Are You Applying Your Skin-Care Products Correctly?

Illustrated by Elliot Salazar.
Okay, so you've got your daily skincare routine down: cleanser, toner, serum, moisturizer. But, have you ever stopped to think that how you apply these products is just as important as the products themselves? There is, actually, a right way to apply skincare products to get the most out of them. Follow these guidelines for glowing, healthy skin.
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Illustrated by Elliot Salazar.
Cleanser
While using a cleanser may seem like a no-brainer, there is a proper way to wash your face depending on the type of cleanser you prefer. If you use a cleansing gel or foaming wash, it’s best to apply the product with your fingertips directly to damp skin. Never apply a cleansing gel directly on a washcloth, as it will absorb too much of the product, causing unnecessary waste. If, on the other hand, you use a cleansing lotion, you should apply it to dry skin because if your skin is wet, it will dilute the product, which then won’t perform as well. Personally, I don't recommend cleansing oils because, although they may feel luxurious, they can leave behind a residue and act as a barrier, preventing other products from doing their job.

Whichever type of cleanser you choose, massage it into skin in a circular motion, rinse well when finished, and then give your skin a final swipe with a facial sponge or a washcloth (I recommend a gentler baby washcloth) to ensure makeup, dirt, and oil are thoroughly removed. Although it's essential to cleanse at night, it's just as important to wash your face in the morning to remove any natural oils that built up on your skin while you slept. Plus, you want to gently wash away the products you applied before bed so you start with a clean surface before applying your daytime lotions and potions. And, if you prefer to use a facial oil, it's imperative you wash it all off thoroughly with a baby washcloth so skin is clean for the remainder of your regimen.
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Youth To The People Kale + Green Tea Spinach Vitamins Age Prevention Cleanser, $36, available at Youth To The People.
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SkinCeuticals Soothing Cleanser, $34, available at SkinCeuticals.
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dermHA Acne Skin Cleanser, $35, available at dermHA.
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Illustrated by Elliot Salazar.
Toner
When it comes to toners, the misconception is that they should be sprayed or misted on the skin — a seemingly logical assumption when so many of them are packaged in spray bottles. While this can be an easy and convenient way to apply toner — since they're designed to remove cleanser residue as well as salts, chlorines, and chemicals found in tap water that may dehydrate the skin — wiping is a more effective method than spraying. Spritzing a toner onto skin may only dilute tap water's chemicals, while wiping will remove them. Make sure to use an alcohol-free toner (alcohol-based toners are extremely drying and irritating), wipe it over the skin with a cotton pad, and if you choose, mist afterward.
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Fresh Crème Ancienne Infusion Toner, $90, available at Sephora.
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Sisley Floral Toning Lotion, $103, available at Sisley Paris.
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Illustrated by Elliot Salazar.
Serums
Serums are the unsung heroes of skin care, but many people are using them incorrectly. Because they contain a higher concentration of active ingredients, they increase product performance as well as maximize the benefits of the other products we are using — when applied to damp skin. This is important because moist skin is many times more permeable than dry skin, so when it's applied to damp skin, the active ingredients in the serum will penetrate the skin on a deeper level. Serums offer many different benefits depending on the formula and what your skin needs, but they truly can change your skin for the better in regards to clearing clogged pores, fading brown spots, and softening lines and wrinkles, so you really want to pay attention to how you're applying them.
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Origins Original Skin Renewal Serum with WillowHerb, $40, available at Origins.
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Olay Total Effects 7-in-One Moisturizer + Serum Duo with Broad Spectrum SPF 15 , $14.49, available at Target.
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Illustrated by Elliot Salazar.
Moisturizer
The biggest mistake I see people making with their moisturizer is where they don't apply it! Moisturizer should be applied to the face and the neck, since the neck and throat area is an extension of the face and needs attention, too. You also want to be sure to apply moisturizer evenly. Many of my clients have clogged pores around the hairline and close to the ears due to uneven application. Hair products can be the culprit here, but I've frequently found that it's actually the way people slather on moisturizer that's to blame. When you apply from the middle of your face, pushing outward, moisturizer settles more abundantly at the perimeter of your face. The layers may clog the pores, leading to excess oil production and eventually breakouts.

Finally, don't make the mistake of applying extra layers of moisturizer in an attempt to heal dry skin. Using thicker coats of moisturizer may result in clogged pores and definitely product waste; the skin can only absorb so much. When it comes to applying moisturizer with sunscreen (the most effective anti-wrinkle product available) it’s even more important to follow these guidelines. But, when it comes to the neck, don't skimp.
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Clinique Dramatically Different Moisturizing Lotion+, $26, available at Clinique.
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Tatcha The Water Cream, $68, available at Sephora.
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Illustrated by Elliot Salazar.
Eye Cream
Eye cream should be applied only to the orbital bone — the skin under the eyes up to the bone at the top of the cheek. Apply from outside in to go against the smile lines. Also, always apply eye cream with the ring finger using gentle patting motions. Rubbing and tugging can cause irritation and eventually even lead to wrinkles.
Avoid swiping on eye cream too close to the lashline, as the product can end up in your eyes when picked up by your eyelashes. Every time you blink, the hairs will lift microscopic amounts of product, and it can eventually deposit into your eyes. Anything that enters the eyes can be an obvious irritant and cause unnecessary puffiness.

One important thing to note when applying all products is that, after cleansing, you must immediately get your next product on the skin (ideally an alcohol-free toner) within 60 seconds. If you leave skin bare any longer, it will start to dehydrate as the dry air attracts moisture out of the skin. Applying products swiftly will leave skin protected and avoid a tight, dry feeling.

These tips should help you apply products more conscientiously, which will make your routine more effective. Radiant skin is truly in the details.
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Nyakio Quinoa De-Puffing & Firming Eye Cream, $39, available at Ulta.
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Fresh Lotus Youth Preserve Eye Cream, $43, available at Nordstrom.
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Estée Lauder Advanced Night Repair Eye Serum, $66, available at Sephora.
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