Do you apply sunscreen or moisturiser first in your morning skincare routine?

While wearing sunscreen every day is important, the order you apply it is also crucial.

Written by
Kaitlyn Wilson
Medically reviewed by
min read
twitter iconpinterest iconfacebook icon
Table of contents

Sunscreen is undoubtedly the most important but often the most neglected product in skincare. It doesn't matter how extensive a 12-step skincare routine may be, if sunscreen isn't included, your skin is lacking serious protection.

After all, sun exposure and UV rays are the leading causes of premature ageing, uneven skin tone, redness, dryness and all the nasties that get in the way of a gorgeous glowy complexion. And let's not forget that sun exposure can also cause skin cancer.

While wearing sunscreen every day is important, knowing when to apply it is also crucial. However, 78% of Australians don’t know what order to apply skincare products in, and many may get confused about whether it's moisturiser or sunscreen first and whether you put sunscreen on before or after makeup.

The good news is that once you've got the routine down, it's incredibly easy to remember. Here’s everything you need to know about how to apply sunscreen correctly to be sun and skin smart.

Do I need both moisturiser and sunscreen in my skincare routine?

Moisturiser and sunscreen can't be compared. They are unique products that serve very different purposes and are both essential to your daily skincare routine.

While many moisturisers boast about their SPF capabilities, a moisturiser with sunscreen doesn't really cut it when it comes to adequate sun protection.

While they may shield you from the sun for a little, these formulas lack the strength to protect your skin against UV ageing (UVA rays), which causes premature ageing. Plus, you rarely use enough of the product to achieve proper protection.

Sunscreens, on the other hand, are also more likely to be water-resistant unlike your moisturiser [1].

Types of sunscreen

There are 2 types of sunscreen to choose from — chemical sunscreen and physical sunscreen (or mineral sunscreen).

Chemical sunscreens usually contain active ingredients such as avobenzone, octinoxate and oxybenzone. These work by sinking into the skin, absorbing UV rays and converting them into heat before releasing them from the body.

Mineral sunscreen, also known as physical sunscreen, on the other hand, works by sitting on top of the skin and reflecting the UV rays away, essentially creating a reflective barrier from the sun.

Physical sunscreen is less irritating and is recommended for those with sensitive skin or acne-prone skin.

Both types of sunscreen work effectively to protect you from the sun, so it comes down to personal choice when choosing which works better for your skin.

Can I mix the two together?

While it might be tempting to save time, especially if your AM skincare routine is long, moisturiser and sunscreen should not be mixed together as you risk diluting the individual formulas of each, making it less concentrated and less effective for penetrating the skin.

Instead, the products should be layered. A separate sunscreen is the best way to protect your skin and fight UVA rays.

The verdict: sunscreen or moisturiser first?

Skincare is a science, and as with all scientific endeavours, it is important to follow a few steps. So, when to apply sunscreen before or after moisturiser?

The reason it's a contentious topic is that applying moisturiser underneath sunscreen can create a barrier that can prevent the sunscreen from properly penetrating the skin.

But, in turn, when you apply sunscreen first, the moisturiser can interfere with how the sunscreen interacts with the UV rays.

So, sunscreen or moisturiser first? The simple answer is moisturiser before sunscreen. In fact, sunscreen should be the last step of your skincare routine.

Be sure to leave a few minutes between your moisturiser and sunscreen applications so your face cream has time to set into the skin.

While this might be the recommended application process, the most important thing is to wear sunscreen in the first place. Putting moisturiser and sunscreen in the wrong order is better than not putting them on at all, so try not to stress too much if you've applied them wrong in the past [2].

Can I wear makeup over sunscreen?

Yes! Given that sunscreen is the last step in your skincare routine, you can follow it up with makeup.

Even if your makeup has SPF protection within it, it's still important to use SPF first as you most likely don't use enough of the base makeup to protect you from the sun.

Let your sunscreen set for a few minutes and then feel free to go in with your makeup routine.

How to wear sunscreen over makeup?

This might sound far-fetched but it is possible (and recommended) to reapply your sunscreen over makeup. Depending on the brand of SPF, you need to reapply your sunscreen every few hours and this means even if you're wearing makeup — especially if you're in the sun for prolonged periods of time.

