Best Skin Care Routine Order

I am a dermatologist who specializes in skincare regimen design. I have lectured all around the world on this topic.  You see- the order that you apply products in your morning and night skincare routine really matters.

Assuming you are using the correct products for your Baumann Skin Type, the correct skin care routine order will make every product work better. 

It matters a lot which products go first. For example, Vitamin C serums do not absorb well so they often need to be step 2 after cleansing in your routine. Whether you want a simple 3 step routine, a basic 5 step routine, or an advanced 10 step routine- the order of products is important.

This blog explains the order of skin care routine steps that I recommend to my patients in my dermatology practice to use in their morning and night skin care routine.

Best skincare routine step order for your skin type

The easiest and most accurate way to know the best morning and night skincare routine for you is to take our skincare routine quiz.

best order of skin care routine steps

Skincare Steps in Order

5 step skin care routine order

Routine for skin types with more than one skin problem need more steps.

A full skin care regimen is 5 steps in the morning and 5 steps in the evening for more complicated skin types.

These 10 steps a day will give you the fastest results.

Not all skin types need all 10 of these skin care regimen steps.

Skin types with fewer skin concerns can do a basic routine of 3 steps in the am and 3 at night.

How many steps you need in your routine depends upon how many underlying barriers to skin health you have.

Our skin type quiz will tell you which barriers to skin health you have and allow you to build a skin care routine step by step to target your skin issues.

Morning Skincare Routine Steps

Morning Routine Skin Care Routine Steps

If you want a full skin care routine for the fastest, here are the best am skin care regimen steps:

  1. Cleanser: A cleanser should be used first to prepare the skin and promote penetration
  2. Eye Cream or Serum: An eye cream or serum protects the delicate eye skin from the treatment product
  3. Treatment: The treatment product goes on clean skin to maximize penetration and absorption of the active ingredients.
  4. Moisturizer: A moisturizer goes on top to increase penetration of the treatment product. Needs to contain ingredients that protect the skin from issues identified by the skin care product quiz.
  5. Sunscreen: The SPF goes on top closest to the sun, to protect the skin and the skin care products from UV radiation and light.

You may need 2 different cleansers in the morning and night routine.

In most of our custom skin type routines, low pH cleansers such as hydroxyacids cleansers and salicylic acid cleansers are used in the morning. They may be too strong to use twice a day so a different cleanser may be used at night.  Lowering the pH of the skin with these cleansers makes some ingredients like Vitamin C penetrate better into the skin. 

Night Skincare Routine Steps

Night Skin Care Routine Steps

If you want a full skin care routine for the fastest results, here are the best pm skin care regimen steps:

  1.  Cleanser: Use a stronger cleanser than in the morning to remove makeup, SPF, oil and dirt
  2. Eye Cream: Medications, retinoids and other ingredients that irritate the eye arrow can get on the pillowcase. Protect this delicate skin at night with an eye cream
  3. Treatment: Serums with concentrated ingredients go in this layer to increase absorption
  4. Moisturizer: A moisturizer goes on top to cause occlusion which increases absorption by slugging the important cosmeceutical ingredients into the skin. 
  5. Retinoid: When beginning a new skin care routine, retinol and other retinoids should come after the moisturizer. 

The cleansers used at night should have increased cleansing abilities to remove makeup, oil, sunscreen and sweat and to prevent clogged pores.

Cleansers may be too strong to use twice a day so many skin care routines have a different am and pm face wash.

Use an eye cream to protect your delicate eye area from any products that follow. Skin care products get on your pillowcase at night and can irritate the eye area- especially acne and antiaging skin care products.

After the eye cream, apply the treatment product which is usually the most expensive of your skin care products or may be a prescription medication.

On top of the treatment products, apply a moisturizer. In many cases you will apply a retinoid on top of your moisturizer. Use our skincare guide to know when to apply retinol in your skin care routine.

simple skin care routine steps

Simple Skin Care Routine

Looking for a basic 3 step skin care routine that is simple and easy but covers all the basics?

The 3 most important parts of your routine are

  1. Cleanse
  2. Protect
  3. Repair

The products you choose should protect in the morning and repair at night.

These simple starter routines are more affordable but do not work as quickly as a full 10 step regimen.

3 Simple Morning Routine Steps:

  1. Cleanser: A cleanser should be used first to prepare the skin and promote penetration.
  2. Moisturizer: A moisturizer hydrates and protects
  3. Sunscreen: Use a SPF of at least 15 in the am

Simple night routine steps:

  1. Cleanser: Always cleanse at night to prevent clog pores.
  2. Moisturizer: Choose a moisturizer that repairs damage
  3. Retinoid: Most skin types need a retinoid to slow aging, even skin pigmentation, and prevent acne

Skin Care Routine Steps for Men

The skin care routine for men is slightly different than a woman's because of shaving.

If you do not shave your face, you can follow the same 10 skin care routine steps discussed above.

