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Moisturizer seems simple enough. It comes in a jar or a tube, and once or twice a day you slather it onto your skin. However, if you’re applying it wrong, it’s about as beneficial as that bottle of multivitamins that sits in your cupboard but never gets opened. Basically, it’s not doing much.

Applying your moisturizer correctly, on the other hand, boosts hydration in your skin, prevents flaking and dullness, and creates a protective layer of moisture that lasts all day. Plus, proper application of a face cream will help anti-aging ingredients work better — increasing the odds that they’ll work.

If you think you’re doing everything right, you might be surprised to learn that you could be moisturizing better. And with a few small tweaks to your routine, you really can get through the winter without chapped, dry skin — all you need is your trusty jar of lotion and these rules.


Shop right

First of all, you’ll want to start with a cream that really moisturizes. And hydration starts with ingredients known as humectants. “Humectants are important for longer lasting moisturization,” explains dermatologist and president of Amarte Skin Care Dr. Craig Kraffert. “Humectants to look for include glycerin, hyaluronic acid, and propylene glycol.” Check the ingredients list before you buy any moisturizer — face or body — and make sure it contains at least one humectant.


Layer strategically

“You get more functional utility out of your skin care products when you layer products that work together in the best most effective order,” says Kraffert. The rule of thumb is to start with the thinnest consistency products and work your way up to the heaviest. Serums go on first, followed by oils, then creams. The one exception is sunscreen, which should be applied last. “It would not be ideal to put SPF under a lotion or cream moisturizer because by nature SPF products block skin absorption,” explains Kraffert. And you want your moisturizing ingredients to be able to sink in.


If it ain’t broke…

Just because winter is looming doesn’t mean you need to completely revamp your skin care routine. “If you have a routine that works well, why would you completely change it simply because of a new season?” asks dermatologist and psychiatrist Amy Wechsler, MD. “Try trouble shooting with products that address seasonal skin issues, like a thicker lotion in the winter to combat dry skin, but there is no need for a total overhaul.” If you love your face moisturizer, but you need more hydration, you can also try layering moisturizing serums or face oils underneath. Look for serums that contain hyaluronic acid and oils like jojoba, argan, or rosehip.


Timing is everything

After showering or washing your face, you want to lock that moisture into your skin. But if your skin is too wet, the lotion will slide right off. “The best strategy is to apply moisturizers when skin is freshly moist,” says Kraffert. “This moist state is most accessible immediately after towel drying.” 


Measuring is personal

According to Kraffert, there’s no ideal measurement for how much moisturizer you need — for either your face or your body. “A certain amount of experimentation is necessary to determine the optimal amount of product for each specific situation,” he says. If you’re unable to rub in all of the moisturizer, then you’ve probably used too much. On the other hand, if you’re not able to easily spread the lotion everywhere you need it, you need to use more.


Don’t neglect your neck

When you apply your anti-aging facial moisturizer, there’s no reason to stop when you reach your jawline. Wechsler suggests using the same product on your neck, chest, and hands because all of these areas will show signs of aging. Your facial skin care targets wrinkles and dark spots while your regular body lotion does not. On the flip side, don’t use your body lotion on your face — it can irritate sensitive facial skin and clog pores.


Apply in upward strokes

As you age, gravity pulls your skin downward, causing sagging and wrinkles. To combat this, some skin care experts suggest applying moisturizer in upward strokes. It may not be enough to reverse the effects of gravity, but it doesn’t make the situation worse either. And a gentle massaging technique increases circulation, helps minimize puffiness, and ensures that your skin absorbs the most moisturizer it possibly can.