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Using the ring finger to apply eye cream: is it really the weakest finger?

I think it was a few years ago when I started hearing the advice to always use your ring finger when applying eye cream or concealer, as it is the weakest finger, and therefore would not drag at the delicate skin around the eyes. Almost everyone follows that advice now, but what’s the science behind it? There are 2 questions that we can ask here:

1-Is the ring finger really the weakest finger?

No, but it depends on what task you are referring to. Are you gripping or pinching or pushing with your various fingers? Each finger contributes differently to a task depending on how it is used, and each finger is the strongest at certain tasks. Generally the thumb, index and middle fingers are more efficient in tasks that require precision, while the ring and small fingers are important supplements to a grip.
weak-ring-finger Try extending each finger while the rest are tucked in
The ring finger might be considered weak because of this popular test: put your hand palm down on a table, then tuck all your fingers in to make a fist. If you try extending only your index finger you will find you can do it easily. Same thing with the little finger and somewhat with the middle finger. But if you tuck all these fingers back in and try extending your ring finger alone, you will have a lot of difficulty. This is not due to weakness per se, the ring finger is bound to the fingers around it with tendons that limit its movement. It is the most dependent finger. But in terms of strength, it has been found to be comparable to the index finger. In general, it is the small finger that is the weakest.

2-Is the ring finger weak enough to not harm the skin around the eyes?

It’s not about using the weakest finger, it’s about how you use that finger. Even our weakest finger is still strong enough to do damage if its not used carefully. Go to a mirror and pretend to apply a cream around your eyes using your small finger; if you use more than even a feathery touch and drag, your skin moves with your finger. Big no no!  
eye-cream-application Which is your style?

Bottom Line

So what should you do? This is one of these posts that is simply meant to satisfy an inquisitive mind. When I hear “the ring finger is the weakest, so use it for eye cream application,” I want to investigate. So this is purely for anyone who ever wondered. In summary, the ring finger is not the weakest finger, and no finger is weak enough that it can’t harm the skin around the eyes if it wasn’t applied delicately enough. Personally, I like using my ring finger for applying eye cream, simply because it feels more comfortable. All that matters is that you are always gentle with the skin around your eyes, and your entire face for that matter. No tugging. Pat pat pat away that cream! Thank you for reading. Sources SN. Imrhan. Trends in Finger Pinch Strength in Children, Adults and the Elderly. The Journal of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society 1989; 31 (6): 689-701. JC. MecDermid et al. Individual Finger Strength: Are the Ulnar Digits Powerful? Journal of Hand Therapy 2004; 17:364-7. CH. Chang, MJJ. Wang. Evaluation Factors that Influence Hand-Arm Stress While Operating an Electric Screwdriver. Applied Ergonomics 2000; 31: 283-9. CH. Ross, MH. Schieber. Qualifying the Independence of Human Finger Movement: Comparison of Digits, Hands and Movement Frequencies. The Journal of Neurosicence 2000; 20 (22): 8542-50.
Date: October 23 2012 at 11:07 AM
Skin Care, eye cream, eye cream application, eye cream application damaging, finger, is the ring finger the weakest, ring finger, weakest finger

Comments (8)

  1. Audrey C.
    October 23 2012 at 6:18 PM

    Interesting! Thank you for this post! Is it really true, though, that tugging around the eye area will cause early wrinkles? For example, I always see people caution not to pull the eyelid taut to apply eyeliner for this reason. This is something that I've always thought sounds true on its face, but wondered if it may not have any scientific validity.

  2. Janessa
    October 23 2012 at 7:15 PM

    I pat on my eyecream and I used to gently swipe it so it blends. Now I rub it into my fingers to warm it up and pat it on. How about applying sunscreen to the under eye area? Should I stick to more liquid formulations that apply easily?

  3. Dr. Hanan Taha, M.D.
    October 24 2012 at 7:50 AM

    @Audrey C. You are most welcome. Thank you for reading it :) Yes, it is true. Pulling at the delicate skin around the eyes, whether for applying or removing makeup, or rubbing it when its itchy, all can cause tiny tears in the skin. You might not feel nor see them, but they are there. The eye skin, like the skin on the rest of the body, responds to trauma by getting thicker and darker (I mentioned this in an earlier post, I think it was the one titled "five bad habits that affect your skin"). So your eyelids might get darker, thicker and drier, and with repetitive trauma, they start losing their firmness.

  4. Dr. Hanan Taha, M.D.
    October 24 2012 at 8:21 AM

    @Janessa. Yes a sunscreen that wont make you tug on the under eye area is a good idea. That plus sunglasses will offer great protection for the eye area. Thank you for reading and commenting Janessa!

  5. Janessa
    October 24 2012 at 5:30 PM

    Dr, Hanan Taha, M.D. (! such a cool title), :] Thank you for replying!

  6. Traci Kuhn
    October 25 2012 at 2:51 AM

    Dr. Dr. Hanan, can you please post a link to the "Five Bad Habits That Affect Your Skin"? Thanks for information!

  7. John Su
    October 25 2012 at 4:37 AM

    @Traci Kuhn Here it is: http://www.futurederm.com/2012/05/02/the-5-bad-habits-that-ruin-your-skin/ Enjoy and remember that you can always find things by using the search bar! It's the area next to the magnifying glass on the top right-hand corner of the site. It's right below the pink Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, and Feed icons.

  8. Dr. Hanan Taha, M.D.
    October 25 2012 at 6:59 AM

    @john Su thank you so much for helping out :) @Traci Kuhn @Janessa I just went back to take a look at that article and I realized that it was another one that mentioned mechanical trauma! Here is the link http://www.futurederm.com/2012/04/18/dark-knuckles-causes-and-fixes/

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