Wondering what the best skincare routine order is? It’s a jungle out there. Gone are the days when skincare was easy. Cleanse. Tone. Moisturise. Go out the door. Now you can’t leave the house without sunscreen. And an antioxidant serum or two. Plus, an exfoliant. And… what the heck are essences now?! Your skincare routine is getting longer by the minute. But how do all these products fit in together? Like, should you go with serum or moisturiser first? Toner or exfoliant? Does it even matter?!

Yep – and a great deal, too. Vitamin C or retinol get into the skin much faster if they don’t have to fight through 5+ layers of products to get there. But then, does hyaluronic acid work if you apply it last? There must be a way to layer your skincare products in the right order, so you can get all the anti-wrinkle, anti-acne benefits without accidentally deactivating a serum or two.

Fret not, I’ve got you covered. Here’s the right skincare routine order to make the most of your products (however many you choose to use and regardless of what your skin type is):

The Only Skincare Products You Need

FYI: You DON’T need a 10 step skincare routine. I’ll say this till I’m blue in the face: less is more when it comes to skincare. The only 3 skincare products you need are:

  • Cleanser: A pH-balanced formula that removes impurities without drying out skin.
  • Moisturiser: A fragrance-free formula suitable for your skin type.
  • Sunscreen: With a SPF of at least 30.

It’s not just my opinion. I’ve spoken to dozens of dermatologists in my 15+ career in skincare and they all recommend the basic routine. Why? In order to look its best, skin needs plenty of moisture and sun protection. Everything else (yes, even retinol!) is a nice-to-have.

“Less is more when it comes to your skin—I’m all about product reducing,says dermatologist Karan Lal, MD. “If you can consistently stick with those three basic products and you want to add more, try a retinoid. After three months, if your skin is ready, add a vitamin C.” And she does NOT recommend you add anything else: “It’s not gonna help—I think five products is the max.”

Bottom line: use what YOUR skin need, not the latest fad brands promise you you need. I promise you, you don’t need it. But if you want a more complex skincare routine or use a product you already have that’s not on the list, here’s the right skincare routine order for you:

The Right Skincare Routine Order

Step 1: Cleanser

WHEN: ☀️ Morning 🌑 and night

Before you apply your skincare products, you need to remove everything that’d make it harder for them to get through your skin.  “For ingredients to absorb properly, you need clean skin that’s totally free of oil and grime,” says Mona Gohara, MD. Start your routine with a gentle cleaner that removes dirt, oil, makeup and all the other impurities that accumulated on your skin during the day (and night). The key is to pick one that doesn’t leave your skin feeling tight. That’s a sign the cleanser’s damaged your protective barrier.

NOTE: You DON’T need to double cleanse. If your cleanser doesn’t remove every last trace of makeup and grime, get a better cleanser.


🌵 Dry skin: Opt for creamy, non-foaming cleansers enriched with ceramides and hyaluronic acid that cleanse and moisturise skin at the same time. Best picks:

  • Cerave Hydrating Cleanser ($16.99): A creamy cleanser enriched with ceramides. The bottle’s huge, so it’ll last you for a long time. Available at Beauty Bay, Boots, Cult Beauty, Sephora, and Ulta.
  • Mad Hippie Cleansing Oil ($17.99): A cleansing oil that removes every last trace of makeup while moisturising skin. Available at iHerb and Ulta.
  • Paula’s Choice Skin Recovery Softening Cream Cleanser ($19.00): A gentle cleanser with soothing agents to cleanse skin without irritation. Available at Paula’s Choice.

