What are you in the mood for?

What To Apply First: Sunscreen Or Moisturiser?

by 8.6K views 8.6K views  
Both non-negotiables in your skincare routine, sunscreen and moisturiser are vital for optimal skin health. But which one comes first? Let’s put an end to the age-old debate.
sunscreen or moisturiser first

Whether you are a newbie or a skincare enthusiast, there are two things you should keep in mind. First, CSMS is the most basic routine that should be followed regularly. Second, applying sunscreen daily is non-negotiable. The reason is simple – cleansing helps remove dirt, grime, and other impurities from your face. Toning helps eliminate any dirt that didn’t get cleansed with a face wash, balances your skin’s pH level, and more. Further, moisturising helps reduce dryness and keeps your skin nourished and hydrated. Similarly, sunscreens protect your skin against harmful UV rays, sun damage, and premature ageing. While most of us are generally clear about the first two steps of our skincare routine, it’s often the latter two that we are confused about. What should you apply first – moisturiser or sunscreen? What is the right way to layer these two products? These queries have often been a hot topic for debate. So, let’s put an end to the confusion.

Read on to understand the correct way of applying sunscreen and moisturiser, the benefits of both, the different types available, and tips to apply them for maximum effectiveness.

The Difference Between Sunscreen & Moisturiser

While both formulations may appear similar in texture, they serve entirely different purposes. A moisturiser often serving as the last step of your skincare routine forms a protective layer to nourish and quench the skin barrier preventing water loss, whereas, sunscreen shields against UVA and UVB rays, stalling photoaging, and other signs of sun damage. Two polar opposite functions that your beauty routine is always be incomplete without.

You may find a moisturiser with SPF and a sunscreen that lends moisturising properties; however, both formulations must be used separately, as they deliver different benefits to your skin even though the 2-in-1 moisturiser sunscreen is better than no protection at all, the results will never be as good as a sunscreen that is designed especially to solve a specific purpose.

Can You Mix Sunscreen With Moisturiser?

Long answer short, no. You shouldn’t mix the two formulations since they may dilute the efficacy of the other. As a rule of thumb, skincare products should be layered separately with a time gap of 15–20 minutes to allow each product to be absorbed fully into the skin. Move from thin to thick formulations; begin by cleansing your skin with a suitable face wash, then apply a potent serum followed by a moisturiser, and finally, a sunscreen of SPF 30 or more.

Why Should You Apply Moisturiser?

The following are the benefits of applying a moisturiser:

• Helps retain moisture - Moisturisers hydrate the skin and increase its capacity to retain moisture.

• Prevents dryness - They nourish the skin and help tackle skin issues like patchy skin, dryness, and irritation. Moisturisers with ingredients like ceramides also help strengthen the skin barrier.

• Protects the skin - External aggressors can suck out moisture from your skin, making it dry and irritated. A moisturiser acts as a barrier between your skin and the environment, reducing the effects of weather conditions on your skin's health.

• Keeps the skin supple - Moisturiser keeps your skin hydrated, plump, and youthful. It also reduces the signs of ageing and provides a natural glow.

Nykaa Recommends:

Re'equil Ceramide & Hyaluronic Acid Moisturiser For Normal To Dry Skin
Re'equil Ceramide & Hyaluronic Acid Moisturiser For Normal To Dry Skin
Shop Now

Why Should You Apply Sunscreen?

Apart from protecting the skin against harmful sun rays and sun damage, sunscreens offer the following benefits:

• Reduces chances of tanning - Stepping outside without SPF can significantly increase the chances of tanning and sunburn. In fact, as per research, ultraviolet radiation exposure has addictive properties, causing some people to engage in excessive tanning. Sunscreens reduce the impact of sun exposure and help prevent issues like suntan, sunburn, freckles, dark spots, pigmentation, etc.

• Slows down the process of ageing - Applying sunscreen regularly slows down the process of ageing of the skin and reduces the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines.

• Reduces the risk of skin cancer - A study conducted by The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center offers genetic evidence that draws a correlation between UV exposure and skin cancer. Sunscreens form a protective layer over your skin to block the harmful sun rays, which have been touted as one of the main reasons for skin cancer.

Types Of Sunscreens & Moisturisers

• Now that you know the benefits, let’s look at the different types of sunscreens and moisturisers and identify which one you should use. Typically, there are two types of sunscreens available in the market - physical/mineral sunscreen and chemical sunscreens.

Mineral sunscreens also referred to as physical sunscreens contain active ingredients like zinc oxide and titanium oxide. They form a protective shield over your skin and prevent the sun rays from penetrating your skin’s layers.

• Chemical sunscreens are lighter in consistency and have sheer formulas, containing ingredients like oxybenzone and avobenzone. When applied, they absorb the sun's rays and convert them into heat, which is then released through the skin.