To do this, it's best to take a dry makeup sponge, apply the sunscreen to the sponge and gently pat it across your face, one section at a time.

It's essential that you use a patting motion when applying the sunscreen, rather than dragging as this will ensure you don't smudge or remove your foundation.

You may have to do a few quick touch-ups to your makeup but it won't ruin your entire look, we promise!

How effective are moisturisers with SPF?

Moisturisers with SPF might be tempting, but they are not the best option for a number of reasons.

As we mentioned earlier, we rarely use enough moisturiser for proper sun protection. Remember that half a teaspoon of sunscreen is needed for the face and neck (or 2 full finger lengths) and you're probably not using this much of your face cream in the morning.

Instead, stick to separate products to be safe.

What about tinted sunscreen?

The same goes with tinted sunscreen — rarely do you use the recommended amount for sun protection. Continue to use tinted sunscreen but be sure to wear it with sunscreen layered underneath.

This is the same for SPF foundations, serums, setting sprays and any other product that contains SPF.

Basically, there is no substitute for sunscreen, so slip, slop, slap and layer up that base [3].

The best way to incorporate sunscreen into your skincare regime

Your morning routine should be all about preparing and protecting your skin for the day to come. While serums and fancy devices aren't necessary, SPF is non-negotiable.

Here is the best way to include sunscreen into your daily skincare routine.


Start your day by washing your face with a gentle cleanser and face cloth. Opt for something super hydrating and save the heavier-duty oil-based cleansers for your PM routine as these are great for removing makeup, dirt and debris from the day.

Our Cleanser in the Essential Skincare Routine kit is ultra-gentle and hydrating and removes impurities without drying or stripping the skin.


Never solely rely on a combination of SPF and moisturiser; always apply these 2 products separately, and never skip moisturiser.

Go for something with restorative properties like our Ceramide Repair Balm, which contains ceramides, hyaluronic acid and squalane to enrich, restore and soothe your skin.


Sunscreen helps protect you from a number of things, such as ageing, hyperpigmentation, dryness and skin cancer.

Software’s Daily Sun Defence SPF50+, is non-greasy, lightweight and doesn't leave a white cast. And, it layers perfectly under makeup. Our sunscreen is formulated with UVA and UVB filters, which may reduce the risk of photoageing, sun spots and some skin cancers.

Applying sunscreen should be the last step in your skincare routine. If you're wearing makeup, don't forget to take your sunscreen and sponge with you to reapply during the day. And, be sure to check that your sunscreen hasn't expired before using it.

We hope this has been helpful when it comes to creating your morning skincare routine. And, if you're struggling with what products to choose, remember to keep it simple and sun-safe wherever possible.

No items found.
No items found.

Real people, incredible transformations

woman with acnewoman without acne
woman with acne
5 rating stars
Wish I bought this sooner
So I’m currently one month into this skincare and it has made such a difference. My acne has reduced significantly as well as my pigmentation. The instructions are clear to use and their other skincare products work great with the custom made solution.
5 rating stars
Only thing that’s worked!
I have tried everything under the sun to fix my skin, noticed a difference straight away with software and was able to get off the medication I was given by my GP, super grateful!!
fine lines
woman with acnewoman without acne
5 rating stars
Life changing!!! Not exaggerating.
I had horrible pigmentation all over my face and after 4 weeks it had reduced so much, and I’m only half way through the treatment! I can finally look in the mirror without disgust. It has made me feel so much better about myself!

The initial process of Software was so easy and straight forward. Got exactly what I wanted. And I LOVE that you can upload photos of your progress. I recommend software to my friends with pigmentation (melasma) too :)
5 rating stars
Saved my skin
Helped improve texture and pigmentation!! Gone from being too scared to leave the house without makeup, to not even thinking about how my skin looks! Couldn’t be happier.
Loved by patients,
backed by dermatologists
91% of patients see improvements in skin texture & brightness*
* Software lifestyle survey of 116 patients who were using
Software for ageing concerns, June 2022
Create my formula
* Software lifestyle survey of 116 patients who were using
Software for ageing concerns, June 2022