Buyer's Guide: How to Choose the Best Moisturizer for Your Skin

A great daily moisturizer is one of the most basic skincare products there is. Even people with a minimalist skincare regimen tend to have it on their vanity cabinet. After all, the key to healthy and glowing skin is proper hydration.

However, a lot can go into picking a good moisturizer. It can be tempting to think that they're all the same but that’s not always the case. You need to decide on the texture you want, the scent you and your skin can tolerate, and whether or not you need added benefits like anti-aging or brightening.

So how do you know which moisturizer is right for you? Don’t fret because we’ve prepared this handy guide to help you out! In it, you’ll find everything you need to know about choosing the best face moisturizer. As a bonus, we’re also throwing in useful tips so you can achieve your best face yet!


Understanding Moisturizers

Moisturizers are a cosmetic product designed to protect, lubricate, and hydrate the skin. It mimics the function of sebum by boosting the skin’s barrier function. It aids in limiting the amount of water that evaporates from the deeper layers of the skin or trans-epidermal water loss (TEWL).

Typically, a moisturizer will contain ingredients that not only add water to the skin but also helps retain it. It commonly has water to hydrate the skin; oily or occlusive substances to lock in moisture; humectants to attract water to the surface of the skin; and emollients to fill in cracks and gaps in between the skin for a smoother and more supple texture.

Furthermore, they can also contain added ingredients that address specific skin needs or problems. Some are fortified with vitamins, antioxidants, and even anti-aging ingredients to boost skin health. 


Does Your Skin Need Moisturizer?

Some people suffer from perpetually dry skin because their bodies lack the ability to keep the top layer of skin intact. Furthermore, some people also can’t produce the necessary lipids to seal in moisture.

Apart from genetics, the medication people take can also affect the skin’s ability to maintain hydration. For example, if you’re taking cholesterol medication, you skin may suffer from dryness and a daily moisturizer can help combat this.

Excessive dryness can lead to skin redness, itchiness, cracking, and inflammation. In more severe cases, it can lead to atopic dermatitis (eczema), rosacea, and even psoriasis.

The best moisturizer supplies the necessary hydration and helps dry skin hold on to moisture better. This eases inflammation, irritation, and itchiness. 

Similarly, if you have aging skin, some moisturizer can help boost your complexion. As we get older, our skin not only loses collagen resulting in fine lines and wrinkles but it also loses its ability to produce hyaluronic acid which causes your skin to start to look, rough, flaky or cracked.

A rich moisturizer helps mature skin hold on to moisture better. This improves the skin’s overall texture and appearance. 

But what if you have normal or combination skin? Well an extra boost of moisture never hurt anyone. Using a moisturizer that’s designed for your skin can play a role in keeping your skin healthy. 

While your skin does produce sebum to form a lipid barrier that protects you from pathogens and harsh weather conditions, it still needs a little bit of help to counteract the effects of exposure to the sun and of the harsh chemicals we put on our skin.


Types of Moisturizers

It’s all too easy to think that all moisturizers are the same. However, that couldn’t be farther from the truth. In fact, there are four main types and each one has unique features that address specific skin concerns.

  • Humectants

Humectants are the best facial moisture enhancers you can use. This product draws water to the skin cells to keep the skin hydrated. Some examples include glycerin, lactic acid, urea, hyaluronic acid, and alpha-hydroxy acids. It works best in humid areas. It is also the best moisturizer for all skin types including oily, combination, and acne-prone skin since they don’t usually contain pore-clogging oils.

  • Emollients

Emollients are rich moisturizers that fill the spaces and gaps in between skin cells that are missing much-needed moisturizing lipids. They are best suited for extremely dry, dehydrated, and mature skin that needs an extra kick of moisture.

While these are typically oil-based, they can also be made from water-based ingredients. Some examples include Lanolin, mineral oil, shea butter, and petrolatum. 

  • Ceramides

Ceramides are lipids that help form the skin's barrier and help skin retain moisture. They protect the skin from environmental aggressors like pollution and UV rays. Without the proper ratio of ceramides, the skin's barrier can become compromised, leading to dryness, itching, and irritation.

