Sunscreen before or after moisturizer?

sunscreen application

I’ve updated my earlier entry Tips on sunscreen protection & application with a couple more information.  One of which is about when to apply sunscreen in the order of our skincare regime because I noticed that this is something frequently asked. 

Actually I’ve always thought that sunscreen should be applied after using our serums or moisturizer but if you consider that chemical sunscreens absorb UV rays and neutralize them in the skin tissues, then it make perfect sense that they should go on clean, bare skin first because in order to be effective, it must interact with our skin cells.

On the other hand, physical sunscreens containing titanium dioxide or zinc oxide to reflect or scatter UV radiation can be applied last, after a serum or moisturizer. 

Well, sure sounds clear cut enough except that this still begs other questions. 

Namely, how can serums be effective if they are applied after using a chemical sunscreen?  In addition, what about those sunscreens that contain both chemical and physical ingredients like mexoryl and titanium dioxide?  Are all-in-one sunscreens with moisturizer a better option then?

I never knew there was so much to be learnt about sunscreens.  It’s certainly enlightening, but at the same time, rather frustrating if you know what I mean.


  1. parisb says:

    Gosh! I never thought about this. I was always told that sunscreen goes on last to be most effective. But since I’m using a chemical sunscreen, I wonder if I should rethink it. The mind boggles…

    parisb: I thought so too, but I think it makes sense with the chemical sunblocks cos they’re supposed to be absorbed by the skin. Fortunately for me, I hardly use chemical sunblocks so this is not an issue for me. I agree that it’s highly inconvenient to change the regime and put it on first.

  2. Ink says:

    Also, sunscreen can come off with rubbing, so you’re not really supposed to apply anything much after applying it (pat the foundation and powder on so as not to disturb the sunscreen). I don’t think it would work with a moisturizer.

    Ink: I agree with the physical sunscreens but for the chemical sunscreens, they’re supposed to be absorbed so technically, we have to allow at least 20 minutes before we can apply anything on to give them them time to optimally distribute themselves within the stratum corneum.

  3. Elizabeth says:

    OMG. You know what, the SAME questions have been bugging me! I seem to feel that applying one or another first might negate the effects of the next product or something! I’m a dog-walker so the greatest enemy I face daily is really the sun!

    Elizabeth: Oh, I hear ya! I get paranoid no matter what I use. So I try to stay out of the sun as far as possible. If I’m walking a dog, you can imagine me with shades and a brolly. :p

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