Tip: Proper way to apply Moisturizer

by Paris B on · 47 comments

in Discussions,Moisturiser,Skincare,Tips

how much moisturizer you need

How do you apply your moisturizer?

I used to do the 5 dot method – 1 dot each on my forehead, cheeks, nose and chin and then massage into the skin. I may stick my head out to say that almost everyone does it this way right?

Well, I’ve just learnt that this might just be too much! And if your skin cannot absorb that much, the balance sits on the surface making it feel oily and masky and ick. Not only that, too much might mean its too sticky and rich so it clogs your pores and makes you break out.

I’ve been taught recently by an SA at Clinique that the proper way or perhaps the more advisable way to apply moisturizer is as follows:-

  • Scoop or pump a dollop of moisturizer into the palm of your hand. It should be only a small dollop, about the size of a pea. See picture of pea size above :)
  • Rub your palms together, warming up the moisturizer and spreading it between your palms.
  • Start with your cheeks and then spread the moisturizer gently to your forehead and nose and lastly the chin.

If you have gone for facials, you may notice that your beautician will usually apply your moisturizer this way (at least the ones I go to). They never dot the moisturizer on your skin but spread it between their hands first. There are some benefits to that technique.

Spread moisturizer on palms to warm it up

Spreading moisturizer between your palms warms it up a little so it spreads and absorbs more easily and spreads it out so you don’t end up putting too much on one spot of skin. You will realize that when you use moisturizer that is slightly heavier in texture, rubbing it between your palms will make it more liquid and your skin can usually tolerate it better too.

You may also find that when you spread it between your palms, it feels like there isn’t enough for your face. Not to worry, there is. You aren’t rubbing it into your palms, just spreading it, so rub your palms together 2 or 3 times only.

Start with your cheeks as they are drier

Usually, the drier areas of your face will be your cheeks so that’s where you start. The forehead and nose or T-zone and chin will usually be a little oilier so you don’t need as thick moisturizer as your cheeks so any remnant moisturizer on your hands is sufficient for these areas.

Ever since I learnt this technique from observing my beauticians at facial salons, and from speaking to the Clinique sales person, I’ve found the benefits two-fold:-

  • My face does not feel as oily or masky as the 5 Dot technique and all moisturizer absorbs more quickly into my skin leaving it just as plump and moisturized but not oily;
  • Best of all, I save on moisturizer! 😀

I do the same with serums and thus far, everything seems fine. With this method, a lotion that comes in a pump bottle like the Biotherm Aquasource Oil Free or Clinique Dramatically Different Moisturizing Lotion usually works better for me than something that comes in a tub. For moisturizers that come in a tub, I use either my finger to scoop out a dollop (when I’m lazy) or a spatula if I have one on hand. But either way the technique works great.

However, gel moisturizers like H20+ Face Oasis or Garnier Aqua Defense Essence or the Clinique Moisture Surge gel don’t work as well using this method so I go back to the 5 dot method.

So, how do you apply your moisturizer? Have you tried this method and does it work for you?

Stay beautiful,

Paris B

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[ 44 comments… read them below or join the discussion ]

ieda August 25, 2009 at 9:20 am

this is very helpful. thanks for sharing :)


August 25, 2009 at 9:25 am

thanks for the tip! i think creamier ones benefit better for the spreading it on palms technique, while the gel-like or runnier ones work better with the 5 dots :)

gonna go home n try my hands on the palms technique n see if i can make creams that i hate work better for me!


August 25, 2009 at 10:30 am

thank you for the great tip~

i usually just dot on my face, no wonder i always end up like an oil slick :( i must have used toooooooooooo much



Sarah August 25, 2009 at 11:04 am

I use gel moisturiser so its the 5 dots method for me. But in the case where I use a cream one, I just kind of spread it all over my face to how thick a layer I want it to be. Would definitely try this method though. Quick question: Do you apply your Suncreen with this same method too?


ParisB August 28, 2009 at 9:54 am

Hi Sarah

No I do not use this method with sunscreen because for sunscreen you need way more on your skin than just a pea size. Properly, you need a teaspoon of sunscreen to cover your face. So, for sunscreen, I squeeze a pea size for each portion of my face i.e. 5 squeezes = 5 peas. This is the reason I’m particular about how sticky or oily my sunscreen feels :)


Shop N' Chomp August 25, 2009 at 11:26 am

I am currently using a cream so I am doing this method! 😀


Sylvia August 25, 2009 at 12:08 pm

I’ve heard of the palm method, but sceptical to use this method thus far. I reasoned that my palm will absorb much of the moisturizer and not much to be left on my face. I still stick to the 5-dots method as more moisturizer will be absorb by my face since only my fingers will come into contact with the moisturizer.


