What should I apply first: moisturizer or sunscreen?

We all know how important it is to use sunscreen daily to avoid the damage sun exposure can do to our skin, but there’s still a lot of confusion in what order to apply it in our skincare routine. Is it better to slather sunscreen on before moisturizer or should it be the last product we put on our skin?

I used to think that this latter option was best and when I first started applying it daily a few years ago, I would always put it on after my moisturizer. But I’ve done a lot of research on the topic since then, and while there doesn’t seem to be a clear answer to this question, most experts think it’s best to apply sunscreen first. Here’s why:

Chemical sunscreens need to get into contact with the skin to be effective

According to Dr. Neal Schultz, a board-certified dermatologist who practices in Manhattan, chemical sunscreens should be applied before you put on your moisturizer. That’s because active chemical sunscreen ingredients need time (20 to 30 minutes which is the time you should wait before going outside after application) to bind to the skin so the chemical reaction that activates them can occurr.

By applying your moisturizer first, you’re interfering with this chemical reaction as the sunscreen won’t be able to interact with the skin the way it should. What about reapplying sunscreen during the day, when you already have your moisturizer on? Well, by the time you need to put on your sunscreen again, most of your moisturizer will have already worn off, and won’t therefore interfere with it much.

What about physical sunscreens?

Physical blockers are products that contain Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide. These two ingredients work differently from chemical sunscreen agents as they don’t need to be activated through a chemical reaction with the skin. Think of them as a shield for your skin. When the sun rays hit them, this shield simply bounces them off and away from the skin, thus protecting it from sun damage. For this reason, physical blockers can be applied both before or after moisturizer.

However, even in this case, some experts think it’s best to apply them on clean, bare skin before using any other skincare products. That’s because some of the ingredients in our moisturizing creams can interfere with the sunscreen and make them less effective. For example, your moisturizer could contain ingredients that could dilute your sunscreen, reducing the protection it offers, or make it harder to spread evenly so that some parts of your skin may be left unprotected.

What about sunscreens that have both chemical and physical sunscreen agents?

Again, there is not a definite answer on this, but considering that chemical sunscreens need to be in contact with the skin to work and physical blockers are better applied before moisturizer too (although you could still put them on afterwards if you wanted as long as you’re careful with application), I think it makes sense to apply this type of sunscreens first too.

The exception to the rule

Just like any other rule, this has its exception too. We have already discussed in a previous topic that the products in your skincare routine should be applied based on their consistency. This means that products with a lighter texture, like serums, should be applied before products with a thicker consistency, like moisturizers. Most sunscreens do have a thick texture, so where do they fit in?

Unfortunately, that’s another question without a clear answer. If you’re using an exfoliant or serum with a very light consistency, then you can apply it before sunscreen without compromising its efficacy. If the sunscreen is lighter than the other skincare products you are using, then apply that first. But as mentioned above, there isn’t a definite rule to follow so in the end, it is up to you to make a choice based on your best judgement and personal preference.

Do you apply your sunscreen before or after your moisturizer?

Like this post? Tell your friends!
Share on FacebookGoogle+Tweet about this on Twitter


    • Gio says

      Ayushi, glycerin does NOT make your skin darker. If it did, that would happen to everyone, considering how widespread its use is. The culprit is likely to be your sunscreen. Are you applying enough? And what UV filters does it contain?

  1. ayushi jain says

    spf 15 sunscreen I use n a layer of glycerine dat keeps me moist..n in summer too I use a layer of glycerine with rose water ..will it make my colur dark??

    • Gio says

      Ayushi, as I’ve already told you several times, glycerin does NOT make your skin colour darker. Glycerin is NOT the culprit.

      Imo, the sunscreen is. SPF 15 is probably too low to provide adequate protection for your skin type, so I’d recommend you switch to SPF30.

  2. ayushi jain says

    ohk thanku gio so much ..n answering my question so frankly..now can you recomnd me something to be fair and glowing I’ll be very thankful

    • Gio says

      Ayushi, you’re welcome. If you’re planning to use an exfoliant with Salicylic Acid (my favourites are from Paula’s Choice), then that would make your skin brighter too. Salicylic Acid is able to exfoliate both inside the pores, where it removes the gunk that’s causing breakouts and pimples, and the surface of the skin, where it removes the dark and dull skin cells on top of it, revealing the brighter and fairer ones underneath.

    • Gio says

      Ayushi, a fash wash isn’t a face wash and it isn’t a cleansing milk. It is a product designed to remove dead cells from the surface of the skin.

      I don’t know where you live and what brands are available in your area, so it’s difficult to recommend something. My favourite exfoliants are from Paula’s Choice. Can you buy those in your country?

