How to choose the best moisturizer for your skin

Good moisturizers are those that make your skin lively and fresh! But how to know what is the best moisturizer for your skin?

Moisturizers are an important part of daily skin care for anyone. They help protect, conserve and improve the quality of your skin against ongoing daily assault due to pollution, weather changes and general dehydration. A hydrated skin not only looks visually appealing but is also known to have many health benefits. However, there are many types of moisturizers in the market and similarly there are many types of users, I mean people with different skin types. So, what is the best moisturizer? For you, of course! To find out the best skin moisturizer, it becomes imperative that you assess your skin’s demands and accordingly zero in on the best moisturizer for your skin.

What is a good moisturizer?

It all depends upon the ingredients of the moisturizer. If you read the labels of the moisturizing creams or lotions, you will perhaps be able to identify as to what is the best moisturizer for your skin! But for that, you need to know what ingredients moisturize your skin at what level and how do they do so? In short, if your skin is dry, you would look for a face moisturizer that has humectants, occlusive agents and emollients. They hydrate your skin in the best ways and also retain the moisture for a long time. But if you have an oily skin, you should not only look for moisturizers having emollients and occlusive agents but also those that have water like properties instead of oil like qualities. In commercial terms, you would require an ‘oil- free, water-based’ moisturizing lotion. Let’s understand how these moisturizing ingredients work so that you are able to find the right combination of moisturizing agents for your skin type.

Humectants attract water from the dermis below towards your outer skin layer and then bind that water up there. Glycerin is a good example of a humectant.

Occlusive agents create a physical barrier to the epidermal of skin and thus prevent water loss. Petroleum jelly is one of the widely used occlusive agent.

Emollients have some properties similar to occlusive agents but they are not as heavy as occlusive agents are. They too provide a protective film to the outer layer of your skin to prevent water loss. Additionally, they improve the appearance of your skin by making the flaky skin cells smooth. Fatty acids are nothing but emollients. Some other examples of emollients include lanolin, mineral oil, coconut oil, palm oil, petrolatum, Shea butter and sunflower seed oil. Emollients differ on the basis of their oil (lipid) to water ratio. The higher the oil content, more good it is for dry skin and higher the water content, more good it is for oily skin. Generally, moisturizing lotions have lower lipid content and ointments have higher lipid contents. Moisturizing creams have medium levels of oil content. Most of the moisturizing lotions therefore, are non greasy and thus the best moisturizers for oily skin. Creams are the best dry skin moisturizers and ointments are best for excessive dry skin.

More on ingredients later.

Now, when you know the basic ingredients used in a moisturizer, are you still able to make out as to what is a good moisturizer? Your answer should be- a good moisturizer is the one that includes all these moisturizing agents- humectants, occlusive agents and emollients but in different proportions matching the requirements of different types of skin.

So, if your skin is dry, the moisturizer that contains high levels of lipid based emollients along with humectants and occlusive agents, is the best moisturizer for you. For that matter, any oil based emollient is the best dry skin moisturizer.

But if your skin is oily, the moisturizer that has water based emollients along with only a low amounts of humectant and occlusive agent, is the best one for you. So, look for ‘water-based’ or ‘oil-free’ label on the moisturizer that you buy.

Are there other factors when choosing the best moisturizer for your skin?

Of course, there are!

Here are a few things to keep in mind before buying that large bottle or the jar of moisturizer on your next shopping trip to the mall.

Cleansing requirements before moisturizing your skin

When you plan to go for a moisturizing solution, its best advised to fix on the cleansing requirements first, before coming to the moisturizing one. Cleansing helps free your skin of impurities like excess oils, dead skin cells, make-up and pollution. They help to prevent clogged pores and prepare your skin for receiving moisturizers in the best ways. Generally, if your skin is dry and demands heavy moisturizing, it is best to have a gentle cleanser, the one which is not harsh on your skin and rather leaves it feeling fresh than peeled. A fresh skin can do wonders because moisturizers can work and repair better on a clean, healthy skin rather than a damaged, disoriented one. If you are using a gentle cleanser, a soft moisturizer is the ultimate requirement. Why? Because a gentle cleanser would not take away all of the natural oils from your skin. But if you are using a hardened cleanser, an advanced type of moisturizer would be better. You know why! Yes, because it strips your skin off its natural oils. Advanced moisturizer here means the one that has more moisturizing properties like the one that has oil based emollients!

