Pat, Press, Or Rub: Does The Way You Apply Your Face Creams Make A Blind Bit Of Difference?

By Lynnie | December 16 2011 | 16 Comments

skin techniques

Recently, I noticed that almost every skincare lotion and potion I use is emblazoned with a different (and often convoluted) set of instructions for application. Without really thinking about it, I’ve just been doing whatever the side of the bottle or tube demands and patting, pressing, or rubbing the unction in question onto my skin like some kind of moisturising automaton.

So I decided to call on top therapist Elaine Butler Doolin and quiz her about a few of the products I use and their regimental application instructions.

First things first, though: it really truly necessary to follow these to the letter? Elaine is pretty firm in her affirmation. “I do think that you should follow the instructions for application.”

That’s us told.

Creme de la Mer moisturisers say: pat a small amount between fingertips and press into skin.
Elaine says: “Yes, this definitely has to be done as their creams are quite thick; once patted onto the skin it warms and then spreads more effectively. Plus, Creme de la Mer is excellent on skin that has high colouring or rosacea but rubbing this skin type will exacerbate the high colouring; therefore gently patting it on is the best application of these creams.”

Kiehl’s Midnight Recovery Concentrate says: press fingertips to cheeks, forehead, and chin to evenly distribute the application before gently massaging it into the skin.
Elaine says: “It contains lavender and as essential oils and prescription creams penetrate into the bloodstream it is extremely important to follow the exact directions for use. Otherwise, you are wasting the product and it could actually have an adverse effect. Also, this will ensure an even application of the concentrate over the face.”

Estee Lauder Idealist Pore Minimiser says: smooth on face.
Elaine says: “This is an exfoliant by definition, so should be smoothed on as just a thin layer of the serum is required to refine the pores.”

So clearly it’s worth your while following the instructions to get the most of your chosen products; turns out there’s usually a reason they’re so specific and slapping five dots on your mush and rubbing it around a bit isn’t going to cut it. But what if your serum or moisturiser simply says something more generic like “massage” or – God forbid – “apply” or “use”? In such instances, Elaine recommends applying light or fluid products that by fanning a little on forehead, cheeks and chin, but if it’s a thicker consistency and difficult to spread, just warm it in your hands first to allow it to spread more evenly.

Massaging on your moisturiser, she says, is fantastic: for lymph drainage, which will help detoxify congested areas, massage towards the lymph nodes which are located at the sides of the face, in front of the earlobes. Drain the jaw out to the ears, then down the sides of the neck. To improve muscle tone, DIY some effleurage by using the flat of the hands and working hand over hand to ‘lift’ product up and outwards on the face and neck.

Skin, Tutorials , ,

16 Replies to "Pat, Press, Or Rub: Does The Way You Apply Your Face Creams Make A Blind Bit Of Difference?"

  • Kirstie says:

    now imagining Lynnie as a moisturising automaton

  • BerG says:

    They should have thumbnail pictures on the jars, so you know whether to pat, smooth, or rub. I just rub everything in, will pay more attention to instructions from now on.

  • God I usually just slop it on and hope for the best! hmmm maybe I should read the instructions more!!

  • SJP's Missing Mole says:

    Yeah, I just slap it on, but I do tend to do it lightly as I’m always worrying about causing the dreaded broken capillaries.

    The only thing I know you have to be careful about is the Clarins Beauty Flash Balm. You can’t rub it at all. You have to smooth it on carefully and join it all up.

    Lisa Eldridge described it really well: that basically it’s like a spiders web that contracts to firm everything up. And if you rub you’ll break the spiders web.

  • Grá says:

    Yea Dr. Haushka recommends patting. I find their moisturisers very greasy though, except the Melissa one. I kinda like that.

  • I just slap it on.

    Surely ‘smooth’ ‘apply’ ‘distribute’ and ‘massage’ are all ‘advertising’ for ‘rub it on there ya good thing?’ They’re all synonyms for the same thing!

    I don’t believe it makes one whit of difference

  • Celj says:

    i never read instructions…

    i get some cream on to my finger and put it in the palm of my hand…rub between my two hands and smear it on my face.

    I try to not be too rough while putting it on my face.

    whenever I put eye cream on i try to pat it on. with my ring finger and then lightly spread it across for an even application.

  • says:

    re: title – of course it makes a difference, it all depends on the texture/type of moisturiser to help absorption :) For example, imagine trying to lightly pat on a thick SPF cream…or rubbing in serum/oil-based moisturiser…eek!

  • Chris says:

    I tend to pat on, then rub in. If I’m doing someone else’s face, I smooth it on. Never really read the instructions on the jar.

  • Emma RZ says:

    I’m exactly the same as Celj – same technique and same disregard for reading instructions.

  • Holly says:

    Haha for some reason this reminded me of a pop quiz I took in grade school that had 20+ questions of stuff we just learned and the teacher said we only had 5 minutes. I started at #1 as soon as I got the paper and took the whole five minutes unsuccessfully and I was getting worried when it took some ppl only one minute. Come to find out, the instructions said to put your name and turn in the paper! Reading instructions is important!! Thanks for the info- really interesting!

  • MUFD says:

    Christine from Temptalia features you!!!! V. cool!

  • MsMaryMc says:

    a good rule of thumb with a good quality moisturiser is to dot a grain of rice size in a sign of the cross in 4 blobs on your face and use upward motion to rub in! Don’tya know!

  • LuLuBabe says:

    What is the best way to apply SPF? And in what order – serum, then SPF, then moisturiser?

  • Kirstie says:

    SPF last!
    so serum, moisturiser and then spf

  • LuLuBabe says:

    Thanks Kirstie – so the SPF is kinda “pulled” in by the serum and the moisturiser, or sits on top like a barrier? I’m never really sure how it works.

Leave a Reply

Content © and partners