How to Pick the Best Moisturizer for Your Skin
Whether you prefer a simple or elaborate skincare routine, moisturizer is a crucial product for maintaining healthy skin. Dermatologists typically advise using it twice a day, every day, to keep the skin well-hydrated and reduce the likelihood of dryness, redness, and flaking.
However, not all moisturizers are created equal, and not all types are suitable for every skin type. In many parts of the country, winter can cause significant damage to the skin. The combination of cold, dry air outside and hot, dry heat indoors can create Sahara-like conditions. When coupled with constant handwashing to stay healthy, it can lead to dry, itchy skin.
Fortunately, for most people, dry skin can be quickly remedied by adjusting their moisturizing routine. But with countless product options available, it can be challenging to know where to begin.
When selecting a moisturizer, it's crucial to pay attention to the formulation and ingredients, warns the dermatologists. For instance, some moisturizers contain ingredients such as retinol, which can be perfect for people with acne but may exacerbate dry or sensitive skin.
What is Moisturizer?
Moisturizer is a cream that hydrates the face and neck and is typically the last step in a skincare routine after washing.
Types of Moisturizer
There are three primary types of moisturizers, each designed to cater to different skin types and needs. These types of moisturizers typically combine various ingredients to provide multiple benefits in one product:
- Emollients: These moisturizers contain oil and lipid (fatty acid) ingredients, such as lanolin, jojoba oil, cocoa butter, shea butter, mineral oil, dimethicone, ceramides, and collagen. Emollients enhance the skin's texture and appearance by filling in crevices and making it look smoother. Certain emollients, like collagen, can reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles and are used for their anti-aging properties. Others, such as ceramides, can help treat eczema.
- Humectants: These moisturizers feature ingredients like lactic acid, hyaluronic acid, alpha hydroxy acids (AHA), urea, and glycerin. Humectants hydrate the skin by drawing moisture from the air to the outer layers of the skin, specifically the epidermis and stratum corneum, replenishing it.
- Occlusives: These moisturizers contain oil-based ingredients like beeswax, silicones, petrolatum, and petroleum jelly, which provide a protective barrier over the skin to prevent moisture loss.
Understanding Your Skin Type
To find the right moisturizer for your skin, it's important to know your skin type and the level of dryness you're experiencing. While it's best to consult a dermatologist for personalized advice, you can use this guide for general purposes.
Normal Skin: If you have seasonal dryness in otherwise-normal skin, a lotion should be sufficient for most younger people. However, as you age, your skin holds less moisture and may need more help. For perimenopausal people and those over 50, a cream-based moisturizer is recommended.
Dry Skin: If your skin is naturally dry and winter is making it worse, lotions may not be enough. Opt for a thicker, more effective cream or ointment instead, as they add more moisture to the skin and help preserve water.
Oily Skin: Too much moisturizer can clog pores and lead to acne, especially in people with black or brown skin, where acne can cause discoloration and hyperpigmentation. Consider skipping the moisturizer or using a lightweight gel formula instead.
Combination Dry and Oily Skin: If you have combination skin, your skin is dry in some spots and oily in others, typically in the T-zone (forehead, nose, and chin). Moisturize the dry areas and skip the oily spots. For example, you can apply moisturizer to the dry spots and avoid the center of your face.
The best moisturizer for oily skin is one that is lightweight and won't clog pores, as acne is often caused by excess sebum clogging pores. Many people with oily skin are afraid to use moisturizer, but dermatologists recommend choosing a lighter formulation that contains ingredients like hyaluronic acid, ceramides, and glycerin. One such moisturizer recommended by experts is the Water Gel Moisturizer, which contains these ingredients and is considered one of the best moisturizers for oily skin. It's also important to avoid products that contain oils and waxes, as they can exacerbate oily skin.
The recommended moisturizers for dry skin, according to dermatologists, are those that contain ceramides, triglycerides, and panthenol. However, individuals with severe dryness and flaking may require an extra potent ingredient.
In such cases, moisturizers that contain petrolatum may be necessary. For added hydration (for dry and acne-prone skin), shea butter can be included in the formulation.
When it comes to sensitive skin, finding the right moisturizer can be tricky. People with this skin type are prone to irritation, and it's essential to avoid products that exacerbate their issues, such as eczema. According to experts, treating sensitive skin like baby skin and moisturizing it regularly is a good rule of thumb.
