“Your skincare routine should take several minutes to complete,” says Dr. Chi. This is because you may need to wait for one step to dry before you can move on to the next for the most effective results. Below, Dr. Chi breaks down which ingredients should be applied to damp skin and which ones require dry skin.
1. Moisturizing ingredients: moist skin
“Moisturizers really should be placed on lightly damp, freshly-washed skin,” says Dr. Chi. “The way they work is they lock in moisture, so if you put moisturizer on completely dry skin, I mean more than 30 seconds dry, then it really doesn’t do much to moisturize. “
If your facial routine is simple and you just apply moisturizer after cleansing, you’ll want to do it as soon as possible while your skin is still damp. The same goes for any hydrating serums you can add to your routine, like hyaluronic acid, squalene, or niacinamide.
2. Actives: dry skin
Whenever you apply an active ingredient (i.e. an ingredient that actively modifies the skin) like retinol, glycolic acid, vitamin C, or hydrocortisone, you want to apply it to a dry complexion. . This is because you want the ingredient to be able to sink in completely instead of just gliding over damp skin. This is especially true for any cream or oil-based actives, as we know that oil and water don’t mix.
“It’s more effective if you apply it and it stays where you need to put it,” says Dr. Chi. For example, “if you have a prescription topical, skin lightening oil, or anti-inflammatory medication, dry skin is best because if it’s damp and there’s oil in the medication, it just slips off simply.”
So if you want to use a hydrating serum (like the ones mentioned above), apply it right out of the shower while your skin is still damp and let your skin air dry for a few minutes before proceeding. with your asset. Then you can apply your moisturizer just on top. Your skin should still be damp enough from your active serum to allow it to penetrate properly.
This is where it gets complicated: some serums contain both moisturizing products and active ingredients, such as a vitamin C serum formulated with hyaluronic acid or a retinoid that also contains squalane. In these cases, the timing of application should depend on the benefits you are seeking from the serum. If you’re just focusing on hydration, apply them to damp skin, but if you want to get the most out of the actives, wait until your complexion is dry.
3. Sunscreen: dry skin
Most importantly, your sunscreen should be applied to dry skin. Whether chemical or mineral, sunscreen and wet skin do not mix. “If you put mineral sunscreen on damp skin, it doesn’t last,” says Dr. Chi. And while chemical sunscreen may blend into damp skin, it won’t work as well. “The way chemical sunscreens work is that they actually interact with your stratum corneum, with the top layer of your epidermis, to absorb the ultraviolet rays so that they don’t penetrate your skin and cause damage. If you apply it to damp skin, it will affect the absorption of the chemical sunscreen.” And indeed, how well it is able to absorb UV rays.
Need routine inspiration? This is how a dermatologist takes care of their skin:
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