ParisB August 28, 2009 at 9:55 am

Hi Sylvia

I find any absorption by the palms quite minimal. The skin on our palms are quite thick anyway and thus far, the amount I apply on my skin feels just right as opposed to having too much. But its always a case of personal preference :)


Sylvia August 28, 2009 at 6:06 pm

I tried the palm method after all and I must say it’s a great method to use when I’m rushing for time. No hassle just spread on the palm then the face and off I go. The residue of the mosturizer are there but I reckon if it’s good for my face, then it’s good for my palm too :)


Jyoan August 25, 2009 at 12:38 pm

I only use the palm method if the moisturizer is difficult to spread. Because I don’t want to be rubbing my face. With the palm method, I can half glide over my face, half pat it. I still prefer the 5 dots methods, some times even 11 smaller dots (2 more dots for forehead, besides nose and lower part of cheek). I feel that this covers all the areas better. With the palms, I am always afraid of missing some parts. haha.


ParisB August 28, 2009 at 9:56 am

Hi Jyoan

Interestingly I find I cover more ground using the flats of my hands as opposed to my fingertips :)


Nikki August 25, 2009 at 12:39 pm

HI PB! I’ve been doing the rubbing the product between the palm method for the longest time and I find it works for me :)


Kahani August 25, 2009 at 1:05 pm

You actually got a PEA! Genius! =D


Saintangelius August 25, 2009 at 2:11 pm

Hm! I have to try this. I just recently switched to a heavy cream based moisturiser which works wonders on my skin but has also been giving me little bumps near the forehead where I assume I’m not blending in as well.
Thank you!


ayn August 25, 2009 at 2:18 pm

i remember this on the Tyra Banks Show and tried it with my moisturizer. however, i agree with you that this doesn’t work with gel-type moisturizer. I have a gel-type moisturizer and every time i do this my hands are sticky! (boo!) so i just do the 5-dots method and just making sure to put less moisturizer on each dot 😉


Connie August 25, 2009 at 3:21 pm

Ever since I’ve been “schooled” by La Mer, I’ve been using the pea size + warm up + pat/sweep method. A little goes a long way! I find the moisturizer absorbs better when I apply it this way too.


sesame August 25, 2009 at 3:30 pm

I actually don’t use the 5 dot method and have always squirt or apply the cream on my palm. However, I don’t rub with my palms. Instead I pat or dab with the fingertips to fully unleash the goodness from the cream – something I picked up when I used Creme de la Mer some years ago. I think the concept is about the same…

With oil though, I rub with both palms cos that’s the only way I know.


ParisB August 28, 2009 at 9:57 am

HI Sesame

With oil I must agree, there’s no other way!


August 25, 2009 at 8:26 pm

I found that I would break out using the 5 dot method especially around the places I dotted. So earlier this year, another Clinique SA taught me the palm method and I’ve been using it ever since. Spot outbreaks are remarkably reduced for me!

p.s. I’m using this method with my Moisture Surge and so far, so good. Not even a single spot! I’m so loving it. 😀


miaowe August 25, 2009 at 8:46 pm

i agree!! i often feel like an oil slick when i used a creamy moisturizer cos of the 5 dots application… been using palms method for q a few yrs after being introduced to it by clarins (not clinique though!). as for gel moisturizers, i dont use the 5 dots application cos i end up using too much moisturizer and getting bumps sometimes. what i do is put a small amount of moisturizer over small areas of my face and slowly smooth them out till they get semi-absorbed, before applying more moisturizer to other areas or the same area if they are not ‘bouncy’ or dont feel hydrated enough to me. dont know if that is orthodox but it works for me though! 😉


linda August 25, 2009 at 8:48 pm

what about liquid moisturizers like ipsa metabolizer? thanks.


ParisB August 28, 2009 at 9:59 am

Hi Linda

I’m not sure what texture ipsa metabolizer is but if its very liquid like an oil or lotion, I find that using this method works well too. Its too runny to stay on the face long enough for the 5 dot method anyway.


Indira August 25, 2009 at 11:38 pm

I do the way the beautician does.

Not because I have more knowledge, just because I LIKE it that way, and I thought I applied it wrong :)


August 26, 2009 at 10:29 am

I use the 5-dot method as my moisturisers are gel-based. Per dot’s pretty measly so I’m not worried about wasted moisturiser 😛


LyNn August 31, 2009 at 5:34 pm

i used the 5 dots method all this while too 😛
with smaller dot on the forehead cause it gets oily faster and bigger dots on the cheeks because its drier.
yup combination skin 😛


daphne September 2, 2009 at 2:09 pm

i usually just take slightly less than a dollop of moisturizer then apply directly to my cheek. i do one portion of my face at a time, rather than 5 dots on my face. so far, no problems, but that’s probably due to using the right moisturizer that isn’t too oily. i reckon if i use a slightly oilier one, i might have breakouts on where most part of the moisturizer goes to!


mona September 8, 2009 at 8:44 am

thanks so much! i’m pretty much a n00b to all this moisturizer deal, and this helped a lot :)


pf1123 September 23, 2009 at 11:56 pm

I’ve been thinking…I actually squeeze a pea size of my gel moisturiser and split it into 5 dots on my face. Then spread all over.

