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Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Layering Like a Pro: What Goes First, Moisturizer or Sunscreen?

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Kelly Rodriguez
Kelly Rodriguezhttps://hoospeak.com
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Hello, beauty enthusiasts and skincare devotees! In the intricate dance of skincare routines, one step often perplexes even the most seasoned veterans: what goes first, moisturizer or sunscreen? This seemingly simple question opens up a vital aspect of skincare – the art of layering. With this blog, we aim not only to answer this question definitively but also to delve into why the order of application is critical for your skin’s health and vitality.

Understanding Skincare Layering

To grasp why this question is so significant, let’s first understand the concept of skincare layering. Layering skincare products correctly ensures that your skin absorbs the full benefits of each product. The general guideline is to apply products from the thinnest to the thickest consistency. This approach allows for the more watery products to penetrate deeply into the skin without being blocked by the heavier ones. However, when it comes to the contest between moisturizer and sunscreen, this rule of thumb is put to the test. Both products play unique and non-interchangeable roles in skincare, and their order of application can significantly impact your skin’s protection and hydration.

The Role of Moisturizers

Moisturizers are the cornerstone of any skincare routine, regardless of skin type. Their primary function is to hydrate the skin by trapping moisture, either by drawing water from the air (humectants like glycerin and hyaluronic acid) or by forming a protective seal over the skin to prevent moisture loss (occlusives like petrolatum and mineral oil). They also often contain emollients (like ceramides and fatty acids), which smooth skin by filling in the spaces between skin cells. The right moisturizer can do more than hydrate; it can calm sensitive skin, control oil production, and even treat specific concerns like aging or acne. But to perform effectively, it must penetrate the skin’s outer layer, which brings us to the question of whether it should be applied before or after sunscreen.

Layering Like a Pro: What Goes First, Moisturizer or Sunscreen?

The Importance of Sunscreen

Sunscreen is the ultimate defender in your skincare arsenal. It protects your skin from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays, which can cause not only immediate concerns like sunburn but also long-term damage like premature aging, hyperpigmentation, and an increased risk of skin cancer. There are two main types of sunscreens: chemical and physical. Chemical sunscreens contain organic compounds like oxybenzone or avobenzone that absorb UV radiation and convert it into heat, which is then released from the skin. Physical sunscreens, on the other hand, use mineral-based ingredients like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide to physically block and scatter UV rays. Each type has its pros and cons, but the effectiveness of both depends largely on their application. Sunscreen needs to form a uniform film on the skin to provide optimal protection, which is why its placement in your skincare routine is a subject of such importance and debate.

What Goes First: The Debate

The debate over whether to apply moisturizer or sunscreen first is more than just a matter of sequence; it’s a discussion about maximizing the effectiveness of your skincare routine. Those in favor of applying moisturizer first argue that it’s essential for hydrating the skin and creating a smooth base. They contend that a well-moisturized skin can better absorb the sunscreen, leading to enhanced protection. On the other hand, proponents of applying sunscreen first assert that it should be in direct contact with the skin. They argue that applying moisturizer over sunscreen can disrupt its film-forming properties, diminishing its ability to provide uniform protection.

Expert Opinions and Studies

Dermatologists and skincare professionals tend to lean towards one common recommendation: applying sunscreen last. The logic behind this is based on the functionality of sunscreen. It’s designed to sit on top of the skin and form a barrier against UV rays. If applied under a moisturizer, its efficacy could be compromised. Additionally, studies have shown that mixing sunscreen with other products can dilute its SPF, reducing the level of protection.

Furthermore, the science of formulation also plays a role. Sunscreens are formulated to form a uniform, even layer on the skin’s surface. If disrupted by a subsequent layer of moisturizer, the distribution of the sunscreen’s active ingredients can become uneven, leading to patchy protection.

The Verdict: Moisturizer or Sunscreen First?

Taking into account the expert opinions and scientific evidence, the verdict is clear: apply your moisturizer first, followed by sunscreen. This order ensures that the moisturizer can hydrate and prepare the skin without interfering with the sunscreen’s primary function – to protect the skin from UV radiation. It’s important to allow a brief period after applying moisturizer for it to fully absorb before applying sunscreen. This ensures that each product can perform at its best, providing optimal hydration and protection.

Remember, while this might be the recommended order, individual skin types and product formulations can vary. It’s always a good idea to pay attention to how your skin reacts and adjust your routine accordingly. In the next sections, we’ll provide practical tips for effective application and delve into additional considerations for skincare layering, ensuring you get the most out of your skincare regimen.

Tips for Effective Application

To maximize the benefits of both moisturizer and sunscreen, follow these guidelines:

  1. Let the Moisturizer Absorb: After applying your moisturizer, wait for about 1-3 minutes to allow it to fully absorb into the skin. This prevents any dilution of the sunscreen and ensures that each product functions independently.
  2. Apply Sunscreen Generously: For the face and neck, aim to use about a teaspoon of sunscreen. Many people underapply, which significantly reduces the protection. Ensure even coverage across all exposed areas.
  3. Use Broad-Spectrum Sunscreen: Choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30. This will protect against both UVA (aging) and UVB (burning) rays.
  4. Blend Gently, Don’t Rub: When applying sunscreen, gently pat and blend it into the skin instead of rubbing. This ensures an even layer without disturbing the moisturizer underneath.
  5. Reapply Sunscreen Regularly: If you’re outdoors, reapply sunscreen every two hours. Also, reapply after swimming, sweating, or towel drying.
  6. Consider the Season and Environment: Adjust your moisturizer and sunscreen based on the season and your environment. For example, you might need a heavier moisturizer in winter and a more water-resistant sunscreen in summer.
Layering Like a Pro: What Goes First, Moisturizer or Sunscreen?

Additional Skincare Layering Considerations

Your skincare routine might include other products like serums, toners, or treatments. Here’s how to incorporate them:

  1. Cleanser: Always start with a clean face.
  2. Toner: If you use a toner, apply it after cleansing.
  3. Serums and Treatments: Apply any treatment serums next. These are usually thinner and more concentrated.
  4. Eye Cream: If you use an eye cream, apply it before your moisturizer.
  5. Moisturizer: Apply your moisturizer next.
  6. Sunscreen: Finish with sunscreen.


The correct order of moisturizer and sunscreen application plays a pivotal role in skincare. By applying moisturizer first and sunscreen last, you ensure that your skin is both nourished and protected. Remember, skincare is personal, and you should always listen to your skin’s needs and adapt your routine accordingly.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Can I use a combined moisturizer and sunscreen product?
    • While convenient, combined products may not offer the best of both. It’s often better to use separate products to ensure adequate hydration and sun protection.
  2. How long should I wait between applying moisturizer and sunscreen?
    • Wait for about 1-3 minutes after applying moisturizer before you apply sunscreen to allow for proper absorption.
  3. Does the order change if I use a chemical vs. physical sunscreen?
    • No, the order of application remains the same. Both types of sunscreen should be applied after moisturizer.
  4. Can I skip moisturizer and just use sunscreen?
    • If your sunscreen is hydrating enough for your skin type, it’s okay. However, for most, a separate moisturizer is beneficial.
  5. Should I still use sunscreen if my makeup has SPF?
    • Yes, makeup with SPF typically doesn’t provide enough coverage. Use a separate sunscreen for full protection.

By keeping these tips and FAQs in mind, you can confidently navigate your skincare routine, ensuring that your skin receives the maximum benefits from both moisturization and sun protection.

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