Skip to main content

How to Correctly Apply Your Sunscreen & Skin Care Products

Sunscreen is an essential part of any skin care regimen, for people of every age, gender and skin color. Applying sunscreen daily helps protect your skin from sun damage that can contribute to visible signs of premature aging and cause skin cancer. But when you combine sunscreen with other skin care products, like your everyday serum, retinol or moisturizer, the order of application makes a huge difference in the effectiveness and protection.

Apply a chemical sunscreen before your moisturizer and your mineral sunscreen after moisturizer.

You can tell which kind of sunscreen you have based on its ingredients: Mineral sunscreen, also called physical sunscreen or sunblock, will contain the minerals zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. Chemical sunscreen contains chemical ingredients, such as avobenzone, octinoxate, and oxybenzone.

At Defy Nature, Skin Medica’s Essential Defense Everyday Clear™ Broad Spectrum SPF 47 Sunscreen is recommended and should be applied before your moisturizer.

Why does the sunscreen application order matter?

Chemical and mineral sunscreens protect your skin in different ways.

Chemical sunscreen

This type of sunscreen works by absorbing damaging UV rays from the sun before they can harm your skin. Its active ingredients absorbs the UV rays and turn them into heat.

In order for chemical sunscreen to work effectively, you need to rub it into your skin and give your skin time to absorb it. That's why you should apply it before using your moisturizer.

Important Tip: After applying chemical sunscreen, you should wait 15 minutes before going out into the sun. This type of sunscreen can't protect you until your skin has fully absorbed it.

Mineral sunscreen

Mineral sunscreen will contain zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. These minerals act as a shield that blocks the sun's rays from damaging your skin.

Since mineral sunscreen needs to sit on top of your skin in order to block UV rays, you should apply it as the last step in your skin care routine. In other words, you'll apply it after any moisturizer or serum that you use.

Does Makeup with SPF Provide Adequate Sun Protection?

The short answer is no.

If you wear foundation or other makeup products with SPF, you might think its okay to skip applying sunscreen. When sunscreen is tested for its protection, it’s applied in a much thicker layer than makeup. You’re simply not applying enough of the makeup on your skin to gain the full SPF benefits. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, in order to adequately protect your skin, you need to apply two tablespoons to your body, and at least one nickel size amount of SPF to your face. Chances are, the average person isn’t applying that much foundation especially in the summer.

The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) also recommends that everyone wears a sunscreen that offers SPF of 30 or greater — which isn’t always the case for the SPF found in foundations.

The steps for applying skincare products

1. Cleanser

Step one, day and night, should always be cleansed.

2. Retinols

Retinols should always be applied during your evening skincare routine only, before your night time moisturizer, as sunlight will degrade most formulas and these products make your skin more sensitive to the sun.

3. Serums

Vitamin C and other antioxidant serums should be applied during the daytime, as these formulas help protect your skin from elements like UV rays and pollution.

4. Eye cream

Eye creams tend to be more lightweight than your all-over face cream, plus they often contain ingredients meant to target specific concerns—so definitely apply your eye cream first before a face moisturizer. If you’d like to give your eye area an extra boost of moisture or tackle things like dark circles, wrinkles or undereye bags, an eye cream is a great addition to your skincare routine.

5. Moisturizer

Moisturizer day and night, no matter your skin type, is an essential step to healthy skin. Applying the right face moisturizer will help lock in hydration and moisture and support the skin barrier. This step also serves as a way to seal in all of your other products—like, treatments and serums.

6. Sunscreen

Applying your SPF daily “really isn’t negotiable. No matter your skin tone or type, or if you’re indoors or outdoors, apply at least SPF 30 every single morning to protect your skin from harmful UV rays.

Important Tip: Thinner products always go on first before thicker.

You Might Also Enjoy...

Cosmetic Trends

Top Cosmetic Trends Old & New

In 2023 there was a significant amount of love for facial fillers, body contouring and BBLs (Brazilian Butt lifts), according to TikTok hashtags and Google searches throughout the year. The expected cosmetic procedure trends going forward in 2024 are most
Sept blog article

Fall is a perfect time to peel away your sun damaged skin

Getting older is inevitable for all of us and the aging process can cause your skin to become rough, pigmented, dry and wrinkled. But no matter how old you are, stress, sun exposure and environmental changes can add to unwanted skin changes. There is ...

Which Medications Make You Prone to Sunburn?

Antibiotics, oral contraceptives and acne medications could significantly increase your sensitivity to the sun and its harmful UV rays. Sun protection is important for everyone, especially if you’re taking certain medications.