What Product To Apply When?

BY guestblogger · August 20, 2013


Some of the most frequent questions I get about skin care deal with the correct order in which to apply products. Indeed, if you are using a moisturizer, a serum, foundation, and a sunscreen in the morning – what goes on first? And what if you add a treatment product on top of that? Here are a few good rules of thumb to make the most out of your skin care routine, as recommended by my father, dermatologist Dr. Luigi Polla. Keep in mind that these recommendations are not product specific, but work even if you are using products from different brands.

1.     The foundation of any skin care routine is a clean canvas – only apply products to perfectly cleansed , dry (or damp) skin.

2.     Apply products from thin to thick. Serums first, followed by gels, followed by creams. If you start with the thicker product, the penetration of the thinner products will be impeded and diminished. In general, try to avoid mixing hydrophilic (water-based) products with oily products. The latter tend to prevent the penetration of the former.

3.     Sunscreen should be applied after all other treatment products have been applied. After your serum, after your moisturizer, after your eye cream. If you are using a daily moisturizer with sunscreen, apply your serums and eye cream first, then your moisturizer with SPF.

4.     Makeup should be applied on top of your sunscreen. Remember, makeup is meant to cover your skin. Foundation and concealer should be applied after your sunscreen. If you are using a tinted moisturizer with SPF, apply this as you would a moisturizer with SPF (after serums, anti-aging treatments, and eye creams, before concealer and/or foundation).

5.     These general rules apply morning and evening, with the exception that moisturizers with SPF and makeup should not be applied before going to sleep.

6.     Some prescription products require specific direction. For example, retinoid creams are best used in the evening, applied 15-20 minutes after cleansing the skin, before anything else. This ensures the optimal penetration of the therapeutic actives. Creams and moisturizers should then be applied on top of the treatment product.

A few more things to remember:

  • In general, using products from different (non-prescription) brands will not affect the efficacy of each product
  • The idea that your skin gets “used” to a product and that you need to change your routine every couple of months is not supported by much scientific evidence
  • Your skin care routine should be adjusted according to the seasons, and when your skin type evolves (we tend to get dryer as we get older)
  • Always listen to the recommendations of your dermatologist or skin care professional

About the Author

AdaIn 2004, daughter and co-creator of Alchimie Forever, Ada Polla set out to launch her family’s Swiss based skincare line in the US. Seven successful years later, the brand boasts global visibility and distribution. Her focus and determination has yielded double-digit annual growth and garnered her several press-worthy opportunities to communicate her family’s knowledge and passion for the science of anti-aging skincare. Securing partnerships with exclusive spas, specialty boutiques and a global collective of cosmetic dermatologists, Ada continues to share her family’s philosophy that healthy skin can be achieved using effective products and promises that even though Alchimie Forever is growing, they are still dedicated to providing consumers with a personal touch in every experience that they call the Forever Commitment.


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6 Responses to “What Product To Apply When?”

  1. Neha Dalmia

    Hello this article was only partially helpful as I feel it is very much incomplete.. what about make up- which direction to go? concealer first? foundation first? please advise

  2. Ada Polla

    Hi Neha,
    Thank you for your comment. In terms of makeup, which you should of course apply after your skin care, usually concealer is best first, then foundation, then powder. I am more of a skin care expert than makeup expert however – and my philosophy is is you take care of your skin, you really only need mascara and lipstick!
    Warmest regards,

  3. Miles Petty

    One step often left out is the application of facial oils. I know oils are heavy (without water) so I would assume they would be considered the thickest (applied last). Would this be true? Thank you!

  4. Ada Polla

    Dear Miles,
    Thank you for your question. This is indeed challenging. Oils will typically form a barrier on top of the skin, reducing the ability of any product you put on top to penetrate as effectively as it should. So you are correct in thinking that these should be applied last.
    I hope this helps, thank you,

  5. jeanie

    I have very fair skin, a senior citizen. I am noticing that my usual cream & peaches skin (am complimented on that) is showing light pinkish/red blotches along with a couple of places in my cheeks that are darker (presumably the start of dark spots). So many products are advertised for this uneven skin tone, dark spots, but reviews by others indicate they are not very successful at reducing this. Help! What product is the most successful for this problem.

  6. Ada Polla

    Dear Jeanie,
    Apologies for the delayed response. The best way to work on blotchiness and uneven skin tone is indeed prevention. For correction, the gold standard is laser treatments. If you prefer, however, at-home care products, I would suggest for redness anything with blueberry extract (many of our products contain this great ingredient that acts as vasoconstrictors), and for pigment (brown spots) products that contain green tea and rosemary (again, our line offers great serums for this).
    I hope this helps!
    Warmest regards,

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