How To Apply Moisturizer To Your Face The Right Way

Applying a good moisturizer for your face takes more than splashing cream all over your face. It takes careful selection of a good moisturizer and precise skills of application for best results.

By Suprita Jayaram
How To Apply Moisturizer To Your Face The Right Way

Do you really need to moisturize your face and skin, or is this just another gimmick marketers use?

Our skin is the largest organ of our body and is our first defense to any externalities. Think — sharp sun, cold winds, unrelenting rain, a tumble down that slippery ditch, that needle prick when you were appliqueing your niece's bib — your skin was the first to take the hit, and only later did your reflexes kick in. Given the enormous responsibility of this organ, it only makes sense that we take care of it (motivated by self-centered reasons of self-preservation). Ironically, however very few take care of their skin, mostly for the lack of knowledge about how and why. To know how to take care of your skin, it’s a great idea to take cues from our own body. For instance, eyelashes on your eyelids protect your eyes from external foreign bodies. Taking a cue here, we understand that eyes need protection, so we use shades or hats to protect our eyes further. Similarly, for the skin, the body has its mechanism of secreting natural oils or sebum to hydrate and provide a protective coating on the skin, so that the skin can function optimally to fend off any foreign particles from percolating into our skin and causing infections. However, pollution and harsh environmental or climatic conditions subject our skin to harsh conditions that it is not naturally built to take on. That is why we need to support our skin with added layers of protective care and moisture so that the skin can do its job right. That is why moisturizing is vital. But here’s the thing, moisturizers don’t exactly add moisture to your skin, they do a bunch of other amazing things to your skin, and in so doing, protect it.

Of what use is your moisturizer to you?

1) It slows down the aging process by increasing the water content of your skin and reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles which are signs of aging. 2) It helps reduce inflammation and breakouts. Moisturizing oily skin counter-intuitively helps reduce the occurrence of breakouts, rather than triggering it. When the skin (including oily skin) is not moisturized, it can crack and become sensitive. This impairs the skin’s barrier function, and it aggressively produces histamine when it comes into contact with anything that it considers harsh (for sensitive skin, that’s pretty much any topical cream), which is then labeled acne breakout. 3) Moisturizers are packed with active ingredients that immediately talk to your skin concerns. Moisturizing formula is designed to go beyond lubricating and hydrating the skin. Moisturizers deliver active ingredients to soothe, rejuvenate and repair damaged skin. 4) It strengthens your protective barrier against environmental damage. The skin’s main function is to protect the body’s internal organs from harmful external extremities and to expel toxins. But this function is compromised when the skin cells are not well hydrated. The skin loses its ability to do its job well. 5) Moisturizers get your skin ready for a new made-up look. Applying a coat of moisturizer before you apply makeup is a great way to protect your skin from damage that may be caused by chemicals in the makeup. Also, it evens out your skin, allowing your makeup to glide more easily.

What exactly is in your moisturizer?

While we’re at it, let’s understand what goes on to ‘makeup’ our moisturizers. There are three types of moisturizers each having their unique specializations.


Humectants are moisturizers whose ingredients prevent moisture loss by drawing moisture from the atmosphere into the top layer of the skin. Humectants are made of glycerine, hyaluronic acid, propylene, glycol, urea, sorbitol, alpha hydroxy acid (like glycolic and lactic acid).


Emollients are moisturizing creams that work by filling in the cracks in between skin cells and thereby sealing in water. Most moisturizers have humectants and emollients working in tandem. The ingredients in an emollient are lanolin, mineral oil, ceramides, dimethicone, coconut oil and other plant-based oils.


Occlusives are moisturizers that work to provide a thicker barrier to prevent water loss. Typically these are heavy creams. The main ingredients of occlusives are shea butter, petrolatum, beeswax, and paraffin.

What moisturizer is best for you?

If you’ve ever had trouble finding your way about in a cosmetic store not so much because it was a labyrinth of aisles, but because there was an explosion of fabulous, ‘grab-me’ products stocked along the aisles, that pulled you in all directions possible, then you’re not alone! I hear you! I’ve been there and done just that. For those of you who still don’t get it, you don’t have to wander away into a Sephora store to empathize. You can drop yourself in the middle of a skin care aisle at a CVS pharmacy, and you will know that feeling of “I don’t know what to buy; there’s just too many to choose from, and they all look great.” Unless of course, you already know that little trick that I now have up my sleeve, that can get you shopping for your moisturizers and creams ever so confidently that it would indeed make your shopping experience therapeutic and let’s ‘face’ it, a lot of fun. You need to know two things: One, that there are different skin types; and Two, each skin type requires a different type of moisturizer for best results.

