Slathering on a moisturizer in the morning and at night is basic skin-care 101. Ask any skin pro, and they’ll implore you to finish your routine with a layer of hydration that will seal in your other steps and protect your skin barrier from the environment. But while most of us are (hopefully) coating our skin with a cream twice a day, according to dermatologists we may not be doing it the right way. There are a number of common mistakes that could be keeping you from getting the most out of your routine.
Below, derms weigh in on the most common mistakes they see people making when they moisturize—and forgetting to do it twice a day is just the beginning.
1. Using the wrong formula
The first—and most important—rule of moisturizing is to find the product that works for your particular skin needs. “The biggest mistake is choosing the wrong moisturizer for your skin type,” says board-certified dermatologist and founder of Visha Skincare Purvisha Patel, MD. “Oily skin generally will need a lighter moisturizer such as a gel or lotion to prevent clogging of pores and acne, while sensitive or easily irritated skin may need a cream or ointment.” If you’ve got dry skin, opt for something thicker that your skin will slurp right up.
2. Not applying to clean skin
In the grand scheme of skin care, cleanser should always come first. It’s important that you’re working with a clean canvas when you apply any sort of skin-care products, but this holds especially true for moisturizers. “You don’t want to seal in things like environmental pollutants, and you should always remove any makeup first and then cleanse the skin,” says board-certified dermatologist Kenneth Howe, MD. Plus, clearing out all that dirt and debris is important for letting moisturizer seep into skin properly.
3. Applying products in the wrong order
There are all kinds of different moisturizing products on the market—from lotions to creams to balms—and you’ll want to be sure you’re layering them on in the proper order. “One mistake I see is applying products in the wrong order, which can prevent the active ingredients from working optimally,” says Dr. Patel. “All skin care should be applied from the thinnest, most easily absorbed products to the thickest.” Any sort of treatment topicals, whether anti-aging or acne related, should go on before moisturizer. ” If you put them on first, they will sink into the skin better,” says Dr. Howe. A good rule to follow? Gels should come first, then lotions, then creams, then ointments or balms. The only exception is if you’re using a powerful retinol or acne medicine, which can be less irritating if it’s applied on top of your moisturizer instead of underneath it.
3. Rubbing with gravity
Think of your moisturizing step as your opportunity to give your face a mini, gentle massage But one thing to remember while you’re doing it? Be sure to rub up instead of down. “Rub against gravity, and don’t pull on the skin,” says Dr. Patel. “If you apply moisturizer with gravity, it pulls on the skin, and over time promotes collagen breakdown that creates sagging skin and wrinkles.” Evenly space pea-sized dots of products on your skin, then massage them toward the sky, and use small, circular motions around your eyes and mouth.
4. Using moisturizer “reactively”
If you’re only using moisturizer when your skin feels dry, you’re doing your skin a disservice. “One common mistake is that people tend to approach moisturizer in a reactive way instead of a proactive one, and let it get dry before reacting,” says Dr. Howe. “Once the skin is dry enough to see the dryness, it takes a while to get back to healthy skin.” Because of this, you should be moisturizing every day, regardless of your skin type.
For more skin-care 101, press play on the video below to see exactly which steps a dermatologist uses in her own routine:
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