Your face is like a sponge is an enormously popular saying*. (*In the skin care biz. It probably hasn’t popped up in your group chat recently.) But it’s also the source of much confusion. So, let’s break it down.
Think of it like this...
You know how when you use your beauty blender, you have to dampen it first? Because if you don’t, it’s much, much harder to apply product to your face?
Well, the same applies to your face and your skin care!
Dampening your skin before you apply your skin care prepares it to absorb whatever product you follow with. This is because damp skin is easier to penetrate than dry skin. (And when I say damp, I do mean damp. Think: just-cleansed or freshly-misted skin, not sopping wet.) This means your serums/face oils/moisturisers are going to get their best start so they can do their best work.
Some ways you can dampen your skin:
Toners: A balancing prep step that helps neutralise your skin’s pH so the rest of your skin care is better absorbed.
Essences: Similar to toner in its prepping ability, but an essence falls less into cleansing (like toner) and is more the first step of treating your skin. But it also helps your serums and face creams soak in all the more.
Hydrating Mists: Hydrating mists are exactly what they sound like. And can be super helpful for getting that damp skin while also giving your skin a hydration boost.
Water: Yup. Regular, old water will also do the trick. Don’t dry off fully after cleansing and head straight into your routine. Applying your skin care within a minute or so after cleansing also helps to avoid trans epidermal water loss (TEWL) which zaps moisture from your skin. Rude.
Now! Here’s where things get a little...complicated. Although damp skin is great for getting the most out of your products that doesn’t mean you should apply ALL of your skin care onto damp skin. This is because the more heavy-duty, active-y type ingredients (looking at you, retinol) could potentially end up working too hard and irritating your skin.
Here is a very handy list of which products should be (generally speaking) applied to dry or damp skin.
Products That Should Be Applied To Dry Skin:
Exfoliators (AHAs, BHAs, and PHAs)
Retinols or retinoids
Oil-based cleansers (cleansing oils and balms)
Products That Should Be Applied To Damp Skin:
Water-based cleansers (mousses, gels, creams, etc.)
Serums (so long as they don’t contain anything potentially irritating like retinol or chemical exfoliants)
And if in doubt, heed the instructions on your product.
There you go! Your face is like a sponge! Go forth and dampen your skin before applying (most of) your skin care, and spread the word in your group chats.