The Best Order to Apply Your Skincare Products for Effective Results

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Today, I’m diving into the fascinating topic of skincare product application order. Whether you’re new to skincare or a seasoned pro, understanding the correct order is crucial for achieving the best results and addressing specific skin concerns. So, what is the correct order to apply skincare?

Why the Order Matters

When it comes to skincare, the order in which you apply your products can make all the difference. If you’re trying to tackle a specific skin issue, like acne, hyperpigmentation, or fine lines, using your products in the wrong sequence could hinder their effectiveness. Worse yet, rushing through multiple steps may lead to pilling, where products don’t absorb properly, sabotaging your efforts.

The Basics of a Skincare Routine

At the core of any successful skincare routine lie three fundamental steps: cleanse, moisturise, and protect with sunscreen. This simple yet effective routine forms an excellent foundation for healthy skin. However, if you’re looking to address specific concerns, such as dullness or uneven texture, the wow factor will come from the addition of actives. As a final consideration, the eye area can benefit from a dedicated approach.

Timing and pH Considerations

One of the most common questions I encounter is, “How long should I leave between applying skin products?”

While some skincare enthusiasts stress about precise timing, the truth is, it’s not as critical as you might think. Our skin’s pH typically hovers around 4.5, and even when applying various products, it won’t be significantly altered thanks to our skin’s homeostatic mechanisms.

However, keep in mind that Vitamin C, with its lower pH (typically around 3.5), may have the potential to irritate in those with sensitive skin. Try waiting until your skin is completely dry before applying it, as damp skin tends to be more permeable, which can further increase irritation.

Decoding the Art of Layering

Now, let’s dive into the exciting part – layering your skincare products! Contrary to what you might have heard, the order of your products isn’t set in stone. The key is to ensure you’re using the right products for your skin’s specific needs and, ultimately, maintaining consistency over time is probably the most important consideration. Your skincare routine morning and night should look different. So, what is the proper skin care routine order for each?

Your Daytime Routine

1. Cleanser

Begin your day by cleansing your face to remove dead skin cells and excess oils, and prepare your skin for product absorption. Damp skin allows greater penetration of active ingredients like niacinamide, so keep this in mind if it’s part of your routine.

2. Toner + Essences

Now, in my view these steps are decidedly optional. My preference is to dose leave-on products accurately to ensure maximum and measured benefits – see serums section below. However, if you love them, go for it and apply them to freshly cleansed skin.

3. Eye Cream

Now, in the past I was a bit ambivalent about the use of eye cream. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve definitely seen the needs of my eye area evolve. For instance, it benefits from more of an occlusive moisturiser to ensure concealer sits well and fine lines look better. It also needs a more considered approach to tackle issues like dark circles and loss of collagen.

4. Serum

If you have specific concerns like hyperpigmentation, rosacea or acne, these serums are the next layer you apply. This allows for maximum penetration, which is exactly what you want.

5. Moisturiser

Next, seal everything in and maintain your skin’s hydration with a nourishing moisturiser. Always seek out moisturisers with a balanced formula – you need occlusives and humectants to ensure lasting benefits.

6. SPF

Last step – the most crucial step of all – sun protection. Finish your morning routine with a broad-spectrum sunscreen to safeguard your skin from harmful UV rays. If you prefer to minimise steps, choose an appropriately moisturising SPF and skip the moisturiser step altogether. But always make this your non-negotiable for the most impactful approach to aging well.

Dr Sam's products for a morning routine

Your Night-time Routine

1. Cleanser

Just as in the morning, kick off your evening routine with a gentle cleanser to remove makeup, sunscreen and impurities. I’m a stickler for a single cleansing (rather than double cleansing) – it’s the best way to maintain healthy barrier function and avoid depleting skin unnecessarily. Remember – it’s almost impossible to solve skin issues with ingredients in your cleanser, so keep your cleanser simple. Equally, get cleansing wrong, and it’s hard to get skincare right.

2. Eye Cream

As mentioned earlier, the eye area deserves extra care and protection. I’m a huge fan of a gentle eye-appropriate retinoid at night. Choose one with a moisturising base so that your eye area routine is sorted in a single step. Apply directly after cleansing – this also creates a shield that protects the eye area from targeted products applied elsewhere on the skin which can migrate (skincare products have a tendency to move in the night!).

3. Serum

Utilise the night hours (when skin isn’t using precious resources to defend itself against environmental aggressors) to address specific concerns, such as premature aging or uneven texture, with targeted actives and serums. Retinoids are the big one here – they’re always used at night as UV rays break them down, rendering them ineffective.

4. Moisturiser

As your last step, apply your moisturiser – choose one that promotes overnight skin repair and barrier restoration. If you’re using a retinoid at night, barrier repair ingredients help to reduce trans-epidermal water loss (TEWL), improve retinoid tolerance, and maintain skin health.

Dr Sam's products for an evening skincare routine


There you have it – the best order to apply skincare products for maximum effectiveness and glowing results. Remember, while a simple routine can work wonders for many, targeting specific concerns requires a thoughtful and consistent approach. Don’t get overwhelmed by too many products or complicated routines – focus on what works best for your skin and enjoy the journey to healthier, more radiant skin. Until next time, keep skincare simple and effective!



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