💦 Oily skin: Opt for a pH-balanced foaming cleanser that removes excess oil and makeup without making your skin feeling tight. Best picks:

  • CeraVe Foaming Cleanser ($14.99): Stronger than all the other cleansers in this list, it effortlessly removes dirt, excess oil and makeup without drying out or irritating skin (unless it’s sensitive). Available at Beauty BayBootsSephora, and Ulta.
  • Cosrx Low pH Good Morning Cleanser ($11.00): A gentle, pH-balaned no-frills morning cleanser that gets the job done without irritating skin. Available at Beauty BayBootsSephoraStylevanaUlta, and Yes Style
  • Paula’s Choice Perfectly Balanced Foaming Cleanser ($22.00): A cream-to-foam formula enriched with ceramides to remove every last trace of makeup, dirt, and excess oil from the skin while leaving it soft and smooth. Available at DermstorePaula’s ChoiceSephora, and SpaceNK

🔥 Sensitive skin: Choose a gentle, creamy formula full of soothing ingredients, like colloidal oatmeal and aloe vera. Best picks:

  • Bioderma Sensibio H20: A gentle micellar water that removes light makeup and impurities without the need to be rinsed off. Available at Boots and Sephora.
  • La Roche Posay Toleriane Dermo Cleanser ($18.99): This creamy formula is one of the gentlest cleansers I’ve tried and it works for acne-prone skin too. Available at Boots, Cult Beauty, Sephora, and Ulta.

Related: How To Pick The Right Cleanser For Your Skin Type

Step 2: Toner (Optional)

WHEN: ☀️ Morning 🌑 and night

I’m not a fan of toner. In the past, toners used to be alcohol-laden concoctions that dried up skin and offered no real benefits. These days, formulations have improved massively. A lot of formulas on the market contain beneficial hydrating and anti-aging ingredients that add some extra moisture to your skin. But, they’re still totally unnecessary. If you like to use one, choose a hydrating formula. I’d personally prefer to save my money and invest it in a good retinol serum. Just saying…

NOTE: If a toner contains acids, like BHA and glycolic acid, then it’s really an exfoliant, NOT a toner. Read Step 3 to find out when and how to use them.


  • 🔥 First Aid BeautyUltra Repair Wild Oat Hydrating Toner ($24.00): Ideal for sensitive skin, this toner is loaded with soothing ingredients like oats and green tea, to reduce redness and irritations. Available at Dermstore, Look Fantastic, Sephora, and Ulta.
  • 🌵 Paula’s Choice Resist Advanced Replenishing Toner ($24.00): A hydrating toner full of antioxidants to moisturise skin and fight wrinkles. Best suitable for dry skin. Available at Paula’s Choice and Sephora.
  • 💦 Paula’s Choice Resist Weightless Advanced Repairing Toner ($24.00): Loaded with vitamin C and niacinamide, it fights wrinkles and helps fade away dark spots. Best suitable for oily skin. Available at Paula’s Choice and Sephora.

Related: Is Toner Really Necessary?

Step 3: Exfoliant

WHEN: 🌑 Every other night (or two nights a week, if you have sensitive skin)

You know what else prevents retinol, Vitamin C, and the best anti-aging actives from penetrating deep into your skin so they can boost collagen and fight wrinkles? All those dead cells that accumulate on the surface of your skin. Get rid of them with a good exfoliant. And nope, I don’t mean a scrub.

Chemical exfoliation is the way to go here. Don’t let the word chemical put you off. Chemical exfoliants dissolve the “glue” that holds skin cells together, so they can slough off and reveal the smoother, brighter and softer skin underneath – without making small tears in your skin like scrubs and other physical exfoliants do. Plus, each chemical exfoliant goes the extra mile. Here’s what I mean:


🌵 Dry skin: Glycolic acid is your BFF. The smallest member of the Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs) family, it exfoliates and hydrates skin at the same time. It’s also the best exfoliant for fading away dark spots. Best picks:

  • Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Framboos Glycolic Night Serum ($90.00): This exfoliant contains two exfoliants. Glycolic Acid to fade away dark spots and Salicylic Acid to unclog pores. Available at Cult BeautySephora and SpaceNK
  • Paula’s Choice Advanced Smoothing Treatment 10% AHA ($39.00): This super-concentrated exfoliating cocktail contains Glycolic, Lactic, Malic, and Salicylic Acids to smoothen out imperfections, fade away dark spots, and treat acne. Available at Cult BeautyDermstorePaula’s ChoiceSelfridges, and SpaceNK.
  • The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution ($13.00): A simple, no-frills Glycolic Acid exfoliant that brightens the complexion and fades away dark spots. Available at Beauty BayBootsCult BeautySephoraSpaceNKThe Ordinary , and Ulta.