Different skin types

Normal Skin

Skin with almost no sensitivity, dryness or oiliness. If you have this skin type, you are blessed, and I’m jealous of you already! Your skin has great tolerance.

Dry skin

Dry skin is typically identified by concerns of rough texture, dull color, and dryness after cleansing. Embrace moisturizers that contain the words ‘hydrating’, ‘cream/creamy,’ ‘alcohol-free,’ ‘soap-free.’ Keep away from labels that say ‘ Alcohol,’ ‘retinol.’ Salicylic Acid’, and ‘Benzoyl Peroxide.’

Oily Skin

Oily skin is typically identified by acne breakouts, visible pores, and shine. For people blessed with oily skin (which I must confess is my favorite, when smooth and sans acne eruptions), it’s best to stick with moisturizers that are oil-free, noncomedogenic and mattifying. Oily skins don’t get along well with alcohol, petrolatum, and mineral oil.

Combination type skin

This type of skin is dry in some areas and oily in others. For instance, the T-zone on the face is typically oily skin for those who have combination skin. The best creams or moisturizers for this skin type are balancing, non-drying and noncomedogenic.

Sensitive Skin

This is the kind of skin that tends to react to skin care products with redness, burning or acne. The best applications for this skin type are calming mists (Thermal Spring Waters) and soothing botanical oils such as aloe and chamomile. When buying creams and moisturizers look for the words calm, mild and hypoallergenic. Stay away from perfumes, fragrances, and preservatives.

Different skin types use different moisturizers

It can’t be stressed enough how important it is to pick up a moisturizer that works for your skin type. Moisturizers with humectants are great for oily skin and combination skin type. So make sure to look at the labels for the ingredients glycerin, hyaluronic acid, propylene glycol, urea, sorbitol, alpha hydroxy acid (like glycolic and lactic acid). Moisturizers with emollients are great for dry and sensitive skin. Here you would seek out lanolin, mineral oil, ceramides, dimethicone, coconut oil and other plant-based oils on the ingredients list. Moisturizers with occlusives work extremely well with severely dry skin and thicker parts of the skin hands, feet, elbows, and knees. Occlusives comprise of shea butter, petrolatum, beeswax, and paraffin.

Sunscreens and moisturizers, do you really need to use both?

Sunscreen is a must, no matter what the weather, no matter where you are at — indoors or outdoors. It is a well-known fact that changes in skin such as sagging skin, wrinkles, and uneven tone are caused by exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays. Studies show that regular and frequent application (every couple of hours) of a broad spectrum sunscreen of SPF 15 or more, can reduce skin aging significantly (by 24 percent)! If you are diligent with applying sunscreen regularly, it will take care of a lot of problems related to premature skin aging. But you might wonder why it is necessary to wear sunscreen moisturizer even if you are indoors? The reason is very simple: UV rays can penetrate glass. So staying indoors at home is relatively safer from a skin protection point of view than sitting in your car with untinted glass windows. UV rays can cause skin damage that may range from harmless wrinkles and sunspots to much more serious conditions of skin cancer. It’s not worth taking the chance — so wear a sunscreen moisturizer duo, and make it a habit. If your skin shows some signs of sun damage such sunspots or premature wrinkles, it’s wise to take steps to repair and remove these, so as not to compromise your skin’s defense barrier. The link below is a useful guide on how to take care of your skin when it shows signs of aging such as sunspots.

5 Simple & Natural Ways To Remove Sunspots On Your Skin Fast

Understanding your sunscreen label

Sun Protection Factor (SPF)

Sun Protection Factor, is the measure of how much UVB radiation it would take to burn protected skin versus the amount of radiation required to burn unprotected skin. For instance, if your skin normally (without sunscreen) begins to burn after about 10 minutes in the sun, an SPF 15 labeled sunscreen will afford you 15 times that amount of time in the sun, fully protected from sunburn. So with an SPF 15 sunscreen, you’ll be good for 150 minutes.


Ultraviolet A rays form 95 percent of the UV radiation reaching the earth’s surface. They penetrate the skin more deeply than UVB rays and are a major cause for wrinkles and fine lines.


