How to Pick the Best Moisturizer for Your Skin Goal
When it comes to skincare products, do you feel overloaded with product options and information? Maybe you have a shelf of skincare products that you bought and didn’t end up using, or just didn’t work for you. Having some skin goals in mind can turn skincare shopping from an overwhelming experience to a fairly simple one.
With moisturizers, there are a lot of options, and many of them seem similar. To make it easier to find products that will work for you, find the category your skin fits into (it may be several) and see what you should be looking for in a moisturizer.
For a guide on the different types of moisturizers, see our article here.
If your skin goal is to help treat acne breakouts and fade acne scars from past blemishes, finding a lightweight moisturizer will help keep your skin balanced.
- A water-based, oil-free moisturizer will give you the hydration you need, but won’t clog pores.
- Lightweight gel products are comfortable to wear even under makeup.
- Moisturizers with acids gently exfoliate skin and treat acne, as well as fade scars.
- Ingredients that calm inflammation (like green tea, centella and snail mucin) help acne heal quickly, and reduce chances of scarring.
Pigmentation/uneven skin tone
If you want to reduce dark spots and pigmentation or generally brighten your complexion, you’ll need a moisturizer that fights UV damage and increases skin turnover.
- At night, a moisturizer with AHAs (like glycolic or azelaic acid) will help you shed the damaged surface layers of skin, making it look more even.
- Products with licorice extract and alpha arbutin disrupt melanin production, and are good all-around brighteners.
If your skin goal is to smooth fine lines and wrinkles or to plump and firm your skin, you’re in luck - there are a lot of moisturizers that match your skin goal, especially products geared for night use. We suggest looking for 3 things.
- A moisturizer that is a little richer, with glycerin, ceramides or hyaluronic acid to hold moisture in the skin and make it look plumper.
- A product that contains antioxidants like vitamin C and vitamin E, to repair damage that causes wrinkles and loose skin.
- Ingredients that boost collagen production, like peptides, retinol or bakuchiol. These keep the skin firm and help it stay elastic.
Soothing sensitivity and redness and strengthening your skin barrier are goals that go hand-in-hand; improving the resilience of your skin barrier will help it hold on to moisture and keep irritants out.
- Moisturizers for sensitive skin often include ceramides and fatty acids - these are building blocks of the barrier itself.
- Shea butter not only provides moisture, but also forms a barrier over the skin, protecting it and reducing inflammation.
- Calming ingredients are easy to find in moisturizers: allantoin, chamomile, centella and green tea.
- If you know you have a lot of allergens or skin triggers, try a low-ingredient moisturizer to reduce the chance of a reaction.
- Anytime you try a new moisturizer, don’t forget to patch test.
If you want to treat blackheads and enlarged pores or balance sebum production, look for a non-comedogenic moisturizer that helps clear oils and dead skin.
- Avoid creams with high concentrations of occlusives like petrolatum, butters and oils. These seal the skin, and can lead to oils getting trapped in your pores.
- A moisturizer with acids (specifically salicylic acid) helps exfoliate and control sebum production.
- For daytime, there are moisturizers with mattifying finishes, or ingredients that absorb oils like charcoal or clay (sometimes referred to as “minerals”). These reduce shine and keep you looking fresh.
You’ll first need to determine if your skin is dry (lacks oils), or dehydrated (lacks water). People who don’t produce enough oils tend to have skin that is flakey, irritated and dry-feeling all the time. However, you can have dehydrated skin, even if your skin type is oily. Dehydrated skin is usually a result of damage to the skin barrier (like over-exfoliation), or lack of water intake.
If your goal is to soften and nourish dry skin you’ll need something that contains emollients and occlusives.
- Butters, oils and fatty acids in a moisturizer keep skin from getting scaly and itchy.
- Try a moisturizing ointment if you have severely dry skin.
If your goal is to treat dehydrated skin, look for hydrators that draw and retain water.
- Hyaluronic acid, tremella and panthenol are all excellent at holding water in your skin.
- If you do suffer from acne, look for a product with squalane, which moisturizes but won’t clog pores.
- Using a sealing moisturizer on top of your hydrators will keep moisture from evaporating.
There are two key steps if you want to illuminate your complexion or get dewy skin.
- Exfoliation, to dissolve the dull, surface cells and increase skin turnover. A moisturizer with gentle exfoliants like honey, citrus extracts, AHAs or willow bark are good choices for all-around brighter skin.
- Extra hydration - dry skin tends to look dull, so use a product with an effective humectant, like hyaluronic acid.
- For an extra boost, look for light diffusing, tinted or colour-correcting moisturizers. You can also add a bit of dewy foundation to your moisturizer for that pearly finish.