Skincare Order of Application

Everyone always wants to talk about skincare, and I get it. There are so many products out there, that it's easy to feel overwhelmed with where to even start. Truth is, skincare is a revolving door of recommendations from friends, family and peers for me! Most of the products I currently use in my routine, I bought on account of someone telling me "I must try it."

I'm not a skincare junkie. To me, less is more, but the essentials are still essential. Ya feel me?!

So once you HAVE the products, comes that tricky order of application. Serum or moisturizer first? What about facial oil? Where does eye cream fit into the mix?!

I'm breaking it alllll down for you and sharing the proper skincare order of application along with a few of my current favorite products & tools.

PS - If you want to keep this little chart handy, you can print it here and pin it up in your bathroom!

The Science to the Order of Application

Do you ever wonder, why does it even matter? Because I totally did. But now that I understand the science behind the skincare order of application, it makes so much sense. Skincare products are meant to always be applied based on consistency: thinnest to thickest. We want those thinner products like serums which are packed with all of that good ish to be able to penetrate our skin, which is why we apply them first. On the flip side, we want our thicker products like moisturizers and oils to act as barriers to lock in the rest of our skincare.

Do You Really Do this Every Day?

Nope! And my skin's doing juuuust fine. I try to follow a proper skincare routine AOAP (as often as possible). Realistically, however, there are going to be some mornings where I slap on moisturizer and go, and some nights where I take off my makeup and hit the pillow. Ultimately, I think it's important to prioritize our skin the best that we can without feeling like we need a 20-step skincare routine morning and night to do it.

Skincare Order of Application

Step 1: Cleanser

I was always a grab-whatever-I-find at the drugstore kind of girl when it came to cleanser. Honestly, if my face feels and looks clean without feeling too dry, I'm good to go. I first tried Tula's Purifying Facial Cleanser last year and immediately loved it. Smells great, and leaves your skin feeling really clean. My only wish: that it lathered a bit more! 

Step 2: Toner

I previously strayed away from toner because I had used a handful of really drying toners in the past. Toners have come such a long way though, and help balance your skin's pH while acting as a delivery system for serums. I've used Fresh's Rose Deep Hydration Toner for years now. Smells amazing (it has actual fresh rose petals in it), keeps my skin nice and hydrated, and gets that excess dirt and oil off. I use this every morning and night and apply with these washable/reusable facial pads.

Step 3: Serum

Am I the only one who feels like serum only recently came into the limelight?! Rewind to 5+ years ago, I was definitely not using any type of serum. What I've come to love about serums, however, is that you get to pick your (what's the opposite of poison?), depending on your skin's needs. Think of serums as super-concentrated, nutrient-dense treatments for your skin.

As a rule of thumb, stick to a Vitamin C (L-Ascorbic Acid)-based serum in the AM. These types of serums help prevent damage from free radicals (complicated AF atoms that cause damage to skin cells) that occur throughout the day. SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic serum is a splurge, but one of the top reviewed Vitamin C serums of all time. If you're on a budget, try this one from Bliss!

RULE OF THUMB: use any serums containing keywords "antioxidant" in the AM and those containing keywords "anti-aging" in the PM.

Step 4: Eye Cream

When it comes to eye cream, consistency is key. Regular use helps keep the skin around your eyes elastic, which can help prolong those fine lines or collagen loss. To be honest, I haven't settled on an eye cream that I'm absolutely obsessed with. I'm currently using Bliss' Vitamin C + Tri-Peptide eye cream (budget friendly). Have also heard great things about Ole Henrikson's Banana Bright and First Aid Beauty's Triple Remedy AM Gel Cream.

Step 5: Moisturizer

I keep it reaaaal simple when it comes to moisturizer with a product I've been using since college! St. Ives Collagen Elastin Moisturizer is a $5 drugstore find that I just can't get enough of. Smells great, super hydrating without feeling oily, and delivers the perfect amount of moisture to my skin.

Step 6: Sunscreen

On makeup days, I will skip this step because my CC Cream contains an SPF 50+. However, on all other days, this is a vital step in my routine. It's important to look for a 'physical' sunscreen versus a 'chemical' sunscreen. Chemical sunscreens are absorbed into the skin, which then absorb UV rays, convert them into heat and release them from the body. Applying a chemical sunscreen after moisturizer will hinder that absorption. Physical sunscreens, on the other hand, sit on top of your skin and reflect UV rays. Hands down the highest recommended face sunscreen is Elta MD's Broad-Spectrum SPF 46. Have also heard great things about Tula!

Step 7: Primer

On makeup days, I finish out my skincare routine with a primer before I apply my makeup. Have been using this one by Tula for quite a while now, and it's one of my all-time favorites.