💦 Oily skin: You need Salicylic Acid (BHA). It’s the only exfoliant that can get deep into your pores, exfoliating them from within to remove blackheads, whiteheads, and pimples. Best picks:

  • Paula’s Choice Clear Regular Strength Anti-Redness Exfoliating Solution With 2% Salicylic Acid ($34.00): This exfoliant unclogs pores, treats acne (including blackheads), and soothes redness. Its lightweight texture sinks into skin quickly without leaving a tacky residue behind. Available at DermstorePaula’s ChoiceSelfridges, and SpaceNK.
  • The Inkey List BHA Serum (£11.04): A simple BHA exfoliant with hydrating Hyaluronic Acid to treat acne without drying out skin. Available at BootsCult BeautySephora, and The Inkey List.
  • The Ordinary Salicylic Acid 2% Solution (£5.80): A simple, no-frills Salicylic Acid exfoliant to treat acne and remove blackheads. The texture isn’t the most pleasant to use, but it works. Available at Beauty BayCult BeautySelfridgesSephoraSpaceNKThe Ordinary and Ulta.

🔥 Sensitive skin: The best bet for you is lactic acid. It’s the gentlest of all the exfoliating acids and hydrates skin too! Best picks:

  • Sunday Riley Good Genes All-In-One Lactic Acid Treatment – US Version ($105.00): it has enough lactic acid to do the exfoliating job easily plus a sprinkle of licorice extract, a natural skin-brightener. Available at Nordstrom, Revolve, and Ulta.
  • The Inkey List Lactic Acid Serum ($12.99): A 10% lactic acid serum with a sprinkle of hyaluronic acid and castor oil to hydrate dry skin. Available at Cult Beauty, The Inkey List.
  • The Ordinary Lactic Acid 5% + HA 2% ($6.79): Probably the gentlest lactic acid exfoliant out there, it also has hyaluronic acid to hydrate skin and Tasmania pepperberry extract to soothe any potential irritation. Available at Beauty Bay, Boots, Cult Beauty, Sephora, The Ordinary and Ulta.

Related: How To Choose The Right Exfoliant For Your Skin Type

Don’t know which skincare products you can mix and match together and which ones deactivate each other? Download your FREE “How To Layer Actives Like A Pro” cheat sheet to get the most out of your skincare products:

Step 4: Serum

WHEN: ☀️ Morning 🌑 and night

Serums are the workhorses of skincare. “Serums are essentially shots of extremely concentrated nutrients, hydrators, or antioxidants that really amp up your skin health as soon as you apply them,” says Dr. Gohara. “People often skip out on using them, but they’re honestly the heavy lifters of your skincare routine.” They contain higher concentrations of active ingredients than moisturisers, so they’re able to treat dehydration, wrinkles, sun spots, and everything else you’re dealing with better and faster. They have thinner textures to so the sooner you apply them, the better. Put them on top of moisturisers, and chances are they won’t be able to get through to your skin.


Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that fights free radicals, brightens the complexion and boost collagen. It also boosts the effectiveness of your sunscreen, so use it in the morning. L-Ascorbic Acid is the most effective form for anti-aging and brightening, but if you have acne-prone skin, opt for Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate instead. It’s the only form of Vitamin C that can fight acne.

