Is your daily skincare routine a gentle, self-care moment or a hurried sweep across your face with your entire hand? Halt right there! If it is the latter, because no matter how expensive or potent your routine is, the way you apply it can not only make it less effective, but also irritate and damage your skin.
Jessica Lisnyj, DHA (Dubai Health Authority) licensed aesthetician, beauty and laser therapist at the Nova Clinic, Dubai, says, “As a rule, you do want to be super gentle on the skin. You want to just be as delicate as possible, you want to be using long, slow strokes and always kind of moving upwards, you don't ever want to be pulling the skin down when you're working a product into the skin.
“Where you're applying pressure and movements and rubbing products into the skin, this should only be for your cleansers and exfoliators.”
As a rule, you do want to be super gentle on the skin. You want to just be as delicate as possible, you want to be using long, slow strokes and always kind of moving upwards, you don't ever want to be pulling the skin down when you're working a product into the skin.
Wait, what about layering? Or the fact that some swear by warming the products between their palms, while others roll refrigerator-cooled ice or gemstone rollers after the routine? We speak to Dr Anna Zhakoza, specialist dermatologist and aesthetic physician, at 7 Dimensions Medical Centre, Dubai, as well, for your short and sweet guide to skincare application.
Core skincare principles
A. Use clean hands
Wake up, wash your hands and then wash your face and apply products. Lisnyj says, “On the whole, apply it to skin with clean hands, because a lot of people wake up and they go straight to the bathroom, apply the cleanser on their hands.” Even when on holiday, or a beach day, and looking to slather on sunscreen – make sure to wash your hands beforehand.
B. Layer lightest to heaviest, unless specified otherwise:
For absorption, Lisnyj says, “Keep in mind, as a general rule, to apply the lightest product first and the heaviest product you're using last.” So toner, serum, essence, moisturiser, oil and SPF in the morning (if you’re using all these products), and in the evening – stop at the oil.” Some skincare brands have products that are formulated to be mixed and applied in one go, and this rule doesn’t apply.
C. Upward not downward, and gentle:
Lisnyj says, “We don't really want to be pulling our skin down because we're fighting against gravity as well, and when we're aging, the last thing we want to do is be pulling anything downwards because especially if we're doing this on a day-to-day basis, this can lead to excess sagging and wrinkles.”
Rubbing and using harsh movements repeatedly can also strip your natural protective skin barrier, warns Dr Zhakoza – so use your fingers gently.
D. Warm or cool? Answer: Pores aren’t doors
Dr Zhakoza says, “Let’s dispel a myth: pores aren’t doors. Hot products don’t open them, and cold products don’t shut them. The best is to stick to a middle ground.”
Let’s dispel a myth: pores aren’t doors. Hot products don’t open them, and cold products don’t shut them. The best is to stick to a middle ground.
The role of ice rollers and gemstone rollers are actually in reducing inflammation and puffiness in the mornings by encouraging lymphatic drainage through the massage, explains Lisnyj. She says, “Some patients really, really struggle - they wake up in the morning and have puffiness, swelling, or especially you're suffering from acne and have a lot of inflammation - ice rollers are really good that way, because they just help depuff the skin.
“It's [the cold] tightening your pores up. So, you're not getting better product absorption.”
E. Cleansing vs. rest of the products
During cleansing, you can work in the product to lift off the day’s dust, but for the rest, Lisnyj says, “When we’re talking about products that just kind of stay on the skin – so whether it’s an eye cream, a serum or a moisturiser, and SPF, we kind of just want to be tapping this product into the skin. The more we kind of emulsiate the product – sometimes we can just be rubbing the product off the skin.
“Our skin goes through so much in terms of the environment here - the air-conditioning, water, heat and humidity then if we're also applying hot friction and pressure on the skin, we can get inflammation, we can get sensitivity, we can react to a product where we normally wouldn't.”
What about product-specific application?
1. Cleansing: Double cleanse at night
Dr Zhakoza says, “The best way to apply cleanser is to put small amount of product and to mix with lukewarm water and make a foam, after to distribute this foam on a face.” She recommends gently using your fingertips for one to two minutes.
PM: At night, especially after layers of sunscreen and makeup have been on your face for the entire day, Lisnyj recommends a double cleanse. This Korean skincare method involves cleansing in two steps – one with an oil-based cleanser or oil to break down makeup, excess oil and dirt, and the second with a gel or foam facewash. She says, “Whether you’re using an oil or cleansing balm, some people like micellar water – work that into the skin, and double cleanse… because then your skin is clean, and it’s going to remove any residue that could be left over.”
2. Toner: Pat it in
Although you can use either a cotton pad or your hands to pat your toner in, Lisnyj says that using a cotton pad may mean more product wastage due to the toner that stays in the pad, and can create more friction on the skin as well. She says, “I would say, use your fingers to just press it into the skin. With a toner you are going to get better absorption of your products then you're going to use next because again our skin is like a sponge when it's damp it can just take in more products absorption.”
3. Serums, moisturisers, eye cream: Pat them in
Pat them in gently and evenly. Dr Zhakoza says, “If you have sensitive or dry skin, you should apply gently, if you have normal or oily skin type you can apply moisturizer by gently rubbing in circular motions, including the neck.”
4. Oil: Gently massage if you wish
Apply as last step and gently massage if you wish. Lisnyj says, “You can kind of do like natural lymphatic drainage movements gliding on the skin to stimulate your blood flow, which is really, really good for the skin.”
5. Sunscreen: Half-teaspoon spread evenly
A 2018 study published in the journal Acta Dermato-Venereologica, an international peer-reviewed journal, found that the typical thickness of sunscreen application only gives us 40% of the protection of its SPF. Apply more than you think you need on the face and neck.
Seham Ahmad Almustafa, dermatology specialist at HMS Mirdif Hospital, told Gulf News in a previous interview, “In science, the amount they said is for each square centimeter of our body we have to apply two grams to milligrams. For the face, roughly we need around half teaspoon, and for the body – roughly two full tablespoons.”
And that’s how you can make the most of your favourite skincare routine!