February 23, 2021

In which order should my skincare products go?

I am now using both 5-point Brightening and Pigment Serum and AQ Active Serum. Since I already have age spots, the directions say to use the Brightening Serum both am and pm. At night I will also use the AQ Active Serum and both directions say these both should be put on right after cleansing. So, which should come first at night? br>br> At night, can I apply Active Serum AQ first, wait a few minutes, and then apply my Retin A? Want to be able to use both. Or would I use each every other night???? Or apply Retin A first then Active Serum? Thanks.

Two separate questions from readers, but great ones.  We want the maximum we can get from our skincare products for both prevention of aging, and also for repair of aging.  If we are using multiple products to cover the main categories, especially if they are expensive, how to we maximize them?

I'll answer specifically for above and generally too.

What are the main aging prevention and repair categories now?

  • Sunscreens - Prevent damage to skin cells and skin cell DNA (particularly important for skin cancers).
  • Retinoids -  These are loosely in the Vitamin A in a cream category.  Sort of vitamin A cousins with 30 years of good data.  They help prevent wrinkles, precancerous spots, skin cancers, brown spots, keep cell turnover high, and improve acne.  Hard not to like these.
  • Antioxidants -  20 years of science that shows they help prevent damage to DNA of skin cells by scavenging free radicals those nasty electrons that cause damage to cells from UV exposure, environmental pollutants, and just plain aging.
  • Cell Growth Factors.   10 years of science.  They improve cell growth and turnover by supplying growth factors from young skin cells grown in the lab and then purified.
  • Skin Blotchiness Regulators.  10 years of science.  These plant based lighteners help fight uneven skin color that develops with age and sun.  Promotes an even, uniform skin tone that we see in young skin.  Often called lighteners or brighteners, they really just promote even distribution of skin pigment and pigment making cells (melanocytes).  Hydroquinones also do this but are falling out of favor due to irritation and skin toxicity.  Banned in the EU.
  • Barrier Layer Defense.   5-10 years of science.  Particularly in vogue now due to Covid.  Help to preserve and restore the barrier function which is part of the immune function of our skin.  Deteriorates with too much washing, over scrubbing, over exfoliating, and various other skin insults.  Often focused on ceramids, cholesterols, triglycerides and natural oils to reinforce this function.

There are other exciting areas as well, but these are the main ones. :)

Specifically for question 1 - at night put the Active Serum (growth factors) on first and then the MadisonMD 5-Point Brightener.

For question 2 - I think until we know more apply the Active Serum and the Retin A each every other night.  Or.... use the Active Serum first, then a light moisturizer, wait 5 min, and apply the Retin A.

Hope this helps,


Dr. Brandith Irwin, MD

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Hi, I’m Dr. Irwin, and I believe that consumers need and deserve a medically trained and unbiased skincare advocate.

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