Get the Most from Your Skin Care Products

The sequence in which you apply skin care products influences their effectiveness.

By Susan C. Taylor, MD, FAAD
Founding Director, Skin of Color Center St. Luke’s and Roosevelt Hospitals

Consumers often spend hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars a year on skin care products in an effort to improve the look of their skin. From anti-aging serums to acne medications, many adults and teens regularly apply medications or treatments to their skin. But does the sequence in which skin care products are applied influence how well the products work? The answer: yes.

Medications or treatments should be applied directly after washing your face to ensure that they are properly absorbed by the skin. Otherwise, people may think a product isn’t working because it’s applied in the wrong way. To maximize the effectiveness of skin care products, take the following steps when caring for your skin.

  1. Wash Your Face. Use a gen­tle cleanser and gently pat dry.
  2. Apply Medication Or Treatment. If you are using a medicine or other treatment on your skin, apply it right after cleansing (unless otherwise recom­mended by your dermatologist). When applying any cream around your eyes, use your ring finger, as it is the weakest finger and will not pull too hard on this delicate skin.
  3. Apply Moisturizer And/ Or Sunscreen.
  4. Apply Makeup, If Desired. It is important to know that using several products at the same time may not only negate the benefits of both but also irritate the skin. Using too many products may cause redness, stinging, and dry­ness of the skin, especially if an anti-aging product is included. The signs of aging may then be more notice­able. A dermatologist can address any questions or concerns that you have about caring for your skin.


Headquartered in Schaumburg, Illinois, the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), founded in 1938, is the largest, most influen­tial, and most representative of all derma­tologic associations. With a membership of more than 17,000 physicians worldwide, the AAD is committed to advancing the diagno­sis and the medical, surgical, and cosmetic treatment of the skin, hair, and nails; advo­cating high standards in clinical practice, education, and research in dermatology; and supporting and enhancing patient care for a lifetime of healthier skin, hair, and nails. For more information call (888) 462-DERM [3376] or visit Follow the AAD on Facebook (American Academy of Dermatol­ogy) and Twitter (@AADskin).