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How Long Does It Take For Skincare Products To Absorb For Men?

I hate to say it, but if you’ve ever been annoyed by how sticky and non absorbent your lotion is, it’s probably a user issue, not a lotion issue. So for those of you typing with wet hands right now, “how long does it take for skincare products to absorb???” it might be time to wash your hands of this and start your skincare routine all over.

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How Long Does It Take For Skincare Products To Absorb For Men?

When it comes to understand how long does it take for skincare products to absorb, there’s two main things to categorize in your mind… there’s “dry,” and then there’s “absorbed.”

If you applied them correctly, your skin care products probably feel dry in about 30 seconds. Maybe 2 minutes for the thicker, nicer moisturizers. I have some body butter that I like to use for my uncomfortably dry hands in the winter. It’s extremely effective, but I do have to hop around for a minute or two doing jazz hands to get it to feel dry.

For your skin to fully absorb a skincare product, you’ll have to wait anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes.

One great example is sunscreen or even tanning lotion – it probably feels dry within a few minutes after you apply it, depending on how oily the bottle is. But if you’ve read the label, you know you’re not supposed to take it out into the sun for another 15-30 minutes, especially if you’re swimming.

That’s because your skin needs more time for the product to get down into the deeper layers of your skin. It’s a process called “penetration,” not absorption. Absorption is when the product enters your bloodstream. Different products will either use penetration or absorption to treat your skin conditions.

Factors like how thick the product is, your skin type, and the method you used to apply it all affect how quickly the product feels “dry,” and how quickly it fully absorbs or penetrates your skin.

How To Make Skin Absorb Better

If you’re sitting with a face full of moisturizer and typing “how long does it take for skincare products to absorb” as you wait wondering why it’s not drying, maybe you forgot to:

Exfoliate Before You Apply Skin Care Products

Your skin has a wonderful protective layer of dead skin, oils, sweat, and bacteria. Unfortunately, that protective and moisturizing layer blocks your skincare products. Start off your skincare routine by cleansing every day and exfoliating 2-3 times per week to keep that layer at bay just enough for your other products to do their job.

You can exfoliate with a great scrub, use a washcloth, or take a loofah into the shower with you to clear away that dead skin layer.

Apply Your Skin Care Products In The Right Order

Some skincare products are thicc. They’re great for your skin, but they take longer to dry, which leaves you waiting around to apply your other products. Generally skin care experts agree that you should apply thin to thick with your products. 

Some argue that this allows for better absorption (which is debatable), and others say it’s a good practice so that you trap your waters and moisturizers underneath your thicker oils. Personally, I like to apply thin to thick just because it feels best.

The generally accepted thin to thick order: cleanser, exfoliant, toner, serums, creams, moisturizers, oils. If you like to cover up with a little bit of makeup, do that as your last step. Experts debate whether you should apply sunscreen before or after moisturizing, so don’t worry too much about when you apply your sunscreen, as long as you apply it.

Let each of your products dry on your skin before you apply the next one.

If your skincare routine isn’t nearly that exhaustive, don’t freak out. The basics that you should always have on hand are cleanser, exfoliant, moisturizer, and sunscreen. The rest just give your skin that extra acne- and blemish-fighting oomph.

Use The Right Amount Of Product

Using way too much product is probably the #1 mistake that most guys make, and it’s an easy fix. Just use less. You can always re-apply products if you feel like you didn’t get enough. But if you’re left with a layer of lotion that won’t absorb into your skin, that’s a stickier, harder to fix situation.

How Long Does It Take For Moisturizer To Absorb Into Skin?

Moisturizers like lotions often dry rapidly (unless you used too much), but they’re slower to actually penetrate your skin. You can use your oil directly after it dries, but avoid rinsing your hands with water for half an hour.

Think about it this way – you’ve probably made that one old blunder, applying lotion then immediately washing your hands afterwards. Maybe the lotion felt like it had dried, but now your hands are feeling dry…

If you want your moisturizer to give you all-day protection from dryness, just be sure to stop yourself from washing your skin too soon after you’ve applied it. Try to wait 15-30 minutes at a minimum. This will get you your money’s worth if you decide to buy the best of the moisturizers for black men or moisturizer for black skin or even any other type of moisturizer.

How Long Should I Wait To Apply Sunscreen After Moisturizer?

Have you watched a little kid try to add paint on top of already wet paint? It starts to look like a mess, the two colors get all streaky, and it takes longer to dry.

Something similar happens on your skin if you don’t wait for your moisturizer to dry completely before you apply sunscreen. You create a larger mess that takes longer to dry, and you won’t even know if the sunscreen has hit every patch of your face evenly.

At a bare minimum, you should wait until your skin feels dry to apply your sunscreen after your moisturizer. Some experts recommend you wait at least 30 minutes, but not everybody has that much time, and it’s more important to just wear sunscreen in the first place.

That “streaky wet paint” scenario can technically happen with any skincare product that your skin is busy absorbing, but I bring it up while we’re talking about sunscreen because it’s especially fatal if you let that happen to your sun protection. The only thing worse than a sunburn is a streaky sunburn (which means you’ll probably end up typing in way more things than just “how long does it take for skincare products to absorb” out of pain.)

How Long Does It Take For Oil To Absorb Into Skin?

Oils won’t feel like they’re absorbing into your skin at all when you first apply them. It’ll take 10-15 minutes for you to reach a point where the oil feels like it belongs on your skin and is settling…but not necessarily absorbing in every case.

The purpose of applying an oil is to have a “sealant.” Sealants protect all those moisturizers you just applied, keeping your skin soft and hydrated for longer. But if your skin already produces more natural oil than you need, skip the store-bought oil.

As for dry skin, oil is a great way to make your lotions and creams last longer while preventing flakiness. You’ll just have to get used to the texture. Apply it thin.

How Long Does It Take For Skin To Absorb Cream?

We talked about thin and thicc products earlier – creams are thicc products. They’ll probably take a minute or two to dry. Most creams that you use are going to approach the 30-minute mark before they’ve fully penetrated your skin.

This of course varies from cream to cream. Just wait until you feel comfortable that applying a new product won’t scrape off the dried cream.

For the really, really thicc creams, I like to pause my skincare routine and brush and floss my teeth to buy my next product some time.

How Long Should I Leave Serum On My Face?

Serums are a little more needy than your other skin care products. Dermatologists generally agree that you should wait 3 to 5 minutes for your serum to absorb before you apply another product.

The serum itself will dry quickly – under 30 seconds in my experience. It just needs a minute to bask on your skin.

If it won’t dry, then you probably made one of the mistakes that we talked about earlier. For many guys, it’s probably that you applied moisturizer before you applied your serum (not many other guides on “how long does it take for skincare products to absorb” will tell you that!).

Frank Edwards is a men's grooming & style expert who is "internet famous" for being able to simplify complicated grooming routines into easy, yet effective rituals any man can do. As a professional analyst, he has spent years researching the biggest brands, products, experts, best practices, and breaking news in the space. He takes this analysis, tests it out on himself, and then documents everything in his writing. As a result, his experience-based articles are considered by some to be the gold standard in men's grooming and men's style.