What to Look For in a Moisturizer

Moisturizer is a key part of any skincare routine, but the products out there are endless. We talked to Zein Obagi, MD, dermatologist to celebs and founder of ZO Skin Health; Mara Weinstein Velez, MD, FAAD; and Michele Farber, MD, about what you need to look for in a moisturizer.



Moisturizers are important for all skin types, but especially dry or aging skin. When skin is not properly hydrated, the outer layer can become damaged and irritated. Moisturizers help to restore the moisture barrier of the skin and to lock in the natural oils produced by the skin.

Most moisturizers contain ingredients such as humectants, which attract water to the outer skin from the air; occlusives, which create a barrier that prevents the loss of moisture to the atmosphere; and emollients, which soften the skin. Using a moisturizing product daily is a good way to keep the outer layer of skin hydrated and healthy.

When choosing a moisturizer, consider your skin type and the consistency you prefer. Lotions are lightweight, easy to apply and absorbed easily by the skin. Creams are a little thicker, which makes them ideal for those with very dry skin of the face or body and are perfect to use in the colder months. Ointments are the thickest and act as an occlusive, which is great for extremely dry skin, like that of those who suffer from psoriasis or ichthyosis.

Apply your moisturizer after cleansing and while your skin is still damp. You can also layer a serum, such as a hyaluronic acid serum, over your moisturizer for an extra boost of hydration.


Moisturizing is a must for all skin types but especially oily and very dry skin. This helps to prevent extreme dryness and irritability which can lead to cracking, scaly skin and blemishes. It is recommended to moisturize at least once a day, after bathing or shaving and after exfoliation.

Moisturizers come in a variety of forms and ingredients. Some are enriched with anti-aging ingredients, peptides, and retinol alternatives to help reduce fine lines and wrinkles. These ingredients work together to smooth and tighten skin and promote elasticity. They also have antioxidant properties which can help to protect against free radical damage.

Some moisturizers are occlusive and have the ability to create a barrier over your skin to prevent water loss. Examples of these are petroleum jelly, mineral oils, lanolin, and paraffin wax. They can decrease trans-epidermal water loss by up to 98 %. Other occlusive moisturizers are emollients and have the ability to rebuild your natural lipids. They are often oil-based and can include glycerol, lactic acid, and hyaluronic acid.

Finally, there are humectants which have the ability to hydrate your skin from the inside. They can include glycerin, hyaluronic acid, and niacinamide. This will improve your skin’s natural hydration levels and boost your skin’s collagen production which can reduce fine lines and wrinkles. This will give you younger looking skin and make your face look healthier.

Sun protection

Moisturizers that offer sun protection are a good choice for all skin types. They provide hydration while preventing sunburn and reducing the risk of liver spots, freckles and age spots resulting from sun damage. They can also help prevent sun-induced dryness and improve the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

A moisturizer that contains sunscreen protects the skin from damaging UVA and UVB rays that can cause cancer and other skin conditions. Look for a moisturizer that has a high SPF rating and that is oil-free. Acne-prone people should choose a sunscreen moisturizer that is specifically designed for the face to avoid blocking pores and contributing to acne breakouts.

Most dermatologists recommend choosing a moisturizer with SPF 30 or higher. However, if you spend a lot of time outdoors and your skin is highly susceptible to photodamage (as identified by Fitzpatrick’s skin type), a sunscreen with SPF 50 or higher is recommended.

Moisturizers come in a variety of forms, such as lotions, creams and ointments. Lotions are typically used on the scalp and other hairy areas, creams are favored for the face and trunk of the body and ointments are best for drier, thicker and scalier parts of the body. Moisturizing products are formulated with one of three categories of ingredients: occlusives, emollients and humectants. Occlusives are the old-school moisturizers that work by forming a protective barrier over the skin to stop water evaporation and keep it moist. Petroleum jelly, better known as Vaseline, is a great example of an occlusive.

Sensitive skin

Moisturizers can help repair a damaged skin barrier, as well as provide benefits that are specific to the type of skin being moisturized. These include preventing transepidermal water loss, promotion of desquamation and promoting the formation of a healthy lipid membrane.

Itchy, flaky, and irritated skin can be soothed by using a moisturizer that contains ingredients that reduce irritation, like shea butter, aloe vera, and colloidal oatmeal. Using a moisturizer can also help with psoriasis and other chronic dermatological conditions that cause dry skin, such as eczema or rosacea.

Moisturizing the skin daily is also an important way to prevent premature aging. This is because people who are well moisturized accumulate wrinkles at a much slower rate than those who do not use moisturizers.

When selecting a moisturizer for your face, it is important to avoid popular body product ingredients like added colors and perfumes, which can be a irritant to the delicate skin of the face. You should also avoid moisturizers that are formulated for the body, as they may contain oils that can clog pores on the face, leading to breakouts. Lastly, moisturizers should not contain abrasive exfoliants, such as glycolic and lactic acid, which can be too harsh for the face. Instead, look for more soothing ingredients, such as hyaluronic acid and urea. These can be found in products like ointments, creams, and serums.