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Understanding the moisturizing needs of various skin types

Most skin types are different and their demands are different too as you have already realized while reading about how to identify a good moisturizer for your skin type. The list of different skin types is a large one- dry skin, oily skin, combination skin, sensitive skin and so on. However, the basic types of skins can be classified as oily and non-oily. Here’s how to select the right moisturizer for all types of skin!

How to choose the right moisturizer for dry skin?

Those with dry skin have to use moisturizers with high humectant and emollient levels and they get a plenty of moisturizers meant for dry skin. Just go for any moisturizer that says it is made up of lipid or oil based emollients. If you have an excessive dry skin, read the top few ingredients of a moisturizer and select the one with high amounts of humectants and oil based emollients as well as occlusive agents. Remember, the list of ingredients on moisturizers usually contain the things in descending order of their volumes used.

How to choose the right moisturizer for oily skin?

For those with oily skin and acne prone skin, it is a struggle to decide about the best moisturizer for their skin. They either get ‘over hydrating’ or a complete non-hydrating one. But, there is always an option called ‘oil free moisturizer’ and we have known earlier why they are called oil-free. Because they have those emollients that have higher water based content. If you suffer from severe acne prone skin, you might look for a ‘non-comedogenic’ moisturizer. They don’t clog pores and save you from getting acne and pimples!

How to choose the right moisturizer for combination skin?

Now comes the requirement for those who have combination skin. For them, it becomes more difficult to zero in on the best moisturizer for themselves. So, if you are one of those who have an oily T-zone (with your forehead, nose and chin shining always due to the oily skin there but with a dry skin elsewhere on your face), you do not need the same moisturizer as someone with severe acne. You may buy a good moisturizer that has light lipid based moisturizing emollients. The trick is to apply it judiciously on your face. For the dry skin areas, apply moisturizer as usual but for your T-zone oily area, just take a little amount, may be pea size, of moisturizer and rub it lightly over your T-zone. Then, wipe it lightly with a cotton ball and that’s all. However, if you have excess oily T-zone combined with excess dry skin then you might need to use a water-based or oil-free moisturizer for oily areas and a heavier lipid based moisturizer for dry areas of your skin.

How to choose the right moisturizer for sensitive skin?

If you have a sensitive skin, it’s going to be a tough task for you to select a good moisturizer for yourself! Sensitive skin may get contact dermatitis caused by allergens and irritants. These allergens may be the very ingredients used in your skin care products including good moisturizers! Perfumes and preservatives both can lead to allergies. So, avoid buying such moisturizers that have perfumes and preservatives. When going for preservative-free moisturizers, you might have to buy smaller bottles and store them in fridge but this is far better than having swollen and irritated skin. Most of the common emollients and humectants also have been associated with allergic reactions in people with sensitive skin. Therefore, you will have to resort to trial-and-error method. Stick with the one that finally soothes your skin instead of irritating it. If, however, trial-and-error doesn’t work for you, consult a dermatologist to get a medically approved moisturizer for sensitive skin. And remember, just because a moisturizer contains a label reading ‘hypoallergenic’ doesn’t mean that it will suit your sensitive skin. This is just a marketing buzzword. Conduct a patch test before using any type of moisturizer on your sensitive skin.

