Press or Pat? The Best Application Techniques for Applying Skin-Care

December 23, 2020
Samantha Holender
By: Samantha Holender | by L'Oréal
Press or Pat? The Best Application Techniques for Applying Skin-Care

From cleansing and exfoliating to moisturizing and masking, we thought we had our skin-care routines down to science. While we know exactly what products to apply when, it turns out there are also tips, tricks and techniques for how to apply those products. To get the scoop on best practices to get the most out of our skin-care products, we turned to board-certified dermatologists Dr. Morgan Rabach from LM Medical NYC and Dr. Sapna Palep of Spring Street Dermatology. Ahead, they share how you should go through the motions of applying your skin-care routine.


Harsh or Gentle? How to Cleanse 

When it comes to washing your face, a quick splash of water and ten-second foam doesn’t necessarily do the trick. To make sure that you’re getting your face as clean as possible, take your makeup off before cleansing; most face washes don't double as a makeup remover. Once that’s said and done, let the water heat up to a lukewarm temperature. “Lukewarm water is best because hotter water can take off too many oils from your face, leaving it dry,” says Dr. Rabach. Dr. Palep explains that lukewarm water opens up your pores a bit and lets the active ingredients penetrate deeper. 

Dr. Rabach also recommends being as gentle as possible when applying your cleanser. “Use your fingertips in a gentle, circular motion,” she says. “It’s the most gentle approach to cleansing, as washcloths can be too abrasive.” You should wash your face for anywhere from 30 to 60 seconds and pat your face dry to avoid irritation. 

If you tend to wear heavy makeup or costume makeup, a post-cleansing toner is recommended to get all the residue off your skin. Dr. Rabach says you should put the product on a cotton pad and use gentle, circular motions once again. Do this process until the pad comes up clean. 

Looking for a new cleanser? We recommend the CeraVe Hydrating Cream-to-Foam Cleanser for its ability to gently cleanse the skin without stripping the skin of its natural moisture. 

Rub or Pat? How to Apply Serums and Moisturizers

Once your face is clean from the day’s grime, Dr. Rabach recommends getting started on serums while your skin is still slightly damp to help seal in extra moisture, especially if you have dry skin or eczema. Apply  the product in your hands or directly onto your face. Focus most of the product on your cheekbone area because that’s typically drier than the forehead, chin and nose. Don’t forget to bring it down your neck and décolleté, either. 

Once your serums have had a minute to absorb, you can move on to applying your moisturizer. When it comes to technique, Dr. Palep explains that pressing or patting your moisturizer (and serums) will help the active ingredients penetrate deeper into your skin’s surface. “The warmth from your hand is sometimes just enough to open up your pores a little bit.” She explains that your pores actually have little muscles, called arrector pili, that open up with a little warmth, whether from water or your hands. 

Dab or Spread? How to Apply Eye Cream 

Your under-eye skin is sensitive and delicate. Tugging product across the area may lead to irritation or redness. “I would dab the eye cream with light pressure and circular motions,” says Dr. Rabach. We recommend using your ring finger for the softest touch. If you’re looking for a new eye cream, we suggest the Lancôme Rénergie Lift Multi-Action Eye Cream for its anti-aging benefits and ability to brighten the under-eye area. 

Physical or Chemical? How to Exfoliate 

Whether you’re opting for a physical exfoliant or a chemical one, there are a few things to note before soughing away your dead surface skin cells. First off, if you’re using a physical exfoliant or scrub, like the Kiehl’s Pineapple Papaya Facial Scrub, make sure to use soft, gentle, circular motions. Dr. Rabach even recommends putting the product on a cotton pad and softly exfoliating. Then, rinse your face with lukewarm water and make sure to follow with a moisturizer. 

If you’re applying a chemical exfoliant, such as the L’Oréal Paris Glycolic Acid Serum, use the directed amount to avoid irritation. “Use your active products first, and then seal them in with moisturizers that contain ingredients like hyaluronic acid and ceramides,” says Dr. Rabach. She also recommends saving these for nighttime use. 

Before or After Makeup? How to Apply Sunscreen

Newsflash: sunscreen is not just for the summer. “Use your SPF every day to help prevent damage and keep your skin healthy looking,” says Dr. Rabach. An SPF of 30 or higher should be applied after your moisturizer and before your makeup. Put some in your hand and then rub it onto your face. Make sure you cover any area that will be exposed to the sun and give it a minute to settle in before following with makeup. 


Photo: Chaunte Vaughn


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