The Correct Order To Apply Your Skincare Products

The results are in.

The correct order to apply skin care products is a hotly debated topic; it’s about as topical as which Harry Styles song is the best (if you’re anything like team GP, you know what we’re talking about). Sure, 14-year-old us with her two-step cleanse and moisturise routine just knew what to do – but now, with eye creams, serums, oils, essences, toners and sunscreen, things are more complicated.

Does it really matter which order you put them on? Short answer: yes. Applying a product at the wrong stage of your routine can make it less effective, clog your pores and, in turn, waste your money. To prevent this, we spoke to National Education Manager at Estée Lauder Australia, Nica Marcello, to determine the correct order, once and for all. 

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One simple rule applies: “thinnest to thickest texture is the way to go,” says Marcello. “Start with your watery products like toners, essences and serums and then your heavier, more moisturising products on top.”

The only exception? Eye cream. Regardless of whether you use a serum or cream, your eye area should be taken care of early on in your routine (before any serums with actives). This will ensure the delicate area is protected against anything too robust and will also reduce the risk of eye irritation. 

Put simply, the most effective order is as follows:

  1. Cleanse
  2. Toner or Essence
  3. Eye Cream
  4. Serum
  5. Moisturiser
  6. Face Oil (best used in the PM)
  7. Sunscreen (only in the AM)

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Like skincare products, not all mistakes are created equal. Some you can get away with but others are borderline criminal. One of said felonies? “Applying serum on its own,” says Marcello. “You are not going to get all the benefits if you don’t layer it with moisturiser. In fact, sometimes it can lead to reversing the benefits.”

Overall, applying products in the wrong order can make them less effective. Particularly when it comes to the size of each products’ molecules (serums are smaller so penetrate deeper, whilst moisturisers and oils are larger to ‘lock’ everything in), putting lighter products on top of heavier formulas will deactivate them all together. And where’s the fun in that?

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Wait times are also important when it comes to your skincare. “Timing is everything when it comes to the efficacy of your skincare products,” says Marcello. “You want to allow a few minutes for them to penetrate otherwise you are just going to be mixing a cocktail of products on the surface of the skin.”

The best way to tell if you’re ready to apply the next product? Wait for each step to feel ‘dry’ to the touch on your skin. This means at least the surface layer has drunk it up and you can move on to your next step.

Got another order you swear by applying your skincare products in? Leave it in the comments below!

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Alice Mecklenburg

Great article, Rose! Honestly, I think I could do with attaching a copy of this to my bathroom mirror because it's amazing how many times I still botch my routine. Thinnest to thickest texture (except eye cream) is going to be my mantra for the next few weeks in the hope this finally sinks in!

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