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The Correct Way to Apply All Your Skin Care Products

Applying your skin care products is probably something you think you have down pat. Open the bottle, squeeze it out, put it on. What’s so hard? Well, not to have a “you’re doing it wrong” moment, but you might be doing it wrong. Probably not colossally wrong, but wrong enough to be at risk for certain skin reactions.

Dr. Sue Ann Wee of Schweiger Dermatology Group in NYC explains, “Many patients come in with both irritant and allergic contact dermatitis from their beauty products, especially from overlapping active ingredients on their skin.” She’s no stranger to treating acne flare-ups and sunburns caused by beauty products, either.

More: 11 Skin Care Mistakes You’re Probably Making

And let’s face it. When it comes to beauty products, we tend to buy, apply, and ask questions later. Instead, we should be consulting with a dermatologist about the right products for our skin types first. The following pointers from Dr. Sue Ann about how to apply certain products are a good starting point, but it’s still best to find a derm near you to talk specific products for the safest results.

OK, so your skin product army is lined up in front of you. What’s first? According to Dr. Sue Ann, start with cleanser. No surprises there. Depending on your skin needs, you can follow with an exfoliating cleanser, usually only needed at nighttime. Next, apply toner, serum, face mist, eye cream and face oil or another moisturizer, in that order (all are optional based on your skin types and skin concerns).


Wash your hands first, and then splash your face with lukewarm water. Apply cleanser to your fingertips and gently massage it into your skin in circular motions. No rubbing necessary, warns Dr. Sue Ann. Rinse with lukewarm water and pat dry (still no rubbing).


Apply similar to how you would apply cleanser. Beloved tools like the Clarisonic can also help, but Dr. Sue Ann says sensitive skin types should take caution.

Additionally, she says, “Depending on your skin type and personal medical history, your dermatologist may recommend a nighttime topical retinoid or alpha hydroxy acid to slowly exfoliate skin.” Remember that alpha hydroxy acids should only be used at night because they could cause burns in sunlight.

More: Crazy-Easy Exfoliating Scrubs Your Skin Will Thank You For


If you’re using toner, apply with a cotton pad before you get to the moisturizer or face oil step. Avoid applying to the delicate skin around eyelids and lips. Dr. Sue Ann explains that you typically only need to apply toner to your T-zone or other problem areas identified by your dermatologist.


Use it sparingly! A few drops are all you need. Gently massage in with your fingertips, and avoid your eye and mouth areas. Dr. Sue Ann warns that using serums and toners together can be redundant and cause irritation. Again, talk to your dermatologist about what’s best for your skin.

Face mist

Skin mists can add extra hydration when spritzed on before moisturizer. Hello, radiance! No special instructions from Dr. Sue Ann here (other than checking the ingredients and checking with your derm). However, here’s a little advice from one beauty junkie to another: a facialist once told me it takes three veils of mist to get good coverage.

Eye cream

Starting closest to your nose, apply a pea-sized amount under each eye and gently massage outward toward the top of your cheekbone. “Follow the shape of the undereye,” Dr. Sue Ann explains. Avoid the lash line to prevent unwanted chemicals from getting in your eyes. She also warns to watch your pressure: “The skin around the eyes is thinner and more delicate than other areas on the face.”

Moisturizer and face oil

Make sure your hands are clean and apply in upward, circular motions. When it comes to oils, Dr. Sue Ann says to use them only in small amounts. It’s wise to ask your derm which types of oils may benefit your skin, and you can add a few drops to your moisturizer.

After you talk to your dermatologist, they’ll probably recommend you test products on a small area of your skin before applying it everywhere. Best to avoid accidentally conducting a chemistry experiment on your entire face by testing it on a small area first. Amen to that!

This post was sponsored by Carmex Comfort Care.

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