Choose The Right Moisturizer

Skin care has come a long way and this reflects in part, on our change of perspective—with new generation anti-aging labs now focusing more on genetic and genomic sciences. Today, we speak of how the key actives in the moisturizers can influence our skin at large and its combined effects on collagen and elastin. We quote research papers, we delve deeper in to evidence based science and that alone, is a remarkable break through. Despite all the scientific feats, finding the perfect daily face moisturizer does take a bit of trial and error. But fret not, today we’re sharing 7 tips to help you choose the right moisturizer for your skin type.

Moisturizers Guide

Why do we need moisturizers?

We all unanimously agree that moisturizers are an integral part of daily skin care, irrespective of gender, skin type and concerns. Regular moisturizing helps repair skin’s lipid barrier, increases water content and reduces TEWL (trans-epidermal water loss). In short, moisturizers not only improve skin’s resiliency, elasticity, and firmness but also treat dryness and age-related skin changes.

What to look for in a moisturizer?

Typically, moisturizer ingredients or groups fall into four distinct categories: emollients, humectants, occlusives and protein rejuvenators. Knowing what these do can help you choose the right moisturizer for your skin.

To make it easier for you, I have included a list of the commonly used ingredients in moisturizers as well as their role in the formulation.

Moisturizer Guide 7 tips to choose right

A good moisturizer combines the properties of both emollients and humectants.


Humectants are ‘hygroscopic’ in nature— which means that they attract water onto the surface from the dermis and/or from humid environmental conditions. By doing so, it improves the hydration of the stratum corneum (top most layer of the skin). This gives you the perception that your skin feels hydrated and ‘plump‘, albeit transient. Interestingly, some humectant ingredients also exhibit emollient properties.

In low-humid conditions, the action of drawing water from the deeper dermis to the stratum corneum, can exacerbate xerosis, or dryness. This is why it is common to find humectant paired with occlusive, both in one formulation.

While glycerol is considered to be one of the most effective humectants due to its ability to transverse aquaporin channels and absorb into the dermis, hyaluronic acid is the most commonly used one. Others, such as urea and lactic acid serve as a humectant at low doses, and an exfoliant at higher concentrations.


Emollients, which are primarily made of lipids and oils fill in the empty spaces between the cells of the stratum corneum. These are added to the formulation to provide softness and smoothness to the skin and also to adjust the consistency of creams, ointments, and lotions. 

It is noteworthy to mention that some ingredients can serve more than one function. Similarly, many of these emollients can act as a humectant and an occlusive moisturizer as well. Examples include: mineral oil, shea butter, cocoa butter, petrolatum, fatty acids and lanolin.


Occlusives consist of oils and waxes that create a protective barrier on your skin to prevent moisture loss (TEWL). When combined with humectants, they work synergistically to keep the water content locked in.

Examples of occlusives include: shaea butter, coconut oil, jojoba oil, beeswax, lanolin and lecithin.

For the face, I prefer lightweight occlusives such as allantoin, or jojoba oil, rose hip oil that are deeply nourishing and do not clog your pores.

Protein rejuvenators

A subclass of emollients, protein rejuvenators provide essential proteins such as keratin, collagen and elastin. While these protein are too large to penetrate the skin, these can fill in spaces on the outer most skin and improve the overall elasticity.

7 tips to choose the right moisturizer

Ideally, you should look for moisturizers that are non-comedogenic, non irritative, and compatible with your skin care routines. But to help direct your skin needs and to avoid non-essential splurges, follow these 7 tips to help you choose the right moisturizer.

Firstly, identify your skin type, but remember different skin properties can present together. This means, even if your skin is combination to oily, it’s possible that it’s simultaneously dehydrated.

For dry skin:

If your skin is dry, a moisturizer with a higher content of emollients and occlusives will likely be the best option. In such cases, you are aiming to restore moisture to the skin, and therefore should opt for an oil-based moisturizer, whenever possible.

For oily skin:

If your skin is oily you should look for products that are higher in humectants, but low in occlusives. Among the humectants, glycerin and hyaluronic acid are both good for keeping your skin hydrated without feeling too greasy. 

For acne prone skin:

Similarly, for acne prone skin, humectants are key players. Look for the following descriptions on the label: non-comedogenic, fragrance and oil-free. Among the ingredients, hyaluronic acid, niacinamide and ceramides are good choices to decrease inflammation. The addition of salicylic acid as a gentle exfoliant will also benefit your skin to prevent those stubborn clogged pores.

For mature skin:

Contrary to the young and healthy skin, the mature skin is characterized by atrophic or pigmentation changes and deep wrinkles. Progressively with age, the oil-producing glands also become less active. Therefore, it would be of best interests to opt for a richer, oil-based moisturizer that combines protein rejuvenating ingredients together with antioxidants to combat all the skin concerns. During the day, you can use vitamin C based moisturizers and at night, retinol would be a game changer.

For barrier repairing, opt for ingredients such as ceramides, cholesterol, and fatty acids. And if inflammation and redness are your main concerns, then honey, cica, and niacinamide (vitamin B3) would be the ones to look out for in the label.

7 tips to choose the right moisturizer

Next, let’s talk about textures. Once again, selecting the texture depends on your skin type. However, as a general guide: dry skin will need a heavier, creamier formula, think ointments, oils or even dense creams. For normal to combination skin, both lotions and non-greasy, lightweight creams can be considered. On the other hand, since lotions are the lightest (water is their main ingredient), that makes them a good match for oily skin.

It is preferable to choose a light moisturizer for day and a heavier one for night time. Similarly, a light, hydrating formula would be suitable for the summer season.

Always read the label. While some ingredients are essential, others are added simply to make the product more attractive or to give it a nice scent. These additions might in fact cause skin irritiation and reactions.

Want to splurge, but are still not convinced? In that case, I would suggest that you request for samples from department store counters before committing to a new or, pricier product.

Next, this is one of the common skincare mistakes we make. Always apply your moisturizer to clean, but slightly damp skin. Doing so, it will allow the skin to absorb the ingredients more readily and it also gives the moisturizer the chance to lock in that extra hydration.

I hope you found this moisturizer guide useful. Next, we’ll dive a little deeper into the topic and discuss the best moisturizers for each skin type.


Loden, M. (2005). ‘The clinical benefit of moisturizers’, J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol., 19(6), 672-688.
Herman J, Rost-Roszkowska M, Skotnicka-Graca U. Skin care during the menopause period: noninvasive procedures of beauty studies. Postepy Dermatol Alergol. 2013;30(6):388-395. doi:10.5114/pdia.2013.39430
Harwood A, Nassereddin A, Krishnamurthy K. Moisturizers. [Updated 2020 May 28]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2020 Jan
Sethi A, Kaur T, Malhotra SK, Gambhir ML. Moisturizers: The Slippery Road. Indian J Dermatol. 2016;61(3):279-287. doi:10.4103/0019-5154.18242

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