What Comes First, Eye Cream or Moisturizer?

Amp up products' effectiveness by applying serums, creams and treatments in the right order

Am I the only one who spent years slapping on products, just kinda praying that they'd stack up in a semi-logical way? I wondered, "Do antioxidant serums go before acne treatments? Eye cream before moisturizer?" Does it matter? Read up to see what experts had to say about your morning and evening regimens:

By Jolene Edgar

Morning Routine Step one: cleanser Obvious, yeah, but you must always start by washing your face to dissolve dirt, oil and grime, which can block pores and keep other products from getting in and doing their work. Next page: Step two Morning Routine Step two: exfoliant Feel free to skip cleansing on days you exfoliate, since sloughing also removes dirt and oil, says Dr. Jeannette Graf, assistant clinical professor of dermatology at New York University School of Medicine. Next page: Step three Morning Routine Step three: toner Many experts don't promote toning, but there are exceptions. "It's good as a post-rinse following at-home microdermabrasion to remove tiny crystals, or as a soothing step following makeup removal," Graf says. Next page: Step four Morning Routine Step four: prescription products "Always apply prescription topicals first, on clean, dry skin, to enhance their penetration," says Graf. Many are designed to be used twice daily, so make sure they're at the top of the order at night, too. Next page: Step five Morning Routine Step five: antioxidant serum Think of layering skincare products as you would layering clothes in winter. "Start with the thinnest item and end with the thickest," Graf says. Free radical-fighting serums are crucial for daytime wear when your skin needs protection from the sun and pollution. Next page: Step six Morning Routine Step six: eye cream Pat it on prior to moisturizing. "Topping an eye cream or serum with lotion will actually seal in its active ingredients," explains Ranella Hirsch, a dermatologist in Cambridge, Mass., and president-elect of the American Society of Cosmetic Dermatology and Aesthetic Surgery. Your morning eye product should contain antioxidants, SPF and moisturizing humectants like glycerin and propylene glycol. Next page: Step seven Morning Routine Step seven: redness relievers "These products include ingredients like green tea (which contains caffeine) and niacinamide to constrict capillaries and abate redness," says Howard Fein, director of dermatologic surgery at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center. Take advantage of these visible benefits by using them during the day, in place of your regular moisturizer. Always pair them with sunscreen, adds Hirsch, and cut back on other potentially irritating products -- retinoids, scrubs and alcohol-based serums -- which aggravate ruddy complexions. Next page: Step eight Morning Routine Step eight: moisturizer Consider the chemistry of creams: "They usually contain more oil than water," Fein says. "So if you were to put them on first, your lighter, water-based gels and serums would slide off your face instead of sinking in." But by applying them almost last, they actually lock in your other products, boosting their efficacy. Next page: Step nine Morning Routine Step nine: sunscreen If your moisturizer doubles as an SPF 30 or higher sunscreen -- and you're spending the day indoors -- you can omit the additional sunscreen, Hirsch says. Next page: Step 10 Morning Routine Step 10: makeup primer Whether using it to fill in lines, hide pores or just create an even canvas for color, silicone-based primer is your last step. It's like waterproofing your skin, says Jim Hammer, a cosmetics chemist at Pharmasol Labs in Easton, Mass. If you were to apply it before your day cream or sunscreen, those water-based products couldn't penetrate. "If you smooth it on after, your skin can absorb your moisturizer before the primer forms a slick film on top of it," Hammer says. Next page: Evening routine Evening Routine Step one: cleanser Again, dissolve makeup, dirt, oil and daily grime so all those nighttime goodies can work on clean, bare skin. Next page: Step two Evening Routine Step two: retinoids/prescription skin care Skin-smoothing retinoids take top precedence at night -- and not just because they're prescription products. "If your skin is moist from water or cream, a retinoid can become more irritating to skin," says Audrey Kunin, a dermatologist in Kansas City and founder of dermadoctor.com . Never apply retinoid products over any sort of serum or lotion, and only apply it after dark. "Sunlight can degrade retinoids, rendering them powerless," Fein says. Retinoids also increase your risk of burning by thinning your outermost layer of skin. If your complexion calls for a different kind of prescription drug, use that product here in place of retinoids. Next page: Step three Evening Routine Step three: hydroquinone spot treatments According to Graf, hydroquinone and retinoids work synergistically, intensifying each other's performance. So wearing one on top of the other makes good sense. Why at night? "The sun, which promotes melanin production, can counteract hydroquinone's pigment-inhibiting effects," Hirsch says. Next page: Step four Evening Routine Step four: peptide serum Peptides are most useful at night when the skin is in renewal mode because they heal and regenerate skin, and can even rebuild collagen, explains Graf. If you're already using one or more of the other products listed above, opt for a peptide-rich night cream instead of a separate serum to streamline your routine. Next page: Step five Evening Routine Step five: eye cream Find a night version (no SPF) with reparative retinol or peptides. Next page: Step six Evening Routine Step six: night cream At night, the skin's pH is lower, which means dead cells shed more easily. Microcirculation is higher, allowing the skin to make new cells and mend old, tired ones, says Graf. Smoothing on a healing night cream bolsters this activity. Hirsch says rich formulas are best because their thick, heavy base can help drive active ingredients into the skin. But if you're using retinoids, avoid creams with alpha hydroxy acids. "The two can inactivate each other when used back-to-back," Hirsch adds. Our Six-Week Eye Cream Expose Are You Ready for Botox? The Nice Girl's Guide to Pushy Salespeople Subject Subject Subject Message Message Message http://www.google.com /content/package/c_order_of_things/
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older comments

although i dont use as many products I still like knowing the order of usage. Very useful

by magictheatre Wednesday, July 31, 2013 at 02:25PM Report as inappropriate

Thank you! It was very thorough. I don't use all of the products mentioned but very helpful. Thanks!

by arn22 Friday, June 14, 2013 at 11:35PM Report as inappropriate

This just seems like WAY too many products to use. I am trying to simplify my life, not make it more complicated. I thought the screen was very easy to use and the pages turned quickly also.

by alictasia Saturday, July 14, 2012 at 11:47AM Report as inappropriate

I cant read this article as it wont display properly what up, yellow notebook type backgrpound!!

by mum21 Saturday, July 14, 2012 at 10:39AM Report as inappropriate

Very helpful, I don't use a lot of the products in this but I will hopefully remember to check back when/if I start

by kimmi_o Monday, July 9, 2012 at 12:35PM Report as inappropriate

This article was very helpful. I use so many products and was not sure what should go first. Thanks for clearing that up!

by RoleModel Sunday, May 13, 2012 at 11:27AM Report as inappropriate

Isn't it one's own preference?

by MissXu Wednesday, May 2, 2012 at 10:43PM Report as inappropriate

this is really useful!

by LeSucre Sunday, April 22, 2012 at 11:50PM Report as inappropriate

I have always heard lightest to heaviest and try when in doubt to stick with that rule if I forget anything else.

by beautybody Wednesday, March 28, 2012 at 10:26PM Report as inappropriate

I have known the order of applications for the face with the exception of eye cream and moisturizer order. What I love most? I asked what comes first, eye cream or moisturizer, and got my answer within what, 15 seconds! Total Beauty really is revolutionary! Thank You!

by powerwoman033 Thursday, March 15, 2012 at 09:39PM Report as inappropriate

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