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How to Apply Moisturizer the Right Way

As the body's largest organ, skin health is an important part of your overall well-being. Your skin protects you from the outside world, keeping you insulated from environmental aggressors.

You can support this function with a strong, consistent skin care routine. According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), this starts with a cleanser, moisturizer, and sunscreen—the cornerstones of a basic yet effective skin care routine. But you need to know how to use each of these properly to fully reap their benefits.

Read on to take a deep dive into moisturizing, including how to apply moisturizer, why it's important, and tips on choosing the right one for you.


Why Skin Hydration Is Important

When it comes to skin care, "moisture" and "hydration" refer to two different things. Skin moisture refers to the natural oils, also known as sebum, within the skin. While excess oil has its challenges, oils have an important job—to protect your skin from moisture loss, damage, and infections.

Skin hydration, on the other hand, refers to your skin's water content. Skin is made up of mostly water, and water is essential to keeping it strong and elastic. Your skin barrier also relies on healthy hydration levels. When skin is dehydrated, it can lead to flaking, fine lines, and irritation.

Despite its name, a moisturizer can target both by drawing water to the skin with hydrating ingredients and locking them in with moisturizing ingredients.

Black woman applying body moisturizer to skin


How to Apply Moisturizer

Your body has natural mechanisms in place to keep your skin healthy, but that doesn't mean they're perfect. Moisturizer provides an additional layer of support, and using it the right way allows it to be as effective as possible. Here's how to use a face moisturizer from start to finish.


    1. Recognize the Signs of Dryness

      Identifying the signs of dry and dehydrated skin can help you understand when to moisturize. Dry skin can look rough and flaky, and it may feel itchy or tight. People with dry skin types tend to need moisturizer the most, especially during the dry, cold winter months. PCA SKIN HydraBright is a cloudlike daily moisturizer that works to not only sooth skin dryness and roughness but also target uneven skin tones for a brighter complexion.

      However, anyone—regardless of skin type—can experience dehydrated skin. If your skin looks dull or is less elastic than normal, it may be a sign of dehydration.


    1. Choose the Right Moisturizer for You
      Everyone's skin is different, so choosing your skin care products is personal. Here are some factors to consider when choosing the best moisturizer for you.

      Skin Type
      Each skin type—oily, dry, combination, mature, and sensitive—has its own set of characteristics and needs. For example, people with oily skin don't need a heavy cream like someone with dry skin might. If your skin is on the oilier side, opt for something like PCA SKIN Clearskin. This lightweight, quick-absorbing formula balances your moisture levels without leaving behind a greasy sheen.

      Season or Climate
      Harsh winter conditions are especially tough on skin, making moisturizer even more crucial to combat dry, brittle skin. During the winter, choose a thick moisturizer, balm, or ointment. In the summer, go for a lighter formula.

      Moisturizer Type
      From least to most hydrating, the main types of moisturizers include lotions, creams, and ointments. The best type of moisturizer for you can depend on your skin type and seasonal conditions. PCA SKIN Collagen Hydrator is a rich moisturizer, meaning it has a thick consistency, and contains potent moisturizing agents like Shea Butter, Olive Oil, and Sweet Almond Oil. It's ideal for dry skin or anyone in need of some mid-winter moisturization.

      Active Ingredients
      Certain ingredients target specific skin concerns, such as dullness, hyperpigmentation, and fine lines. For dryness, seek hydrators like Hyaluronic Acid and Glycerin. For mature skin, opt for anti-aging ingredients like antioxidants and proteins such as in PCA SKIN Après Peel® Hydrating Balm.

    2. Follow the Correct Order

      Moisturizer is designed to seal water into the skin, so it belongs at the end of your skin care routine. During the day, apply moisturizer to clean, damp skin after your cleanser and any serums and before sunscreen.

      In the evening, moisturizing may be your final step. If you use any night masks in your nighttime routine, moisturize first. Generally, it's best to apply skin care products in order from lightest to heaviest.


  1. Apply Your Moisturizer
    When it's time to moisturize, use a nickel-sized amount and smooth it across your face, neck, and chest. Apply gentle pressure in an upward motion to encourage a subtle lifting effect. Don't rub or tug at the skin. Gently pat the moisturizer in until it's completely absorbed. Wait a minute or two before applying other skin care, sun care, or makeup products.


Healthy Skin for the Win

It may seem simple, but understanding how to use a face moisturizer can help you get the most out of your favorite product. Like brushing your teeth, aim to moisturize every day, twice per day. The key is to apply moisturizer on a consistent, long-term basis to notice healthy, hydrated skin over time.


Lacey Muinos
Lacey Muinos is a health, wellness, and beauty writer who specializes in skin and sun care. She has interviewed dozens of board-certified dermatologists to spread accurate and credible information relating to skin health, and her work has appeared on Healthline, Verywell Health, EltaMD,, and others. Prior to content writing, Lacey worked at a local skin care company in Southern California. She's been learning and writing about skin care ever since.