The Best Way to Apply Skincare Products


If only one or two skincare products were enough to take care of your skin, there’d be little need to worry about the order in which you apply them. But, more often than not, it takes several products to address your skin type and a range of concerns, from wrinkles to sun damage, clogged pores, dull skin, dehydrated skin, breakouts, redness, and on and on. It seems daunting, but once you know which products to use and how and when to apply them, you’ll be amazed at how little time it takes—and at how fantastic your skin looks!

Not sure where to begin? That’s why Paula’s Choice Skincare created our Essential Routines, three simple steps for morning and evening. A basic routine will get you started on the path to the best skin of your life, and you can build up to an Advanced Routine to address skin concerns such as signs of aging—it’s the total package for better skin. First, let’s walk through how a routine would go…

How to Apply the Skincare Products You Use

The steps below make it incredibly easy to apply any skincare routine, from the basics to a more advanced regime. Follow these steps and you’ll save time and get better results:

• If you use an eye or facial makeup remover, use it before your cleanser. Most makeup removers contain ingredients that are best rinsed from skin.

• Then use your rinse-off water-soluble cleanser, both daytime and nighttime. Always apply skincare products over cleansed skin, as they are less effective if skin isn’t clean.

• If you’re using a separate scrub (we hope it is exceedingly gentle), use it after the cleanser (you don’t want to scrub makeup debris into your skin). If you prefer to use a scrub in the morning, use it instead of your cleanser.

• Follow with your toner, no need to rinse.

• The rest of your skincare routine, including leave-on AHA or BHA exfoliants, boosters, serums, essences, targeted solutions, and moisturizers, are applied in the order of their consistency: Liquid products first, thicker products last.

• Apply thin, watery, or fluid products directly after the toner, in any order you prefer.

• Next, apply the more gel- or lotion-textured products.

• Finally, if you use thick emollient creams (including eye cream), apply them last.

The only exception to this sequence is during the day, when the last product you apply before you apply your makeup is your sunscreen, regardless of its texture.

That’s it! Easier than you thought? We hope so.

Why Does It Take So Many Products?

Taking care of your skin requires so many products because the straightforward truth is: Skincare is complicated. Skin is the largest organ of the body and has complex requirements to nourish and care for it, especially when you have more than one skincare concern to address.

There’s also the fact that all of the amazing ingredients your skin needs to give you the most flawless complexion possible just can’t be in one product. Think about it like your diet: A great recipe can include many wonderful foods and nutrients, but it cannot contain everything your body needs to be healthy. The same is true for skin—one great product can’t do it all.

We cannot stress enough how important a complete skincare routine is if you want the best skin of your life every day. We truly wish one product could do it all, but it can’t.

We know this might sound like a lot, but when you have lots of needs, the right combination of products and knowing how to apply them will give you remarkable results. Your ideal combination of products applied, in the correct order, will deliver beautiful, vibrant, younger-looking skin.

Alternating Skincare Products

OK, you’ve chosen the right products for your skin type and concerns, but you’re still feeling a bit overwhelmed about how to use them—and what about new products that also might be right for you? We have an easy solution: Alternate! By alternating the use of your key products, you can keep your routine streamlined and still be confident you’re taking the best possible care of your skin.

For example, if you are using more than one of our antioxidant serums or boosters, rather than applying them one after the other day and night, alternate days. Monday morning, apply a vitamin C booster under your moisturizer with sunscreen; Monday night, apply your retinol booster.

The same applies if you’re juggling the use of different serums and exfoliants. You do not need to apply everything all at once to get the benefits of each product. Alternating products saves you time and allows you to customize your morning and evening routines, so you can precisely target your skin’s varying needs each day.

Now that we’ve explained the concept of alternating and the order of application for whichever skincare products you’re using, you can approach your morning and evening routine with confidence, not confusion. Even better? You’ll find it doesn’t take much time and you’ll love the results! 

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About the Experts

Paula Begoun is the best-selling author of 20 books about skincare and makeup. She is known worldwide as The Cosmetics Cop and creator of Paula’s Choice Skincare. Paula’s expertise has led to hundreds of appearances on national and international radio, print, and television including:

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The Paula's Choice Research Team is dedicated to busting beauty myths and providing expert advice that solves your skincare frustrations so you can have the best skin of your life!

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