It is one of the best face moisturizers for combination skin and for skin with minimal dryness. It is also often recommended for people suffering from eczema. 

  • Occlusive

These are moisture-sealing agents that can be found in many botanical oils like rosehip, avocado, and hazelnut. They fill the cracks in dry skin and make a film that prevents water loss.

 It is the best moisturizer for mature and dehydrated skin. It is also best used in areas that have low humidity levels. If you have acne-prone or sensitive skin, it’s best to stay away from occlusives.


Moisturizer Texture

Moisturizers come in four different texture classes and each one is determined by the ratio of lipids and water it contains.

  • Gels

Gels have a light, almost watery texture. It also leaves the least greasy feeling. They are a mixture of mostly water, alcohol, and a liquid lipid which helps dissolve the active ingredients of the moisturizer.

They are best suited for people with oily skin since they use a minimal amount of oil. Because of this, it is less likely to clog the pores and cause breakouts.

  • Lotions

Lotions are relatively light and absorb quickly into the skin. It has high water to oil content and is designed to be applied more frequently to maintain the skin’s hydration levels.

 While lotions are more commonly available as body moisturizers, there are facial moisturizers with this texture.

  • Creams

When you think of skin moisture, you're most likely thinking of a moisturizing cream. It is heavier than gels and lotions because it has a higher oil to water ratio. It is a little greasier and stickier than the two previously mentioned classes.

Since they are in cream form, they can take a bit of time to absorb into the skin but since they have more oil content than gels, its effect can last longer on the skin. They are also one of the better face moisturizers which can better prevent TEWL than gels and lotions.

  • Ointments

Ointments have the thickest texture. They have the highest concentration of lipids which makes them the stickiest. It is best suited for dry skin and for people with eczema, rosacea, and psoriasis. 

While ointments are excellent for preventing water loss on the skin, they also tend to clog pores so people with acne-prone skin should stay away from this kind of moisturizer.


Day vs. Night Moisturizers

The main difference between day and night moisturizers is their purpose. Day moisturizers contain SPF to protect the skin from UV rays. They are also lighter in texture and are less greasy. Meanwhile, night moisturizers are meant to offer deep hydration and even anti-aging properties while you sleep. Because of this, they are often richer and denser.


Amazing Benefits of Using Moisturizer

While the best facial moisturizers are designed to keep the skin hydrated and to prevent TEWL, that’s not their only role. They do more than just sealing in moisture so your skin remains plump. Often, the best moisturizer for the face is filled with beneficial ingredients that do wonders for different skin problems. Here’s why patting on some moisturizer every day is great for your complexion:

  • It Can Reduce the Chances of Common Skin Problems from Occurring

Healthy and glowing skin is the result of proper hydration. When the skin is too dry or too oily, you’re most likely to develop skin issues like inflammation and breakouts. With the help of the right moisturizer for your skin type, your skin becomes healthier overall.

  • It Soothes Inflamed Skin

    Occlusives are heaven-sent for people with inflammatory skin conditions. These lipid-rich products help soothe irritation, calm redness and reduce inflammation. Furthermore, it also helps get rid of dry patches for smoother and healthier-looking skin.

    • It Protects the Skin from the Sun

      Sun protection is important if you want your skin to look its best. While it is advisable to use a separate sunscreen product for daily use, the extra protection offered by a moisturizer infused with SPF certainly does help.

      A facial cream designed for daytime use can contain anywhere between SPF 15 and SPF 30 which is enough if you won’t be spending a lot of time outside. 

      • It Helps Fight Acne

        It may sound counter-intuitive for people with oily and acne-prone skin but applying moisturizer can actually help reduce breakouts. 

        More often than not, excess sebum is a result of the skin being too dry. Your body overcompensates from the lack of moisture by producing more oil which spells bad news for your pores. 

        The key here is to use an oil-free and non-occlusive formula that won’t clog the pores.

