturizer + Sunscreen;
  • Evening: Cleanser + moisturizer.

That’s what we’d consider the bare minimum. So, to answer your question directly, you can virtually skip everything but the cleanser, moisturizer, and sunscreen (with the moisturizer being negotiable in the morning!).

If I’m using two serums, which should I apply first?

The rules say that thin textures go before thicker ones. When using two products of the same step, be it serums or essences, for example, go first with the one that has a thinner texture. As a general rule, that’s how skincare routines progress anyway: from toners to essences, serums, and only then the moisturizer.

Can I use the same products in the morning and evening?

It depends. Most of the time, the answer is yes. Fortunately, it’s easy to understand which variables make the answer no: exfolianting acids (AHA’s), retinol and SPF. If a skincare product contains AHAs or retinol, make sure to use it only in the evening routine. There may be a few exceptions for AHAs, such as lactic acid, so you should always check the recommended directions for each product. The other indicator to look for is the SPF. If you have products containing SPF, you should save them for the morning routine. If that’s the case with your moisturizer, for example, find yourself a different formula for evening pampering!


For more practical skincare users, we can help creating a skincare routine with three simple steps! Will you try it?

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