In fact, I do this so frequently now, I can estimate the 1 pea size split into 5 dots on my face that when I scrap my cream with a spatula, I can approximate the amount of a pea size with 5 small scraps of the spatula. Hahaha…so I skip the warming up between my palms part. But I use a very very light cream thats almost serum like. So, I guess thats ok.

I was taught this by my beautician. She told me that there is no use putting too much product. Its gonna waste the product as the skin cannot absorb all the goodness. In the worst case, it not only will cause acne but also milia seeds. So, I practice this all the time and I ended up going through 50ml of moisturiser in 9 to 12 months.

I saw my friend slowwwwlyyy, pain-stakinglyyyy dab a bit of cream moisturiser and spread on her face, little bit by little bit. She moves on with a new dab and a new spot on her face I think to cover her face, she must have gone thru more than 20 dabs and takes more than 5 mins.

And I always thought that I’m the weird one. Whole face done in 5 secs using so little product!


pf1123 September 24, 2009 at 12:01 am

Oh, the 50ml moisturiser is the day type used once a day. The night cream is also 50ml and used once a day over more than 9 months now.


Shelley May 5, 2010 at 10:11 am

Thank you for sharing this tip! I’ve always read instructions on my skincare products to rub on my palm, but I thought – “what a waste!”

Never knew :)


Volvoxx December 9, 2010 at 10:46 am

I’ve read this post long time ago but never really followed it. I used to use the dot method and yeah, sometimes it does end up being too greasy. I re-read this post the other day and actually tried it out and guess wat? My face feels awesome! There’s a thin layer of moisturiser on it which is not too thick or greasy. I wake up in the morning and I no longer have oily oily face. Thanks! :)
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Jillian April 17, 2011 at 2:47 pm

It took me a while to realise that you out an actual pea there! Haha :)
I always use the palm method but I’m going to try the 5 dots and see if there’s any difference. I heard that the best way to apply moisturiser is to pat it into the skin as it allows it to absorb better. If you rub, it moves the skin cells around to different areas of the face. I’ve tried it but it feels no difference. Now, I sort of half pat, half rub the moisturiser into my skin.


Chris B May 14, 2011 at 4:19 pm

Great tip. as a male who has only just discovered the many advantages of using Moisturiser, this method is perfect. I have often been guilty of over applying, but not with this tip.


Dian February 12, 2012 at 7:19 pm

Paris, thank you for give this link to your previous reply ^ ^

I WILL practice it soon. Just yesterday I do this to my creamy body lotion ! Oh, does it work for bbcream too ? My bbcream is like foundation so I end up spread it on the face.


Paris B
February 13, 2012 at 4:59 pm

Try this tip for bb cream or liquid foundation 😉


April 10, 2012 at 1:24 pm

I did try out the spot and rub method but couldn’t really stick with it so generally, I apply my moisturizer by spreading it between my palms and rubbing it in but next time I will just try to press it in instead of rub!!! Yeah, scopping out a pea size is something I have yet to learn…can use the pic as an inspiration 😀


Chuchi August 10, 2012 at 8:31 pm

I use a gel moisturiser (Celeteque Hydration Moisturiser); quite lightweight. I put a dollop in my palm, rub my palms together and gently pat on my face. My face doesn’t feel dry. Suits the humid weather!


Smartbrat February 2, 2013 at 10:02 pm

Do you also do this in applying a night cream?


Paris B
February 4, 2013 at 9:52 pm

Yes I do :)


thiya February 16, 2013 at 7:30 pm

how long do i have to stay after applying moisturizer


Ben May 24, 2013 at 1:41 pm

We should be doing the dot method, not quite 5 dots but just on the cheeks and forehead, by rubbing products in our hands we are activating the air sensitive ingredients on our hands rather than straight on our face, this is if we want the best results from our moisturiser, having the product warm does help with absorption but doesn’t weigh up over losing the potency of the ingredients


Radika May 27, 2013 at 12:21 pm

i take a pea size dot in to my finger tip and spread it between the fingers later i touch the forehead chin nose neck etc i mean slight touches after that i massage my face with the remaining moisturizer in hand. This method really works



Caroleflower July 26, 2013 at 12:43 am

In response to the LaMer comment, rubbing it in the palm is only half the technique. The warnimg should also be followed by gently pressing the product into the skin. Clarins follows this very same technique! Warm & gently press so as not to be rubbing or tugging at the delicate skin.


Barbara February 21, 2015 at 4:07 pm

Hi, i went to my friends who is a beautician, and she did me a facial. I also noticed she out moisturiser on the palms of her hands and used sweepingup movements, not circular like they suggest on other web sites. So i am doing this now as well.


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