Can TikTok’s Reverse Skincare Hack Banish Dry Skin? I Tried It

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Pretty much all glowing skin hacks find fame on TikTok before making their way into our daily beauty rituals. There's the speedy blackhead removal trick which actually works — and you need to try the frozen cucumber hack ASAP. If you're keen to know how to combat dryness, dullness and dehydration, here's a new one for you.
Skincare enthusiasts are making a case for overnight face masks and layering nourishing serums but it's beauty expert @glowwithava's reverse skincare hack which is racking up thousands of views, likes and comments. In the video, Ava suggests switching up your skincare routine for intense glowing skin benefits. Cleansing is always the first step but then Ava encourages followers to reach for the moisturiser before anything else. She applies this in a thick layer, almost like an overnight mask. While a facial toner would usually be the very first step in a beauty routine as it's the lightest product, Ava suggests drenching cotton pads with a soothing toner and applying them to the skin after moisturising. "After doing this for 15 minutes, your skin is going to feel more supple and plump than ever," Ava says. It seems the video came at just the right time, too, as a number of her followers have tried and loved the trick since first watching.
@glowwithava Reversing the order of your skincare?🤔 This MUST HAVE HACK + @farmacybeauty Honey Halo has SAVED my dry skin this winter @sephora #farmacypartner ♬ original sound - AVA
If you're on SkinTok you'll know that experts are adamant about applying skincare in the right order, so this felt like breaking the rules. Still, the radiant sheen on Ava's skin speaks for itself so I had to try it. Since coming to the end of an incredible moisturiser, I've been trialling replacements. The cold weather combined with central heating means my skin sometimes feels tight and I get the odd flaky patch around my eyes and on my cheeks. In other words, I'm the perfect candidate for this quick fix.
I started with UpCircle's Night Cream with Blueberry Extract, as it's the most unctuous moisturiser in my beauty stash right now [sadly UpCircle isn't available in Australia, but a good alternative is the cult-favourite First Aid Beauty's Ultra Repair Cream, $59]. I applied this in a thick layer and massaged it in with clean fingers before soaking cotton rounds in Fresh Rose Deep Hydration Toner, $38. Ava lets the cotton sit on the skin for a while but I found it best to pat the product all over my skin for max hydration. Even after the toner had dried down, my skin did actually look supple and luminous — more so than if I were to apply my serum and moisturiser as normal. This month, no amount of moisturiser has been able to quench my parched under-eyes but practising this daily for a week helped. I put it down to the heavier layer of moisturiser and extra water from the toner, which worked together to soften any flaky areas.
I asked Dr Alexis Granite, consultant dermatologist for CeraVe, if there is any real, long-term benefit to reversing your skincare. Her honest answer? "No," she told me. "The only potential results may be visual. If you're putting moisturiser on and then you're putting toner on, the liquid in the toner will be sitting on top of the moisturiser so it would look more hydrated and dewy. Aesthetically, it can be a trick to have a more dewy complexion for that evening or if you're going out. But in terms of the benefits to your actual skin, it's probably very little." As a rule of thumb, products should be applied from the thinnest to the thickest texture to ensure they absorb properly — for example, toner, followed by serum, followed by moisturiser (and SPF in the daytime). Dr Granite said it doesn't make much scientific sense to put a thinner product over something that is thick and expect it to work. She suggests it's unlikely that the thinner product will get into the skin and make a difference as the thick product may act like a barrier.
If TikTok is to be believed, though, the results are more than simply aesthetic — and it might be down to the ingredients in the products. Ava mentions honey (known for healing wounds, strengthening the skin barrier and reducing inflammation) and ceramides, which are essentially the glue that holds the skin together. A lack of ceramides results in dry, itchy, irritated skin so they are essential for keeping skin smooth, soft and glowing. Ava opts for a soothing toner and recommends going for a version that doesn't contain active ingredients (for example, exfoliating acids like glycolic or salicylic acid, which may not bode well for dry skin), fragrance or alcohol — both of which may cause dryness and irritation in some skin types.
Right now, other TikTokers are obsessing over-hydrating hyaluronic acid, which can be applied to wet skin to lock in moisture, as well as under-the-radar skincare ingredient squalane. A type of fat, our oil glands make squalane naturally but in cold weather in particular, reserves can run low. It's highly moisturising and helps keep the skin barrier intact so you can forget about dryness. Try Kate Somerville KateCeuticals Total Repair Cream, $68, or First Aid Beauty's Ultra Repair Cream, $59.
If you're not sold on reversing your skincare, I still practise the wet skincare hack after discovering it weeks ago. To really keep moisture under lock and key in the skin, apply your skincare products (from serum to moisturiser) with wet hands. The result is glowy, hydrated skin all day — and unlike reversing your products, the experts are on board.
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