Applying Skincare Products the Right Way


Does the order in which you apply your skincare products matter? Most definitely. Here’s everything you need to know about applying your skincare products effectively and efficiently to get the best possible results.

What are the steps of a good skincare routine?

Skincare isn’t one-size-fits-all. The necessary steps of a good skincare routine will vary from person to person depending on what’s going on with their skin, but there are a few core basics that everyone benefits from:

Paula’s Choice Essential Routines were built with these core skincare products in mind. If you’re new to skincare, three simple steps for mornings and evenings are a great way to start your journey.

If you already have the basics down and are looking to target more specific skincare concerns, an Advanced Routine will offer a more comprehensive approach to taking care of your skin. Advanced routines include additional steps, like toning and applying a serum, in order to address specific skin concerns (we'll get more into the nuances down below).

Applying skincare products

Applying your skincare products in the right order will help ensure optimal penetration and the best results. These steps make it incredibly easy to get the most out of any skincare routine, from basic to advanced:

  • Start by cleansing your skin. If you use a makeup remover, cleansing balm, or other types of double cleansers, apply that first, then follow up with your regular face wash.
  • After cleansing, apply a toner. You can use your fingertips or a reusable cotton round, whichever you prefer.
  • Next, apply a leave-on AHA or BHA exfoliant. There’s no need to rinse or wait before moving on to your next step.
  • Apply the rest of your skincare products in order of increasing texture, going from the thinnest, most fluid consistencies up to the thicker lotions and creams. For example, layer on liquid products (like boosters) followed by thicker products, including serums and/or treatments, and moisturizers.
  • The only exception to this rule is your sunscreen or moisturizer with SPF, which should be the last skincare product you apply during the day, regardless of texture. Don’t forget to apply sunscreen to your ears, neck, and chest that you may be missing with your other skincare products (although we highly suggest extending your regular skincare routine down to the neck and chest as well.) If you’re going to be applying makeup, give your sunscreen a few minutes to set.

How to alternate skincare products

Okay, so you’ve got the order of application down, but you might be wondering if you need to use each product twice a day. The answer is no. You don’t necessarily have to use every product twice a day. Rather, you can alternate your skincare routine by using some products in the morning, others in the evening, and some others every other day. It’s really up to you to experiment and see what your skin does best with. As long as you're consistently giving your skin the types of ingredients it needs to function at its best, you’re doing great.

How many skincare products do I need?

The number of skin products you need depends on what your skincare concerns and goals are. If you have a wide range of skin concerns like wrinkles, acne, extreme dryness or oiliness, uneven skin tone and loss of firmness, one or two products alone simply can’t address all these needs. Think about it like your diet: A great dish can include many wonderful ingredients 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.

In order to help you put your own routine together, we’ve created an organised guide to help you curate the best routine for your skin type and skin concerns with our expertly formulated products. And of course, our dedicated Client Services Team is here to help if you have any questions.

Discover Paula’s Choice skincare product tips today.

Visit our online store for an exclusive range of skincare products for glowing skin.

References for this information

The Journal of Dermatological Treatment, June 2021, pages 1–6
Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, August 2020, pages 1,993–1,999
Clinical, Cosmetic, and Investigational Dermatology, January 2017, pages 3–9
PRS Global Open, Supplement 12, December 2016, ePublication
Photodermatology, Photoimmunology & Photomedicine, December 2013, pages96-101
Journal of Drugs in Dermatology, December 2012, pages 1,447–1,454

Recommended Products

SKIN PERFECTING 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant

RESIST Advanced Kit for Wrinkles + Breakouts

RESIST Advanced Kit for Wrinkles + Sun Damage