The Right Order to Apply Your Skincare and Makeup Products

Remember the order of operations in math? Well, this is like that—but for your face.

If you're of the Barbie school of thought ("Math is hard!"), then I hope I haven't ruined your day by mixing math with makeup. And skincare.

But seriously—you should've been paying attention in class when they talked about the Order of Operations. Remember that? It's the order in which you're supposed to add/subtract/multiply/divide... and goodness me, similar rules exist in beauty!

I'm talking about the order in which you should be apply products to your face. Here's how it should go. If you're not doing this, I'm sorry, but—UR DOIN IT RONG.

Step 1: Wash your face

Well, duh. But even this step can be broken down further:

1. a) If you're wearing eye makeup, use a special remover to take it off. (It will be more gentle than using regular cleanser.)

1. b) If you've got a whole FACE full of makeup, you might want to use an oil-based cleanser before your regular one. The oil binds with makeup and also the grease on your skin (to bring some science into this—like attracts like), and so it help to get that shiz off thoroughly so it doesn't clog and dull your skin. Dermalogica makes a product called PreCleanse, which is a wonderful essential oil blend. And a lot of people swear by Shu Uemura's famous cleansing oils.

1. c) Personally, I don't like the feel of the oil cleansers on my skin so I like to wash a second time with a normal cleanser. Foaming ones (like Consonant Body's) are my bag, but use whatever you like best.

Step 2: Exfoliate

Unless your cleanser is also exfoliating, of course—in that case, you don't need to double up. (Or if you use MY exfoliator of choice, the Clarisonic skincare brush, to apply your cleanser.) But if not, this is the place to use your lovely, gentle scrub or hydroxy-acid preparation.

Step 3: Tone

You don't HAVE to tone, but if you like to be scrupulously clean, it will help remove all traces of cleanser, makeup, etc. My toner of choice (which is also gently exfoliating) is from Biologique Recherche. It's expensive, French, and it works—what can I say?

BUT! If you used an exfoliating toner as your Step 2, you don't need a second toner on top of that. Less is more!

Step 4: Serum

Do you use a serum? Because you really should. No, really. They are liquid magic: suitable for any skin type, you can find one to address almost any skin concern imaginable AND they're more potent than regular moisturizers. Think of them like your skincare insurance policy. No matter what you put on top, if you're layering a serum underneath, you know you're treating your skin to all those yummy concentrated ingredients it loves.

Right now, I'm using Clinique's Even Better Skin Tone Corrector, which I promise to post about soon—but there are a zillion serums out there, so take your pick.

Step 5: Moisturizer

You need to let your serum sink in for as long as you can—about 10 minutes—before you put your moisturizer on, otherwise you'll be diluting its benefits.

Also a bit of a caveat here: if it's daytime, you can either apply moisturizer and then sunscreen on top, OR just use a moisturizer with built-in sunscreen. (I'd recommend the latter option if you've got normal-to-oily skin, as you won't really need all that moisture.)

At night, use a moisturizer without sunscreen. (Chemical sunscreens, in particular, can be irritating.) This is also your chance to pull out all the anti-aging stops and use something richer that would otherwise make your makeup slide right off if you wore it during the day.

Step 6: Sunscreen

Again, if you did apply moisturizer before this, you need to let it dry for about 10 minutes before the sunscreen.

Do I even need to tell you about my sunscreen of choice? Just make sure you pat, not rub it on, if it's a natural sunscreen—the rubbing seems to cause it to pill or ball on your face.

Step 7: Makeup

Annnnd the last step is makeup. We've been talking lots on here about the problem of natural sunscreens pilling and balling up on your face, so the 10-minute waiting time rule applies here most of all.

Oh, and if you're REALLY clever, you might have combined Steps 5, 6 AND 7 with a tinted moisturizer with built-in SPF. So clever, you.


At the Clairol event we hosted on Monday, I picked this up from Toronto-based makeup artist David Goveia. (LOVE him!)

He told me to do foundation first, then eyes, cheeks and lips... and LAST OF ALL, concealer. The reason is because you'll think you need way more than you do when you're starting on a bare face. You could spend 5 or 10 minutes just doing that concealer. (I can and I have!)

BUT when you emphasize your other features first, you'll realize at the end that you just need tiny bits of concealer here and there.

Smart, right?

So now over to you...

Are you down with my beauty math or do you follow different rules?

What multi-tasking products do you swear by?

Will you try David's concealer tip? I'll be posting more soon about the eye makeup he did on me... man's a genius.

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