The Correct Order of Face Products: Explained

Jun 30, 2020
The Correct Order of Face Products: Explained

Okay, so does it really matter what order you use your skin care products in? Well, most experts agree that yes, it does in fact matter. While we fully believe that committing to a regular skin care routine is paramount, that’s really only half the battle. If you aren’t applying your skincare product correctly, in the right order, you probably aren’t getting nearly the benefits from them that you could be. As a general rule, the thinner the skincare product, the early in your skin care regime it should be applied. 

Why Does Your Skin Care Product Order Matter?

One of the primary reasons is because if you try to layer a thinner liquid on top of a heavier one, it can impair the product’s ability to penetrate the layers of your skin. Products that are thicker create a barrier on the surface of your skin and anything you apply after that will have a heck of a time sinking in to do its job. 

When your products can’t get down beneath the surface of your skin, they don’t do your skin much good. Not only that, but depending on your product's active ingredient, you could be applying two products back to back that totally neutralize each other or worse, cause an unwanted reaction by the mixing of the two ingredients.

You can harm your skin in other ways too, by applying products in the wrong order during your skin care regimen. For instance, if you apply your sunscreen first before adding things like serums, you could dilute the efficiency of your sunscreen and open yourself up to sun damage. So, if you want your skin care routine to be effective, know which order to apply your products.

Do You Put Face Oil On Before or After Moisturizer?

This can depend on what type of products you are using. If you are using a very lightweight facial oil, it should be added to your face before your moisturizer. However if you’re using a facial oil that’s heavier, you can apply it after your moisturizer and it will help seal the moisture in.

General Rules to Apply Skin Care Products

Combined with the rule of applying thinner products first and thickest products last, there are a couple other rules of thumb to keep in mind. 

  1. Know the product’s PH levels. Mixing products with low and high PH levels doesn’t work. You have to apply them from lowest first and move to highest. If the PH levels have a gap or if you have no clue what the PH levels are for your products, but they have an active ingredient, try applying them at different times of the day or wait at least 30 minutes in between applications. 
  2. Apply water-based products before oil-based. Water and oil don’t play well together so if you apply oil-based products first, that can hinder the absorption of water-based products. 

Exception to the rule: You can still use an oil cleanser during a double cleansing routine, since both products are meant to clean your face, not deposit something beneath the skin’s surface. 

Remember that the skin is an organism designed to keep the baddies out. But when applying skin care products, you want to get goodies in, so that means applying your face products in the correct order is crucial to gaining the maximum beneficial ingredients. 

What’s the Correct Order of Face Products?

Different skincare experts may recommend a slightly different order for applying your morning or nighttime skin care routine, but generally, the order will look something like this:

For a Simplified Daytime Skin Care Routine

For a Simplified Nighttime Skin Care Routine

Keep in mind that more is not always better, especially if you have sensitive skin. There are a multitude of products available for your skin type, but going overboard can be counterintuitive for some. For a more involved skincare routine with face products in the correct order, try this:

Daytime Skin Care Routine

  • Cleanser
  • Toner
  • Serum
  • Spot treatment
  • Eye cream
  • Lightweight face oil
  • Moisturizer
  • Heavyweight face oil
  • Mineral sunscreen

Nighttime Skin Care Routine

  • Double cleanse
  • Exfoliation or mask (1-3 times weekly)
  • Toner and/or a hydration mist
  • Acid treatment (like retinol or hyaluronic acid)
  • Serum and essence
  • Spot treatment
  • Hydration serum
  • Eye cream
  • Face oil
  • Night cream or sleep mask

What specific products you use during your morning and nighttime routine will vary depending on your skin type and the specific needs you have. Some products you may not need to use daily and will only be used weekly or monthly. Do what works best for your skin! 

What is Korean Skin Care?

