When To Apply Sunscreen: Before or After Moisturizer?

When To Apply Sunscreen: Before or After Moisturizer?

One of the most challenging parts of mastering your skincare routine is figuring out in what order every product should be applied. Whether you’re a skincare minimalist or you’re looking to get into the full ten-step process, applying your products in the right order is key to ensuring all of your active ingredients are working as hard as they can.

“How you layer your skincare products, including sunscreen and moisturizer, can make or break your skincare routine.”

  • Shani Darden, esthetician

So let’s talk about the proper order in which you should apply your skin care regimen, particularly when it comes to your sunscreen and moisturizing steps. Whether you’re looking for the simplest, quickest possible routine or are comfortable with something more elaborate, these are two steps you definitely can’t skip.

What Should You Consider When Layering Skincare Products?

When it comes to layering your skincare products, there are some fundamental rules you can follow to help make the process easy. But first, let’s talk a little bit about why it matters.

Types of Ingredients

First of all, layering your skincare products properly can allow for the best possible absorption. This is because some products — like oils and waxes — act as occlusives. 

Occlusives form a barrier over your skin, helping to keep moisture and nutrients in. However, this barrier also stops anything on the outside from absorbing into your skin. 

This is great when it comes to bacteria and breakout-causing impurities, but it’s a real problem if you’re applying serums or other products to address your concerns after using an occlusive. Being mindful of what’s in each product's formulation is key to knowing how best to layer them.

Ingredient Interactions

It’s also important to know how to layer your skincare products because certain ingredients can react if you apply them too close together. For instance, while AHAs and other ingredients such as benzoyl peroxide can be amazing for addressing breakouts, you should avoid using them during the same part of your routine. 

This is because they can both be drying and also because they can essentially cancel one another out and render each other ineffective. Similarly, although you’re not likely to have any negative side effects, niacinamide and vitamin C are best left at opposite ends of your routine (or at least spaced out by a good 10 to 15 minutes) because they can become less effective when layered directly.


When it comes to layering your skincare products, the rule of thumb — in addition to avoiding layering ingredients that don’t play well together — is to apply your skincare products from thinnest to thickest. This can help give every ingredient a proper chance to absorb into your skin.

However, there are some exceptions to this rule — and sunscreen is the big one. 

What Should You Look for in a Sunscreen?

When choosing a sunscreen, there are many things to consider to ensure that your skin has proper sun protection against harmful UV rays. Sun damage is a huge factor when it comes to visible signs of aging. Over time, UV rays can expose your skin to free radicals.

Free radicals are unstable electron molecules that can damage your skin, leading to fine lines, wrinkles, and even the dreaded dark spots known as sunspots. It’s crucial to protect your skin from the sun’s rays, no matter what your skin type is.

 So let’s talk about what you need to consider when choosing your sunscreen.

SPF Coverage

First and foremost, you may want to look for a sunscreen with a minimum of SPF 30. SPF stands for sun protection factor and indicates the level of protection your sunscreen offers. 

If you spend a lot of time getting direct sun exposure or else have fair skin that burns easily, you may want to opt for a higher SPF, such as SPF 50. Your sunscreen SPF should be a crucial part of your decision-making process.

You may also want to look for broad-spectrum coverage, which means your sunscreen can protect your skin from both UVA and UVB rays, which can lead to both premature skin aging and painful sunburns.

Type of Sunscreen

There are two main types of sunscreen to choose from. Which type of sunscreen works best for you depends on your individual skin type. For instance, mineral sunscreens are typically better for sensitive or acne-prone skin because they tend to be gentler and are usually less likely to cause irritation.

Mineral sunscreen, also known as physical sunscreen, typically uses ingredients like titanium dioxide or zinc oxide to sit on top of your skin. This allows them to deflect and scatter UV rays.

The other type of sunscreen is chemical sunscreen. Chemical sunscreens absorb UV rays using chemicals such as avobenzone or oxybenzone and convert them into heat, diffusing the impact they can have on your skin. That said, you may want to avoid chemical sunscreen if you have sensitive skin.

