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As we learn more about skin care and how various ingredients can affect our skin, what used to be a simple beauty routine, can sometimes sound very complicated. From serums to creams, antioxidants to broad spectrum sun filters, it can be difficult to decide what to apply, let alone in what order.  

If you‘re a regular reader of this blog, you already appreciate the importance of using a well formulated broad spectrum UVA/UVB blocking sunscreen with a minimum of SPF 30 daily, year round. In addition to helping protect against the signs of aging (prevention is the least expensive strategy!), regular sunscreen use can also  decrease your risk developing some types of skin cancer.  

A question I’m regularly asked is what order to apply skin care products and where does sunscreen fit into the whole regimen?

Difference Between Physical and Chemical Sunscreens  

Physical sunscreens (ones that include zinc oxide and titanium dioxide) work by sitting on top of skin and acting as a barrier to reflect UV rays away from skin. Chemical sunscreens (those that contain a range of filters including Mexoryl XL, Mexoryl SX, Tinosorb and Avobenzone) work by reacting with the skin’s surface, absorbing UV rays and converting them into harmless energy.  

I make the distinction between these two types of sunscreens because it has an affect on when they should be applied.

Sunscreen First?  

If you are using a physical sunscreen, when it goes on is less important than with a chemical sunscreen. Since it acts as a barrier, you can apply it over your other skin care products or as the first one you apply. However, remember that the general rule of thumb is to apply products with a lighter texture first (serums) followed by those that are heavier in nature - creams, lotions. This order helps to ensure that the products go on smoothly and remain that way. Placing a lighter textured product over one that is heavier can result in the creation of a messy texture.  

If you are using a chemical sunscreen it is best to apply it as one of the first products. You may want to apply certain treatment serums, especially those with a very light consistency first. After that, apply your sunscreen, followed by the rest of your products. If you wait a few minutes between applications all should go smoothly.  

Make-up, including foundation, should be the last thing you apply to your face.

Three sunscreens that I recommend include:

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