What Should I Apply First: Moisturizer Or Sunscreen?

apply-first-moisturizer-or-sunscreen

Did you know that using sunscreen on our skin is not often enough to prevent all the unwanted damage unprotected sun exposure inflicts to it? Not if we’re not using it properly anyway.

That means in the right order. But what’s that? Should sunscreen be applied before moisturizer or should it be the last product we put on our skin?

For a long time, I thought the second option was the best. I’d go through my skincare routine as usual – cleanser, serum, moisturizer (you know the drill) – and then, at the end of it, and just before applying makeup, I’d slather on a thick layer of sunscreen.

Little did I know that, sometimes, that reduced the effectiveness of my sunscreen. I say sometimes because the order of application depends on what kind of sunscreen you use. Here’s what I mean:

chemical vs physical sunscreen

Chemical Sunscreens Need To Get In Contact With The Skin To Be Effective

According to Dr. Neal Schultz, a board-certified dermatologist who practices in Manhattan, chemical sunscreens (ie those that contain chemical UV filters like avobenzone, mexoryl, oxybenzone, and octocrylene, to name a few) should be applied before you put on your moisturizer.

That’s because active chemical sunscreen ingredients need time to bind to the skin so the chemical reaction that activates them can occur. That’s why your mom told you to apply sunscreen 20 to 30 minutes before heading out the door.

By applying your moisturizer first, you’re interfering with this chemical reaction, preventing the sunscreen from interacting 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.

sunumbra sunscreen 30+

What About Physical Sunscreens?

Physical sunscreens contain minerals titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. These two form a shield on your skin. When the sun rays hit it, this shield simply bounces them off and away from the skin, protecting it from sun damage.

This means that, unlike chemical sunscreens, they don’t need to be activated by any mysterious chemical reaction. They don’t need to be applied half an hour in advance (they work immediately). And they don’t need to be applied before moisturizer.

Of course, if that’s what you like and are used to, you can apply them before your moisturizer. Some experts think that’s better anyway. 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. But if you’re careful, you can use these sunscreens after your moisturizer, if that’s what you like best.

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What About Sunscreens That Contain Both Chemical And Physical Sunscreen Agents?

Some sunscreens contain both a mix of chemical and physical sunscreen agents. That’s because titanium dioxide and zinc oxide can leave a white cast on the skin and be difficult to blend, so some brands prefer to use them in smaller amounts and complement their sun protection properties with chemical sunscreen agents.

But this just adds to the confusion. If they contain both type of sunscreen ingredients, when should we apply them? Before or after moisturizer?

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, I think it makes sense to apply this type of sunscreen first too.

The Exception To The Rule

Just like any other rule, this one has its exception too. We have already discussed the proper order to apply your skincare products: from thinnest to thickest. This means that products with a lighter texture, like serums, should be applied before products with a thicker consistency, like moisturizers, to be properly absorbed into the skin. Most sunscreens do have a thick texture, so where do they fit in?

Unfortunately, that’s another question without a clear answer (aren’t you tired of them, already?). 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, on the other hand, the sunscreen is lighter than the other skincare products you are using, then apply that first.

The Bottom Line

So, should you apply first moisturizer or sunscreen? Unfortunately, there isn’t always a definite rule to follow. The order of application depends both on the type of sunscreen you’re using and its consistency. But, if you want to be on the safe side, always apply it first (unless it has a super light texture).

Do you apply your sunscreen before or after your moisturizer?

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Comments

    • 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

    Hey….gio
    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.

    Waiting…..

    Thanks

  13. Leyla says

    Hi,

    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

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

  20. Bank says

    Hii,I want to know that after using sunscreen do we have to remove it daily just like makeup?
    And my sunscreen contains paraben is it a problem?

  21. Blair says

    I’ve heard that leaving sunscreen in the car can degrade the ingredients/chemicals and alter its protection. I had mine in a suitcase in the car for half the day and when I took it out is was pretty warm. Is it still okay to use?

    • Gio says

      Blair, it’s hard to say without seeing the sunscreen. Leaving it in the car for hours reduces its effectiveness indeed, but I think, if you only did so once, the damage was minimal. Did the consistency/smell/colour change at all? If not, I’d still use it, but reapply it more often, just to be on the safe side.

      • Blair says

        The consistency was slightly less thick, but went back to normal once it cooled down. The color and smell didn’t change…

  22. prapti says

    Hi I am from Nepal .. I am too much worried about my skin… I have got pigmentation on mah skin since last 3 years and it became a big problem for me… i am using medicated sunscreen of fixderma.. and recently I am wearing Olay cream ….. can you suggest me how can I get rid of pigmentation….plzz

    • Gio says

      Prapri, sorry to hear about your problem. How severe is it? If it is quite light, you can try a product with hydroquinone. Its concentration in over the counter products is quite low, so if you need something stronger, or would like to try glycolic acid peels, you should consult a dermatologist.

  23. Hannah says

    Hi there! I have these windows in my bedroom that I cover up with a few blankets to help keep the heat and sun out. If there isn’t any visible light shinning through the blankets does that mean there is no uv rays going through too? Just wondering:)

  24. rajni says

    Hy mam i am a Indian girl and my hand,back is darkest even my face due to suneffect what can I do kindly suggest best solution and my forehead is little dark plzzzz……… Mam give me fastest solution.

    • Gio says

      Ranji, what do you mean with your skin is darker due to suneffect? Are you tanned? If so, you’ll just have to wait for it to disappear. If you have dark spots, instead, try an exfoliant with glycolic acid. It should help lighten your skin.

  25. Ruth says

    Hey Gio,
    I’m almost 17. I would like to ask you if it’s necessary for me to wear sunscreen? I go to high school and the temperature here remain between 34 °C to 38 °C during summers? I have combination skin. Can you recommend me some brand which I can use, I live in Pakistan. Help please!

    • Gio says

      Ruth, oh yes, you should use sunscreen too. It’s never too early to start. You’ll age a lot better and more slowly if you do. Mmm, I’m not sure what brands are available in Pakistan. Do you have Neutrogena and Burt’s Bees? They make some great sunscreens. So does Sunumbra, and they ship worldwide. Hope this helps.

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