Keeping your skin moisturized is important, and we've heard it enough times from dermatologists not to forget it. No matter how you choose to moisturize is totally up to you, though—you can lather on the heavy cream for a strong glow or pat on a light emulsion for a thin veil of hydration. At the end of the day, what matters is that your skin isn't deprived of the moisture it needs.
That said, let's not forget that even the smalles things matter when it comes to the way you moisturize. For example, making sure you don't forget your neck (massage in upwards strokes to prevent wrinkles!) and not rubbing the product in too hard make a big difference in your skin's quality in the long run. And lastly, there's another important factor to note: the amount of water on your skin when you apply moisturizer.
Here's why you should apply moisturizer on damp skin
"It is recommended to apply moisturizers within two to three minutes after bathing because the skin is still moist," board-certified dermatologist Dr. Gaile Robredo-Vitas tells Preview. "Applying moisturizers help 'trap' this moisture and keep water in, and it is also at this stage when the skin is able to absorb the mousturizers more effectively."
Not moisturizing within this window of time can result in significant water loss on your skin. This process is called transepidermal water loss (TEWL), or as Dr. Gaile defines it, "the insensible loss of water from the skin due to evaporation, in the absence of sweat." Basically, it's the process of water evaporating from our skin. It's why your face could feel dry whenever you skip any form on skincare after cleansing, as there's nothing (like a moisturizer, for example) keeping water in your skin.
That said, TEWL is totally normal, because water naturally passes from the deeper layers of our skin to the top layers—but we do need to prevent too much evaporation. The best way to do so is to take care of our moisture barrier, which controls the skin's ability to hold water. Any damage to the barrier doesn't just lead to dehydration, it also makes you more prone to breakouts and other forms of irritation. Avoid the usual suspects for a compromised barrier, like harsh detergents and soaps, and as mentioned above, don't wait too long before you moisturize.
To illustrate, after cleansing, remove excess water by tapping them away with your hands or dabbing your skin with a towel. At this point, your face will still feel a little moist, so it's the perfect time to apply hydrating products like a toner, essence, or serum. These can actually help delay water loss especially if they contain humectants, so you don't necessarily have to skip them and go straight to moisturizer. In short, do your usual routine but the sooner you lock in that moisture, the better!