A less-is-more approach is generally best, and dermatologists recommend avoiding moisturizers with fragrances and perfumes. Natural and organic products may contain natural fragrances that can be more irritating than synthetic components. Additionally, research has shown that low-molecular-weight hyaluronic acid can be pro-inflammatory for sensitive skin, while high-molecular-weight hyaluronic acid typically reduces inflammation. Therefore, people with sensitive skin should take a customized approach to using moisturizers with hyaluronic acid and consult a provider if they experience issues.
For people with sensitive skin, good skincare brands have formulated their moisturizers with ingredients that can simulate the skin barrier, such as ceramides, triglycerides, and squalene. Dermatologists may also recommend a petrolatum-based moisturizer for severe dryness, but people with acne-prone skin should avoid a formulation that includes shea butter. If skin constantly reacts to different cosmetics with rashes, an evaluation by a board-certified dermatologist and possibly a patch testing for contact allergy are warranted.
The signs of aging, such as sagging skin, lines, and wrinkles, are more prominent in post-menopausal women than men around the age of 40 due to hormonal changes. However, anyone can experience these changes as they age. While a good facial moisturizer cannot reverse the aging process, it can certainly help. Texture is important when choosing the best moisturizer for aging skin. A thicker, creamier moisturizer is recommended.
To combat dryness and prevent collagen breakdown, dermatologists suggest using moisturizers with a combination of the following ingredients:
- Hyaluronic acid
- Shea butter
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin E
When searching for the best moisturizer for acne-prone skin, it is essential to consider certain factors. Heather Hickman, the senior director of education for Dermalogica, advises that acne-prone skin requires moisture, especially if the individual has been using potent acne-fighting products, medications, or over-the-counter remedies that can dehydrate the skin, making it feel tight and uncomfortable. This can exacerbate acne and skin sensitivity by destabilizing the skin's natural moisture barrier.
Therefore, here are some vital ingredients, labels, and formulations to consider when selecting the right moisturizer for your skin.
According to dermatologists, individuals with acne-prone skin should always opt for an oil-free, non-comedogenic brand to minimize the risk of clogging pores and causing breakouts. Many products indicate these properties on their packaging. For oily acne-prone skin, lightweight and oil-free moisturizers are optimal as they not only hydrate the skin but also balance the skin's barrier and protect it from external irritants and dehydration, says Hickman. Additionally, gel-cream formulations are excellent options for those with oily skin and acne breakouts as they provide hydration without making the skin feel greasy. Dr. Maiman recommends these formulations for many acne-prone patients. If your skin is excessively oily, Hickman suggests looking for an oil-free, water-based moisturizer that is also oil-controlling to provide hydration while keeping a matte appearance and eliminating oily shine throughout the day.
When selecting a moisturizer, it's crucial to hydrate the skin without clogging pores with pore-clogging ingredients. Therefore, it's important to examine the label for common irritants for acne-prone skin, such as vitamin E (tocopherol or tocopheryl acetate), shea butter, and high-molecular-weight oils like mineral and coconut. Instead, Dr. Maiman recommends seeking hydrating ingredients such as squalane, hyaluronic acid, and ceramides, which hydrate and protect the skin barrier. However, when beginning a routine with hyaluronic acid, it's essential to monitor the skin's response as it can be inflammatory, according to Dr. Shereene Idriss, a board-certified dermatologist and founder of Idriss Dermatology in New York City. Glycerin-based moisturizers are a preferable alternative as they provide longer-lasting hydration.
A gel moisturizer is the best option for acne-prone skin. A lightweight texture as it is unlikely to cause breakouts or feel too heavy on the skin. However, if a thicker moisturizer necessary, experts advises paying close attention to how the skin reacts and discontinuing use if there's redness, inflammation or worsening breakouts. To assess the skin's reaction, spot testing in a small area for a few days before applying it to the entire face is a great way to gauge effectiveness.
If you experience oiliness in the T-zone (forehead and nose) and dryness in the winter, you likely have normal/combination skin. To address dryness, opt for an oil-based or cream moisturizer, while a lighter water-based moisturizer is ideal for more normal skin.
In conclusion, there is no universal moisturizer that suits all skin types, as each has unique requirements. For instance, the best moisturizer for sensitive dry skin differs from the one for acne-prone skin. Knowing your skin type and the ingredients that can help alleviate any problems is vital to achieving healthy-looking skin. In case of persistent breakouts or rashes, it's advisable to discontinue use and consult a dermatologist.