It’s time to take a look at your routine.

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As someone who’s only recently adopted a full-blown skin care routine, I still have a lot to learn about how to make the most of the (sometimes pricy) products I’m using.

One of my recent discoveries is also perhaps one of the most alarming: It turns out your skin care routine may not be doing you a lick of good if you’re not using your products in the right order. Say what?!

It started—as most of my (accidental) skin care learning experiences do—with a casual conversation with our beauty editor. We were talking about a new moisturizer I’ve been trying out (and loving!), and Patricia offhandedly dropped this knowledge bomb, “Oh yes, you should be applying your skin care products from least viscous to most viscous.” First, I ran to my desk to confirm that I did indeed know what viscosity meant (Cut me some slack…it’s been a while since I saw the inside of a science classroom) and realized I had some learning to do. If you, too, need a brush up on viscosity, the gist of what Patricia told me is this: You should apply your skin care products from thinnest (or most liquid-y) to thickest, so that each product has a chance to really settle into your skin and get to work.

The gals at Byrdie confirmed what Patricia had already told me, and further put the fear of God in me about the inefficacy of my splurge-worthy serum if not used at the right point in my routine. Here, a quick summary of the order in which you should be using your favorite skin care products.

1. Cleanser

Morning and night, a good cleanser eliminates makeup residue and oils so that the rest of your products can soak directly into your skin, without any interference from whatever else you’ve put your face through.

2. Exfoliant

These help get rid of dead skin and essentially deep-clean your pores. You can skip this step if you use an exfoliating cleanser (and who doesn’t love a 2-in-1?).

3. Toner

Treat your skin to an extra dose of hydration before you layer on the moisturizer. I like this alcohol-free option from Neutrogena, and at less than $5, it’s a steal.

4. Serum

Now it’s time for your splurge-worthy serum! This is where I’d been flubbing up…I’d been using my serum last (it just smelled so good, it was so expensive, how could I resist using it as the final, luxurious touch?), but it turns out you should be putting that serum to work before you bring that moisturizer anywhere near your face. Phew. Future skincare crises avoided. This one from Kiehl’s is my current go-to.

5. Moisturizer

Once you let your serum soak in, layer on the moisturizer to give your skin that supple, dewy look. I can’t get enough of Neutrogena’s Hydro Boost Water Gel moisturizer. Don’t let the word gel scare you, either: This baby goes on light, smooth, and feels like a total treat for my skin. Oh, and it’s only $15.

6. Sunscreen

Finally (and perhaps most importantly), apply your favorite dermatologist-approved sunscreen—even if your moisturizer or makeup has SPF protection in it. There’s no such thing as too much sun protection for your skin, especially when you consider that sun exposure and aging skin go hand in hand.

WATCH: Here's How To Make A Homemade Honey-Oatmeal Face Mask

Lesson learned. I’ll be tacking this list up on my vanity as a daily reminder.