Best picks:

  • Mad Hippie Vitamin C Serum ($33.99): Ideal for oily and acne-prone skin, it contains Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate to prevent wrinkles and fight acne at the same time. Available at Free PeopleiHerbMad Hippie and Ulta
  • Paula’s Choice C15 Booster ($49.00): A powerful CEF serum that brightens skin and fights premature aging. Available at SephoraNordstrom and Paula’s Choice
  • Skinceuticals CE Ferulic ($166.00): The original CEF serum, it’s still the gold standards on the market to prevent wrinkles, boosts sun protection, and brighten the complexion. Available at Dermstore


Hyaluronic acid is a skincare hero anyone can use. This moisture magnet attracts and binds to your skin up to 1000 times its weight in water! Moisture is the secret to flawless skin. When skin has all the moisture it needs, it’s softer to the touch. Fine lines and wrinkles plump up so they look smaller. The whole complexion glows as if lit-from-within. Using hyaluronic acid is option, but it’s particularly useful on nights you use powerful ingredients like retinol and glycolic acid. They can dry out skin and hyaluronic acid helps prevent that. FYI, if you’re using these anti-aging actives in your skincare routine, they go BEFORE Hyaluronic acid.

Best picks:

  • La Roche Posay Heal B5 Hyaluronic Acid Serum (£27.75): A simple, no-frills Hyaluronic Acid serum to hydrate skin and soothe irritation. Available at Sephora and Look Fantastic
  • Niod Multi-Molecular Hyaluronic Acid (£25.00): This baby contains 15 forms of Hyaluronic Acid to hydrate every layer of skin. It’s the most hydrating serum I’ve ever tried. Available at Beauty Bay and Cult Beauty
  • Paula’s Choice Resist Hyaluronic Acid Booster ($34.00): It contains Hyaluronic Acid to hydrate skin and ceramides to create a protective barrier that keeps moisture in. Available at DermstoreNordstromPaula’s Choice and Selfridges

Related: Why You Should Add A Serum To Your Skincare Routine

Step 5: Retinol (Optional)

WHEN: 🌑 Night

“Retinoids trigger collagen production and cellular exfoliation,” adds Dr. Gohara, “which means they’ll also fade dark spots, smooth scars, clear pores, prevent breakouts, and brighten skin.” Retinol is the most common form of retinoid OTC. If you’re serious about anti-aging, start adding it to your routine when you turn 25. Can you use it sooner? I only recommend you do if you suffer from severe acne. Otherwise, you don’t need it and are just throwing your money away.

When it comes to retinol, less is more. Start with the smallest concentration you can find and use it two nights a week. Slowly build dose to 1% and frequency to every day. Be patient with this. If you do it right, it’ll take years to build to that point. Do it wrong and instead of wrinkle-free skin, you’ll end up with a bad case of dryness, redness, and irritation. Oh, and when retinol dries out your skin, your wrinkles look worse. Long and steady wins the race here.


  • Paula’s Choice Resist Wrinkle Repair Retinol Serum ($42.00): An anti-aging serum with 0.1% retinol. It also includes antioxidants, like Vitamin E, to prevent premature aging, and soothing ingredients to reduce irritations. Available at Paula’s Choice and Sephora.
  • Skinceuticals Retinol 0.3 Night Cream ($62.00): This cream contains only 0.3% retinol but it packs an anti-aging punch. It comes in a moisturising base, but you need to use a separate moisturiser to counteract the dryness of retinol. Available at Dermstore and Skinceuticals.
  • Paula’s Choice 1% Retinol Booster ($52.00): This high-strength 1% retinol booster has a moisturising base and plenty of skin-soothers to counteract the irritating effects of retinol. Use it on its own for maximum effect or dilute it with moisturiser if it’s too harsh for you. Available at Cult BeautyNet-A-PorterPaula’s Choice and SpaceNK.
  • Peter Thomas Roth Retinol Fusion PM ($65.00): A micro encapsulated 1.5% retinol serum in an oily, moisturising base to fight wrinkles and fade away dark spots. Available at Beauty BayCult Beauty, and Peter Thomas Roth.

Step 6: Eye Cream (Optional)

WHEN: ☀️ Morning 🌑 and night

Can we clear the myth that eye creams do anything special? Yes, the skin around the eye area is thinner, but it still needs what the rest of your skin needs: moisture, moisture, moisture, sun protection, and anti-aging. In other words, the things you find in any facial cream. But what about dark circles and puffy eyes? If eye creams could really do that, no one would have dark circles anymore!

