What is Moisture Sandwich Skin Care? Experts explain the Buzzy Beauty technique

As we approach the end of the year, chilly temperatures, blistering winds and snowy days mean that we wear coats, hats, beanies and gloves. Why? Because the more layers, the better we are protected against winter elements. The same concept applies to skin care. Layering products over other products is a great way to maximize your skin’s hydration, especially during the bleakest cold days. As it turns out, this technique has a name and it’s called moisture sandwiching.

A popular Korean skincare method, moisture sandwiching popped up on the Western beauty scene thanks to Reddit, Instagram, and (that’s right) TikTok. It essentially uses a three-second rule where you apply your skincare products to damp skin three seconds after cleansing — rather than patting your skin dry before continuing with the rest of your routine. “Moisture sandwiching refers to the process of applying products to damp skin to ensure your skin stays hydrated,” says Dr. Carl Thornfeldt, board-certified clinical dermatologist and founder of Episciences. The thinking behind this is that moist skin is more receptive to absorption, giving you more benefits from your products.

While moisture sandwiching is having a moment in the buzzing beauty world, according to Dr. Karyn Grossman, co-founder of RAF FIVE and renowned dermatologist, one of the oldest tricks in the book. “This has always been the gold standard in treating the skin gently,” says the pro. “Having some water on the skin and then adding ingredients to bring the water into the skin [humectants] then adding ingredients to seal that water into the skin [occlusives] helps keep skin hydrated and healthy.”

Now that you know the history behind moisture sandwiching, what are the overall benefits and steps to properly incorporate it into your routine? Ahead, TZR spoke to six expert dermatologists to get the 411.

What is a moisture sandwich?

When you look at the basics of a skincare routine, you have three main steps: cleansing, moisturizing, and locking in moisture. However, with the moisture sandwich method, you add more nutrients between these three basic steps, bulking up the product from light to thick textures. So you can have an order that looks like this: Cleanse, Moisturize, Moisturize, Tonify, Moisturize, Moisturize Serum and More…or any other combination you want.

“The idea is to maintain skin hydration to prevent trans-epidermal water loss (how much water the skin retains) and keep skin glowing and hydrated,” says Dr. Yannis Alexandrides, triple board certified plastic surgeon and founder of 111SKIN. The goal here is to start with products with the lightest texture and layer with heavier ones. According to the expert, the technique can be used all year round, but is ideal in the colder months to keep the skin hydrated.

When the skin is dehydrated or dry, it is essential to retain hydration so that the skin can retain it. The sandwich method does this by layering lightweight water-based formulas under thicker creams so that the water is locked in the deepest layers of the skin, leaving skin hydrated and resilient.

What are the benefits of a moisture sandwich?

Creams, oils, moisturizers and hydrators can retain water in the skin and reduce water loss – allowing water to stay in the skin longer, resulting in healthier and more radiant skin. “Every time you lightly moisten your face with tap water and then apply your moisturizer, you help all of your products penetrate better,” says Dr. Sherwin Parikh, board-certified dermatologist and founder of Tribeca Skin Center. “Ultimately, your skin will look and feel perfectly hydrated and healthy, for a noticeable glow.”

Not only that, but it also helps protect the skin from the elements. “The whole process forms a protective barrier against dry skin and keeps the skin texture smooth unlike a moisturizer which tends to evaporate and doesn’t provide the same tactile texture improvement you would get from an oil,” says Dr. Loretta Ciraldo MD FAAD, a Miami-based certified derm and founder of Dr. Loretta Skincare.

Using products with lighter textures and smaller molecules allows for deeper penetration and thicker formulas that have the ability to lock in moisture. “The idea behind moisture sandwiching is to lock in extra moisture by applying products to damp skin,” says Carmen Castilla, MD, a New York City-based board-certified dermatologist. “It can theoretically absorb more moisture than just applying the products to dry skin.”

How to incorporate a moisture sandwich into your routine

Dr. Gross says the sandwich method is the same concept as applying lotion to the body after a shower. “Damp skin will absorb moisturizer better and retain hydration,” the pro tells TZR. So when you’re ready to apply the technique to your beauty regimen, start with water-based and lightweight options like hydrating toner, essence, or facial mist. Follow that with a hydrating serum packed with glycerin or hyaluronic acid (aka humectants that draw moisture into the deepest layers of your skin) to lock in moisture on the skin’s surface.

Third, grab your favorite occlusive moisturizer to lock in long-lasting hydration and finish with an overnight or 15-minute mask to deeply hydrate skin. The best thing about moisture sandwiching is that it can be completely customized based on your skin care needs to see the best results. This means if you prefer four steps, five steps, eight steps, or 12, it’s still sandwiching. The experts all agree that this can be done daily, but to lighten it up if you have acne-prone skin (more on that later).

And it’s not just your face, but also your lips. Just wet the lips with water, apply a moisturizer (can be a face cream) and a thick layer of lip balm to finish. Keeping the lips moist gives the moisturizer a better chance for deeper penetration, while the lip balm prevents moisture loss.

Does Moisture Sandwiching work all over the skin?

Typically, moisturizing is very beneficial for dry and sensitive skin, but it can work on other skin types as well. However, if you have oily skin, the experts advise you to think twice about the buzzy trend. “Patients with oily skin and prone to acne should avoid occlusive moisturizers, as they can make acne breakouts worse,” says Castilla. Instead of applying an occlusive moisturizer, Dr. Grossman suggests using a hydrating hyaluronic acid in a gel formula on damp skin to hydrate without added oils.

What is Moisture Sandwich Skin Care? Experts explain the Buzzy Beauty technique

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