Is It Better To Rub Or Press Your Skincare Products Into Your Skin?

People are constantly claiming they've discovered the latest miracle skincare hack. As a result, people are continually trying out new ones for themselves. However, this obsession is not entirely their fault. Practically every model and celebrity we see in the media appears to have perfectly smooth, even, and ageless skin — whatever that means. So, we go hunting for info on how to get on a popular bandwagon, such as the spray-on skincare trend, or which ingredients or products can give us what we desire. But trend after trend and tip after tip, you can end up stacking up your skincare routine until it's a 20-step process.

In reality, dermatologists tend to agree that our skin health really comes down to simple strategies. In an interview with NBC Select, dermatologist Dr. Kathleen Cook Suozzi, who serves as Yale Medicine's director of aesthetic dermatology, remarked, "You want to strip everything down and stick to a really gentle skincare regimen." However, how to apply your washes, toners, and serums to obtain a gentle yet effective regime is somewhat debated. While some dermatologists recommend a rubbing method, others recommend pressing your products in, so let's get to the bottom of it once and for all.

Societal shifts in skincare application

For many people, the first skincare instructions they received were to rub products onto their skin using circular motions. The Clarisonic, a tool that would do this for you at quick speeds, was even one of the hottest skincare tools on the market for a short while — that is, until it was discontinued in 2020. As of late, though, dermatologists no longer approve of vigorous rubbing motions. While speaking to Marie Claire, dermatologist Dr. Rachel Nazarian remarked, " ... gentle pressure in a circular direction helps topical creams absorb and stimulates lymphatic circulation, clearing toxins faster." The key word here is gentle.

For an ideal skincare application, whether when rubbing or patting, dermatologist Dr. Peterson Pierre recommended to NBC Select that you move facial cleansers in slow circles, starting at the forehead before cleaning near your eyes, moving to the cheeks next, and finishing toward the chin. This applies to the following steps in your routine (serums, oils, moisturizers, etc.), but it comes with one caveat: You shouldn't rub around your eyes because the skin is thin and delicate there, as Dr. Nazarian explained to Marie Claire. You can rub in products throughout the rest of your routine, but when it comes to the eyes, it's better to be safe than sorry. Just don't forget your neck once your face is done, and make sure you keep a light touch. If you experience irritation or sensitivity at any point, consider a pressing application instead, as it will pretty much always be the better option.

Why pressing really might be better than rubbing

If you're looking to improve your lymphatic drainage, rubbing serums into your skin could be an effective way to do so. However, there is little evidence that either pressing or rubbing will change your skin's ability to absorb the product at hand, as Dr. Rachel Nazarian explained to Marie Claire. Because rubbing motions can pose risks to skin health, especially around sensitive areas like the eyes, some skin professionals prefer their patients use a pressing method.

For instance, Sarah Lee, the co-founder and co-CEO of the popular skincare brand Glow Recipe, told Brit + Co, "Rubbing in skincare products can cause friction, stretch the skin, and break down collagen and elastic, which will cause wrinkles and sagging." Another added bonus to the pressing technique is that you can still stimulate greater blood flow while avoiding skin foldage — and with just a light pat.

Ultimately, after years of scrubbing our skin, we can now rest assured that patting products into it is just as effective, as well as less risky when it comes to forming fine lines and folds. That sounds like a win-win to us.