What Goes on First?

If you’re a regular sunscreen user who also uses cosmetics or topical medications, you’ve probably wondered what the proper order is for applying these products. Does sunscreen go on first? Last? In the middle?

“You’ve probably wondered what the proper order is for applying these products. Does sunscreen go on first? Last? In the middle? First topical medications, then sunscreen,” says Bradford R. Katchen, MD, associate professor of dermatology, Mount Sinai Medical Center, New York City.

“If sunscreen is applied first, it might interfere with the medication’s penetration and might inactivate the active ingredient. For that reason, medication should always be the first product applied to a clean, washed face.”

If you’re also using a moisturizer, it should go on after the medication and before the sunscreen, adds Rosemarie Ingleton, MD, attending physician, Beth Israel Medical Center and clinical instructor, Mount Sinai Medical Center. “Applying a moisturizer after the medication could actually enhance penetration of the medication,” she notes. “If the moisturizer does not contain an SPF, apply a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher next. Finally, apply foundation, powder, blush and any other colored cosmetics.”

To recap, the layering process goes as follows: medication, moisturizer, sunscreen, foundation, powder and blush.