There are new scientific studies that show it's probably best to rub or apply pressure when applying skin topicals: it can actually increase penetration.
Depending on the specific rubbing experiment, there was a two- to three-fold increase in product retained in full-thickness skin with rubbing than without.
"While these findings cannot be generalized to all skin care and cosmetic ingredients, they provide a basis and preliminary evidence suggesting that massage can be an important factor when treating skin. Its influence may be compounded by specific physiochemical properties of the chemical as well as the duration, pressure, and quantity of application. In the meantime, rubbing is just one of many variables influencing efficacy that await in-depth evaluation."
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