5 Moisturizer Application Tips to Get the Most Bang for Your Buck

woman applying moisturizer to face


If you're anything like us, applying moisturizer has become so routine you barely give it a second thought. Extract product from packaging, apply directly to skin, right? Nope. When it comes to moisturizing, it turns out the technique is just as important as the product itself. And, as it turns out, just slathering it on is not that technique.

We spoke with celebrity esthetician Renée Rouleau, and asked exactly how we should be applying our favorite moisturizer—and what we’ve been doing wrong this entire time. Read on to see if you've been doing it right.

Meet the Expert

Renée Rouleau is a celebrity esthetician with over 30 years of experience in the industry. She is also the founder and creator of her eponymous skincare line.

Apply Before Toner Is Absorbed

If you like to take your sweet time between all of your skin steps—perhaps getting lost in a Tinder swipe-fest after applying your toner and serum—it’s time for a wake-up call: You need to apply your moisturizer as soon as you possibly can. “Alcohol-free toners are an important step in skincare, but in order to get the full benefits, you must leave it damp on your skin before applying your serum or moisturizer,” Rouleau says. “Your skin cells are like fish—they need water to live, so leaving toner damp on your skin is a great way for your moisturizer to lock in all the hydrating benefits that toners offer. It doesn’t have to be dripping wet—just damp.”

Take Advantage of Steam

Rouleau says toner, serum, and moisturizer should occur within 60 seconds of cleansing to prevent moisture from evaporating. Even better, apply everything in your steamy bathroom after your shower: “Because the air is so dry in the winter, it looks for water wherever it can get it and this means taking it from your skin at its most vulnerable time after cleansing,” Rouleau explains. “In the case of a hot, steamy room, the evaporation still occurs but will be slowed down slightly so it can give you a little extra time to apply your product without worrying about dehydration.”

Products with humectants, like hyaluronic acid, that draw in moisture especially require dampness on the skin or humidity in the air—otherwise they absorb the water content from the skin itself, exacerbating dryness.

Apply Other Skincare First

With the exception of sunscreen and occlusives (like heavy oils or petrolatum products), moisturizer should be the last step in your skincare regimen. Regardless of whether you adhere to a minimalist three-step routine or are completely bought in to a more complex sequence, the order of layered products matters. As moisturizers tend to be thicker, it's best practice to apply lighter treatments and serums first before building up to moisturizer.

Massage, Don't Slather

One last trick for glowy skin: Give yourself a facial massage with your moisturizer. “Dull, tired skin is oftentimes caused by lack of proper blood flow to the skin,” Rouleau says. “Immediately after applying moisturizer at night, when the skin is very moist, close your hand to make a fist and use your knuckles to massage the skin in small circular motions for two minutes.” She says this mini massage will gently stimulate blood flow to the skin and bring new nutrients to skin cells—a.k.a the precursor to every dewy complexion.

Don't Forget the Neck

If there's ever a skincare faux pas we're guilty of it's this one. In an effort to always put our best face forward, we tend to concentrate all our efforts up top and either completely forget or get a little lazy when it comes to taking care of everything else. And while we know that the skin is the body's largest organ, we neglect that it's entirely one organ. That means that what it lacks in certain areas, it will source from others. So if you're only moisturizing your face and forsaking the neck or décolletage, you're essentially minimizing the results of those efforts. A parched neck will just absorb the moisture from the face, leaving both undernourished. So please, when applying moisturizer always bring it down to the neck, and even chest, for the most hydrated and glowing skin.

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