Nykaa Recommends:

Dr. Sheth's Ceramide & Vitamin C Sunscreen
Dr. Sheth's Ceramide & Vitamin C Sunscreen
Shop Now
Minimalist SPF 50 PA ++++ Sunscreen
Minimalist SPF 50 PA ++++ Sunscreen
Shop Now

In order to understand when to apply sunscreen - before or after moisturiser - you need to first identify the type of sunscreen you are using.

As for moisturisers, there are primarily three variants to pick from:

• Emollients: Emollients are the most common type of moisturiser that works by filling in the cracks in your skin barrier for a smooth and supple complexion.

• Occlusives: Occulsives deliver the most intense moisturisation. An occlusive formula provides a thick protective barrier to retain skin moisture and prevent water loss.

• Humectants: Humectant moisturisers are often gel-based formulations. They are effective in drawing moisture to the top layer, i.e. the epidermis of your skin.

The kind of moisturiser you pick must depend on your skin type and needs. While oily skin can benefit from a humectant or emollient moisturiser, dry skin types will require a more heavyweight occlusive moisturiser.

What Should You Apply First: Sunscreen Or Moisturiser?

A holistic approach to enhance your skin health is to use sunscreen and moisturiser together but if you are puzzled whether to apply sunscreen first or moisturiser, we got you! Simply put, your answer depends on the type of sunscreen. If you are using a chemical sunscreen, it is best to apply it before moisturising, as it needs to penetrate your skin to protect it from sun damage. The layer of a moisturiser before chemical sunscreen can act as a barrier between your skin and sunscreen, preventing it from reaching the deeper layers of your skin and reducing its effectiveness. On the other hand, if you’re using mineral sunscreen, apply it after moisturiser as the last layer of the skincare routine so that it can form a shield on your skin’s surface to block and repel the sun rays from entering it. Usually, it is advised to use moisturiser first for hydration and nourishment succeeded by the application of sunscreen to keep your moisturised skin protected from the sun’s harmful rays.

How long should you wait to apply sunscreen after moisturiser

Give it a minute! If you fear wiping away all your previously applied products during your sunscreen swipe, congratulations, you are not the only one. After moisturiser application, let it soak in and no, it’s no patience test. Ideally waiting for a minute is more than sufficient to continue with sunscreen application over your moisturiser and call it a successful skincare session! But don’t forget to reapply your sunscreen in every four hours and thoroughly cleanse your face after a whole day of wearing your moisturiser and sunscreen.

What Is A Moisturiser With SPF?

Now that you know the correct order in which sunscreen and moisturiser should be applied, let us introduce you to a product that brings together the best of both worlds. We’re talking about moisturisers enriched with SPF that combine the benefits of the two, hydrate your skin, and protect it against sun damage at the same time.

Is A Moisturiser With SPF Sufficient?

Applying an SPF-infused moisturiser is better than not applying sunscreen at all. However, while moisturisers come with an SPF of 15 to 30, they tend to get diluted with hydrating ingredients. Therefore, they are not completely sufficient and you must avoid relying on such moisturisers for sun protection, especially if you are stepping outdoors. Hence, it’s advisable to apply both moisturiser and sunscreen for optimum protection against sun damage and other environmental aggressors.

Nykaa Recommends:

Lakme Peach Milk Moisturizer SPF 24 PA++
Lakme Peach Milk Moisturizer SPF 24 PA++
Shop Now

Whether you choose to apply sunscreen before or after moisturising, make sure that you never skip it. Additionally, create a skincare routine that suits your skin type and concerns, and follow it religiously for healthy and glowing skin.


1. Is It Okay To Use A Moisturiser With SPF At Night?

Though there is no harm in applying a moisturiser with SPF at night, it won’t give you any specific benefits. Instead, you can use a rich moisturiser or a night cream to nourish your skin, while it is in repair mode.

2. What Happens If You Apply Moisturiser Before Sunscreen?

While it may seem apparent, using a moisturiser is one of the final steps in your skincare routine to seal in moisture and hydration after using facial serums and other skin care products further providing a smooth canvas for the sunscreen application while sunscreen protects the skin. It functions as a barrier of defence, keeping moisture in and enhancing the texture of the skin overall. Prioritising the application of moisturiser can also aid in reducing the possibility of irritation or sensitivity caused by the ingredients in sunscreen.

3. What Happens If You Apply Sunscreen Before Moisturiser?

It depends on the type of sunscreen you are using. If you do not apply it in the correct order, it can reduce the impact of sun protection, making your skin vulnerable to sun damage.

As per the conventional CSMS routine, you’re meant to follow up a moisturiser with sunscreen for optimal sun protection. While moisturisers retain skin hydration and strengthen the epidermal barrier, sunscreen aids in UV protection and stalls premature ageing, among other signs of sun damage. Ensure you apply both formulations as part of your daily skincare routine for healthy, resilient skin.

MORE from Skin