So, How Should You Apply Your Products?

To make things as easy as possible, I’ll walk you through an incredibly simple sequence for applying your skincare products. But let’s say it up front: even if your sunscreen is thinner than your other skincare products, it should still be applied last. 

Think of it like your skin’s shield — if you put anything outside of it, your skin may not benefit from the protection even the best sunscreens can provide.

1. Cleanser

Start your skincare routine by cleansing your skin with a gentle but effective cleanser. Even if you have oily skin, it’s important not to use a super harsh cleanser that will leave your skin feeling stripping and tight. My Cleansing Serum is a gentle daily cleanser that is suitable for all skin types.

This formula works into a luxurious lather that seamlessly melts away makeup and pore-clogging impurities without stripping away all of your natural oils. It’s also packed with hyaluronic acid to hydrate your skin, restorative oat bran to help re-balance moisture levels, and calming olive extract to soothe irritation or redness. 

2. Serum

While I’m talking about sun protection, let’s talk about vitamin C. Serums like iS Clinical’s Pro-Heal Serum Advance+ can offer your skin a wide range of benefits due to the presence of vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant. It’s gentle on your skin and can address many common skincare concerns, from dullness to dark spots. 

Antioxidants can also help to fight off free radicals, which means they’re a great way to support your daily SPF. In fact, some studies have even shown that using vitamin C as part of your morning routine can help support the efficacy of your sunscreen and minimize visible skin damage due to sun exposure.

3. Moisturizer

If you have normal to oily skin, I recommend my Weightless Oil-Free Moisturizer. If you finish your morning routine with sunscreen (which you always should), then using a heavy moisturizer might clog your pores and leave you with a thick, oily sheen. For more normal to dry skin types, I recommend my Hydration Peptide Cream, which is a rich, non-comedogenic moisturizer created to provide deep hydration without causing congestion. 

Luckily, this oil-free moisturizer is powered by three heavy-hitting hydrators to deliver weightless moisture without clogging pores or causing breakouts, creating the penultimate step for a smooth, shine-free glow.

4. Sunscreen

Sunscreen should always be the last step of your routine! One of my favorite options is Goop’s Play Everyday Lotion SPF 50. Since it can double as a moisturizer due to its hydrating ingredients, it’s a great option to top off your daily moisturizer or use on its own if you’re on the go. 

It’s quick-absorbing, non-sticky, and water-resistant, all while offering high-performance SPF 50 protection from UVA, UVB, and even IRA rays. It can help to minimize visible signs of photoaging while still delivering hydration.

The Bottom Line

In conclusion, knowing how to layer your skincare products overall is important when developing an effective skincare routine. Improperly applying your products can render them ineffective or else cancel out the positive effects they can have. 

If you’ve been practicing a consistent skincare routine for months and aren’t noticing any results despite having consulted a board-certified dermatologist or licensed esthetician, layering your skincare products incorrectly may be the cause. Your sunblock should be the last step in your skincare routine.

Regardless of the sequence, the important thing to remember when it comes to applying sunscreen and moisturizer in your daily routine is to choose products with high-quality, science-backed ingredients. 

When it comes to skincare, quality counts — that’s why all of my products are formulated with the best ingredients to be free of parabens, sulfates, and fragrances. To learn more about my products, browse my online selection or schedule a consultation with one of my trusted providers.


Should I Apply My Skin Care Products in a Certain Order | American Academy of Dermatology

Exploring Ingredients - Occlusives and Emollients | Center for Research on Ingredient Safety

Free Radicals and Extrinsic Skin Aging | National Library of Medicine

Zinc Oxide-Induced Changes to Sunscreen Ingredient Efficacy and Toxicity Under UV Irradiation | National Library of Medicine

Effectiveness of Antioxidants (Vitamin C and E) With and Without Sunscreens as Topical Photoprotectants | National Library of Medicine


Your Bag

Pick 2 Free Samples with any order

Retinol Reform Sachet 2 ML
Body Reform Treatment Serum Sachet (US/CA)
Intensive Eye Renewal Cream Sachet

Pick 2 Free Samples with any order