Korean skin care is a daily beauty routine using 8-12 steps, with the average number of steps being 10. Korean women have amazing skin and credit it to this more involved approach to skin care. Though the average skin care routine usually requires less steps, the Korean skin care regime is becoming more and more popular, especially as new products come on the market. 

What Are the 10 Steps Korean Skin Care?

Step 1: Double Cleanse

A double cleanse could really be considered two steps since you’re washing your face twice. The first time is done with an oil cleanser and the second time is done using a foaming cleanser. Each cleanse and product is designed to clean your face in a different way. Oil cleansers are actually great for your oily skin care routine, as they bind to sebum, remove impurities, and help reduce oil without stripping your face. It also removes makeup well. Foaming cleansers work to remove sweat and dirt. If you’re looking for a cleanser with exfoliating properties to remove dead skin cells, opt for an AHA cleanser

Step 2: Toner

The Korean view  and included beneficial ingredients of toner is very different from the American view. Toners in this case aren’t harsh astringents that strip and dry out your skin, but are products that usually deliver a thin layer of moisture to help soften your skin and balance its PH levels. Some toners are thicker and can contain a potent ingredient like BHA and AHA to make them even more nourishing for the skin.

Step 3: Essence

Essences are like adding a second layer of moisture on top of your toner. It’s believed that by layering your products, they work much better and won’t clog your pores. Essences are usually quite watery in texture and are designed to absorb deeply into the skin. 

Step 4: Emulsion

Think of this as adding a third layer of moisture to the skin. Emulsions are somewhat thicker than an essence or toner. Like the previous products, emulsions are loaded with goodies that nourish and hydrate the skin. However, this layer can depend on your skin type. If you have dry skin, you’ll probably love it. If you lean toward oily skin, you might hate it. It's your prerogative to skip this step if it doesn’t work for you. 

Step 5: Ampoule/Serum 

Some call ampoules serums, others say ampoules are an even better version of a hydrating serum. We say either way, both are yummy for super dry skin and deliver another potent dose of moisture. However, like step 4, if your skin is feeling dewy enough already, skip on down to the next step. 

Step 6: Sheet Masks

You might be wondering what are sheet masks and how do you use sheet masks in a skincare routine for your specific needs! Sheet masks are a delicious step in your skin care routine that will take roughly an extra 15-20 minutes. Sheet masks are doused in serum, so they could be considered yet another layer of moisture added onto your skin. They are great whether you choose to use them every day or once or twice a week. You’ll know you’ve picked a good sheet mask product if it stays moist the whole time you’re wearing it. 

Step 7: Eye Cream

Eye cream is probably not used enough in many skin care regimens. But if you start using it early, it can significantly slow down premature signs of aging and solve your questions towards how to get rid of bags under my eyes. Just be careful when applying it - the skin around your eyes is extremely sensitive and prone to damage. Use your ring finger to spread the eye cream around for a gentler approach into your sensitive skin skincare routine.

Step 8: Moisturizer

You might think that once you’ve applied your sheet mask, you’ve hydrated your face more than enough. However, traditionally Koreans use moisturizing cream to help seal in all the goodies you’ve just applied, to increase their efficiency. If you tend to get clogged pores, look for one that’s lighter weight. Otherwise, slather away! 

Step 9: Sunscreen (Morning Only)

Asian sunscreens are rated similar to American sunscreens, using a PA system instead of SPF. They are specifically designed to protect your skin from both UVB and UVA rays. We recommend looking for a mineral based sunscreen, especially if you have sensitive skin. 

Step 10: Sleep Mask (Night Only)

Sleep masks are designed to work their magic while your body sleeps and goes into repair mode. While it can seem excessive to add another step to your routine, if you want that beautiful glow, you gotta work for it. 

The good news is that by applying your order of face products correctly, whatever your skin care routine, you’ll maximize the benefits you receive. Now isn’t that something beautiful?

We aim to provide you with the most honest and credible information possible. This article was reviewed for accuracy by The Honest Team and was written based on trusted sources that are linked at the bottom of the article.