By applying skin care products in the most effective way, you’re making sure they’re working properly and not wasting your money on expensive skin care.

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My skin care regimen, and more specifically my morning skin care routine, tends to change based on the seasons and state of my skin. As we move into spring, I’m exfoliating more to get rid of my dry winter skin, and using moisture-building bases (think oils and moisturizing serums) that are less heavy (or fatty) than those I was using in winter.

But it’s not just about the products I’m using, but the order I use them.

As a quick rule of thumb, skin care products should be applied lightest to heaviest.

So if you’re interested to find out what my spring morning skin care routine looks like, read on for more details.

In the morning, I only cleanse with water. Because I do a full nighttime cleanse, in which I remove makeup and dirt, I often still feel the product the next morning. To be honest, my skin has never looked better than it does when I cleanse with water in the mornings.

If you’re skeptical, try using a konjac sponge, which is a gentle exfoliating sponge that’s made from the konjac root. The natural clays help to naturally cleanse the skin without, again, stripping oil.

Following cleansing, I use a hydrosol to add a water barrier to my skin. This helps to act as a good foundation for all that is to come next. My favorite hydrosols have small amounts of essential oils such as lavender or rose, which are great for helping the actives penetrate the skin (next step).

Now it’s time for what I call “the do’ers.” Products that contain an ingredient — think salicylic acid — intended to achieve a certain effect are considered “actives.” They tend to be the “brightening” products or “correctors.” These products, plus serums, work on certain issues, concerns, or benefits for your skin.

A serum is applied first so that it seeps right into the skin. I then like to apply my actives and let them sit for a few minutes before the next steps. Doing this will help will seal in the other products.

Treatments (optional)

This is an optional step depending on whether you choose to use treatments. This is the stage, for example, where I would apply a spot treatment to help heal pimples or where I might apply any eye treatments (such as a serum, oil, or cream). Treatments are usually “spot-focused” so regardless of consistency I put them on after my serum.

I usually allow the treatment to sit for a minute or two if I’m doing spot treatment for pimples, as I don’t want to spread the treatment over my entire face in the next step.

I’ll then move on to moisturizer. I tend to opt for heavy moisturizing with a face balm or heavy facial oil. I rarely use creams as I feel my skin reacts better to whole plant oil.

I’ll add the oil by patting it on my face and then massaging it into the skin with upward strokes. I tend to take a few minutes on this process. This helps to work the product into my skin, and I feel pampered with a mini-facial massage.

If I’m using a balm, I’ll warm it up in my hands first, by rubbing it in between them, to get it into a more oily consistency, and then continue as mentioned above.

You should always apply sunscreen. For me, living in Norway, if I’m going out for a cross-country ski session, or going to be exposed to the sun for big chunks of the day, I’ll use a non-nano mineral sunscreen. This is both environmentally friendly and helps to protect me from hyperpigmentation and other sun damage.

I’ll pat this product into the skin lightly, as if I am sealing everything in with it.

While skin care products vary from person to person, the order in which you use them can mean the difference between an effective routine and throwing money down the drain. This spring, why not give this order a try and see how your skin responds?

Kate Murphy is an entrepreneur, yoga teacher, and natural beauty huntress. A Canadian who now lives in Oslo, Norway, Kate spends her days — and some evenings — running a chess company with the world champion of chess. On the weekends she’s sourcing out the latest and greatest in the wellness and natural beauty space. She blogs at Living Pretty, Naturally, a natural beauty and wellness blog that features natural skin care and beauty product reviews, beauty-enhancing recipes, eco-beauty lifestyle tricks, and natural health information. She’s also on Instagram.