Skin Moisturizers,Why to Use One, Types, and Ingredients to Look for

Choice is wonderful. Usually, it means you can find a product that’s perfectly suited to your needs. But when it comes to your skin care, the sheer amount of choice in moisturizers, coupled with the sometimes-confusing label lingo, is often enough to make you grab the first thing you see on the shelf and hope it’s going to do the job.

Putting a moisturizing product on your facial and body skin (when needed) is a cornerstone of proper skin care. And while it may sound self-explanatory, it can help to know why.

Why you should apply Moisturizer after Hyaluronic Acid – Minimalist

Why Using a Moisturizer on Your Skin Is Crucial

Foundationally, applying one of these products helps build moisture, or increase the water content, in skin, says Marisa Garshick, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City. It not only helps prevent dry skin, which can feel uncomfortable and itchy (and may potentially worsen skin conditions such as eczema), but proper moisturization also reinforces a healthy skin barrier, which keeps water in and irritants out. And well-hydrated skin is plump skin, which diminishes the appearance of lines and wrinkles.

The catch is that there are three main types of moisturizer — lotion, cream, ointment — each with its unique properties and best skin usages. In addition, there are various types of ingredients incorporated in moisturizing formulas that, while the end game is to add moisture to skin, do so in different ways. Many of these may be incorporated into one product.

Here is the 411 on moisturizers, including what to look for on the label and the different types of moisturizers to consider for your skin concerns.

Moisturizer vs. Hydrator: What’s the Difference?

The answer to this common question isn’t exactly straightforward. Hydrators restore moisture to skin, while moisturizers seal it in, says Ranella Hirsch, MD, a Boston-based dermatologist. That said, the difference usually comes down to marketing, and considering them as separate product types probably won’t benefit you, Dr. Hirsch says: “This is one of those times when the jargon goes beyond what most need to find an effective product,” she says. So, it’s okay to use these two terms interchangeably.

What is important is that you use a moisturizer/hydrator in the first place. “Everyone should be using a moisturizer regularly on skin, regardless of whether they are oily or dry,” adds Dr. Garshick. These products can help skin remain in balance; even oily skin can become dehydrated.

3 Types of Moisturizers and What They Do

Here are the various types of moisturizers and how to pick the right one for your skin.

1. Lotion

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Lotions have a thinner, lighter consistency than creams or ointments, and lotions are best used for “normal” skin, says Dr. Hirsch. If you have combination skin — in that your T-zone and chin are oily and cheeks are drier — you’d use a lotion (or cream) on the drier areas and a gel moisturizer on the oilier ones. (Hybrid products, which are often labeled as gel-cream, can be used all over the face, if you have combination skin, she adds.)

You can apply a lotion to the body or face. If you’re using one on your face and are prone to acne, make sure it’s a noncomedogenic product, which means it is unlikely to clog pores.

Try: Cetaphil Daily Oil-Free Facial Moisturizer SPF 35 .This lotion nourishes with glycerin and vitamin E; plus, it’s nongreasy, feels nice going on, absorbs quickly, and leaves behind a matte finish.

2. Cream


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Creams are more moisturizing than lotions but less moisturizing than ointments. With a thick, silky texture, creams contain less oil than lotions and therefore aren’t as thick in consistency, notes the National Eczema Association. If you have eczema (often called atopic dermatitis, the most common type of eczema), the best choice is an ointment, but creams are okay, too, though they can sometimes contain ingredients that are irritating.

For dry body skin, choose a body cream or ointment, says Garshick, and to get proper coverage, be generous with the amount of product you apply.

Try: Paula’s Choice Daily Replenishing Body Cream ( This product contains ceramides to support a healthy skin barrier, along with shea butter and avocado and grape seed oils to quench dryness.

3. Ointment

Ointment Vs Cream: What Makes Them Different? – SkinKraft

An ointment is the thickest of the bunch. Applying an ointment to dry body skin is ideal. “For the skin on the body, we tend to think that a thicker product is better,” says Garshick. These are heavier compared to creams and lotions because they have a greater oil content to them, making this product the most effective in dealing with dry, flaky skin, she says. Ointments, including those formulated with petrolatum and mineral oil, are recommended for eczema-prone skin, according to the National Eczema Association.

Try: Aquaphor Healing Ointment This ointment packs a petrolatum and mineral-oil base. A tub container can also make it easier to take a nice-sized scoop of what you need with (clean!) hands, says Garshick.

3 Common Ingredients in Moisturizing Products

1. Occlusive

An occlusive is a type of ingredient that seals in moisture to prevent water loss from the skin, says Hirsch. Think of it as providing a protective barrier, helping skin feel more hydrated and guarding against outside factors that could cause irritation. Ingredients that act as occlusives include petrolatum, silicones, and lanolin, says Hirsch.

Try: CeraVe Moisturizing Cream. It contains hyaluronic acid, petrolatum (the occlusive!), and ceramides to pull moisture in and trap it on skin to reduce water loss, ease dryness, repair the skin barrier, and improve rough or flaky texture.

2. Humectant
A humectant is another popular type of ingredient you’ll find in a moisturizing product. “Humectants have the ability to ‘grab’ water from their surroundings, including the dermis, and — in proper environmental conditions — the humidity in the surrounding air,” says Hirsch. That additional moisture can then smooth and plump skin. Ingredients that are considered humectant are glycerin, hyaluronic acid, and urea, she adds.

Try: Neutrogena Hydro Boost Gel-Cream ( This product is fast-absorbing, oil-free, and packed with hyaluronic acid, glycerin, and silicones to trap and lock in moisture.

3. Emollient

An emollient is “an oily substance that helps with filling in the spaces between the cells that make up the skin. By creating a film, they make the skin feel smooth,” says Hirsch. Ceramides, oils, and lipids are all ingredients found in moisturizing formulas that are considered emollients, she says. Emollients can have humectant or occlusive properties, notes Cleveland Clinic. These types of products can be used for generally dry, itchy, or irritated skin, as well as to help treat eczema and psoriasis.

Try: Biossance 100 Percent Sugarcane Squalane Oil.This is a simple oil made of pure squalane oil. Skin absorbs it well, and the oil can be smoothed onto your face and neck or massaged into your legs and arms for full-body hydration.

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