A good male skin care routine is:

  1. Wash face with a face wash using warm water
  2. Leave face wash on skin to soften your beard while you wash and condition your hair
  3. Wash off any hair conditioner and face wash with warm water
  4. Shave using either a shaving cream of a face cleanser made to shave with like Zerafite Creamy Cleanser and Shave Cream
  5. Rinse off and pat dry
  6. Apply any toner or serum your skin type needs
  7. Apply moisturizer
  8. In morning, apply SPF. At night apply retinol if right for your skin type.

I test products from different skin care brands by layering skin care products on the skin and following outcomes. I use this information to customize skin care routines for each Baumann Skin Type.

Why Skin Care Routine Order Matters

The order to layer your serums, creams and lotions depends upon which Baumann Skin Type you are.

One of the important things that I think about when I customize and personalize a skin care regimen for my patients is the circadian rhythm of the skin cells.

This daily skin rhythm affects the cell cycle and determines what skin care products should be used in the am and which skin care products should be used at night. (1)

Processes that protect the skin are active during the sunlight hours, so it is best to use protective skincare ingredients such as antioxidants and ingredients that protect from pollution in the am.

Repair processes are active at night.

Use ingredients that promote repair such as niacinamide and retinoids at night.

Circadian rhythm of skin

Your Baumann Skin Type determines which skincare ingredients are best to protect your skin in the day and which repair processes to target at night.

Dermatologist Advice on the Best Skin Care Routine Order

Below I discuss some factors that I consider when I design a skin care routine for my patients. Please understand that this is just scratching the surface of the science that dermatologists consider when developing skin care routines.

Most skin care routines focus on one skin issue only such as dryness or acne. However, the best skin care routines target all of the skin's issues. This is where deciding on skin care regimen steps becomes complex.

Things to consider when designing the skin care routine order of skin care products:

Is it complicated- this is why I build a custom skincare routine builder to help you put together your skincare routine steps properly.

Considerations for Regimen Design

Consider these 3 issues when designing your routine:

  1. When two products are layered on top of each other- they combine on the skin. This causes chemical reactions that change the way the products perform.
  2.  The more issues the skin care routine needs to address , the more skin care ingredients need to be used.
  3. Ingredients can affect penetration and absorption of other ingredients

The more products  that are used-= inthe routine- the more likely it is for the ingredients to adversely affect each other. This decreases effectiveness and increases side effects.

If you need help building your skin care routine, take out quiz or make an appointment with one of the medical providers and doctors I have trained to help you design your skin care routine!

16 Baumann skin types

Interaction of Products

Products interact on the skin so the step order that you use products is important.

skin care products layered on the skin

2 products that are placed on the skin together will act differently than if they are used alone.

products combine on the skin

Just like layers of paint combine to change color- the products skin care routine combine, have chemical reactions, and their activity changes.

skin care regimen step order

This is why skin care product step order is so important!

What to Consider When Building a Skin Care Routine

The order of skin care routine steps is determined by a number of factors. These factors differ by skin type.

These are the issues to consider when building a skin care routine:

You can learn more about individual cosmeceutical ingredients here in our ingredient library.

Order of Routine Steps

The order that you use skin care products affects how well they work.

The steps in your morning skin care routine should protect your skin while the night skin care routine should repair skin damage.

The correct skin care routine step order depends upon which of the 16 Baumann Skin Types you are.

 Use our skincare routine builder to get the best skin care routine order for your skin type.

Once you take the skin care routine quiz and learn your Baumann Skin Type:

  • We will give you the exact skin care routine steps for your skin type.
  • You will know how to layer products
  • You will be able to build a skin care routine step by step from many brands.
  • You can shop by your skin type
  • You can read reviews from your skin twins (others with the same skin type as you.)
  • You will be confident that the skin care products you choose are in the correct skin care routine step order.

You are 3-5 minutes away from seeing which one of 40,000 dermatologist-developed skin care routines is right for you! 

Let us help you build the perfect custom skincare routine. Search out library, use our chat bot, or email me with questions.

But first-  take the quiz!

Level up your skin care knowledge

What is the correct order of skin care routine steps?

The correct step order depends upon your Baumann Skin Type, For most skin types, these are the rules on product order:

When Should I Apply My Sunscreen in the AM Routine?

Sunscreen is always the last routine step in the am before makeup and after moisturizers.

When Do I Apply A Facial Primer for Oily Skin In My Skin Care Routine?

You only need a facial primer if you have very oily skin. If you have very oily skin and your makeup foundation streaks- we recommend omitting the moisturizer (step 4) in your skin care routine. Wash your face, apply the eye cream to the eye area, then apply the step 3 treatment product found in your skin care regimen. After the step 3 treatment product, apply your facial primer. Cover with sunscreen and facial foundation. We recommend that you consider using a tinted sunscreen as your facial foundation. This will give you fewer steps and help prevent streaking of makeup.


  1. Baumann L. Ch. 35 Skincare Regimen Design in Baumann's Cosmetic Dermatology 3rd Edition (McGraw Hill 2022)

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