Face Moisturizer: Why, When and How to Use It

These dermatologist-approved tips may just slice ten years off your appearance.

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Face moisturizer has been a more recent addition to most men’s grooming routines, but its popularity is soaring, with 54 percent of the men we surveyed telling us that they now moisturize their faces at least somewhat regularly. Since so many of us are novices when it comes to lotions and the like, we reached out to dermatologist Anthony Rossi and esthetician Gregory Dylan for some advice: Here’s what they had to say about why, when and how to moisturize after shaving.

Why You Should Use Face Moisturizer
To understand the benefits of using face moisturizer, Rossi emphasizes that you first need to understand how the skin works. “The top layer of skin (the stratum corneum) is made up of dead skin cells. Just beneath this layer is where the skin stores water,” Rossi explains. “But when your skin isn’t holding onto enough water, it looks and feels drier, and it loses its elasticity.”

That’s where face moisturizer comes to the rescue: “The moisturizer both locks water into the skin and absorbs water from the outside,” says Rossi. The end result is that your skin immediately looks smoother and feels healthier, but that’s not all — regularly applying face moisturizer prevents wrinkles and tired-looking skin in the long run, too. Dylan also recommends using a face moisturizer with SPF, especially in the mornings, since this will protect your mug from the sun’s aging effects. In other words, a tube of face moisturizer is probably as close to the Fountain of Youth as we’re ever going to get.

When To Use Face Moisturizer
“You should apply face moisturizer every morning and every night, ideally after washing your face,” Rossi recommends (Dylan suggests moisturizing whenever you brush your teeth, which might help cement it into your routine). By applying moisturizer directly after washing, you not only replace the naturally moisturizing oils that soap oftentimes removes, you also lock any excess water lingering on your face into the skin — this boosts the effects of the moisturizer and results in softer, healthier-looking skin.

It’s also good practice to moisturize after shaving: Since shaving is a natural exfoliant, you want to put back what you took off by shaving. Face moisturizer will also condition the hairs as they begin to grow back, which helps prevent post-shave prickliness, razor bumps and other forms of irritation.

Some people might benefit from face moisturizer even more so than others: Skin of color, for example, is particularly prone to ashiness, since it tends to be low in ceramides, i.e., lipids that help the skin retain moisture (on the plus side, dark skin usually consists of a more compact stratum corneum, which helps protect against environmental dangers, like the sun). This doesn’t necessarily mean that if you’ve got darker skin you need to use more face moisturizer, but you might notice the effects more than someone with light skin would.

Rather than ethnicity, though, Dylan explains your skin type should dictate what kind of face moisturizer you use. “You really want to shop by skin type,” he emphasizes: People with particularly greasy skin benefit from oil-free moisturizers; people with exceptionally dry skin fare better with thick moisturizers; and people with combination skin — greasy in some places and dry in others — should generally look for lightweight moisturizers designed specifically for their unique skin type. Whatever the case, Dylan says non-comedogenic moisturizers, which won’t clog your pores, are always a good bet.

How To Use Face Moisturizer
“It’s key to pat the skin dry after washing, leaving a small amount of water on the skin,” Rossi explains. “Then, place the moisturizer on top of the water to lock it into the skin.” He adds that people with really dry skin or eczema should attempt the soak and smear technique, which is the most thorough moisturizing method out there: Spend 20 minutes soaking in the bath tub, then smear moisturizer over the affected area while it’s still completely wet.

Chemist and product wiz Fadi Mourad also recommends taking a dime-sized amount of face moisturizer and emulsifying it — that is, rubbing it back and forth between your hands to warm it up — before applying it. “This helps to distribute the active ingredients and to break down some of the waxes in the cream so it applies easily and evenly,” he explains. This is vital to ensure that all the moisturizing ingredients aren’t going to just one half of your face, leaving the other half to dry out so you look like this guy.

Now that you know how to properly apply face moisturizer, give it a whirl. If you don’t notice immediate results, maybe you will 20 years down the line when you get carded buying tickets for an R-rated movie.