Do you rub in or pat on your skincare products?
I’m a patter, but not for the reason you think. Clarins, Hada Labo and a dozen other brands want us to believe that patting your lotions and potions on helps them to penetrate our skin better. I’m sorry, but that’s just nonsense.
The Patting Technique Doesn’t Enhance Penetration (And Neither Does Rubbing)
Our skin is a very underrated organ. We often think about how to prettify it, but rarely of what it does for us. Its outermost layer, called the stratum corneum, has a very important function. It forms a barrier between our body and the rest of the world.
This barrier is very difficult to penetrate. And that’s a very good thing. If getting through it were easy, pretty much anything we come in contact with would enter our bodies, and, worse, our insides would spill out!
When this barrier is broken (that may be due, for example, to severe dryness and irritation, strong acid peels, or laser vaporizations), our creams, but also bacteria, and other substances can more easily get inside our bodies. But this often causes irritations, infections, and other problems we’d rather not deal with.
There are also ways to get through a healthy skin barrier. Substances like propylene glycol and linalool can help other ingredients better penetrate into the skin. Applying creams to damp skin increases absorption by about 10% too. But to the stratum corneum, it doesn’t make any difference whether you rub in or pat on your creams. Either way, they seep in slowly, at the rate the stratum corneum allows them to.
Why Patting Is Really Better Than Rubbing
Patting may not enhance penetration, but it can help you age better. How? Rubbing too vigorously stretches skin, causing the breakdown of elastin and collagen. This, in turn, promotes sagging.
It’s true, though, that a gentle massage, using circular motions, can be beneficial for skin too. It help increase blood flow, which gives your skin a pretty natural glow. But there’s an exception. If you have rosacea or overly red skin you should avoid rubbing. It can aggravate the condition.
Patting is also a better way to apply sunscreen. Sunscreen is not skincare. It is not meant to be absorbed. To work properly, it needs to sit on top of the skin and form a protective layer against UV rays. Rubbing gets in the way of that. A 2006 study has shown that rubbing sunscreen in vigorously can affect the formation of this even layer, leaving tiny holes that are impossible to detect with the naked eye but allow UV rays to get through and damage skin.
The Bottom Line
Neither rubbing nor patting enhance the penetration of your lotions and potions. But patting is gentler on the skin, and, unlike rubbing, doesn’t reduce the effectiveness of your sunscreen.
How do you apply your skincare products?