Choosing a Moisturizer

Laura Tolentino

Updated on:

Have you ever found it daunting to choose a moisturizer from all the options in a skin care aisle? With lotions, ointments and creams vying for your attention – it can be hard to know where to turn for help!

Moisturizers or emollients are used to protect, moisturize and lubricate the skin– functions that sebum typically provides healthy skin. Find one that meets your individual skin type and concerns for best results.

Know Your Skin Type

An initial visit to the skin care aisles might seem straightforward, but one look at all of the many creams, lotions and ointments can quickly turn your shopping experience into one filled with confusion. Selecting an effective moisturizer can improve both its health and beauty as well as address specific skin concerns like acne, blemishes, fine lines/wrinkles/uneven skin tone/hyperpigmentation as well as dryness/dehydration.

Start by identifying your skin type. There are four primary categories of skin: oily, normal, dry and sensitive. Oily skin produces excessive oil, has large visible pores and may lead to breakouts and blackheads; normal skin has balanced oil production with small to medium sized pores and smooth texture; while dry skin tends to tighten up after cleansing and may show signs of aging such as fine lines and wrinkles.

Sensitive skin can easily be irritated, leading to breakouts with harsh products. To soothe and calm it, gentle ingredients that won’t aggravate or irritate need to be included, like soothing botanical extracts or shea butter. People with extremely sensitive skin should avoid products containing fragrance, harsh surfactants and parabens as these could aggravate further.

People with combination skin have both oily and dry patches on their body, with certain areas being more oily than others. People in this category should use either a light or heavy moisturizer and look for one with ingredients to address both concerns, such as glycerin to draw moisture in, shea butter to moisturize the skin and shea oil to soothe it.

No matter your skin type, it is crucial that you regularly assess its needs and make any necessary changes as they arise to ensure optimal skin health. By factoring in seasonal variations and other elements into account when purchasing moisturizer, radiant skin will remain radiant. When shopping for new moisturiser, keep this in mind; for summertime and colder weather months respectively you may require something lighter while for colder months an richer version may be best.

Look for Moisturizing Ingredients

Moisturizers come in different thicknesses and potencies to suit different skin types; light moisturizers tend to be water-based with low concentrations of proteins while thicker formulas contain higher concentrations of humectants and lipids. When picking out a moisturizer that fits your skin type best, it requires looking at its ingredient list as well as reading between the lines, according to dermatologist Paulo Obagi.

Moisturizers usually contain ingredients such as humectants and emollients to help your skin retain moisture, and smootheners to create soft skin. These can be found in lotions, cream emulsions, ointments or balms.

Moisturizing ingredients often include preservatives to inhibit microorganism growth in their product and maintain its stability, according to Obagi. Preservatives must be effective, safe for use and not adversely impact skin barrier function; some popular examples are methyl-, propyl- and ethyl-parabens; butylene glycol; and phenoxyethanol as possible solutions.

Glycerin is one of the best ingredients to look out for when selecting a moisturizer, acting as a humectant by drawing water out from its surrounding environment or lower layers of your skin in order to retain its hydration levels. Other humectants include aloe vera, beeswax and shea butter as additional moisture-retaining agents.

Lipids and oily substances in moisturizers act as occlusives to block evaporation of natural oils produced by your skin, keeping your complexion hydrated and keeping its own oils intact. Petroleum-based products like petrolatum frequently include these occlusives. Lanolin, shea butter, mineral oil and paraffin oil are other occlusive ingredients as well. Also, silicone-based substances such as dimethicone and cyclomethicone may serve this function.

Hyaluronic acid is an important hydrating ingredient produced naturally in our bodies to retain water and keep skin soft and supple. Unfortunately, its production decreases as we age, so those suffering from dry skin may benefit from investing in a moisturizer with it as an ingredient.

Moisturizing ingredients found in products may include fragrances that may or may not be beneficial; these fragrances should only be considered optional. According to experts, moisturizers containing added colors or perfumes that could cause skin irritation should be avoided since these can strip your natural oils from being produced by the skin.

Check for Sun Protection

Dermatologists always suggest using either a moisturizer that includes sunscreen or using one separately year-round, no matter the season. Aim for sunscreens with SPF 30 or higher that provide broad-spectrum coverage (meaning protection from both UVB and UVA rays that cause sunburn and premature skin aging).

If you have oily or acne-prone skin, look for lotions marked as noncomedogenic (i.e. won’t clog pores). For dry or combination skin types, look for moisturizing ingredients like hyaluronic acid and glycerin to hydrate skin cells and replenish hydration levels. Finally, those with sensitive skin should avoid fragrances or preservatives and opt for chemical-free sunscreens with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide as sunscreen alternatives.

Be careful to not mix moisturizer and sunscreen together or apply them back-to-back, as this could create an imbalance and prevent each product from working optimally. Instead, apply moisturizer first and wait 15-20 minutes before applying sunscreen; this allows time for it to absorb into your skin without interfering with its absorption and effectiveness.

Most of us fail to apply enough sunscreen, leaving ourselves exposed to potentially damaging UV rays which can lead to wrinkles, spots and cancer. Apply a shot-glass-sized amount of sunscreen liberally to all sun-exposed areas, reapply often especially after sweating or swimming and look for lip balms or lipsticks with built-in SPF protection – don’t forget ears, neck and scalp too! Additionally, double check any daily makeup you use that includes built-in SPF protection; apply accordingly reapply as needed.

Look for Sensitive Skin

Moisturizing cream should be part of every daily skincare routine for those with sensitive skin. Since their complexions often suffer from compromised skin barriers, regular moisturization helps strengthen them and prevent inflammation caused by environmental triggers like sun exposure or certain ingredients found in cleansers, serums and makeup products. When shopping for an appropriate moisturizer that fits your needs, look for simple formulas with soothing ingredients such as shea butter, aloe vera or chamomile; additionally make sure the product is noncomedogenic so it won’t clog pores and hypoallergenic so it shouldn’t cause allergic reactions in individuals.

Keep in mind that finding your ideal product might take multiple trials and errors depending on season and other products you may use, which could impact on your skin. Be patient during this process and read labels thoroughly before making decisions; patch test any new facial products before applying them all over your face (like ears or neck for instance).

Finding the ideal moisturizer requires searching for something dermatologist-tested and free from common irritants like fragrances, alcohol, preservatives, lanolin, parabens and dyes. One way of doing this is visiting a skincare counter at your local department store and asking to see samples before buying.

If you still can’t decide, keep in mind there are plenty of great products on the market to suit all skin types–dry, normal and oily alike. For example, the Good Housekeeping Institute gathered hundreds of consumers with different skin types over three weeks to test 24 sensitive-skin moisturizers and rate them based on formulation, scent, packaging and performance against redness, itching and dryness concerns. Click through our gallery below to discover some of our picks for best moisturizer for sensitive skin!