I think we all know that moisturizing is so important. But not all moisturizers are created equally, and I don’t mean just in terms of quality. I’m also referring to which ones will work for your own particular skin type and needs. In fact, one of the most important things to keep in mind when shopping for a moisturizer is looking for one that suits your skin type—every dermatologist that I spoke to for this story gave that piece of advice.
“Choose your moisturizer based upon your skin type, skin conditions, and goals,” says Corey L. Hartman, MD, FAAD, founder of Skin Wellness Dermatology. “If you have oilier skin, choose a lighter moisturizer that’s serum- or oil-based containing glycerin or squalane. If your skin is dry and needs help with the skin barrier function, choose a heavier product with ceramides. If you suffer from atopic dermatitis, perhaps an ointment would be best.”
If you don’t choose a product for your skin type or aren’t moisturizing regularly, Caroline Robinson—MD, FAAD, board-certified dermatologist, and founder of Tone Dermatology—says that the skin cells become sluggish in their turnover process, and it can be difficult for the skin to hold on to the water it needs. “One of my favorite tips to combat dry skin is to ‘wet moisturize,’ meaning don’t completely dry your skin before you apply your lotion. This will give you a hydration boost,” she adds.
Aside from considering your skin type, there are a few other things you’ll want to keep in mind when shopping for a moisturizer. If you find the right one for you, that will save you a lot of trouble in the long run. So here are more shopping tips derms gave me:
Check the ingredient list: “The ingredients are placed in order of concentration/potency, so your first five ingredients should be any of these mentioned: humectants, occlusives, and emollients,” says Ife Rodney, MD, FAAD, of Eternal Dermatology and Aesthetics. “In terms of products to avoid, you’d want moisturizers to be paraben-free, fragrance-free, sulfate-free, and phthalate-free.”
Expensive doesn’t mean better: Instead of prioritizing a moisturizer with a splurgy price tag, Rodney recommends choosing the product with the best combination of ingredients for you.
Look for peptides: Viscusi recommends products with peptides. “They provide a more effective form of delivery technology to penetrate the skin deeper, therefore providing benefits such as moisturization and anti-aging properties more effectively,” she says.
Prioritize truly moisturizing and hydrating ingredients: “The best place to start is by thinking about what the skin loves, which are the natural lipid moisturizers that it produces: ceramides, cholesterol, and free fatty acids,” Robinson says. “The ideal moisturizer has a blend of all of these ingredients so that the skin recognizes it and soaks it up, rather than the moisturizer sitting on the skin. I am also a fan of humectants like glycerin and hyaluronic acid because these moisturizers help to attract water to the skin.”
Avoid irritating ingredients: “Avoid mineral oil which can be an allergen,” Hartman says. “Propylene glycol is a potent moisturizer, but it is one of the most common and insidious causes of contact dermatitis. Fragrance can act as another common irritant, leading to rashes, burning, and itching. Parabens are preservatives commonly used in cosmetics, but they may disrupt hormone production and have been linked to cancer.”
Avoid essential oils: Tracy Evans, MD, MPH, FAAD, FACMS, medical director of Pacific Skin and Cosmetic Dermatology, says that essential oils really just sit on the skin and are not readily absorbed. Instead, she suggests adding drops of oil to your moisturizer to increase overall absorption if you like oils.
And if you need more help choosing your next holy-grail moisturizer, check out the recs from dermatologists below.
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