    • Gio says

      Ayushi, I don’t know how young you are, but you could use a product with retinoids (forms of Vitamin A, such as retinol). Just don’t apply it together with the exfoliant. Use the exfoliant during the day and retinoids at night.

    • Gio says

      Ayushi, retinol products tend to be pricey, and if you’re only 17 you may not need them yet. But of course, you can use them anyway if you like. I wouldn’t use pure retinol as that will be too harsh for skin. Is Olay (or Oil Of Olaz) available in your country? They have some products that contain retinol and they aren’t too expensive.

    • Gio says

      Ayushi, I think it’s the sun that’s darkening it. Try using at least SPF 30 and, if you spend a lot of time outdoors, reapply it every 2 hours.

  3. Shreyas says

    Hi Gio. Currently am taking medication for acne. I use Nuface Sunblock Lotion (SPF 30+) in the morning. Benzac AC 5% in the evening and A-ret gel 0.1% in the night. The Sunblock I use makes my face look too oily. So which other sunblock can I use instead of Nuface lotion? I am male (age: 23 yrs)
    Here is a list of sunscreens available in my country.
    1. Lotus 3 in 1 Matte Lock Daily Sunblock SPF 40
    2. VLCC Matte Look sunscreen lotion SPF 30 with Pineapple extracts.
    3. Neutrogena Ultra Sheer dry-touch sunblock SPF 50+.
    4. VLCC sweat free SPF 40
    5. Suncote Gel SPF 30
    6. Ranbaxy Suncros Gel SPF 26
    7. Lotus herbals safe sun UV screen matte gel PA+++ SPF 50 (SPF 40)

    • Gio says

      Shreyas, hi. It’s difficult for me to say which one wouldn’t make your skin too oily because I have never used these sunscreens and am not familiar with their textures. I’d recommend, if possible, that you try to get samples to see how their work for you. Or, failing that, look for reviews by people who have used them and can tell you what their textures feel like on the skin. Sorry I couldn’t be of more help.

      • Shreyas says

        But can you tell me if gel based lotion is good for me or the creamy ones? I read in a few articles that oily skins should use gel based lotions. Is it true? and I have whiteheads on my nose. Does using a Matte look sunscreens make the whiteheads more visible??

    • rshar says

      Hey Shreyas,

      I am not sure which sunscreen you bought finally, but I would recommend Lotus herbals matte gel SPF 50. I have been using it for the last two weeks. I have combination and acne prone skin. It keeps my face oil free easily for 6+ hours and it hasn’t caused any acne so far.

  4. says

    I’m currently using a whitening moisturizer but it doesn’t have any SPF.

    Now I just a bought a sun screen that is suited for all skin types. So I was wondering, should I still apply the sun screen first or the moisturizer?

    • Gio says

      Sheena, if the whitening cream is used to treat hyperpigmentation, then it would be best to apply that first. For best results, follow it up with a zinc oxide-based sunscreen that can be used after moisturizer without compromising its efficacy.

  5. Niharika says

    Hey plss help me out?? M 19 n my clg s abt to start.. I need a fairness cream bt i want to save my skin frm tanning too.. N d problm s if i use sunscreen thn it doesnt wrk as fairness cream n if i use fairness cream thn it doesnt wrk as sunscreen,, wot should i do nw ??,,

    • Gio says

      Niharika, was a clg? Anyway, it seems that you would need to use two products, a sunscreen followed by a fairness cream. Or you can use a sunscreen during the day and a fairness cream at night. Hope this helps.

  6. katie says

    am using fairness cream that lacks sun screen and moistrizer then my sunscreen is mixed on moisturizer.what should i apply first the fairness cream or the sunscreen/moisturizer?

    • Gio says

      Katie, you should never mix your sunscreen with your moisturizer! If you do, you dilute it and reduce its effectiveness. I’d say, start by applying the fairness cream first.

      After that it depends. If your sunscreen contains only Titanium Dioxide and/or Zinc Oxide, you can apply it after moisturizer. If, instead, it contains other sunscreen agents, such as avobenzone or mexoryl for instance, apply it a couple of minutes after the fairness cream and then slather on moisturizer.

