There’s always an order to things, and your skincare regimen is in no way exempt from that rule. If you’ve ever wondered if there’s a proper chronology for every potion in your keeping, let us make it official: yes, there is! But first, it’s important to establish why certain products should go on your face before others. After all, most folks would reason that all that gunk ends up in the same place, and that’s absorbed deep into your skin. Right?

Truth is, each step of your skincare regimen prepares your face for the next. So you can’t exactly jumble up your application—otherwise, you risk diluting each product’s skin benefits.

Also, you must consider the weight of each product. The lightest ones, like cleansers and toners, are applied first because they absorb more quickly into the skin, leaving it ready for the next step. If you apply the heaviest products first, like your moisturizer or SPF, these will not only absorb at a slower rate, but also create a barrier between your skin and the next product. Meaning, all the other things you slather on won’t penetrate your skin layers as effectively as they should. What a waste!

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, here’s the order you should be following. (Sidebar: We assume you’re working with a bare, makeup-less face before getting started.)
1. CLEANSER. This is the most basic purifying wash for your skin. (BTW, are you washing your face the right way?)

2. TONER. This is a deeper-penetrating cleanser that lifts not only the tough stuff stuck in your pores, but also the residue left behind by your cleanser (it happens!).

3. EXFOLIATOR. Whether you use a physical exfoliator (a scrub) or a chemical one (a peel), it’s best to leave this step for the evening. How often should you exfoliate? Depends on your skin type.

4. ACNE MEDICATION. If you use some sort of blemish treatment, apply it while your face is still relatively free from product—meaning, right about now. The ointment needs to be applied to a clean, bare face so that the medicine can effectively do its job. Let it dry for up to 5 minutes. #PatienceIsAVirtue

5. SERUM. If you use a serum (or serums), apply immediately after your blemish cream has absorbed into your skin. Serums are nutrient-rich elixirs, so again, you want to get them as close to your naked skin surface as possible so they work beautifully.

6. EYE CREAM. Be very gentle—the skin around your peepers is delicate. Be sure not to apply the cream too close to your lashline, so it doesn’t get into your eyes.

7. MOISTURIZER. If you religiously use moisturizer—and by that we mean morning, noon (if you work in freezing air-conditioning), and night—you don’t necessarily need to use a serum, especially if you have oily skin. Still, we’d like to bring up Patty Laurel-Filart’s argument for using both.

8. SUN PROTECTION. SPF is a morning must. No excuses—not even if it’s dark, gloomy, and raining. Storm clouds are no match for super dangerous UV rays!

This is especially important on the days you don’t exfoliate. Your treatment sheet or cream should go on right after you cleanse and tone. Put it on, sit back, and relax. When it’s all dried up (a 10- to 15-minute wait), discard the mask, gently wipe or rinse away residue, and proceed with the rest of your skincare regimen.