Seal in the moisture of your moisturizer

Only applying a good moisturizer doesn’t work all the times. Those who have to use an oil free moisturizers or even normal moisturizers, complain that after applying it, their skin starts feeling tight and not really relaxed. This is especially true for those who use the moisturizer after a hot shower or bath. So, always have a warm shower and not a hot one. Hot water strips your skin off its natural oil making it drier than ever. Also, apply the moisturizer to your skin as soon as possible after bathing. Moist skin absorbs moisturizer very well. Once your skin gets dried, the moisturizer is not absorbed by the skin that effectively. One more thing you might do is, after applying the moisturizer lightly on your skin, wrap it with a warm (not hot) towel for sometime. With this, not only will your oil free moisturizer give better water retentive properties to your skin but will also last longer on the skin.

Common ingredients in a moisturizer and their utility

We have already known about the basic ingredients that are used in moisturizers. However, they are not always written as humectant or emollient on the label. Here are few of the common ingredients present in most of the moisturizers and written on the label as they are. The knowledge about their effects on your skin will make it a little easier for you to choose the best moisturizer for your skin.

Glycerin: Most moisturizers have this chemical which is slightly sweet, has higher viscosity and is highly gentle on dry skin. It is an excellent hydrating agent and some people even use diluted glycerin as an alternative to moisturizing lotions and creams. Glycerin, a humectant, is known to hydrate and keep the skin healthy; you can feel the softness of your skin after using it for few days. Even though most of the good moisturizers have glycerin, it is highly recommended that you take note of its presence in the moisturizer before buying it, especially if you have a dry skin.

Petroleum/Mineral Oil: This ingredient is common in most oil based moisturizers. It is critical to the ‘oily’ feeling of the moisturizer and is best known for creating a protective layer over your skin to prevent water loss. Petrolatum and lanolin also fall in the same category. They are present in most moisturizers but are best avoided by those who seek oil free solutions in their moisturizers.

Hyaluronic Acid: Hyaluronic Acid is a humectant that hydrates by drawing water in to the outer layers from deep within your skin. It is believed to hold up to hundred times its weight in water. Perhaps that’s why it can plump and soften your skin amazingly. So, if you have a sagging, aging skin with dryness, fine lines and wrinkles but want to have a plumper, softer and smoother skin, get a moisturizer with this hyaluronic acid. However, many people feel dryness after using moisturizers with high amounts of this acid. It is contradictory to the basic concept of moisturizer! But this is true. To save yourself from this situation, buy those moisturizers that are in form of cream or lotion and along with hyaluronic acid, also contain water, proper emollient oils and esters, natural emulsifiers similar to your skin’s sebum (like jojoba oil) and occlusive materials to keep the moisture trapped at your skin’s surface.

Jojoba oil and other oils: All the oils are good for dry skin’s moisturizing needs but what about the oil-free moisturizers for oily skin! Oil free moisturizers don’t really mean that they function completely without oil because even the oiliest of skins require certain critical oil balance to stay healthy. Understand it like this- when you apply acne products etc. to your skin, they make it dry and in an attempt to combat this dryness, you skin starts producing more oil (sebum) which in turn leads to more oily clogged skin and more acne and pimples! So, moisturizing your skin with some oil which is similar to your skin’s sebum would restrict the production of excessive oil and save you from getting more acne. Jojoba oil is just like that, it mimics your sebum. Jojoba oil is a good oil which also helps in striking the right balance on the external side of the skin cells and keeps them strong from the inside too. Besides, it is known to adjust well with water. So, if you are looking for a good moisturizer for oily skin, go for one having jojoba oil. But it is still recommended that users who are highly allergic to more oil in their skin, best avoid this ingredient or conduct a patch test before using it.

Next time when you ask, what is the best moisturizer for your skin, remember, moisturizing needs are unique to everyone! It is best to know what we plan to use on our skin in advance rather than changing types of moisturizers at random. Knowing the ingredients of moisturizers and how they react with your skin type helps a lot when you are looking for a good moisturizer for your daily skin care needs. All the best to you in your search for the best moisturizer for your skin!

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