When it comes to skincare, moisturizing is essential. Keeping your skin hydrated is so important for addressing just about any skin condition or concern, and it also helps to keep your skin’s all-important moisture barrier healthy.
“The right moisturizer can make or break your skincare routine!”
Shani Darden, Esthetician
Your skin barrier, or moisture barrier, is the outermost layer of your skin. This layer is responsible for helping to retain moisture and other nutrients while locking out bad bacteria and other impurities that can lead to breakout or infection. So it’s crucial to keep your skin barrier functioning at its highest level. When your skin is dehydrated, your moisture barrier suffers — this makes it more likely that you’ll struggle with breakouts or other frustrating skin conditions.
Not only that, but moisturizing can help to minimize the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, give your skin a fuller and firmer appearance, and help to give you that dewy glow we’re all after. So basically, if there’s one step of your skincare routine you want to nail, it’s choosing the right moisturizer!
But how do you do that? To help you work it out, let’s break down the different types of moisturizers and compare weightless, oil-free options to traditional hydration creams to figure out which product is going to be best for your skin.
What Types of Moisturizers Are Available?
While it may seem that there are infinite options for moisturizers, most moisturizers can be categorized in three ways. These categories are referring to the specific properties and ingredients of the moisturizers on a molecular level rather than referring to vague characteristics like “gel” or “cream” or other product descriptors.
That’s not to say these things don’t matter! And some products may naturally be better for your specific skin than others. But knowing the three main types of moisturizers can help you figure out how best to hydrate your skin… so let’s start there.
Emollients are ingredients that help to smooth and soften skin. When your skin is dry, you may have noticed that it can sometimes crack or flake — this is because when your skin is thirsty, it leaves open spaces between skin cells that result in these undesirable side effects. Emollients help to fill those gaps with fats or lipids. This results in a softer, smoother experience.
Emollients can help to hydrate any skin type, but they’re especially effective when it comes to addressing skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis, and atopic dermatitis. They can also help to soothe irritation.
Humectants are another extremely common and effective moisturizing agent. Rather than helping to fill in the spaces between parched, dry cells to smooth and hydrate your skin, humectants help your skin retain moisture.
They’re basically the molecular equivalent of a magnet! They help to attract water to your skin, whether it’s from other skincare products you’ve applied or the moisture in the air around you. Humectants attract this water to the outer layer of your skin and bind it to you, so your skin stays hydrated longer and loses less water throughout the day.
Humectant products can be especially effective for those with sensitive skin. This is partly because some humectants are already part of your skin’s natural ecosystem, which makes certain ingredients very readily accepted by your skin and unlikely to result in negative side effects. Hyaluronic acid, for instance, is one of the most commonly seen humectants in moisturizers — and in addition to topical products, hyaluronic acid occurs naturally in your skin and hair.
Occlusives are the last of the main moisturizing agents, and they’re probably the trickiest. To put it simply, occlusives form a protective layer over your skin. This stops moisture loss, allowing your skin to retain moisture more easily. They’re basically like a backup for your skin’s natural moisture barrier!
Occlusive ingredients include petrolatum, silicone, waxes, oils, and shea butter. While all of these ingredients can be great for your skin and yield amazing results on the hydration fronts, some occlusives may not be suited to all skin types, unlike most humectants and emollients, which are pretty universally applicable.
If you have oily skin, applying significant occlusives to your skin in the form of waxes and oils can lead to clogged pores and skin congestion, triggering breakouts and blemishes. Not all occlusives or products that use occlusives will do this, of course, but it’s good to be mindful of these risks.
What Kind of Moisturizer Is Best for You?
The ideal moisturizer probably ticks all three of the above boxes: it should contain emollients, humectants, and occlusives. That way, you’re addressing skin dryness from all angles and giving your skin’s moisture barrier everything it needs (and then some!) to reach its fullest potential when it comes to protecting your skin and keeping it hydrated.
But in addition to knowing what makes up a good moisturizer, it’s important to consider your skin type when choosing a moisturizer. Depending on your skin type, certain types of moisturizers may perform better than others, which is where we’ll break down the pros and cons between oil-free moisturizers and hydration creams.
If You Have Dry Skin
You’re going to want to give it everything you’ve got! This means that your hydration routine shouldn’t be restricted to just a moisturizer — you’ll want to be sure other aspects of your skincare regimen are targeting your dryness, too.
Nourishing serums and eye creams can help round out your routine for a soothed and smooth complexion. My Hydration Peptide Cream is powered by moisture-drenching Hydrosella™, plumping peptides, and replenishing squalane and delivers deep hydration, while continuing to support your skin barrier, and my Intensive Eye Renewal Cream can help rejuvenate the skin around your eyes, which is more sensitive and therefore more prone to showing any issues you may have with your skin.
If your skin is dry, when choosing a moisturizer, you can safely choose a hydration cream, even if it includes heavier occlusives that might cause issues for other skin types. That’s not to say you should be loading your face with oil, but a rich cream will likely better suit your skin type than others.
If You Have Combination Skin
Moisturizing combination skin can be tricky because different areas of your face may have different needs. The rich hydration cream that nourishes your dry areas may cause breakouts on your oily t-zone. There are two schools of thought on how to resolve this issue.
One option is simply using two different types of moisturizers on the different areas of your face. Use a rich, hydrating cream that’s rich in emollients and even occlusives to soothe dry areas. Then, stick to an oil-free, non-occlusive, light moisturizer on your oily areas.
The other option is to choose an oil-free moisturizer that’s still super nourishing and restorative but won’t clog your pores. My Hydration Peptide Cream is also a great option for combination skin. It’s free of heavy ingredients like oils and waxes, so you can use it without worrying about breakouts.
If You Have Oily Skin
While it may be tempting to forgo moisturizing altogether if your skin is oily, don’t do it! Skincare is all about balance, and so you don’t want to overcorrect by depriving your skin of necessary hydration, triggering even greater excess oil production to compensate.
Instead, look for a lightweight moisturizer that’s free from pore-clogging ingredients. My Weightless Oil-Free Moisturizer provides daily hydration for your skin without any troubling congestion. It’s oil-free and powered by heavy-hitting hydrators like hyaluronic acid, hydrolyzed collagen, and red algae. Your skin will feel smooth, hydrated, and revitalized rather than heavy, oily, or shiny.
If you’re after that real-life-filter, dewy glow, keeping your skin hydrated is your first stop on the road to a flawless complexion. While other parts of your skincare regimen, like cleansing and applying SPF, are equally important to keep your skin healthy and balanced, moisturizing is a cornerstone of glowing skin. Without proper hydration, you can end up with a wide range of skin conditions, less-than-flattering cosmetic issues, breakouts, and even infections due to a weakened skin barrier.
But choosing the right moisturizer for your skin isn’t always straightforward! So breaking down the different types of moisturizers available to you and figuring out which one is best for your skin type is exactly what you need to reach your hydration goals.
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