        • It Can Help Fade Dark Spots

          Moisturizers infused with vitamin C and other brightening ingredients can reduce the appearance of dark spots  and other blemishes. It can reduce the appearance of visible sun-damage and reveal radiant, more even-toned, younger-looking skin.

          • It Can Help Your Skin Stay Young-Looking

            Moisturizers enriched with hyaluronic acid help keep moisture trapped underneath especially for mature skin. Furthermore, moisturizing daily with a hydrating cream can help the skin repair itself better and stay healthy both inside and out. 

            • It Can Slow Down the Appearance of Wrinkles

              While fine lines and wrinkles are an inevitable result of aging, regularly using the best moisturizer for face can help slow down this process. Properly moisturized skin accumulates wrinkles a tad slower than skin that’s left dry.

              Furthermore, there are moisturizers that are infused with age-defying ingredients like peptides and retinol. These deeply hydrate the skin and even promote collagen production so you don’t have to worry about smile lines, fine lines, and crow’s feet.


              How to Choose the Right Moisturizer

              With any luck, you now have a better understanding of the different types of moisturizers, how they work, and how it can benefit your skin. The next thing we’ll be talking about is choosing the actual product you’ll be slathering on your skin daily. Here’s what you need to do before purchasing a moisturizer: 

              • Think About Your Skin Type

              Like we’ve talked about earlier, different types of moisturizers are better suited for certain skin types. All skin can benefit from moisturizer but you have to use one that’s appropriate for the canvas that you have.

              If you have oily skin, opt for a light-weight or oil-free formula like a gel moisturizer. This will keep the hydration levels on your skin balanced without clogging your pores and causing any breakouts.

              If your skin is on the drier side, opt for a richer and denser cream to help soothe any inflammation and reduce dry patches. Again, moisturizers with occlusive properties ointments and rich creams work wonders for sealing in moisture.

              If you have dehydrated skin, you may need something that contains a lot of humectants like hyaluronic acid or glycerin. These attract and trap moisture into the skin which helps maintain moisture levels.

              Meanwhile, people with normal or combination skin can start with all-around moisturizers that have a creamy texture. Find one that is filled with humectants and can seal on moisture. 

              Mature skin will benefit most from moisturizers that are chock full of ceramides. It can help create a barrier to prevent permeability. It also locks moisture into your skin, which helps prevent dryness and irritation. It may also help protect your epidermis from environmental damage.

              Finally, people with sensitive skin should opt for fragrance-free products. Ceramides also help soothe fragile and irritated skin. You can also opt for moisturizing ointments that can ease dryness, redness, and inflammation.

              • Think of Texture

              The thickness of moisturizer is also an important factor to consider. A heavier and creamier product won’t work well on oily and acne-prone skin since it would only clog the pores. It also isn’t ideal for daytime use. These are better suited for dry skin types and for nighttime use. 

              For daytime use, a light and non-greasy cream will do. Meanwhile, gel moisturizers with a water texture will benefit blemish-prone skin the most 

              If you’re not battling any specific skin issues and if you have normal or combination skin, do a patch test to see if you’re comfortable with how the facial cream feels on your face.

              • Check the Scent

              As with any cosmetic preparation, some moisturizers will most likely contain a type of fragrance that could be natural or synthetic. Artificial scents can cause problems especially if you have sensitive skin. So be sure to take a whiff of a product before buying.

              If you’re particularly sensitive to fragrance, opt for a scent-free moisturizer that won’t bother your nose or irritate your skin. 

              • Read the Label

              If you’re putting something on your skin, it’s best to know what’s in it. Read the label closely and look for keywords like “hypo-allergenic” (which means it’s less likely to cause allergic reactions) or “non-comedogenic” (it’s less likely to clog your pores).

              Look for the first five ingredients listed on the back as well since these are the most abundant ones in a particular formulation. Note that ingredients like glycerin are less likely to cause adverse reactions on the skin.

              Meanwhile, natural ingredients like shea butter help attract moisture, lock it in your skin, and even act as an emollient that fills the cracks in between skin cells

              Check if the face cream you have contains antioxidants which can help shield the skin from further deterioration caused by environmental aggressors. Ingredients like green tea extract, vitamin C, vitamin E, quercetin, resveratrol, and licorice extract fight free radicals for healthier skin.

