How to Find the Best Moisturizer for Your Skin Type
When it comes to picking out moisturizer, it seems like this step in our skin care regime is getting more and more difficult. Ideally, a good moisturizer should keep skin hydrated and soft without clogging pores or adding tons of chemicals, artificial scents, and dyes to our beauty routine. Even if you think you’ve found the holy grail of moisturizers, skin changes as we age, and something that worked for you in your 20s and 30s likely won’t be as useful once you reach 40 and beyond.
Even if you don’t have visibly dry skin, you should definitely consider incorporating a moisturizer into your regular skincare routine. Our skin is 64 percent water, which means that water is absolutely essential to keeping skin healthy. Moisturizers add to our skin’s water supply, and a truly great moisturizer will even work to enhance our skin’s moisture barrier — the outermost layer of our skin that helps it retain water and defend against potential irritants. If our moisture barrier is damaged, it’s much more likely that our skin will become dry and could even become infected.
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Types of Moisturizers
There are a lot of different factors to consider when picking a moisturizer and incorporating it into your regular beauty routine. Even within this narrow category, there are three different types of formulas: lotions, creams, and ointments.
Lotions are generally considered the lightest formula and account for 59 percent of all moisturizers sold. Creams are thicker and account for 13 percent of sales. The most intense moisturizers on the market are ointments, which makes up two percent of sales and are generally only used by people with extremely dry skin.
There are so many things to think about when looking for a new moisturizer. What works for your friend or family member may not work for you. A little bit of research should guide you towards a product that will work for you.
To help, here are some other factors to consider when you’re looking for a new moisturizer.
Your skin type should be the first factor you consider when you’re looking for a new moisturizer. Broadly, skin is broken up into four different types: normal, oily, dry, and combination.
Normal skin is balanced and doesn’t look or feel too oily or dry. Dry skin looks dull and rough and feels tight. Oily skin is glossy and shiny, and people who have this type of skin often have visible acne and pore issues which are caused by a build-up of oil. Combination skin is any combination of the three above skin types.
Each type of skin benefits from different formulations and active ingredients. If you have normal or dry skin, a thicker oil-based formula that contains ingredients like hyaluronic acid, lanolin, or mineral oil will be beneficial. People with oily skin should try and stay away from oil-based moisturizers, and instead, look for a gel or lotion that softens skin without making it feel heavy or greasy.
Time of the Year
Another factor to consider when you’re purchasing a new moisturizer is the time of year. Most people use one type of moisturizer year-round, and dermatologists are split on whether it’s necessary to switch it up as the seasons change. What they can agree on is that it’s important to factor in your external environment when picking a moisturizer. Thick, heavy ointments could make skin break out in humid weather, while lighter, slick lotions may not give the skin as much hydration as it needs in a place that’s cold and dry most of the time.
Most of us who live in North America would definitely benefit from a thicker, more concentrated moisturizer in the winter, and a lighter moisturizer in the summer. However, as innovations in chemistry and product formulation advance, it’s not always necessary to use a completely different product in the summer and winter. You just need to make sure your chosen product can handle everything your environment throws at it. You may also need to apply moisturizer more often as it gets colder and dryer.
Another important aspect of your moisturizer that you may not have thought about is whether it has SPF. SPF stands for sun protection factor and is usually followed by a number that indicates how long you’ll be protected from harmful UV rays. Most dermatologists recommend wearing a minimum of SPF 15 (preferably SPF 30) on your face every single day, regardless of whether it’s visibly sunny outside.
Sun exposure is one of the most common causes of skin damage and is extremely hard to repair or reverse. Sun damage causes changes known as “photoaging”, which increases the appearance of wrinkles, loose skin, and discoloration, and can make skin appear blotchy and red. The best thing you can do for your skin long-term is to protect it from sun damage. It’s never too late to start using SPF on a regular basis. Making sure your regular moisturizer contains SPF is a really easy way to make sure you never forget to apply your sun protectant.
The Difference Between Body, Hand, and Face Moisturizers
Another common mistake that people make with moisturizer is using one product from head to toe. Typically, moisturizers for our body are thicker and designed to cover a larger area. They’re often less expensive than face moisturizer because you have to use so much of it to get good results. Body moisturizers often contain ingredients like shea butter or mineral oil that will work well on the skin of our arms and legs but may be too oily for use on our face.
Facial moisturizers are often a lighter weight formula and are designed for the thinner, more delicate skin on our face. Hand and feet moisturizers are the thickest of all, which makes sense because that’s where our skin is thickest — a direct result of being exposed to irritants and harsh condition on a daily basis.
It’s a good idea to follow each moisturizer’s intended use, even if that means having three different daily moisturizers.
The first purpose of any moisturizer should be to hydrate the skin and strengthen its moisture barrier. With so many moisturizers on the market today, companies are doing everything they can to differentiate their product from competitors. This differentiation often means adding in active ingredients that benefit the skin in other ways. Some of the most common active ingredients include alpha-hydroxy acids and Vitamin A for anti-aging, antioxidants to help encourage skin regeneration, and emollients like fatty acids or evening primrose oil to smooth and protect skin.
What to Avoid
Moisturizers tend to have long and complex ingredient lists. Although it may seem daunting, a little research can help you pick out a moisturizer that has helpful, rather than harmful, ingredients. Generally, artificial colors and perfumes aren’t great for our skin, especially if you have dry or sensitive skin already.
If you have particularly dry or sensitive skin, it’s best to avoid acids in your moisturizers. Salicylic acid and glycolic acid are common ingredients that are added for their exfoliating benefits, but they can irritate skin if they’re used on a regular basis. Reading the label closely and reading reviews online can really help if you can’t seem to find a product that works for you.
You can check which ingredients are in your favorite moisturizers using sites like EWG’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database or CosDNA. Many of these databases will flag ingredients that are potentially irritating or harmful long-term.