Despite being among the most recognizable facial care products, many people are unsure of what type of moisturizer to purchase and exactly how to use it.
Moisturizers have been around for quite some time, and their popularity continues to increase, as both men and women are putting them to use at an unprecedented rate.
Dry skin can enhance the appearance of wrinkles and imperfections, so it is important to apply an appropriate moisturizer twice a day. Moisturizers can markedly reduce the appearance of lines and wrinkles almost immediately by increasing skin hydration, resulting in a more plump appearance. Ideally, facial moisturizers should:
- Reduce trans-epidermal water loss (TEWL), which is water lost from the body (dermal skin layers) to the environment via the epidermis from diffusion and evaporation.
- Restore the skin’s lipid barrier by enhancing the skin’s own moisture-retaining processes.
- Absorb into the skin quickly to provide immediate hydration.
- Confer protection from UV light with an SPF of 30 or greater (when used as part of your morning skincare routine).
It is important that you properly cleanse your face prior to the application of successive skin care products, such as face serums and moisturizers.
Moisturizers should be applied in the morning and at night; the proper moisturizer will reduce TEWL by formation of a barrier on the surface of the skin; this will also function to retain the active ingredients in face serums and spot treatments (e.g., acne treatment).
Since most moisturizers have a thicker consistency than other facial skin care products, they are applied near the end of the skin care routine.
A suitable amount of moisturizer to use varies by manufacturer and consistency; a peanut-sized amount can be rubbed between the fingertips in order to warm the moisturizer to body temperature. It is then applied to the rest of the face using the tips of the fingers; it should be blended into the skin, working from the center of the face outward.
Daytime vs. Night Time Moisturizers
Since it is recommended to moisturize your face twice a day, most people do it in the morning and then at night before going to sleep. Some moisturizers can be used at both times, while others are designed to be applied at a specific time of the day.
In the daytime, moisturizers containing sunscreen are preferred because they help to prevent damage caused by ultraviolet (UV) solar radiation. A moisturizer containing a minimum SPF rating of 30 should be chosen in order to combat premature aging caused by the sun’s rays. If your daytime moisturizer does not contain a sunscreen, one with a value of SPF 30 or greater should be applied after your moisturizer has had a few minutes to dry.
Some moisturizers contain compounds that are targeted toward cellular repair and regeneration processes, which typically occur during the night as you sleep. Moisturizers that contain these types of active ingredients, such as retinoids, may not work as well when exposed to UV radiation, so they should be applied as part of the night time skin care routine.
Facial moisturizers are often categorized into the following types based on their consistency:
- Lotions are the thinnest type of moisturizer; they have a non-greasy feel and are absorbed into the skin quickly. Lotions primarily contain emollients, which aid in the regulation of cell membrane fluidity and skin barrier function. Examples of emollients are ceramides and pseudoceramides (less expensive); these emollients are incorporated into liposomes in the outermost layer of skin (stratum corneum), causing it to become softer and smoother.
- Creams are made of heavier types of lipids than those found in lotions and are also well-absorbed by the skin. Creams typically contain a high concentration of humectants in addition to emollients. Humectants are small molecules that are able to bind water and draw it into the skin for transient hydration; some examples of humectants are glycerol, propylene glycol, alpha hydroxy acids, urea, panthenol, and hyaluronic acid.
- Gels consist of a liquid phase in a polymeric matrix (base) with cross-linkage (attachment to other molecules) using gelling agents; they can be either hydrophillic (water-soluble) or hydrophobic (oil-soluble). They are also easily absorbed and have a smooth finish.
- Ointments are thick and heavy; they form an occlusive barrier on top of the skin. They appear greasy or glossy and consist primarily of occlusive agents (waxes and oils) that form a hydrophobic (lipid) barrier on the surface of the skin and physically block TEWL. Examples include beeswax, mineral oil, lanolin, silicone, dimethicone, and petrolatum. Ointments and other occlusive types of moisturizers are not cosmetically appealing (due to their greasy texture and appearance), hence they are seldom used on the face.
Special Moisturizer Ingredients
Certain substances may be added to moisturizers for marketing purposes and to satisfy consumer interest; the efficacy of some of these contents require further investigation and testing in order to substantiate their claims:
- Aloe vera: thought to possess anti-inflammatory properties.
- Allantoin (comfrey root): purported moisturizer and keratolytic (breaks up dead skin cells).
- Oatmeal: may have soothing properties, especially on sensitive skin.
- Bioflavenoids: polyphenols are thought to have potent antioxidant properties; common sources include sea kelp and algae.
- Antioxidants can work to inhibit oxidation of skin tissue by acting as free radical scavengers.
- Tocopherols (e.g. vitamin E).
- Reducing agents (e.g. vitamin C)
- Vitamins A, C, and E have potential to aid in skin repair and rejuvenation; however, their efficacy is limited by their inability to readily penetrate the skin.
- Chelating agents (e.g. citric acid) may enhance the potency of antioxidants by reacting with heavy metal ions.
Selection of a Proper Moisturizer
The right moisturizer for you is probably different from the right moisturizer for everyone else. It is best to choose a moisturizer based on your skin type:
- Oily skin often produces excess oil because of underlying dryness, so the proper moisturizing cream can actually help to reduce oil production. People with oily skin should choose lightweight, oil-free moisturizers with mattifying (shine reduction) and oil-absorbing properties.
