Your nails look better and your polish lasts longer when you do some prep work before a manicure — the same attention to detail works for your skin. When you take a few extra minutes to apply moisturizer the right way, the payoff for your skin’s health and appearance can be big. Read on to find expert recommendations on how you can soak up the most benefits from your moisturizer.
Wash first. It’s not enough to simply splash water on your face and body. You need to cleanse to remove makeup, dirt, sweat, and grime that may have accumulated on your skin. “I tell my clients that if they apply moisturizer to skin that isn't clean, they are in essence fossilizing the wayward dirt and environmental toxins that have accumulated there,” says Tom Woodhouse, head aesthetician at the Face Place New York.
Use the right cleanser. Soap can strip your skin of its natural moisturizing oils, so lather up with a body wash that contains hydrating ingredients, suggests Doris Day, MD, a clinical assistant professor of dermatology at New York University Medical Center. “It will help keep moisture in your skin while you shower,” she says. For your face, opt for a cleanser that's good for your skin type. Limit your shower to no more than 10 minutes and use warm water, not hot, to prevent your skin from drying out.
Exfoliate regularly. Sloughing off dead skin allows your moisturizer to be absorbed more easily and to penetrate deeper. “For the body, I recommend using a mesh pouf with a liquid body wash as a way to exfoliate daily,” Woodhouse suggests. “Once a week, use a physical exfoliant, such as a scrub.” For your face, use an electronic cleansing brush a few times a week to help keep your skin looking bright.
Apply moisturizer to damp skin. “After a shower, your skin already has moisture in it,” explains Dr. Day. “Moisturizer will help lock the water in, and it penetrates well-hydrated skin better.” Moisturize no more than two to three minutes after cleansing to take advantage of the moisture boost.
Massage moisturizer in. Again, just like nail polish, the way you apply moisturizer makes all the difference. A light massage will allow the lotion or cream to be absorbed better and will help distribute it more evenly than a couple of swipes. “For the body, I like to use the whole hand and put some elbow grease into it to increase blood flow to the extremities — and it just feels good,” Woodhouse says. For the face, he recommends using your middle and ring fingers to apply moisturizer with gentle, light upward strokes.
Wait a minute! Don’t rush to put on clothes after you apply moisturizer. You need time to allow the moisturizer to be absorbed, or else it’s just rubbed off by your clothes. “The goal is to give yourself a good five minutes before you get dressed. You want to feel clean, hydrated, and ready to face the day,” Woodhouse says.