Once & For All: Should You Rub Or Press In Your Skin Care Products?

Where do experts stand in this skin care tug of war?

Once & For All: Should You Rub Or Press In Your Skin Care Products?
Woman Applying Face Lotion - Natural Skincare

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January 20, 2021 — 4:03 AM

Among beauty experts, there’s tons of talk about how you should apply your skin care products. We’ve got the when, the where, and the why pretty much tackled, but the how becomes a little more challenging to dissect. Case in point: the pressing versus rubbing debate. 

In one corner, we have those who suggest you use the weight of your palms to press products into your face, as this technique keeps you from pulling at the skin and exacerbating wrinkles down the line. And in the other, you have those who say that rubbing in circular or upwards motions can offer a lit-from-within glow (so long as you do it correctly). 

So where do we stand in this skin care tug of war? Well, we probed experts to get to the bottom of this debate, once and for all.  

Should you pat or rub in skin care products? 

Short answer? There isn’t one. Ultimately, you should do whatever feels good for you in the moment: “It's more important that you are consistent and enjoy your skincare routine,” notes esthetician Tami Blake, founder of Free + True. Whether you enjoy pressing in products or would rather revel in a light massage, well, that’s totally up to you. 

Blake personally prefers spreading products with light pressure for stimulating circulation and increased absorption into the skin (since you’re literally working them in with your hands). Hot tip: She also sprays on a hydrating toner while layering her serums and moisturizers, as the mist not only further enhances absorption but also provides enough slip that you’re not tugging at the skin.

Joanna Vargas, celebrity facialist and founder of Joanna Vargas Salons and Skin Care casts her vote for gentle massage as well: “I’m not a pat-product-in person,” she says. Rather, “I prefer teaching clients to use upward hand-over-hand strokes to apply product, because it’s good for circulation and the lymphatic system.” Especially if you’re in the market for a more immediate glow (you’ve got places to be!), the uptick in blood flow can offer a lit-from-within radiance. Again, you should always keep the pressure featherlight; you never want to rub too vigorously and cause inflammation. 

The exceptions: eye creams and face oils.

While both Vargas and Blake generally favor rubbing in products, they do make exceptions for certain formulas. First up: eye creams. “I would pat or very gently tap on an eye cream. The skin there is so delicate and sensitive,” Vargas notes. In fact, the eye area is the thinnest skin on your entire face, and even the tiniest amount of tugging can cause micro-tears and fine lines—it may be best to skip the circular motions altogether just to be safe. As Blake adds, “I prefer to apply the product by tapping around my orbital bone.”

Blake also suggests patting on face oils—since you’d typically apply an oil at the very end of your skin care routine (in order to trap all the hydrating goodness underneath), you likely don’t need another massage if you’ve already worked in a serum or moisturizer (if you’d like another go, though, by all means). “Warm up a few drops evenly in your hands and press into the skin,” Blake says.

TL;DR? There isn’t one correct way to apply your skin care products, so long as you remain gentle and consistent. So whether you decide to press or rub, it’s completely your prerogative. Experts do stand by a light massage for stimulating blood circulation (which contributes even more skin care benefits, so what’s not to love?), but the patting method does have its advantages—namely, for delicate regions like the eye area, you may want to stick to gentle taps.


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