What's The Best Order To Apply Your Skincare Routine?

With so much focus on finding the right skincare products for your skincare concerns, it can be easy to forget the order in which you apply these products is also important. Which products or ingredients work best together? When should you apply sunscreen? Our step-by-step approach equips you with the key principles to help you find the best order for your skincare routine.

Woman applying skincare products to skin

Why does the skincare routine order matter?

The best skincare products are designed to help your skin reach its full potential. Beyond the products themselves, it’s important to also consider the order you apply them. For instance, some products need direct skin contact for absorption, while others still work well when applied at the end of your routine.

Considering your skincare routine order, can help you to achieve soft, smooth, healthy-looking skin.

teenager applying skincare products

What are the key principles for ordering and layering products?

There are three key principles for ordering your skincare routine. Firstly, always cleanse as the initial step. Secondly, apply lighter skincare products – like serums – before thicker products. Finally, consistency is key. Studies show that a consistent routine can help improve some skin concerns, such as dry skin.

To ease yourself into a skincare routine, it’s best to try a few products before settling into a routine. You may see some immediate benefits from a new product, but sometimes skincare products take time to work. Once you have introduced a product, you should wait at least 28 days to see the potential benefit.

What’s the best order to apply your morning skincare routine?

Your morning routine is designed to get your skin through the day. It should include products that can protect your skin from environmental factors such as pollution or sun damage, as well as helping to address your unique skin needs.

Cleansing in the morning removes impurities from the night and prepares your skin for all the skincare goodness you’re about to apply.

Consider your skin requirements when choosing your cleanser. If dry or sensitive skin is a concern, use a creamy cleanser such as Cetaphil’s Gentle Skin Cleanser, which removes impurities while maintaining hydration. If you have oily skin, then Cetaphil’s DermaControl Oil Removing Foam Wash can remove excess oil without over-drying or stripping your skin

Serums are a secret weapon for your skincare routine. They’re packed full of concentrated ingredients, so a little goes a long way.

You should apply serums directly to cleansed skin for best results. Serums need direct access to skin for absorption, unlike thicker products like moisturizers which have greater penetrating ability.

If you’re concerned about skin brightness, you might want to consider a serum that contains vitamins and antioxidants, like Cetaphil’s Healthy Radiance Antioxidant-C Serum. If you have acne-prone skin then Cetaphil’s Gentle Clear Triple-Action Acne Serum may be a good choice as it contains salicylic acid, succinic acid, and niacinamide.

Whether it's the appearance of dark circles, fine lines, or puffiness, the skin under your eyes needs special attention. That’s where eye creams come in. These should be applied directly after serums, as they are also concentrated to target a key concern.

Use Cetaphil’s Hydrating Eye Gel-Cream to brighten and smooth the delicate skin under your eyes. With this gel-cream formula, your eyes will be left looking refreshed for that well-rested look.

Moisturizing is essential. Moisturizing boosts skin resilience and helps support the skin barrier, helping to prevent dryness.

Moisturizers are the penultimate skincare routine step in the morning. They not only boost hydration but help lock in the benefits of the products applied before them. They can contain SPF but so you may need to apply additional sunscreen as well (see step 5).

If you have dry or sensitive skin, Cetaphil’s Deep Hydration Healthy Glow Daily Cream is formulated with hyaluronic acid to leave you with a healthy-looking glow. If you have dull, uneven skin, then Cetaphil’s Healthy Radiance Whipped Day Cream SPF 30 can help brighten your complexion

Sunscreen is another essential skincare routine step. Using sunscreen daily protects your skin from sun damage more effectively than intermittent use. While moisturizers help boost your skin’s ability to protect itself against the environment, sunscreens directly limit the damage from harmful UV rays.

Chemical sunscreens contain UV light blockers in the form of chemicals that soak into the skin to prevent harm from the sun. Mineral sunscreens block harmful UV rays through a physical barrier – they don’t need to be absorbed and sit on top of the skin.

The best product to include as part of a daily skincare routine would be a moisturizer with SPF included or a mineral sunscreen such as Cetaphil’s Sheer Mineral Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 30. This formulation is water-resistant for up to 80 minutes and contains vitamin E.

If you’re looking for more protection, Cetaphil’s Sheer Mineral Sunscreen Face Liquid Broad Spectrum SPF 50 contains a higher sun protection factor.

What’s the best order to apply your bedtime skincare routine?

Your bedtime skincare routine should focus on nourishing and protecting your skin from dryness. Products at night can also target your long-term skin goals. So, whether you wish to tackle dehydrated skin or prevent acne breakouts, a bedtime routine can help.

To prepare your skin for sleep, it is crucial to remove impurities accumulated during the day. If you wear makeup, start your night routine with Cetaphil’s Gentle Oil-Free Makeup Remover. To follow up, Cetaphil’s Daily Facial Cleanser is enhanced with a blend of ingredients that help improve skin resilience while cleaning deeply.

Since bedtime is the best time to tackle specific concerns, choose a serum that has a long-lasting benefit. For example, Cetaphil’s Deep Hydration 48 Hour Activation Serum is both nourishing and replenishing. It’s easy to layer and is absorbed instantly.

Cetaphil eye creams are long-lasting, often working for 24 hours or more, so you may not need to use the same one twice a day. However, you could use an eye cream in the morning to help your eyes look bright and fresh, and your night eye cream could target dryness.

Cetaphil’s Deep Hydration Refreshing Eye Serum can be used at night to tackle the appearance of dark circles and puffiness, allowing you to wake up looking refreshed.

It’s beneficial to use a moisturizer as the last layer at night to lock in moisture.

To boost hydration, consider using Cetaphil’s Rich Hydrating Cream, which works to tackle dryness throughout the night, leaving you with refreshed skin in the morning. You could also try Cetaphil’s Healthy Radiance Renewing Cream, which works to decrease the appearance of dark spots.

How to personalize your skincare routine steps

Your skin is unique – that’s why it is essential to learn what works for you. Once you know what order you should apply your skincare you can adapt your products. You should explore products for any specific skin concerns you may have, such as acne-prone skin or rough and bumpy skin.

There are other products you can include in your skincare routine, such as face masks. These don’t need to be used daily, but you can use Cetaphil’s DermaControl Purifying Clay Mask up to three times a week. You can use a face mask in between your morning and bedtime skincare routine.

Use Cetaphil’s Skincare Finder to discover how to personalize your routine for your skin type.

cetaphil gentle skin cleanser product

Should You Rotate Your Skincare Routine?

Some studies suggest that using the same product daily can sometimes lead to a plateau effect (where products stop working so effectively).6 If you think this has happened to you, you can try rotating your routine, also called skin cycling. This is where you switch one product for another for a short time and then switch back again. Then you repeat the process. Another benefit of rotating your skincare routine is that it allows you to try out different products.

Other ways to rotate your skincare routine include using different serums every other day. If your skincare concerns include brightness and maintaining hydration, then you could use Cetaphil’s Healthy Radiance Antioxidant- C Serum one day and Cetaphil’s Deep Hydration 48 Hour Activation Serum the next.

Another way would be to use stronger products and milder products on alternative days, i.e., alternating Cetaphil’s Gentle Skin Cleanser with a more exfoliating cleanser such as Cetaphil’s Healthy Radiance Gentle PHA Exfoliating Cleanser.

The Bottom Line

A comprehensive daytime and bedtime skincare routine is the best way to look after your skin in the long term, but it’s important to get the order of your skincare routine right.

Once you know what order to apply skincare products, be consistent! Using your products every day, and maybe occasionally rotating them, can help your skin reach its full potential.