Why ‘patting’ is the Japanese skincare technique you need to know

Posted by
Eve Wagstaff
backgroundLayer 1
Add this article to your list of favourites

For centuries women in Japan have patted lotions onto their skin - instead of rubbing. And now, the tried and tested technique looks set to transform our skincare routines in 2018.

And if there is any part of the planet that knows a thing or two about beauty, it’s Asia. Maybe that’s why people believe the technique of tapping your skin dates back to around 1320 where it originated as a form of massage known as anma. 

“Japanese skin care is all about rituals and traditions. It’s a beautiful and luxurious part of the day that is about treating yourself. It’s about taking the time to really enjoy the moment and take care of you skin,” explains Amanne Sharif, communications manager at Japanese skincare brand DHC. 

That’s where patting comes in. Using a tap and hold motion (think a very light pat using all four fingers) to apply your moisturiser, cleanser and serums, it enables the product to really penetrate the skin, according to Japanese beauty brand, Hada Labo. 

Skincare guru Chizu Saeki also claims in her book The Japanese Skincare Revolution that this method stimulates blood flow to aid cell rejuvenation, helps with lymphatic drainage and most importantly, muscle tone to firm.

So, what exactly is ‘patting’ and what does it do?

“Rather than rubbing product on to your skin patting allows the formula to be fully absorbed,” says Sharif. “If you think about it, when rubbing something in you’re almost moving the product around in the same place. You’re layering product over product, it doesn’t make sense. Particularly for something like moisturiser, toner or serum.” 

The benefits of patting over rubbing go much further than efficient product distribution. “Patting boosts circulation and gets the blood moving around the face. This is only going to help make your complexion brighter and less fatigued.”

Why is rubbing such a big beauty no-no?

Some skincare experts say that using this type of motion can cause stress to the delicate layer of skin and can lead to minor trauma, revealing itself in the form of broken capillaries, spots and irritation. “For some products this type of motion can lend itself,” says Sharif. “I would never suggest rubbing though as it sounds so harsh. For something like a foam cleanser then a gentle circular massage technique is fine. It’s about being super careful and delicate with the skin. For instance you should never, ever, rub your the delicate area around your eyes. The skin on your eyelids is the thinnest anywhere on your body. You don’t want to stretch or cause any sort of trauma to that area.”

How does one ‘pat’?

Before you do anything, first make sure your hands are clean and, according to the experts, it’s also best to work on skin that is damp, rather than soaking wet to maximise moisture.

Before applying any product to your face, Rebecca Nicholls, global education director for Jurlique, suggests warming it between the fingertips. “It will be absorbed better into the skin when it is body temperature rather than cold,” she says. “Pour the cleanser, serum, moisturiser etc into your hands and cup for 20 seconds. Then, using the flat pad of your fingertips press the product onto the skin. Take a moment to pat each section and hold. Never pull or rub and be extra careful around the delicate eye area.”

“Apply your eye cream first before your moisturiser,” says Sharif. “Use your pointer (index) finger to gently pat the product in. Keep tapping until all the product is absorbed.”Start from the centre of your forehead and work down your face pressing from the inside to the outside as it follows the lymphatic pathways of your body. Keep pressing and tapping each product onto the face, neck and décolletage until completely absorbed.”

From cleansing oils to infusing concentrates, here are a few products to get you started: 

DHC Deep Cleansing Oil

This olive oil-based cleanser dissolves make-up super-fast. It rinses off easily and because it’s formulated without any parabens or colourants it’s incredibly gentle on sensitive skin. On contact with water it emulsifies into a cleansing milk consistency and leaves skin soothed and fresh. 


Shiseido Ultimune Power Infusing Concentrate

Silky smooth, this hard-working serum contains Bulgarian rose water to help retain vital moisture, as well as gingko biloba leaf extract, shiso, and thyme to maintain healthy cells so that environmental aggressors, such as pollution, are kept at bay. 


Dr Jart+ Cicapair Tiger Grass Re.Pair Serum

Best serum: Dr Jart+ Cicapair Tiger Grass Repair Serum
Dr Jart+ Cicapair Tiger Grass Repair Serum

Apparently, Asian tigers roll around in a particular type of grass called Centella Asiatica to help heal their wounds – known forever after as Tiger Grass. It aims to protect skin against inflammation, redness and blemishes. Highly concentrated, just a couple of drops are enough to tap over the whole face and neck. 


Shangpree Gold Premium Modeling Mask

This modelling mask treatment contains actual gold, Korean ginseng and caviar to help provide long-lasting moisture retention, remove impurities and leave skin looking and feeling firmer, more hydrated and energised. 


DECORTE VI-Infusion Essence Micro Treatment Fluid

Kate Moss has revealed that she is a huge fan of Japanese skincare brand Decorte, which means we just had to try it. Ultra-light, this is more like a toner than a serum, so is super-easy to tap into the skin. It boasts aqueous algin-mesh to keep moisture on lock-down in the skin, as well as potassium and magnesium for even more hydration. 


Braun FaceSpa Pro 921 Bronze 3-in-1

Okay, it isn’t from Japan but this natty little tool is inspired by the Japanese skincare practice of tapping. It has a non-absorbing MicroVibration head that provides a gentle ‘humming’ on your skin to help disperse creams and serums effectively. It also comes with a cleansing brush and epilator head. 


Happy tapping!

Main Image: Unsplash / Instagram / Getty