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Are you getting the complete benefit of your skincare routine? Experts advise applying skincare products on damp skin to increase their efficacy.

Your products are customized to address issues lying in different layers of your skin. While water-based products like serums are easily absorbed, others may not be able to penetrate when applied over dry skin. Thus, starting your skincare on skin that is damp and permeable is always considered beneficial.

Read on to know which skin care products to apply and which to avoid on your damp skin to get the best out of your skin regime.

Our Ayurvedic Doctor Speaks

“Washing skin with water depletes the natural waxy-oily layer on the skin. This makes the products absorb better into the deeper layers of the skin. Damp skin also means the skin cells are well hydrated.”

Dr. Zeel Gandhi (Bachelor of Ayurveda, Medicine & Surgery), Chief Ayurvedic Doctor, Vedix

What Is Damp Skin?

Your skin is referred to as damp when it is neither dripping wet nor dry but just slightly wet. This is when you’ve misted your face, gently patted it with a towel after cleansing or dabbed it with a moist cloth that leaves behind just enough water for a moistened feel on the skin.

What Does Damp Skin Look Like?

woman having wet face

Skin that has a wet feel or has visible beads of moisture on it is counted as damp skin. Sprinkling, dabbing or gently spraying your skin with water can give you damp skin. And this is considered the ideal state for applying skin care.

Why Is Damp Skin Good For Skin Care?

You have probably come across skin care product labels that instruct you to apply certain products on damp skin. This is because products are better absorbed by your skin when it is in a damp state. It is similar to applying serums and conditioners on damp hair.

The moisture on your skin or hair allows for better penetration due to enhanced permeability [1]. With the nutrition in your product reaching into the deeper layers, your skin feels more nourished and revitalized.

Research on Hydration and percutaneous absorption state that upon hydration the permeability of the stratum corneum increases rapidly and the layer holds water within it. The permeability then slowly stabilizes, thus proving that products applied to freshly hydrated skin can travel deep and prove to be more effective.

Another benefit of applying skin care products such as occlusives on damp skin is that they help seal in the moisture on your skin keeping it hydrated. Applying a product that acts as an occlusive (these form a protective barrier over the skin to prevent water loss) such as a moisturizer on dry skin, may prevent essential moisture from entering your skin.

“Washing skin with water depletes the natural waxy- oily layer on the skin. This makes the products absorb better into the deeper layers of the skin. Damp skin also means the skin cells are well hydrated. This prevents the product from getting absorbed just by the superficial layers. The products on damp skin thus reach the viable epidermis and dermis,” says Dr. Zeel Gandhi, Chief Ayurvedic Doctor, Vedix.

She further adds, “A study conducted with infrared imaging techniques on the skin confirmed better absorption of products on damp skin.”

Certain skincare products are listed as hydrophilic [2], which means they are meant to travel deep into the stratum corneum to benefit your skin. Applying such products on damp skin further increases their effectiveness.

How To Apply Skincare On Damp Skin?

woman smiling and applying face body cream on her face

1. On Face

  • Wash your face with a cleanser.
  • Pat it gently with a towel so it is no longer dripping wet.
  • Now apply your serum followed by your moisturizer.
  • If your face tends to feel dry during the day, mist your face with water from a spray bottle. Or apply a face mist followed by a moisturizer (optional).

2. On Body

  • Once you are out of the shower don’t dry your skin completely so that it feels damp.
  • Now take a sufficient amount of moisturizer in your palm and massage it on to your skin for better absorption.
  • In case you are not showering, dab a moist cloth/ sponge on your skin to dampen it. Now apply your moisturizer.

Vedix Tip: For those with dry skin issues, dampen your face with a moist washcloth and apply unpasteurized honey (humectant) to pull-in moisture into your skin. Follow it up with a coconut oil (occlusive) massage to seal-in the moisture.

What Should Be Applied To Damp Skin?

Woman holding serum with active botanical ingredients

No matter how elaborate or quick your daily skin care routine is, here’s a brief guide to understanding which products work best when applied on damp skin.

1. Serum And Essences

These contain active ingredients that hydrate your skin and address specific skin issues like pigmentation, wrinkles, dry skin and many more. Since damp skin is highly permeable (about ten times more than dry skin), applying serums and essences on damp skin ensures that the nutrients are quickly absorbed into the deeper layers of the stratum corneum. This also increases the effectiveness of the product.

However, make sure to apply the right quantity (3 to 4 drops) as your skin absorbs more when damp. Due to its high potency, excess serum can cause irritations.

2. Face Oil

While you might be thinking that oil and water don’t go together, applying face oil on freshly misted skin can ensure even application. Damp skin helps to spread the oil evenly over your face. It also maximizes its effectiveness by increasing its ability to penetrate deeper into your skin.

3. Face Packs

Experts recommend applying face packs on damp skin. The moisture on your skin prevents the pack from drying easily and allows your skin to absorb its goodness for a longer time.

4. Moisturizer

Damp skin contains more moisture. Applying a moisturizer over it helps to keep your skin hydrated through an occlusive effect. Damp skin also lets the moisturizer sink in easily. As a result the emollient properties of a moisturizer keeps your skin soft and supple.

5. Should I Apply Niacinamide On Damp Skin?

Niacinamide [3] or vitamin B3 in skin care is used to treat dry skin, hyperpigmentation, inflammation, free radical damage and premature skin aging. It is found in serums, moisturizers, creams or gels in varying concentrations ranging from 1% to 10%.

While it is quite safe to apply niacinamide on damp skin, it is important to understand your skin type and skin concerns. When applying on damp skin, begin with a low concentration, note how your skin reacts and then increase the dose. Damp skin enhances product absorption which also means that a small amount is likely to be sufficient.

6. Should I Apply Moisturizer To Damp Skin?

Yes, moisturizers are best applied on damp skin. Hydrated skin has greater permeability which allows the moisturizer to work on the deeper layers thus repairing your skin from within.

7. Can You Put Vitamin C On Damp Skin?

Vitamin C serums must be applied on dry skin that has been cleaned. Being a water-soluble vitamin [4], applying it on damp skin can dilute the product and make it lose its slight acidic nature. While on dry skin it acts as a highly effective antioxidant and depigmenting agent that fights free radical skin damage and enhances your skin’s natural glow.

8. Can Salicylic Acid Be Used On Damp Skin?

Salicylic acid is an beta hydroxy acid used for a variety of topical benefits. It boosts the production of collagen, prevents hyperpigmentation and treats acne.

Since salicylic acid exfoliates your skin and increases your cell turnover rate, you don’t want too much of the product penetrating too deep. This can increase the risk of skin irritations [5] and redness. Thus, it is advisable to use salicylic acid on dry skin.

How Often Should I Apply Skin Care To Damp Skin?

You ought to be mindful while applying skin care products to damp skin. You can daily moisturize on damp skin but while using a more potent product like a serum, 2 to 3 times a week is recommended. If you are trying a new skin care product, apply a small amount on damp skin and wait to see how your skin reacts. Give your skin the time it needs to adjust and then increase the frequency of application on damp skin.

The Last Word

With varieties of products offering skin care solutions it may be confusing to understand which ones go on damp skin and which don’t. Always remember that you ought to deal with damp skin responsibly as it is highly responsive to products. Thus, understanding the nature of your product may aid your decision.

Retinols, sunscreens, AHAs, BHAs and vitamin C must be applied on dry skin. While moisturizers and serums work best when your skin is damp. If you are still confused or are about to try a new product, consult your dermatologist to know the best application method.

Know Your Dosha Now

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