Myth: Applying skin care in an upward motion prevents sagging and wrinkles. Reality: Your skin can’t tell whether you’re rubbing the collagen and elastin fibers up or down.

You can’t “rub a wrinkle into your face.”

Before we dive into debunking this myth, let’s have a quick anatomy lesson on the three main layers of the skin to better understand their functions.

Layers of skin and their functions

  • Epidermis. This is the outermost layer of skin which is constantly shedding dead skin cells and home to pores.
  • Dermis. This is where oil glands, hair follicles, nerve endings, sweat glands, and blood vessels live. It’s also where collagen and elastin are produced.
  • Hypodermis. This layer is mostly made up of connective tissue and fat.
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Collagen and elastin fibers support the structure of the skin and work as a team to provide shape and firmness. Elastin is a protein with highly elastic properties that allows skin to stretch and bounce back, keeping skin tight. For this reason, it’s often referred to as a stretchy rubber band. Collagen provides the structural framework for the skin and helps keep it firm.

As we age, these fibers become thinner and they don’t bounce back in quite the same way they once did in our younger years. In addition, lifestyles factors such as smoking, UV damage, and gravity pull these bands down constantly and play a much larger role in sagging and wrinkles.

So, what about the advice in beauty magazines and the secret of applying skin care in an upward motion to prevent sagging and wrinkles?

It’s based on a theory that upward motion pulls these bands up helping to prevent sagging. However, our skin’s fibers don’t “lock” in place in an upward fashion. Motion in any direction will stretch these bands and our skin doesn’t have the ability to recognize whether it’s up or down.

In fact, aestheticians perform facial massage in a combination of upward and downward motions. Both directions help to stimulate blood flow and oxygen to the skin, but the downward massage in particular helps drain water retention from the face. We wouldn’t be trained to do so if it causes sagging.

As for wrinkle formation, think of it this way: We apply skin care products to our faces for only a few short minutes a day. It’s not physically possible for a wrinkle to form in such a short amount of time.

You can’t “rub a wrinkle” into your face. For a physical element to cause a wrinkle, it takes prolonged period of time, such as sleeping with your face squished against your pillow for several hours a night or making repetitive facial expressions like frowning or smiling.

Bottom line, it doesn’t matter the direction you apply your products. Stretching these bands in either direction leads to weakening them. While gravity is an ever-present force, just be gentle and help slow down the natural process by protecting your skin with sunscreen.

Dana Murray is a licensed aesthetician from Southern California with a passion for skin care science. She’s worked in skin education, from helping others with their skin to developing products for beauty brands. Her experience extends over 15 years and an estimated 10,000 facials. She’s been using her knowledge to blog about skin and bust skin myths on her Instagram since 2016.