When it comes to dry, parched skin, you might think that the heavier the moisturizer, the better. However, properly hydrating the skin can be a bit more complicated than that. A thicker cream will certainly feel nice on dehydrated skin, but it will not necessarily do much to keep it moisturized in the long run. In reality, the key to proper hydration lies in a product’s ingredients, not its texture.
First, it is important to understand the difference between moisturizers and hydrators — yes, those are different things! Perry Romanowski, cosmetic chemist and co-founder of The Beauty Brains tells Healthline, “Moisturizers […] are oil-based ingredients, including occlusive agents, such as petrolatum or mineral oil, and emollients like esters and plant oils. They work by creating a seal on the surface of skin which prevents water from escaping. They also make the skin feel smoother and less dry.” He continues: “Hydrators are ingredients called humectants, such as glycerin or hyaluronic acid, that absorb water from the atmosphere or your skin and hold it in place on your skin.”
Of course, while satisfying textures will make your skincare routine much more enjoyable, at the end of the day, it’s all about finding the products that are right for you based on your particular skin needs and preferences.
Here's what you should look for in a moisturizer
For ultra-dry skin, Perry Romanowski of The Beauty Brains recommends choosing products with occlusive agents, which work to retain moisture by forming a protective layer on your skin (per Healthline). Petrolatum, aka mineral oil jelly, is the most effective occlusive, but if you would prefer to avoid it, shea butter, canola oil, or soybean oil can be great alternatives. Oils, such as jojoba and coconut oil, will also provide nourishment to dry skin. To help add moisture back into the skin, look for humectants like hyalaronic acid, aloe vera, and honey — these ingredients help attract (and hold) moisture (via Harper’s Bazaar).
If you have oily, acne-prone skin or just don’t like heavy moisturizers, go for something with a lightweight texture. Water-based, noncomedogenic moisturizers are best, as they will still provide hydration without adding excess oil to the skin. Cosmopolitan beauty director Julee Wilson recommends CeraVe PM Facial Moisturizing Lotion. It contains ceramides, which help maintain your skin’s barrier (aka, it retains moisture while keeping environmental pollutants out). Those with oily skin typically have compromised barrier function, meaning their skin has difficulty retaining moisture. This is why it’s so important to keep your skin moisturized, even if you have oily skin and may not feel the need to slather on creams every day.
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