Is There A 'Right' Way To Apply Face Moisturiser?

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Dear Daniela,
How are you supposed to apply moisturiser to your face? I just sort of slather it on, but I'm aware that I should be doing some sort of finger work to apply – 'upward motions' or something? And maybe patting with one finger around the eye? Just looking for a simple guide on how to apply it and why it matters!
Sarah, 30
Funnily enough, I don’t think you need to overthink this one. I say 'funnily enough' because I think I’m best known among my friends (and by regular readers of this column) for advising somewhat elaborate routines when it comes to skincare. I’m a big believer in daily SPF use, in antioxidants in the morning and gentle retinol for the over-25s at night, in niacinamide and ampoules of gloopy serums, in biweekly masking and microneedling – all done with a dollop of Philip Kingsley Elasticizer in the hair, of course.
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Let me start with the upward motions thing. Pretty much every makeup artist I’ve interviewed has advised applying moisturiser or primer in an 'upward motion' and when having my makeup done, I usually enjoy the minute or so of having my cheekbones massaged with some lotion. However, an 'upward motion' alone (which sounds like an instruction from air traffic control) obviously cannot lift your skin, for the same reason that Isaac Newton got pelted by an errant Golden Delicious. Fans of facial massage say that it improves the tone of your skin, and cumulatively helps keep it firm because it 'works out' the underlying muscles in the face. They also say that it helps keep your skin clear and glowing, because it stimulates the lymphatic drainage system, which is your body’s natural detoxification process (many lymph nodes are in the head and neck).
But detractors of facial massage – and believe me, there are some – say that the stretching of your skin only serves to break down collagen and elastin fibres, and thus increase sagging over time. Which makes sense along the lines of how you’re told not to pull your eye area taut when applying liner as the skin is so thin. The counterpoint to that is that apparently the collagen fibres fuse back together and realign. I asked around in the aesthetic medicine sphere, and the general upshot was 'We’re not really sure'. There’s not been a study that conclusively proves they work, but neither could I find one that said they’re totally bad. One doctor told me her patients who massaged "seemed to have better skin" but couldn’t really put her finger on why.
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I wish I could give you a concrete answer, but I’m afraid the data isn’t quite there yet. Personally, I advocate the tapping method. Apply lotion to the back of your fingers, rub together and then press into your skin, tapping a little over cheekbones and temples. It will encourage blood flow to the area and so 'wake up' your skin a little, but avoid stretching the skin. It also allows you to concentrate more or less product where needed – for example, light taps under the eyes versus a thicker coat on the cheeks. The urge for caution around the eye area comes from the fact that the skin under the eyes is the thinnest on the body, so it doesn’t respond well to being toyed with, and apparently the ring finger has the least pressure. But really? As long as the product gets onto your face, evenly, and without causing irritation, that’s the key.
Good luck!
Daniela
Got a question for our resident beauty columnist Daniela Morosini? No problem, qualm or dilemma is too big, small or niche. Email deardaniela@refinery29.uk, including your name and age for a chance to have your question answered. All letters to ‘Dear Daniela’ become the property of Refinery29 and will be edited for length, clarity, and grammatical correctness.
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