If the only products you’re using are cleanser, moisturiser, and during the day SPF, lucky you! There’d be little guesswork to do for when and how you use them. But some of us are not as lucky and may want to tackle several issues like first signs of ageing, sun damage, spots as well as skin type. In such a case, most likely, you’ve got several products lined up.

Then, you’ve also heard about the 10-second rule of the Koreans for when to apply products after washing and have seen their gorgeously flawless and radiant skin. But to what kind of products do the 10 seconds after washing rule apply? And why?

Korean 10-second rule or why apply products on damp skin

It all comes down to the outer layer of your skin, the stratum corneum. When you look at it (under a microscope), it looks a lot like a brick wall. The stratum corneum is made up of dead skin cells “cemented” together with fats.

This stratum corneum or skin barrier is there to protect your body. If you pour water on your skin, it just runs off. But with time, water still can get through and get soaked up by skin cells. So, after washing, your skin is softened. When you towel off, your skin is dry on the surface but the skin cells in the deeper layers have absorbed some water. The water has also loosened up the “cement”, the fats holding the skin cells together.

Photo by Ron Lach

In these conditions, damp skin strikes the perfect balance between dry and too wet: This is when the products you apply can more easily travel down to the deeper layers of your skin. The skin cells in the outer layer are “fully filled” and can no longer soak up any products. This means they can just go deeper.

When your skin is damp, it also means that the fats glueing together the dead skin cells is thinned out. These fats are usually water repellent, and when loosened and thinned, it makes your skin more permeable so that your skin care can much more easily make its way down between the cells into the deeper layers of your skin, to the dermis. This is where new skin cells are formed and where you want your products to do their job.

So, it’s actually quite the opposite of what you’d normally think: Damp skin equals watering down your products and thus making them less effective. But it’s not so easy.

Some products don’t work on damp skin

Knowing how damp skin can supercharge your products – any products that need to be in the deepest layers of your skin to do their work, there are some caveats.

The damp skin technique does wonders for things like vitamins, antioxidants, and hydrators. But higher permeability also means your products may be more irritating, especial if you’ve got sensitive skin. You may want to avoid strong products such as benzoyl peroxides on damp skin.

Some chemical exfoliants and peels aren’t meant to be applied to damp skin. You should be cautious and follow directions by the book so as to avoid irritation.

SPF should always be applied to dry skin. Water will often mess with the coverage and formula so that you won’t get the protections as described on the label. Also, mineral SPF is designed to sit on the skin and not to be absorbed.

How to make your skin damp

Of course, the easiest way to put your skin in the perfect condition between dry and too wet is after a shower or a bath. Only pat your skin dry.

Do you know why a facial is preceded by steaming your face when you go to a beautician? That’s right: it’s to get your skin perfectly damp. An easy at-home method to steam your skin is to pour some hot water in a bowl and cover your head with a towel.

If you’re on the go, you can use a face mist or a portable humidifier. Just spray your face a few times and let the droplets skin into your skin.

Regardless of what technique you try, the key is to let the droplets penetrate into your skin and then to apply the following products in the right order.

Layer your product in the right order

Not only do skin care products have different textures and consistencies, the order in which you apply them can also affect how well they work. The general rule of thumb is to start with the lightest, runniest product, working your way up to the heaviest, thickest product. The order would most likely look like this:

  • Toner
  • Essence and sheet mask
  • Hydrating and oil free serums
  • Treatment serums
  • Moisturiser
  • Face oil
  • SPF

Even this rule has an exception. If you’re tackling spots, you may want to apply your acne product first. But only, if you know your skin can tolerate it. Otherwise, stick to the thin to thick rule of thumb so that you don’t necessarily dry out or exacerbate your acne-inflamed skin.

How long should you wait between applying skincare products?

Are you really supposed to let a product dry before applying the next? As long as you follow the rule and start with the lightest product working your way up to the heaviest, you should be good to go back to back. That is just wait until you’ve opened the next jar or bottle.

But, if you’re applying an acid treatment or an acne product first, it’s best to wait until it has dried before you move on to the next product.

In the end, everything you’ve applied to your skin will become a cocktail. So, basically, as long as your moisturiser is one of the last steps in your routine, you’re probably doing fine.


To recap: Damp skin increases product penetration and so makes a product more effective. Permeability just means how much of a product and how far down it can go. Usually, you don’t want your products to just sit on your skin or be absorbed by the skin cells of the topmost layers. You want them to go into the dermis where they can do their job.

The added boon of this technique is that it will also boost the moisture level of your skin. This means you can also do it when you apply body milk or hand cream. The milk or any occlusive on your skin can trap all the moisture in your skin and help it feel smooth.

Did you enjoy reading when and how to apply products to make your products go further? Will you try out the damp skin method? Tell us about your experience.

Save The Right And The Wrong Way To Apply Your Skincare Products later

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