  7. aishwarya says

    Is it ok to use moisturiser with spf 15 or 20 after cleansing and then applying your regular sunscreen with spf 40 or 50 before stepping out? i’ve heard we need to apply sunscreen even indoors so choosing moisturiser with sunscreen sounds better but its spf is not enough so that i get tanned easily in hot weather when going out. or is it better to use day cream before sunscreen? plz help

    • Gio says

      Aishwarya, it depends on the UV filters your sunscreen contains. If it contains only Titanium Dioxide and/or Zinc Oxide, you can apply it either before or after moisturizer. Whatever you prefer. If it contains other UV filters, such as avobenzone and octinoxate, apply sunscreen first. :)

  8. neha says

    I m vry vry sad……
    I use sunscreen…..bt in winters my skin become very dry using only sunscreen….
    Skin looks wrinkled and also can u suggest me any good sunscreen for dry skin available in india….
    What should i do….i m vry sad
    Plzz help me

  9. Elizabeth says

    I’ve been wanting to use a tinted moisturizer for a while now, but I heard that it can destabilize my sunscreen. I use La Roche SX which contains abovenzone and mexoryl. I really don’t want to stop using this product.. Do you have any suggestions on certain types of tinted moisturizer I should use? I’m also looking for a sheer tint if that helps:)

    • Gio says

      Elizabeth, titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, which are used to give foundations and tinted moisturizers their colour and UV protection, can degrade avobenzone. But it is unclear yet how fast this happens. Also, if these ingredients are micronized or coated, no degradation should occur at all. It would be best to choose a tinted moisturizer without these two ingredients, or just reapply the sunscreen more often. Hope this helps.

  10. Athu says

    Hi I have Neutrogena sunscreen,neutrogena moisturiser,neutrogena fine fairness cream & neutrogena fine fairness serum. So,In what order should I wear these daily to get their respective benefits? and at night if I wear just the neutrogena night cream,will it be enough ?

    • Gio says

      Athu, what UV fiilters does the Neutrogena sunscreen contain? If only Titanium Dioxide and/or Zinc Oxide, apply first the serum, then the fairness cream, then the moisturizer, and finally the sunscreen.

      If the sunscreen contains other UV filters, such as avobenzone or mexoryl, apply first the serum, then sunscreen, then the fairness cream, and finally the moisturizer. Hope this helps.

  11. henry says

    Hi Geo,

    I have doubt .. after sun cream I can apply ponds powder in my face … is it not problem if I apply . Tell me pls

  12. Samy says

    Hi Gio,

    Can you please suggest me some good pore minimizer & Sunscreen as i have oily skin.



  13. Leyla says


    I’m currently using invisible zinc tinted moisturiser but I find it easier to blend it in part moisturer part sunblock.
    I’m off chemical sunscreen. I was told it does more damage your skin.
    I have dehydrated skin and I need to moisturise religiously.

    • Gio says

      Leyla, I wouldn’t products with SPF. You are diluting the sunscreen, and therefore not getting the level of SPF stated on the bottle.

      I wouldn’t say chemical sunscreens are bad for skin. That’s usually what companies that make sunblock claim because the ingredients in sunblocks are thicker, harder to spread, and leave a white cast behind. Not everyone likes them, so some companies try and make the other options look bad. But there’s no scientific proof that chemical sunscreens are bad for skin. But if you like zinc oxide based sunscreens, by all means, keep using them. They are my fave too, but that doesn’t make the others bad.

  14. shynia says

    hi… i’ve an acne prone skin.. i’ve been advise to use lakme 9 to 5 hydrating sunscreen and then lakme perfect radiance whitening day cream.. but my skin become oily. i dn’t knw why… plz help me

    • Gio says

      Shynia, hi! The sunscreen you are using is probably too rich for your skin type. Try switching to something with a lighter texture. Hope this helps.

  15. lovely says

    Hi I am lovely I have some questions to ask you I use Himalaya fairness cream and when I am exposed even to little sunlight iam getting tanned….what is the best sunscreen in low cost….so please suggest me can Himalaya fairness cream can be used?

    • Gio says

      Lovely, are you using it with sunscreen? That should prevent the tan. My favourite cheap sunscreens are from Neutrogena. I hope the brand’s available in your country.

  16. lovely says

    Ha,…I forget asking another question I have small pimples group on my forehead suggest me natural homemade tips for them plzz

    • Gio says

      Lovely, the only natural remedy I know that works for pimples is tea tree oil. Its concentration must be about 5% to work well.

  17. pavithraa says

    Hi I’m using vlcc matte look screen lotion wit pineapple extracts spf 30 pa++.this makes my skin too oily and darken.I’m having doubt whether im using it in a correct way or not so pls guide me and help me to improve my skin tone

    • Gio says

      Pavithraa, if its too oily, it probably isn’t suitable for our skin type. I’d recommend you try something with a lighter texture.

  18. Santosh Kumar Samal says

    Hey GIO I am Santosh and I live in India.I have a problem that their are pimple marks left on my face and it looks really odd can you plz help me with this…

    • Gio says

      Santosh, hi! I’m sorry to hear about your problem. Try using an exfoliant with glycolic acid. It should help.

  19. Hemalatha Natarajan says

    Im from india.
    Is it ok to use only sunscreen (lotus sunscreen) and not use a moisturiser, i have oily skin by the way!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

CommentLuv badge