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Applying Your Skin Care Products: The Right—and Wrong—Way

Applying Your Skin Care Products: The Right—and Wrong—Way

The order you apply your skin care products matters. Experts reveal when and how to do it to maximize your results.

In a world of 10-step skin care routines, it can be hard to know when to use all those products cluttering your bathroom counter. Does moisturizer come before oil? And where does serum fit in? “It’s very confusing to know how to apply and layer the variety of skin care products and ingredients that are currently available,” says Sheilagh Maguiness, MD, a pediatric dermatologist and co-founder of Stryke Club, a male-focused skin care company.

You might be thinking, “Who cares?” Well, you should. Your ingredients won’t work as well if you don’t apply them in the proper order, says Natalie Aguilar, a licensed aesthetician and dermatological nurse. “Although the order of our daily skin routine can be confusing, especially in a five-plus step routine, it’s actually quite easy if you follow this simple rule,” she says. “Like a soup before a meal, your products should be applied from thinnest to thickest.” But what happens if you use your products in the wrong order? We spoke with skin care experts to find out.

(Related: The Benefits of a Stripped-Down Skin-Care Routine)

Disorder equals dysfunction

Layering skin care products in the wrong order is a little like wearing your underwear over your clothes. It’s not really doing its job, is it? “Believe it or not, the order that you apply your skin care products in is really important,” says Alexia Wambua, a licensed aesthetician and founder of skin care company Native Atlas.

Add products in the wrong order, and you may not get their full benefits. “If you are doing your skin care routine out of order, you could be diminishing their efficacy,” says Shuting Hu, a cosmetic chemist and founder of skin care company Acaderma. “For example, if you moisturize then use toner, you’ll be taking off the layer of moisturizer that you just applied.” In that case, you may be washing money (and beauty benefits) down the drain with your cleanser, says licensed aesthetician Sonya Dakar, founder of Sonya Dakar Skin Clinic in Beverly Hills. After all, beauty products don’t always come cheap.

“Skin care in the wrong order won’t invalidate the efficacy but will definitely diminish its full potential, thus wasting time and money,” Dakar says. “I believe if you are already investing in your skin care routine, you should get the most out of it. At worst, using products in the wrong order can harm your skin, says Hu

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