Ultraviolet B rays are shorter rays and more intense than UVA. These rays damage the superficial epidermal layers of the skin, causing redness and irritation. More infamously, these rays are known to cause skin cancer.

Broad Spectrum

This simply means that your sunscreen provides you protection from both types of radiation.

Chemical Sunscreen

There are certain chemical filters such as avobenzone, oxybenzone, Mexoryl SX and XL and Tinosorb M, which absorb UV rays and thereby do not let them penetrate into the skin.

Mineral Sunscreen

These sunscreens use the minerals zinc oxide and titanium dioxide to deflect the sun’s rays. Mineral sunscreens are better than chemical ones because they don’t penetrate the skin and cause irritation.

Non Comedogenic

This means that the cream used on the skin will not clog your pores.

How to choose and use your sunscreen

Normal skin

Normal skin can tolerate most formulations of sunscreens ranging from gels to cream to powder. What formulation you choose to use will depend on the activity that you would engage in.

Dry and sensitive skin

Use a sunscreen lotion with hydrating properties. Ingredients such as glycerin, lanolin oils, silicones (such as dimethicone) and aloe are great for dry and sensitive skin. Mineral sunscreens are a better bet than chemical sunscreens which can irritate sensitive or dry skin.

Oily skin or combination skin

Look at the label to find ‘Non-Comedogenic’ and ‘oil-free.’ If you don’t see them on your label, don’t bother picking up that sunscreen or cream. Always use creams that are non-comedogenic. Good practices are using formulations that come in lightweight, sheer, fluid or gel formulas.

What is an ideal moisturizing, skin care routine to follow?

Finding the right skin care products to use is the first step toward building a better skincare routine. Following a skin care routine, is a helpful way to get into the habit of treating your skin with care and responsibility, and thereby living a healthier life.

Early morning

Start with a cleanser, use a brush to lather it up. Cream cleansers are ideal for the dry and sensitive skin. Gel cleansers are great for oily skin and combination skin. Foam cleansers are also great for oily skin and combination skin. Oil cleansers work their magic on all skin types. After cleansing, use a toner. What do toners do for your skin? While most toners remove any leftover traces of makeup or cleanser and tighten the skin, the newest breed of toners contain antioxidants, calming ingredients, and even exfoliating acids, and hence they are an excellent product to include in your skincare routine. After cleansing and toning your face, use a good moisturizer that suits your skin type and applies it evenly using the pads of your fingers, and gently massage it using strokes upward. Finally, don’t forget to include your sunscreen moisturizer with a suitable SPF, and dab it all overexposed areas of your skin which includes your face, hands, and legs if uncovered.


A mid-day routine takes much less time. A good misting spray is very useful for a mid-day moisturizing routine. If you don’t have a moisturizing misting spray, you can also use regular moisturizer on damp skin and let it dry. Use lip balms often.


Having a night time skin care routine for your face might seem counterintuitive, but it is, in fact, the best time to pamper your skin with moisturizers. Why? ‘Coz at night when you’re snoozing in the cool, comforts of your bed, your skin does not have to fight away UV rays, or pollution for you. It can lay its guard down, and with some care that you give it, it can regenerate and rejuvenate skin cells, so you’re ready to take on the next day confidently. A nighttime skin routine can be long, but a lot of fun. You would start with your cleanser. Make sure to massage your face for a minute or two when you apply the cleanser. Needless to mention here, that you would use a cleanser that suits your skin type. A toner would follow next. You might wonder why you would need a toner in the night? It’s for the same reasons that you use it in the mornings but remember the more frequent the use of these skin protecting products, the better for your skin. After using a toner, take a few minutes to apply the cream for spot treatments. If your skin is prone to acne, use this time to reach for a spot treatment with benzoyl peroxide. Using tea tree oil is also a great option for spot treatment, and is best used at night. Then use a serum. Serums are skin-loving concentrates that add that extra moisture and hydration to your skin when it needs that added pampering for damage repair. There are serums for all skin types. For severely dry skin, there are hydrating serums that are extremely moisturizing. These usually contain hyaluronic acid, vitamin B-5, and glycerin. Calming and moisturizing serums for inflamed skin are designed to reduce redness and itchiness. These normally contain chamomile, lavender, aloe, allantoin, and calendula. While you are at it and pampering your skin at night, don’t forget a good, moisturizing eye cream. And finally, apply a nighttime moisturizer that will seal in the moisture and let your skin rejuvenate overnight.

