Choosing a moisturizer

In our previous article Dry Skin 101: 5 tips to beat TEWL, we shared tips on how to keep your skin hydrated by minimizing transepidermal water loss (TEWL). One tip we shared was using a quality moisturizer. But, you might be wondering, what does moisturizing even do? And how exactly do you choose the right moisturizer? 

Dr. Ellen Marmur summarizes the importance of using a quality moisturizer in the following explanation:

Think of the skin’s surface like the paint job on a car. If the paint is cracked, the metal underneath is left unprotected from the elements and quickly oxidizes and rusts. The same goes for the top layer of your skin — once it’s dry, brittle, orcracked, you’ve lost your shield and the skin is vulnerable to exposure from the outside and water evaporates. When the barrier function is compromised for any reason (injury, wind, dry air, too many chemicals on your skin), bacteria enter the dermis through the cracks on the surface. Similar to the shiny coating on a car’s exterior, putting on moisturizer not only makes the surface look good, but it also seals and protects what is beneath it. – Dr. Ellen Marmur, dermatologist

The purpose of a moisturizer is to help maintain our skin’s barrier function. Two of the most common ways to do this is by 1) adding water back into the skin, and 2) preventing transepidermal water loss (TEWL). When looking for the right moisturizer you should select products that contains humectants and occlusives as these ingredients encourage these two processes. 

Humectants are ingredients that attract water from the atmosphere and the deeper layers of the skin. The most popular humectant in high-quality skincare is hyaluronic acid. This natural substance can hold up to 1000 times its weight in water and is able to regulate how that moisture will be used by your cells. Other popular humectants are glycerin, butylene glycol, sorbitol, and urea.

Occlusives are ingredients that prevent water from leaving the skin, locking in moisture. Common occlusives in skincare formulas are propylene glycol, squalane, soy lecithin, silicones, cocoa or shea butter, various oils (jojoba, avocado) and beeswax.

Petrolatum derivatives, such as mineral oil, petroleum jelly (aka Vaseline) and paraffin, are also effective occlusive ingredients that are commonly found in skincare. These ingredients, however, have become controversial in the last decade. One concern is that they are such effective occlusives that they can cause pimples by sealing in dirt and bacteria or cause fungus by not allowing the skin to dry completely. Another concern is that petrolatum derivatives may be cancer-causing carcinogens; however, there is not enough research published to support the link with cancer, and most of the petrolatum produced in North America undergo a very specific refinement process. Many higher-end skincare companies have removed petrolatum from their products.
How do you decide which moisturizer is right for you? It depends on your type of skin:

Guy #1: Oily skin; gets pimples regularly.
Answer: Choose a moisturizer that prioritizes humectants; needs a no-to-low amount of occlusives.
Guy #2: Easy-to-manage skin; doesn’t get pimples very often; gets seasonal dry skin.
Answer: Choose a moisturizer that prioritizes humectants; needs a low-to-medium amount of occlusives.
Guy #3: Mature skin (50’s and up); wrinkles and crow’s feet, lines on the forehead.
Answer: Choose a moisturizer that prioritizes humectants; needs a low-to-medium amount of occlusives.
Guy #4: Dry, flaky skin year round.
Answer: Choose a moisturizer that prioritizes humectants and occlusives equally.
Guy #5: Eczema and/or psoriasis.
Answer: Choose a moisturizer that prioritizes occlusives; needs a medium-to-high amount of humectants.

Apply moisturizers to damp skin for best results, especially after a bath to lock in the moisture.As we recommended in our previous article, it’s important to reapply moisturizers regularly throughout the day, especially if you’re dealing with dry or aging skin.

If you’re unsure about which category you fall into, speak with one of our experts and they will be able to recommend the right moisturizer for your skin.