It all started when I saw a French facialist who told me that I was too “lazy” with the way I rubbed in my moisturizer. What I should be doing instead? Slapping and tapping my face, she said.
WTF, I think to myself. To maintain baby-soft skin, shouldn’t I treat my complexion delicately…like a baby? Then I went down a rabbit hole of the Reddit 30 Plus Skin Care page in which people were debating whether or not slapping your face stimulates collagen (you know the stuff that keeps skin looking plump and lifted?). And then it all come together for me: All of those semi-scary beauty treatments are said to work wonders on your complexion after all. Think microneedling (it stimulates collagen!) or dermaplaning (it exfoliates!), for instance.
Before I start to literally slap myself around, I consulted the pros to see if there’s any truth to the practice. The reasoning behind it is to actually allow your skin-care products to work their magic more effectively, as well as increase circulation for a better-looking complexion. I guess I should also start by saying that the slapping I’m referring to is more Kevin McCallister in Home Alone than what you’d expect from the Three Stooges.
“We always tap moisturizers and serums when applying to the face,” says Soizic Termet, spa director at La Réserve Ramatuelle in France. “The reason for this is to help the product better penetrate the epidermis and to increase the blood flow in order to activate cells.”
I recite these benefits to myself the next morning, facing the mirror as I brace myself for some beautifying slapping. I’m slightly nervous, but ready to give it a whirl. I remind myself that since the technique is used in both French girl- and K-beauty, it has some cred. “The movement should not be uncomfortable or painful, and only light tapping is needed around the delicate area of the eyes,” says Rachel Brown, director of education at Guinot, a French skin-care brand.
I give it a go, being somewhat gentle but not too soft as I firmly tap my cheeks to metaphorically and perhaps literally wake them up. I’m half asleep until I do this—perhaps it’s also a trick to not only better your skin but not need as much caffeine.
After I tap and slap for roughly 30 seconds—which I do with my moisturizer on-hand—I notice that I appear flushed. It brought me back to the days of yore when my grandmother did the cliche of pinching my cheeks too hard—that always resulted in a flushed complexion, which I’d appreciate now. The redness goes away momentarily to reveal a freshly moisturized and rejuvenated face.
Slapping and tapping are also preferred by some because dragging your skin by rubbing can be detrimental. “Some people tend to be heavy-handed when it comes to applying products to the face,” says Brown. “We don’t want to have more of the product benefit your hand instead of your face, and we want to avoid pulling, stretching, or dragging the skin down when applying moisturizers.” So tapping or pressing your product into your skin instead ensures proper absorption without wasting any product.
I continue supplementing my a.m. beauty routine with some slapping, noticing a slight difference every time—mainly that my face looks slightly more bright and even. The thing is, beauty is pain and all, but even I have a threshold. “Massaging works better and hurts a lot less!” says Mona Gohara, MD, a Connecticut-based dermatologist. So, pick your beauty battles.
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