              Meanwhile, skin-replenishing ingredients like hyaluronic acid, ceramides, sodium PCA, glycerin, glycerol, silicones, petrolatum, salicylic acid, and alpha-hydroxy acids help enrich the skin’s surface. 

              Added sunscreen is also great to have especially in a day cream. Broad-spectrum SPF helps the skin hold on to moisture so it stays supple all day. 

              • Check the Packaging

              Believe it or not, packaging matters when it comes to skincare products. Some ingredients like antioxidants are sensitive to light and they tend to break down if exposed to too much sunlight. Go for a moisturizer that is contained in dark-colored jars or tubes. 

              • Consider the Current Climate You’re In

              Believe it or not, some moisturizers work better in the summer while other work best in the winter especially if you have problematic skin. For hotter months, go for a lighter texture full of humectants which feels light and is still hydrating. When the weather starts getting colder, you might need to switch something richer and denser to help trap moisture in and to fill in cracks in the skin.


              Top Tips for Using Moisturizers

              Moisturizing seems to be such a straightforward thing. After all, opening up a jar and slathering on some products on your skin is pretty easy, right? Well, we have news for you! There is a right way to apply moisturizer. Don’t just go willy-nilly about it! Here are some things to keep in mind to maximize the effects of your moisturizer:

              • Tip #1: Start with Freshly Cleansed Face

              Before slathering on a layer of moisturizer, make sure that you have a clean canvas. Washing your face should always be the first step in your skincare routine. Use a mild foaming cleanser during the day. At night, double cleanse with an oil-based cleanser to dissolve makeup and follow it up with a gentle cleansing foam. 

              By removing the dirt and the oil that has accumulated on the surface of your skin, you’re allowing your skin to absorb moisturizer (and other skincare products in your routine) much better. Oh and don’t forget to use clean hands too! You wouldn’t want to transfer unwanted dirt from your fingers to your face and neck.

              • Tip #2: Don’t Pull on Your Skin

              Gentle application is key to prevent unnecessary friction and tugging. Rough handling of your skin can lead to premature wrinkles and sagging skin so use a light hand when applying any skincare product. Use a soft, circular, and upward motion to apply your face cream. When you reach the eye area, use small patting motions with your ring finger. 

              While you’re at it, you can also incorporate a gentle facial massage while applying your favorite gel, cream, lotion, or ointment. This will stimulate blood flow and provide your facial muscles with a dose of rejuvenating oxygen. 

              • Tip #3: Don’t Skip Your Neck and Décolletage

              Keeping your neck and décolletage properly hydrated is crucial if you want to maintain a healthy overall glow. The neck area has a thinner skin and is much more delicate which means it is one of the first parts of your body to show signs of aging. And it doesn’t help that it doesn’t produce a lot of sebum either. 

              Bring down your moisturizer past your jawline to your chest to keep it moisturized as well. Remember to use an upward motion when applying creams or ointments on these areas to prevent sagging and wrinkles over time.

              • Tip #4: Moisturize Regularly

              Don’t wait until your skin feels rough and parched to apply moisturizer. Letting your skin dry up without a layer of moisturizer promotes building up of dead skin cells on the surface which makes it easier for any product to penetrate into your skin. Furthermore, not moisturizing often enough makes your skin produce more sebum to lubricate itself.

              Be consistent about moisturizing so prevent this from happening. Apply your favorite moisturizer both in the morning before putting on makeup and at night after cleansing to ensure that your face, neck, and chest are properly hydrated.

              • Tip #5: Don’t Apply Too Much Product

              Over moisturizing is just as bad as not putting on face cream at all. If you put on a layer that’s too thick for your skin to handle, you’ll just end up with clogged pores and a bad case of acne.

              As a general rule, a nickel-sized amount of product is enough to cover your face, neck, and chest area. Any more than that and you’ll end up looking like a greasy mess.