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!


  1. Marea

    01/05/2014 at 11:48 AM

    What are the products and colors used?

    1. Ivy Boyd

      01/05/2014 at 8:28 PM

      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. Jennifer

        09/15/2017 at 3:38 PM

        I suck at make up. So this step by step, for ladies like me, is so great. Thank you! 🙂

  2. Becky

    03/05/2014 at 4:18 PM

    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!

    1. Ivy | Wake Up For Makeup

      03/06/2014 at 11:04 PM

      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!

      1. Mc

        10/14/2016 at 3:54 PM

        And don’t forget Toner

    1. Ivy Boyd

      03/13/2014 at 11:58 PM

      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!

  3. aley

    03/20/2014 at 12:45 PM

    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.

    1. Ivy Boyd

      03/26/2014 at 10:25 PM

      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 🙂

      1. Mary Ann

        04/01/2014 at 2:11 PM

        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

  4. Lauren

    04/02/2014 at 10:29 AM

    FYI this person took your image, put their own watermark on it and now leads to their spam site http://www.pinterest.com/pin/526780487636402706/

    1. Ivy Boyd

      04/02/2014 at 6:41 PM

      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. 🙂

      1. Lauren

        04/03/2014 at 6:55 AM

        Haha no problem! And I agree, so un-ladylike 🙂

  5. Leigh Fransen

    04/11/2014 at 7:59 AM

    What about sunscreen? I put mine on between moisturizer and mineral foundation, does that seem right to you?

    1. Ivy Boyd

      04/18/2014 at 9:06 AM

      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!

  6. Jeni

    04/17/2014 at 8:01 PM

    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?

    1. Ivy Boyd

      04/19/2014 at 2:23 PM

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

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  9. Tara

    02/27/2015 at 4:22 AM

    Hi can you suggest any quality but cheap make up products

    1. Ivy Boyd

      02/27/2015 at 8:17 PM

      Hi Tara! Absolutely! Here are 2 posts I’ve done on affordable makeup that you might find helpful! http://wakeupformakeup.com/?p=2655 and http://wakeupformakeup.com/?p=1351

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  17. KITKAT

    05/24/2015 at 2:16 PM

    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!

    1. Ivy Boyd

      05/24/2015 at 2:20 PM

      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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  28. Ines Serodio

    10/30/2015 at 11:36 AM

    This was so helpful! THANK YOU!


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  30. karen

    11/08/2015 at 8:50 PM

    Hi Ivy,
    Great article thanks. I am a little confused about something. I have a tinted liquid foundation with sunscreen. I feel that if I apply this product, I should go straight to the blush. (Or powder and then the blush) I feel that concealer AND bronzer AND blush would be too much. Am I wrong? Also, I am not sure were I should use the concealer.

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  32. Anna

    12/30/2015 at 1:22 AM

    Hi, I have no idea what I’m doing with makeup I just put foundation on and I thought that’s was all there was to it. I have no idea what products to use for my skin and I don’t know what the right products are that won’t put me in debt and how to apply them. Is there a YouTube video that you have of this? I’m sorry if you do and it’s quite obvious, but I just found this post and clicked on the link. And what are the best products for each one of these steps that isn’t super expensive? Thank you for this by the way for this post 🙂

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  35. Lena

    08/18/2016 at 2:07 PM

    I just read your inspiration on make up do n don’t . It was truly inspiring. I happen to be an older woman with lits of issues with my face. I had skin cancer back in 80’s with recurring through early 90’s. My face was so swollen, I couldn’t tell I even had a chin bone. I had Bells Parsley for two years. My 7th nerve had to be removed. My problem other than wrinkles, are broken Cappapleries. Not to mention blue under eye’s. I try to cover them up and end up looking like a clown.
    Can you please give me some ideas of how to not look like clown ?
    I have Lumminess Air Makeup machine, and it’s been easiest so far.
    May I please say, always use sunscreen.
    My husband just had Basal just had a Basal Cell removed. I. He claimed, sunscreen was silly.
    Thank you so much for all the advice, and Boo to whoever stole your information as their own. I play a game on google . People steal my stuff all the time.

    1. Ivy Boyd

      08/20/2016 at 11:06 PM

      Hi Lena! Thanks for reading! I am so sorry to hear of your skin cancer and Bells Palsey. You are so right-SPF is a MUST! For wrinkles, products with the ingredient hyaluronic acid help to plump them up. Before makeup, a primer with the ingredient dimethicone will help to “fill in” the wrinkles and lines. For capillaries and under eye blueness, I would try color correctors. A peachy apricot color corrector helps with blue under eyes. For capillaries, a green corrector will help to neutralize redness. You will still want to use a concealer over top but hopefully you can use less of it and the initial darkness is dulled down. I hope this helps and thank you again for stopping by!

  36. Amanda

    09/03/2016 at 7:47 AM

    This may be a silly question but I am terrible with makeup lol
    What do you suggest applying the liquids with on your face?
    Thank you!!

  37. Heather

    09/28/2016 at 12:01 AM

    Very helpful and well written article! It might seem intimidating when it comes to skincare, but this is a great guide! If you have time, check out my blog: http://www.wherefitnessmeetsbeauty.net


    1. Candace

      02/03/2018 at 2:09 PM

      Could you please help me, i have such a problem with eye shadow bc i have sagging lids and wrinkles show so much more with shadows but i look so plain without. I’ve used eye shadow primers, matte shades, cream shadows,liquid shadows and even just a base color. I’ve used mineral shadows, high pigment shadows from top brands only to just end up removing the product going plain eyed and not liking it . I’ve been so used to using makeup and loving new brands, especially these days with big stores that just sell cosmetics , they used to be like a heaven for me to play in and shop. Now I’m worried that I’ll never fix this problem. Along with rosacea….. what else could go wrong with my face in my mid 40’s? Please help!!

      1. Ivy Boyd

        02/05/2018 at 11:49 AM

        Hi Candace! You mentioned sagging lids and I think you might be referring to a hooded eye shape. Are you mostly concerned with wrinkles showing or are you also having trouble with your eyeshadow not lasting? I can tell you a few things that may help you. My favorite eye primer is . It dries down matte and cancels out veins and discoloration on the lids too. I would stick with matte eyeshadow colors because shimmer will accentuate texture like wrinkles. For hooded eyes, or ones with a prominent sagging lid, I would do a matte, mid-tone shade like a warm tan brown in and just above the crease to push this area back and a lighter shade on the lid to bring this area forward. I hope that helps a little? You may look up hooded eye tutorials if this is indeed the shape you have! Thanks for reading!

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