Skincare Order of Application

Step 1: Makeup Remover

Cleansing at night should be a two step process. First, I remove my makeup with a cleansing oil or micellar water which helps to dissolve it, along with any surface build up from the day. Currently trying this 5-star, 1,000 review cleansing oil by DHC. Glossier's Milky Oil has great reviews, which combines both a cleansing oil and micellar water to remove makeup. If you prefer a melting balm, Tula's Makeup Melt also comes recommended!

Step 2: Cleanser

Second, I cleanse all of the excess dirt, oil and leftover makeup that's loosened up and left behind after the first cleanse with 
Tula's Purifying Facial Cleanser.

Step 3: Toner

I use the same toner for AM & PM; Fresh's Rose Deep Hydration Toner. I always feel like toner is that extra step that gets the last bit of dirt/makeup off (yes, even after a double cleanse!).

Step 4: Serum/Treatment

Nighttime means business; time to break out your heavy-hitters. Your body does the bulk of its restoring overnight, so this is where you really want to utilize your targeted products based on your skincare needs. Think retinol, exfoliating treatments (glycolic acid, AHA/BHA pads) or hydrating serums. The goal here is to switch it up. For example, I use Neutrogena's Neutrogena's Rapid Wrinkle Repair Serum 3-4 times per week (higher end option by SkinCeuticals here). On off days, I'm typically using a hydrating serum with hyaluronic acid (draws moisture into the skin, plumps + hydrates). 

ALSO TRY: First Aid Beauty Facial Radiance Pads to exfoliate & resurface skin, 

Step 5: Eye Cream

I like to switch up my eye cream at night and use a thicker formula that can take it's time to absorb into my skin. I've been using Shiseido's Benefiance WrinkleResist Eye Cream for quite a while now. It's tiny tube really lasts (1/2 a pea size is enough for both eyes) and it's thick formula keeps my eyes hydrated and plump until I wake up the next morning. Have also heard great things about BeautyCounter's Ultra Renewal eye cream and Glow Recipe's Avocado Melt Retinol Eye Sleeping Mask.

Step 6: Moisturizer/Night Cream

Some people prefer to use a more restorative moisturizer at night (aka night cream). I keep a few moisturizers on deck that I really enjoy and switch between. I did try Tula's daily moisturizer and didn't like that it made my pores visibly larger after just a few days (just a  personal preference; I know many people that love it). I rotate between the St. Ives Collagen Elastin Moisturizer and Fresh's Lotus Youth Preserve Night Cream.

Step 7: Facial Oil

On nights when I'm using a treatment like retinol or glycolic acid that tends to dry out skin, I'll add in a facial oil. I love Glossier's Futuredew oil/serum hybrid and BeautyCounter's No.1 Brightening Facial Oil (smells like fresh lemons!).

NOTE: I have normal/dry skin, and I've always been fine with using a facial oil as a last step to my skincare routine. 

Bonus Step: Lip Mask

I don't use a lip mask every night, but in the Wintertime, it's usually an every-other-night kind of product. I tried Laniege's cult favorite Lip Sleeping Mask and was instantly hooked. This stuff works wonders - and overnight! Just be careful to only apply on lips, as it can cause clogged pores if it sits on your skin.

What About Acne Spot Treatments?

Every so often, when you need an acne spot treatment, it's important to apply it as close to the skin as possible in order for it to do it's job. As a rule of thumb, apply under moisturizer. Personally, when I'm using an spot treatment like a drying lotion or acne patch, I avoid applying any skincare products directly on top of them.


Full post on a breakdown on my favorite skincare tools coming soon! In the meantime, here's a sneak peek!

Skincare Order of Application


I hope this post was a helpful read! I often get questions about skincare and my number one piece of advice is to experiment until you find what works for your skin type. Some of the products I love may not do a thing for you and vice versa, all due to skin being so vastly different! That being said, I hope you're encouraged to try out some of these recommendations that you may have heard about that have my seal of approval.

Do you have any must-have products?! Would love to know in the comments below! Remember, you can print out my order of application chart to keep handy for your AM & PM routine!

*DISCLAIMER: My skincare products, tools and recommendations are based on my own personal research and experience. Please always consult with your dermatologist before trying out new products and/or tools to see if they're right for your skin type!

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One response to “My Skincare Order of Application + Favorite Products”

  1. One of my favorite cleansers is from Drunk Elephant! I also love moisturizers from their line, too. Great recommendations and I’ll need to end my skincare routine with a facial oil tonight.
    XO Amanda || Affordable by Amanda

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