How to apply moisturizer on your face

When you’ve decided that you want to moisturize, make sure you moisturize the right way! There are only a couple things you need to know to learn how to moisturize the right way.

How much to use?

It’s best to know how much to use, while you start your skincare routine, to maximize benefits. Using too much is a waste of the product and the money, and too little is also no good, ‘coz most likely it will not be benefiting your skin at all. Use this guide to help you calibrate the amount of moisturizing product you use. Use a pea-sized portion for eye cream. A peanut sized portion of a primer. A dime-sized portion for a moisturizer. A nickel sized portion for a cleanser. A golf ball sized portion for a body cleanser. A shot glass sized portion for body sunscreen.

What exactly to do when you have moisturizer waiting on your fingertips?

Using the pads of your fingers, gently rub your fingers together, making it warm between the palms of your hands. When your palms are sufficiently warm, apply the moisturizer to a damp face. Start at the cheeks and gently work your way upwards to your forehead. Use circular motions to cover the breadth of your forehead and then contour your fingers around your nose. Finally, move to your chin and continue with a circular motion before you move to your neck with upward strokes. Remember to keep your strokes light and gentle and let the movement be circular and moving upward.

Don’t just moisturize; maintain as well.

Drink plenty of water

Drinking plenty of water is a great way to stay hydrated and flush out unwanted toxins from the body. Let’s remember that more than 70 percent of our body is made of water, and we constantly lose some of this water through perspiration and exhalation. Thus, for optimum cellular and bodily function, we should replenish fluid in our bodies and drink a minimum of 8 glasses of water a day.

Exfoliate your skin once in a week

Regular cleansing, exfoliation, moisturization and sun protection are fundamental to the good and healthy skin. Start slow when you begin to exfoliate. Once a week is safe and healthy.

Stay away from fragrances

All products with fragrances and perfumes added to them are the worst chemicals on your face. Keep away from moisturizers that have added fragrances. Opt for fragrance-free moisturizers or moisturizers with mild fragrance (if you really crave it).

Follow a routine

Follow a systematic routine and make time for your skin every day at least twice a day, if not more. The results will not fail you. It’s simple logic, the more you hydrate and moisturize your skin, the plumper, healthier and fresher it will look.

Use sun-protective clothing

Wearing sunscreen moisturizers are a great way to keep away from UVA and UVB rays. However, don’t underestimate the great job that sun protective clothing can do for you. Wear broad-brimmed hats, wear light-colored, loose cotton shirts with long sleeves, if the weather permits. Use sunglasses when you’re out in the sun especially between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.

Eat and drink skin-friendly food

Eggs yolks, rich in lutein protects the skin from sun damage. Pomegranate is a powerhouse of ellagic acid, which is a rich source of polyphenols and potent antioxidants, which are excellent for skin health. Tomato and grapefruit, rich in lycopene, like lutein, helps protect skin from sun damage. Coffee, rich in polyphenols may help in reducing skin hyperpigmentation. Also, antioxidants in green tea can help reverse and reduce signs of aging and can prevent certain skin cancers.

Wearing tinted makeup

If you can’t do without makeup and have to get some of that color on your complexion, then switch to tinted moisturizers. Tinted moisturizers are packed with all the goodness of moisturizers and add that made-up glam look sans the adverse side effects of makeup on your skin. For instance, for normal skin, you can use a lightweight formula such as Balm Shelter Tinted Moisturizer. For dry skin, Bobbi Brown’s lightweight Extra SPA 25 tinted moisturizer is a great fit. For oily skin, M.A.C’s Lightful C Tinted Cream SPF 30, is a moisturizer packed with vitamin C that helps reduce the appearance of pores and discoloration. For sensitive skin, there is the antioxidant-heavy balm by Pur-lisse — BB Tinted Moist Cream SPF 30.

In a nutshell: Make the most of your moisturizing regime

Apply moisturizers when your skin is moist or damp, not when the face is dry. Adjust your moisturizer according to the weather conditions. Winters usually require a thicker moisturizing cream, than do summers. Choose moisturizers based on the skin type of your face; facial skin is normally more sensitive than the rest of the body and has unique qualities. And finally, a good moisturizing routine is only half the work done; a holistic and long-term approach to maintaining healthy skin, is by drinking plenty of water, and eating appropriate food rich in essential fatty acids and vitamins, and leading a healthy and active life.