Order To Apply Face Products

I really didn’t think I needed to write this post. I thought everyone knew what order things went in and I’d be insulting you guys if I broke it down. However, I found that time after time, women seemed confused on what comes when. And ok, I’ll be honest. I had more than a few women describe the order in which they applied their face products and it was so backwards I just had to clarify!

And it’s not their fault either, so I’m not poking fun. It often begins as “Well I read you are supposed to apply foundation, then primer to, ya know, really seal it all in!” Sometimes it is “my friend said…” and other times it was “the girl at X makeup counter said to…” At any rate, the chart below describes the order in which I apply products and have found works best. I will tell you my rationale below the chart as well.

1.) Cleanser: to remove any oils, bacteria, dead skin cells

2.) Serum/Treatments: your skin will absorb these more readily after cleansing and faster than a moisturizer

3.) Moisturizer: to seal in your serums or treatments, hydrate skin cells, plump up any fine lines and wrinkles makeup could settle in

4.) Primer: to create a smooth, even surface for foundation to glide over, filling in pores, fine lines, wrinkles and giving foundation an anchor

5.) Foundation: to even skin tone and conceal imperfections. Liquid foundation will glide over well-moisturized, primed skin.

6.) Concealer: we can now see the level of coverage our foundation provided and simply build upon that as needed. Applying foundation over concealer can move it around too much or dull a brightened under eye area.

7.) Powder: to set the liquid/cream portion of our application and ensure our powder products won’t grab onto sticky spots and appear blotchy.

8.) Bronzer: to bring color back into the face and add dimension. I prefer to work dark-to-light when it comes to cheek products and apply bronzer under cheekbones, at temples and around hairline.

9.) Blush: to add a pop of color to the cheeks, placing it just above the bronzer and sweeping back towards hairline.

10.) Highlighter: to bring the top of the cheekbones out and other areas of the face we want to bring forward. I create a small c-shape around my eye socket, from my cheekbones to my brow’s end.

Please know that some steps may not be part of your daily routine, serums or treatments for example. I love the effect highlighter has but to be honest, when I’m in a rush, I skip that step and sometimes even bronzer too. An additional step like setting spray is optional for times when your makeup needs to go the distance.  I hope this has been helpful and cleared up some confusion!

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    • Ivy Boyd says

      Hi Marea! The products in the graphic are just for reference, so feel free to use whichever you prefer, but they are as follows: First Aid Beauty Face Cleanser, Fresh Soy Face Serum, Shiseido Ibuki Moisturizer, Smashbox Photo Finish Primer with SPF 20, NARS Sheer Glow foundation, bareMinerals Creamy Concealer, Laura Mercier Loose Setting Powder, Bobbi Brown bronzer, Tarte Amazonian Clay blush and bareMinerals Luminizer.

  1. Becky says

    Do you recommend a short waiting period between steps 2-5 for proper absorption, etc? If so, how long do you find works best? Thanks!

    • says

      Hi Becky! Thanks so much for reading Wake Up For Makeup! In response to your question, I would say about 30 seconds to 1 minute is plenty of time for your serum to absorb before moisturizer. I would wait a little longer before moving to primer and foundation. I usually let my skin products soak in while I eat my breakfast and maybe start on my eyes, so by the time I’m ready for foundation, everything has had a chance to soak in. This way, nothing will slide around and you know the skincare products are working below the surface. You can go directly from primer to foundation. Really no waiting time necessary. Hope that helps!

    • Ivy Boyd says

      That is an excellent question Michelle! If you are doing cream contouring, I would do that after your foundation, before you’ve applied any powder products. If using powders like bronzers and powder highlighter I would do it in this order: bronzer/contour color, blush, highlight. I like to do powder highlighting and contouring after setting my foundation so my skin isn’t too sticky and grabs onto too much bronzer, blush etc. I hope that makes sense!

  2. aley says

    so like can you break down for me where to apply like all this stuff. Ive never been into make up just because if always done sports and just a little bit of foundation and powder and eyeliner was good enough for me. soo can you please help.

    • Ivy Boyd says

      Hi Aley! I know it can be confusing and overwhelming! So the skincare products I refer to are for your face. Primer and foundation go all over the face. Concealer can be spotted where you need extra coverage like blemishes or under eyes for dark circles. Powder dusted all over. Bronzer I like to use in the hollows of your cheek bones, from the top of your ear, towards but not TO the corner of your mouth line, also on temples and around the hairline. Blush I would apply to the apples of your cheeks, sweeping back. Highlight goes in a few places: the tops of your cheekbones, down bridge of your nose, above your top lip and a little on the chin if you want. I hope that helps and feel free to let me know if you need more clarification :)

      • says

        I fully agree with you Ivy.must say i am lucky to have a flawless skin but look after it all my life. So I hardly use concealer which you should pat in lightly onto a spot. Would like to get hold of the products where in Pta

    • Ivy Boyd says

      Oh thank you SO MUCH for letting me know Lauren! This site has stolen my stuff before sadly :( Don’t they know that “ladies” don’t steal each other’s work? I appreciate you taking the time to tell me. :)

    • Ivy Boyd says

      Great question Leigh! And that is exactly right! I should have included that in the chart because you aren’t the only one who has asked. I assume maybe someone is using a moisturizer with SPF in it. If you’re a bareMinerals fan, they do make an SPF 20 version of their Mineral Veil!

  3. Jeni says

    Hi Ivy. Great article. Since I live in the tropics and is outdoors often, I use a sunscreen which I put on after mousturizer and before primer, is this the right order?

    • Ivy Boyd says

      Well lucky you to be in the tropics! And yes, after moisturizer, before primer is perfect!

  4. KITKAT says

    great tips on there!
    I have an oily skin with blemishes and acne at that time of the month. What type is skin care products would you recommend to reduce the oiliness and blemishes?
    What type of make up would you recommend for such type of skin?
    Thank you!

    • Ivy Boyd says

      Thanks for reading! I wish I had oily skin. Mine is so dry! You can still moisturize but look for gel textures vs. creams. Make Up For Ever Mat Velvet is a foundation that a lot of people with oily skin like! It has great coverage too! A mattifying primer will help your foundation to stay on and cut down shine.


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