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Reading the instructions on cleansing and care products can be misleading. When do I pat my skin dry first or when do I apply the product on damp skin? Even many recommendations from skin care guru's or skinfluencers are not completely correct.
In general it is recommended to apply a serum, eye care or moisturising / hydrating care product on damp skin, or immediately after bathing for the following reasons:
The primary benefit of applying skin care products to damp skin is that the skin is more receptive to the ingredients. Water helps to increase the hydration levels of the skin cells, which then improves the absorption of the skincare products. When the skin is damp, the skin's surface is more permeable, allowing the ingredients in the skin care products to penetrate deeper into the skin, and work their magic. Absorbing the ingredients more effectively, this leads to better results.
The exception are products which require a very low pH level to penetrate, and be more effective, for example L-Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C) and chemical exfoliating "acids" like hydroxy acids. The reason is that water has a pH level of 7-8, acidic formulations will be "neutralised" on damp skin.
Applying skin care products to damp skin helps to lock in moisture, leaving your skin feeling soft, supple, and hydrated. Hydration is critical for the skin because it helps to maintain and restore the skin's barrier function. The skin barrier protects the skin from losing hydration and prevents irritants and bacteria from entering. Applying serums and moisturisers on damp skin, increases the hydration benefits from the products.
Another advantage of applying skincare on damp skin is that it helps to improve the spreadability of the product. When we apply products such as serum or moisturiser to dry skin, they tend to settle in one area and can be challenging to spread evenly. On the other hand, when applied to damp skin, the skin care products can spread easily and evenly across the skin surface, ensuring maximum coverage and benefit.
The exception are lipid rich products which are hydrophobe (water repelling), for example ointments, they might not spread evenly or easy on damp skin.
Applying skin care products to damp skin has been shown to improve their performance. This is because when products are applied to damp skin, they are less likely to evaporate, and the ingredients remain active for longer. This increased contact time with the skin leads to better, more effective results.
The exception are products containing vitamin A, retinoids, tretinoin, retinal, retinol, retinaldehyde as damp skin increases the risk of irritation.
Sensitive and hyper-sensitive skin
Usually people with sensitive and hyper-sensitive skin have an impaired skin barrier function, hence ingredients will penetrate better in comparison to a resilient and well-functioning skin barrier. Applying products on (hyper)sensitive skin will therefore increase the risk of irritations. Be mindful which ingredients you use and use a pH rebalancing toner after cleansing and prior to any serum or care product you use. A toner is anyway an affordable product, which I highly recommend to use in every skin care routine. Read more.
Study results on patients with dry skin and healthy volunteers
In healthy subjects, compared to at control sites, the Stratum Corneum Water Content (SCW) was significantly higher at sites treated with the moisturizer immediately after bathing, with 1.0 and 2.0 mg/cm2 of the moisturizer, and with once- and twice-daily applications.
In patients with dry skin, the SCW was significantly higher compared to control sites after 8 weeks when the moisturizer was applied twice daily. Read more.
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