The correct order to apply your skincare routine

Hannah Wilson


Knowing the right order to apply your skincare is vital to ensure you get the most out of your products. The order of layering may depend on particle size or whether a product is helping other ingredients travel into the skin. It can seem confusing at first... but is simple when you know how!

Here at Face Dr, we have decades of experience treating skin, and we've tackled a whole host of skincare concerns including acne, rosacea, pigmentation, ageing and more. Want to skip this article and get right to starting your journey to healthy skin? Book your free video skincare consultation with one of our Skin Experts by tapping the button below, or read on to find out more about how to apply your skincare products in the right order.


Firstly, we'll start with the foundation or core products that should be in every skincare routine.


Core Products

 ZO Skin Health order of product application

Your core products are products that everyone should be using to maintain healthy skin, and they should be applied in the following steps:

Step 1: Cleanser

A facial cleanser is a skincare product designed to wash away daily grime like makeup, dead skin cells, excess oil, and pollutants. Cleansing your face each day can help prevent clogged pores. Forgetting to wash your face can lead to a dull complexion due to residue on the surface of your skin, so it's an important step. We sometimes recommend our clients double cleanse, especially if they wear makeup, just to make sure they're skin is clean before continuing on the next step in their regime.

Take a look at our facial cleanser collection here.

Step 2: Exfoliant

ZO Skin Health Dual Action Scrub Exfoliant

Exfoliation removes dirt, dead skin and impurities from the face to unclog pores and help prevent acne. It gives the skin a chance to breathe and replenish itself for a brighter complexion. It's also essential in providing better product penetration to your other serums and creams. Depending on your skin type and concerns, you may exfoliate less or more often. Your Face Dr Skin Expert can advise the best routine for your skin, but generally this is step 2 of your routine.

Take a look at our facial exfoliant collection here.

Step 3: Toner​


I’m sure we all remember being told to “cleanse, tone and moisturise” as soon as we hit our teenage years? But why is toning such an important step, and how do advanced toning steps like ZO offer so much more than just a pleasant cucumber smell that takes us back to the 1990s?!

Although it can be as important as cleansing, toning the skin is one step that many miss from their skincare routine. Traditionally, a toning step was used to balance the pH level of the skin. However, these days, medical-grade toners from brands like ZO Skin Health offer so much more: light exfoliation to renew the skin cells, oil and acne control, pore refinement and improving areas of pigmentation and scarring. They also aid the absorption of your serums and creams into the skin.

To find out more, take a look at our toner collection here.


Step 4: Hydrator

ZO Skin Health Daily power Defense


If you suffer from particularly dry, tight or flaky skin then you may benefit from the introduction of a ZO Hydrating product into your skincare regime.

This range covers mild, moderate and severe dryness; with a product to suit every level and every cause.

Dry skin can be genetic or chronic (such as eczema) or it may develop later in life, for example during the menopause. This hydrating range can also be used to calm and soothe the skin after a retinol treatment.

If you have sensitive skin, a ZO hydrating product will feel very comfortable and won't irritate. However, sensitive (or sensitised) skin can be complex and you may also benefit from a product to repair the skin barrier. If this sounds like you, why not book a free consultation for us to assess your skin?

To find out why we don't recommend moisturisers (yes, they're different!) read our blog here.

​Applied in that order, these core products may be all you need to keep your skin healthy throughout the year (plus step 6, but we'll get to that below!).

Treatment Products

Additional products may be incorporated if you would like to treat a specific skin concern like redness/rosacea, pigmentation, oil, acne or signs of ageing. This would come in at step 5:

Step 5: Treat

Woman using skincare products

This would include products such as ZO Rozatrol, ZO 10% Vitamin C Self Activating, ZO Radical Night Repair or ZO Growth Factor Serum.

Skin Expert Tip:

If you use multiple treatment products, they may need to be separated in your regime. For example, if you use Vitamin C and also Retinol, then you'd use your Vitamin C product as step 5 in the morning and Retinol as step 5 in the evening. This is because some ingredients don't mix. Ask your Skin Expert if you have a specific question about layering.

Take a look at our treatment collection of serums here.

Protect/SPF Product

SPF Skincare collection sunscreen

Finally, finish off with a really good SPF as part of your morning routine only. SPF is not just for use in the sunshine... it's for daily use, indoors and outdoors, no matter the weather or season.

This is because the skin needs protection against UVA, UVB, I-RA rays and HEV light. Around 80% of the skin's signs of ageing including fine lines, hyperpigmentation, wrinkles and sagging are accelerated by the sun's rays, pollutants and even blue (HEV) light from our screens!

Even more importantly, your risk of skin cancer increases every time you burn and peel. If you've had sunburn 5 times, then you've doubled your risk of melanoma. Regular use of SPF protects your facial skin and allows your skin cells to focus on tasks that improve skin quality - such as building collagen - rather than fighting environmental effects. It's not just about preventing further damage but actually improving the natural repairing benefits of your skin as well.

Step 6: Protect (AM only)


ZO Smart Tone Broad Spectrum Facial SPF

We recommend that our clients use a ZO Skin Health SPF product in their regime in the morning only, regardless of their age, gender or skin tone. Skin tones with the deepest melanin only rate an SPF 2 protection from UVB rays, and offer no protection against UVA or other pollutants, so even if your skin doesn't burn easily you should incorporate a good facial SPF product into your regime. In addition, ZO Skin Health SPF products are superior to most facial SPF products in that they protect from I-RA and HEV light in addition to UVA and UVB where most do not.

Take a look at our range of SPF products here.


In summary

Michelle with Daily Power Defense ZO Skin Health Skin Expert

Knowing which order to apply your skincare products can have a massive impact on your skin health. If you feel like you might need some help, why not book in for your free video skincare consultation? We help clients across the UK, whether they have a specific concern to address or are just looking for products that will improve their overall skin health. 

Book by clicking the button below, or if you're familiar with our brands, complete an online ordering form.