I know, it’s crazy that in 2023, we don’t have a cure for dark circles yet – but that’s the truth. Unless your undereye area is a completely different skin type than the skin on the rest of your face, do your wallet a favour and use your facial moisturiser all over. But if you insist on using eye cream, check out my recommendations below (cos if you’re going to use something you don’t need, you might as well go for the best of the best).

Best picks:

  • CeraVe Skin Renewing Eye Cream ($24.99): A super moisturising eye cream for dry and sensitive skin. Enriched with ceramides, niacinamide, and hyaluronic acid, it strengthens the skin’s protective barrier and plumps up crow’s feet, so they look smaller to the naked eye. Available at Dermstore and Ulta.
  • Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Advanced Retinol + Ferulic Triple Correction Eye Serum ($71.00): A retinol serum with ferulic acid to prevent and treat crow’s feet. Retinol can be drying, so use it no more than 3 times a week. Available at Cult BeautyDermstoreSelfridges, and SpaceNK.
  • Paula’s Choice Paula’s Choice RESIST Anti-Aging Eye Cream ($37.00): A very moisturising cream for dry skin. Enriched with antioxidants to prevent premature aging. Available at Dermstoreand Paula’s Choice.

Related: Do You Really Need An Eye Cream

Step 7: Spot Treatment (Optional)

WHEN: ☀️ Morning OR 🌑 and night

If you’re suffering from acne, now it’s the time to apply your spot treatments. Actives like Benzoyl Peroxide and Sulfur kill P.Acnes and dry out pimples, so they fade away faster than they would on their own. But, they’re also terribly drying. Now the right’s time to apply them: before moisturiser so they’re close enough to your skin to work its magic. Plus, applying moisturiser on top counteracts some of the drying effects. Ideally, spot treatments are used used at night. But if you’re already using retinol or other powerful active at night, then make things easy on your skin and use a spot treatment in the morning instead.

Best picks:

  • Epionce Purifying Spot Gel ($38.00): Loaded with sulphur, it’s the fastest spot treatment I’ve ever tried. Available at Dermstore.
  • Indie Lee Banish Lotion ($21.00): Another sulfur treatment that gets rid of pimples faster. The brand says you can use it as a mask, but don’t do that. Sulfur is too drying to be used all over your skin. Use it on pimples only. Available at Beauty Bay and Credo Beauty
  • Paula’s Choice Clear Daily Skin Clearing Treatment With 5% benzoyl peroxide ($18.00): This treatment pairs Benzoyl Peroxide with plenty of anti-inflammatory ingredients to reduce its irritating potential and treat acne faster. Available at Dermstore and Paula’s Choice
  • Proactiv Emergency Blemish Relief ($20.00): A simple, no-free acne treatment with 5% Benzoyl Peroxide to fight pimples and acne. Available at Sephora and Ulta

Step 8: Moisturizer

WHEN: ☀️ Morning (optional) 🌑 and night

A moisturizer is an absolute must in everyone’s skincare routine: it locks in moisture and all the other skincare products you have just applied, boosting their efficacy. That’s why it makes sense to use it last. Plus, out of all your skincare products (sunscreens excluded!), moisturisers have the thickest texture. Anything you put on top will struggle to reach your skin. Plus, as Dr Lal reminds us, “Your skin barrier requires moisture and hydration to stay healthy.” This is why Korean women has such great skin. Instead of drying out their skin by throwing everything at it, they focus highly on hydration. Results? You look younger and healthier.


🌵 Dry skin: A rich moisturiser or facial oil loaded with fatty acids, natural oils, and skin-identical ingredients like glycerin and ceramides that add plenty of moisture to your skin while strengthening its protective barrier (this way, the moisture you’re just added in can’t escape back out again). Best picks:

  • CeraVe PM Facial Moisturizing Lotion ($20.99): A rare gem that works for all skin types, it repairs your skin’s protective barrier and brings dry skin back to health. Available at Beauty BayBoots, Cult BeautyDermstore, and Ulta.
  • Paula’s Choice Omega+ Complex Moisturiser ($35.00): A rich moisturiser loaded with ceramides, fatty acids, and natural oils that repair your skin’s protective barrier and make skin softer and smoother. Available at Cult BeautyDermstore, Paula’s Choice, and Sephora.
  • The Ordinary 100% Organic Cold-Pressed Rosehip Seed Oil (£9.00): An anti-aging oil suitable for all skin types, including oily and acne-prone. Available at Beauty BayBootsCult Beauty and The Ordinary.

