Does order matter in a skincare regimen?

7 Oct

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We’ve been getting asked this question a lot lately and learned that there are quite a few people out there overwhelmed and confused by all the products out there…especially when it comes to the proper use of them.

So let’s start with the question:

Does it matter which order you use skincare products?

YES! It matters. Products can range from less effective to virtually ineffective depending on how you use them. 

Here’s our top 3 reasons why it matters:

1. Occlusive agents – Some products will be formulated with larger occlusive agents that are great at sealing moisture into your skin. Unfortunately, other products you apply over these occlusive agents will also be sealed out of your skin.

2. Prescription topicals – For those of you using any prescription products, a lot of these are formulated to go directly onto clean skin and not over other products. You should check to see if these will be less effective if over other products.

3. Chemical suncreens – These are different than physical sunscreens that typically use titanium dioxide or zinc oxide to reflect or scatter UV radiation so that it can’t reach your skin. Chemical suncreens absorb UV rays before it can impact your skin but is recommended typically as the first layer on your screen after your prescription topicals, if you use any. On the other hand, physical suncreens are best as the last layer of your skincare regimen.

So, what does all this mean in terms of how skincare products should be layered on?

To make it easy, we’ll list out the order that we think is best – and what is typically recommended – based on all the different factors. 

1. Clean face – wash your face with a good facial cleanser (unfortunately, body wash or non-facial bar soaps do NOT count. there are reasons for this which we will explain in another entry)

2. Tone face – this is important. we explain why in one of our past entries https://peachandlily.wordpress.com/2012/09/08/31140654065/ 

3. Prescription topical – if you use one, please check if this should be applied first after toning face. This will usually be the case.

4. Serums, essences, boosters – if you use one (we do recommend at least one serum), these are all formulated with “active” ingredients and designed to deliver these important helper ingredients (e.g. collagen, vitamin C, retinol-A) into the deeper layers of your skin.

5. Moisturizer, creams – locks in moisture and all the other ingredients that you’ve used.

6. SPF – IF your SPF is a physical sunscreen and not a chemical sunscreen. If it’s a chemical sunscreen, this should be step 4.

* Masks – we love, love, love masks that you can either sleep in or ones you take off in 15 minutes without requiring a wash-off. These go on right after step 2 or 3, and then you can skip steps 4 and 5 that night! If used in the morning, then of course that SPF is still needed as a last step.

Other things to keep in mind

1. Pat, don’t rub – excessive rubbing wears your skin down. When in doubt, pat.

2. Allow 3-5 minutes in between steps 3 to 5. Yes, we know, it’s a pain because this makes the process longer. And yes, if you’re in a rush, do put everything on anyway as this is better than not using your skincare regimen in completion. BUT the serums do need a little bit of time to be absorbed fully once it’s on before slathering on your moisturizer. And that all needs to set before patting on your SPF. So even if it’s a bit annoying, this will optimize results. What I usually do is put on a serum, then go dress, come back and put on a moisturizer. Basically, I interweave my going-to-work or going-to-bed routine in between steps so I don’t feel like I’m wasting time. Having said all this, if this is too much for you, take comfort in knowing that the products (in the right order) will still yield good results without the resting in between!


This may sound like work, but once it becomes a routine, we think it’s enjoyable as we indulge in that soft, supple feeling every morning and night. Cheers to a radiant glow!

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