- Dry skin can appear flaky while feeling tight and uncomfortable. Heavier, thicker creams that contain hydrating ingredients such as hyaluronic acid, ceramides, Shea butter, and lanolin are good choices for dry skin.
- Sensitive skin is prone to irritation by certain ingredients (e.g. fragrances, chemical sunscreens, dyes), so care should be taken to select a product that is hypoallergenic and free of irritants. It’s always wise to patch-test a small, inconspicuous area of skin first for potential irritation.
- Combination skin consists of some areas (e.g. cheeks, jawline) which are dry while others (e.g. nose, forehead) are oily. A lightweight moisturizer should be used more heavily on the dry areas and sparingly on the oily areas for people with combination skin.
- As we age, skin produces less natural oil, and there is a breakdown of collagen and elastin fibers, causing skin to become thinner, drier, and less taut. Environmental exposure leads to premature aging, which may manifest as hyperpigmentation, lines, and wrinkles. Those with mature skin often benefit most from a rich, thick cream that helps to strengthen the dermis and retain moisture; antioxidants neutralize the formation of free radicals, helping to combat premature aging.
- Advanced Glycation End-Products (AGEs) include proteins (e.g. collagen) that become covalently bound (glycated) by prolonged exposure to reductive sugars (e.g. glucose).
- Glycation can impair protein function and stability.
- A common example of glycation is hemoglobin A1c (glycated hemoglobin), which is used as a marker indicating the concentration of blood glucose over a period of about 90 days.
- AGEs can result from oxidative stress and can affect nearly every cell type.
- AGEs can act as pro-inflammatory mediators.
- AGEs can induce cross-linking of collagen molecules, increasing the appearance of the visible signs of aging.
- People with normal skin should opt to use a lightweight moisturizer in the summer and a heavier cream moisturizer in the winter, when skin is more prone to drying.
People with all types of skin, even oily skin, can benefit from using an appropriate moisturizer for their skin type.
Beware of certain additives to moisturizers that exploit consumer interest; while these ingredients can be beneficial, there simply isn’t enough evidence to determine if they are beneficial when applied topically.
Different formulations of moisturizers have varying consistencies to achieve different tasks; gel and cream preparations are likely the most useful as facial moisturizers.
Moisturizers should be applied in the morning and again at night to clean skin; some daytime moisturizers contain UV SPF protection, obviating the need to apply a separate sunscreen.
A quality moisturizer reduces trans-epidermal water loss (TEWL) and facilitates the skin’s natural moisture production while drawing in moisture.
Moisturizers that are readily absorbed into the skin are able to provide immediate hydration, which helps to plump dry skin and reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
- SkinCeuticals Triple Lipid Restore 2:4:2
- Anti-aging treatment cream.
- Restores cellular lipid balance; nourishes dry skin.
- Contains 2% ceramides, 4% cholesterol, and 2% fatty acids.
- Supports skin’s natural repair mechanisms.
- Cetaphil Rich Hydrating Night Cream
- Rehydrates and nourishes skin overnight.
- Strengthens skin’s natural moisture barrier.
- Contains hyaluronic acid.
- Non comedogenic. Hypoallergenic. Fragrance free.
- CeraVe Moisturizing Cream
- Restores and maintains natural skin moisture barrier.
- Attracts water and retains skin moisture.
- Oil free. Fragrance free. Hypoallergenic. Non comedogenic.
- Contains ceramides and hyaluronic acid.
- Chantecaille Bio Lifting Cream+
- Contains plant stem cells.
- Reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
- Visibly lifts and plums the skin.
- Neutrogena Hydro Boost Gel-Cream
- Formulated for extra-dry skin.
- Contains hyaluronic acid and glycerin.
- Non comedogenic.
- Oil-free, fragrance-free, and dye-free.
- Brickell Daily Essential Face Moisturizer
- Good for normal, sensitive, dry, oily, and combination skin.
- Oil-free lotion.
- Contains aloe vera, jojoba, green tea, and hyaluronic acid.
- Imparts deep hydration to dry skin.
- Zirh Rejuvenate
- Ideal for normal to dry skin.
- Intense hydrating cream.
- Lightweight and quickly-absorbing.
- Estee Lauder Day Wear Matte Moisture Gel Creme
- Ideal for oily skin.
- Oil-free; oil absorbing moisturizer.
- Minimizes the appearance of shine.
- Reduces the appearance of pores.
- ClarinsMen Line-Control Cream
- Lightweight cream for dry skin.
- Non-greasy, matte finish.
- Contains bison grass and Chinese galanga.
- Clinique for Men Oil Control Mattifying Moisturizer
- Oil-free and oil-controlling.
- Shine-free, matte finish.
- Creme de la Mer Moisturizing Cream
- Contains lime tea, algae extract, Miracle Broth, glycerin, citric acid.
- Ideal for dry skin.
- Rich, thick cream.
- La Prairie Skin Caviar Luxe Cream
- Lifting and firming cream.
- SkinCeuticals A.G.E. Interrupter
- Improves visible signs of aging caused by advanced glycation end-products.
- Anti-wrinkle cream.
- Restores skin firmness.
- Ideal for dry, sensitive, or normal skin types.
- Contains proxylane, blueberry extract, and phytosphingosine.
- Creme de la Mer Moisturizing Matte Lotion
- Oil-absorbing lotion.
- Matte finish.
- Ideal for oily skin.
- Chantecaille Nano Gold Energizing Face Cream
- Contains gold and silk particles.
- Reduces the appearance of lines, wrinkles, and dullness.
- Hydrating cream.