💦 Oily skin: Oily skin already produces too much oil. Opt for lightweight, oil-free moisturisers loaded with hyaluronic acid, ceramides, and glycerin. They strengthen the skin’s protective barrier and hydrate skin without adding more oil to it. Best picks:

  • CeraVe PM Facial Moisturizing Lotion ($20.99): It uses humectants that hyaluronic acid and glycerin to attract water into your skin and ceramides to moisturise skin without adding more oil to it. Available at Beauty BayBoots, Cult BeautyDermstore, and Ulta.
  • Boscia Green Tea Oil-Free Moisturizer ($38.00): An one stop shop for all the moisturising needs of oily skin, it hydrates, absorbs excess oil, and fights wrinkles all at the same time. Available at Ulta.
  • Paula’s Choice Skin Balancing Invisible Finish Moisture Gel ($29.00): A hydrating moisturizer loaded with antioxidants to prevent premature aging. Available at Paula’s Choice.

🔥 Sensitive skin: Choose a fragrance-free formula loaded with soothing ingredients, like green tea and colloidal oatmeal, that soothe irritations and redness. It should also contain ingredients, like fatty acids and ceramides, that strengthen the skin’s protective barrier, helping it withstand attacks from environmental aggressors. Best picks:

  • Bioderma Sensibio AR ($24.90): A no-frills cream that moisturises dry skin and soothes redness and irritations. Available at Boots and Revolve.
  • CeraVe PM Facial Moisturizing Lotion ($20.99): A rare gem that works for all skin types, it repairs your skin’s protective barrier and brings dry skin back to health. Available at Beauty BayBoots, Cult BeautyDermstore, and Ulta.
  • First Aid Beauty Skin Rescue Daily Face Cream ($22.00): A lightweight moisturiser for oily skin on the sensitive skin. It hydrates without adding more oil and it reduces irritations. Available at First Aid Beauty.

Related: Does Everyone Need A Moisturiser?

Step 8: Sunscreen (The Most Important One!)

WHEN: ☀️ Morning

Sunscreen is the most important product in your skincare routine – bar none. UV rays are responsible for up to 90% of premature aging. They also cause dryness, inflammation, skin cancer, and every skin woe you can think of. You can use all the retinoids in the world, but if you’re not religious with sunscreen, it’s all for nothing. Sunscreen should always be the last thing you put on your skin in the morning (well, before makeup!). Why? That’s how scientists test it. UV rays can penetrate through clouds and windows and be reflected on snow, so apply it (and reapply it regularly!) every single day.


🌵 Dry skin: Choose hydrating formulas that moisturise skin while protecting it from sun rays. Sunscreens with high amounts of zinc oxide can be drying, so be careful. In moderation, they’re good too. Best picks:

  • Drunk Elephant Umbra Tinte Physical Daily Defense Broad Spectrum Sunscreen SPF 30 ($34.00): A rich, tinted mineral sunscreen that protects skin without leaving a white cast behind. Available at BootsCult BeautySephora, and SpaceNK.
  • Elta MD UV Lotion Broad-Spectrum SPF 30 Plus ($35.00): A moisturising formula the entire family can use from head to toe. Available at Dermstore and Walmart
  • Murad City Skin Age Defense Broad Spectrum SPF 50 Mineral Sunscreen ($69.00): Another tinted mineral sunscreen that doesn’t leave a white cast behind. It protects from UV rays, hydrates skin, and fights premature wrinkles. Available at Cult BeautyLook FantasticMurad, and Ulta

💦 Oily skin: Chemical sunscreens are better for you. They tend to have lighter textures that don’t clog pores and aggravate acne. And nope, they won’t kill you. If you prefer a mineral sunscreen, opt for a formula that’s super lightweight. Best picks:

