Serum, sunscreen, moisturizer… what goes on first?

In what order should I apply serum, sunscreen and moisturizer? What goes on first?

sunscreenAnswer: This depends on whether you are using a physical or chemical formulation. Check the label – if it lists Parsol, mexoryl, oxybenzone or avebenzone as an ingredient, the formula is chemical. If it does not contain any of these and lists zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, it’s physical. If, however, it contains ingredients from both categories, treat it as chemical.

Chemical sunscreens need to sink into the skin, so they go first – apply them onto clean, dry skin, wait a minute and then follow up with serum and moisturizer (in that order).

Physical sunblocks, on the other hand, create an opaque barrier on your skin and won’t allow any other product to work effectively over them – so, if you put moisturizer over sunblock, the latter will stop the former from being effective. Plus, the act of putting on the moisturizer or serum over the physical formulation can give the sunblock a patchy effect, thereby reducing your sun protection. So it should be serum (the lightest product always goes on first), then moisturizer, then sunblock.

Foundation, concealer, powder etc go on last in both cases!

Keep writing in with your questions!


  1. Nathalia says

    Wow, that’s some really useful information. I actually always mixed the moisturizer with the sunscreen or applied them on opposite sides of the day.

    • anubha says

      Mixing moisturiser with sunscreen will dilute the effect so it’s highly avoidable. Just layer them on instead.

  2. Janis says

    What do you do if you use a physical sunscreen and then a foundation that has a chemical sunscreen in it? Would the chemical sunscreen in the foundation cancel out the physical sunscreen’s effectiveness? Thanks

    • anubha says

      No, it won’t cancel out the effects. But the combination might end up being too heavy for your skin and clog the pores. Plus, applying 2 SPF products doesn’t mean that you will get double the benefit. You will only get as much SPF as applying either of these independently would have given.

  3. Minie says

    Really..thank you for the very useful info..but I am just wondering why the saleslady in VMV hypoallergenics where I usually buy my skin products told me to apply soap-toner-moisturizer-sunblock order..I am confused. Does it mean she mistakenly taught me a wrong order??


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