  • EltaMD UV Pure Broad-Spectrum SPF 47 ($25.00): Its silky texture is pretty lightweight and sinks in quickly without turning your skin into a greasy mess. Plus it’s water-resistant. The catch? It does leave a slight white cast on the skin. Available at Dermstore and Walmart
  • La Roche-Posay Anthelios Clear Skin Dry Touch Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 60 ($19.99): The creamy texture dries down to a matte finish quickly and is enriched with oil-absorbents to soak up the excess oil on your skin. Available at Blue MercuryDermstore and Ulta
  • Paula’s Choice Super-Light Wrinkle Defense SPF 30 ($33.00): My fave sunscreen (bar none), it has the lightest texture I’ve ever come across in a mineral sunscreen and it’s tinted, so no white cast either. Available at DermstoreSephoraNordstrom and Paula’s Choice

🔥 Sensitive skin: You must use mineral sunscreens, especially those with zinc oxide as true only UV filters. It’s the gentlest on the skin and provides broad-spectrum protection on its own without irritation. Best picks:

  • Drunk Elephant Umbra Tinte Physical Daily Defense Broad Spectrum Sunscreen SPF 30 ($36.00): A rich, tinted mineral sunscreen that protects skin without leaving a white cast behind. Best for dry and sensitive skin. Available at BootsCult BeautySephora, and SpaceNK.
  • EltaMD UV Pure BroadSpectrum SPF 47 ($25.00): Its silky texture is pretty lightweight and sinks in quickly without turning your skin into a greasy mess. Plus it’s water-resistant. The catch? It does leave a slight white cast on the skin. Best for sensitive and oily skin. Available at Dermstore and Walmart
  • Shiseido Ultimate Sun Protection SPF 50 Sunscreen + WetForce For Sensitive Skin & Children ($42.00): It does leave a white cast on the skin, but it offers excellent sun protection even in the water or when you’re sweating buckets, increasing your sun protection. Available at Ulta

Related: How To Boost The Effectiveness Of Your Sunscreen

The Rules Of Skincare Layering

I know what you’re thinking: “Gio, you’ve left so many products out. Where do essences go? And what about sheet masks? And clay masks? Argh!” I hear ya. There are too many skincare products to mention them all here. Especially because you DON’T need them all. I rarely do more than 4 steps, both morning and night. 

When it comes to skincare, the more isn’t the merrier. There’s a reason all the dermatologists I talk to recommend a 3-steps routine. The truth is, the more products you layer on your skin, the higher the chances of an irritation, a breakout, or simply pilling (when a product balls up during application). This is especially important in the morning: the more layers you apply, the harder it is to apply sunscreen evenly – in other words, you could be seriously messing up your sun protection.

But if you want to go the extra mile and use something I haven’t mentioned here, it pays to know the rules behind the right skincare routine order:

  1. The rule of textures: Start with the lightest product in texture and build your way up till the heaviest in texture. Heavy textures (think moisturisers) create a barrier that’s difficult for anything you apply next to get through.
  2. The rules of actives: If you’re using any prescription products, retinols, vitamin C, skin-brighteners or exfoliants, apply them as close to freshly-cleansed skin as possible. If vitamin C is the 5th layer you put on your skin, it won’t be able to penetrate as well (that’s why I like minimalistic routines 😉 ).


What does it mean in practice? If your serum has a lightweight, almost runny texture and your prescription product is a rich cream, then it makes sense to use the serum first. But if they both have lightweight textures, apply the one with an anti-aging active, like retinol or glycolic acid, to reap the most of their benefits.

It helps to keep your skincare simple. I don’t use toner, eye cream or any extra layer I don’t need. If I like two antioxidant serums, I’ll use them on alternate days rather than try to fit everything in. Use your judgement.

The Bottom Line

There you have it, the best skincare routine order. No matter how many products you’re using in your skincare routine, now you know exactly in what order to apply them to make the most of them and get the clear, younger-looking skin you deserve.