Face moisturizers are a mix of natural and non-natural ingredients that often provide a protective coating to the skin, keeping moisture and hydration locked into the skin. Face moisturizers also come in all shapes and sizes.
Most face moisturizers have similar primary ingredients – such as water, hyaluronic acid, glycerin, urea, antioxidants, alpha-hydroxy acids, aloe vera, zinc oxide, titanium dioxide, lanolin, mineral oil, petrolatum, and humectants. The most important thing is finding a type that suits one’s individual skin type: whether that’s dry, oily or somewhere in between.
This is critical as using the wrong moisturizer for your skin type could make things worse instead of better.
1Water provides adequate hydration to the skin. Water is a must in all face moisturizers and similar products. In fact, the body is about 60% water, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that it’s necessary for rehydration and fluid replenishment.
Studies show that water loss drives some age-related changes in the skin, specifically at the transepidermal level (1).
Thus, by including water as a main ingredient, face moisturizers are able to hydrate the skin and via other ingredients that lock in hydration.
2Hyaluronic acid and dimethicone are frequently included as ingredients in face moisturizers to keep the skin hydrated. Hyaluronic acid has a unique ability to retain moisture in the skin. In turn, it prevents dry skin, as well as aids in anti-aging effects caused by dry or damaged skin (2).
One study demonstrated the skin regeneration effects of hyaluronic acid in a rabbit’s skin and wounds. Researchers showed that it was effective in this regard, proving another potential benefit of including hyaluronic acid in face moisturizers (3).
Interestingly, other studies have found injectable hyaluronic acid to help restore photo-damaged skin through collagen synthesis. 11 volunteers participated in this study. Measurements were taken at 4 weeks and 13 weeks. Researchers noted increased collagen deposits at the filler site indicating the effects of hyaluronic acid (4).
A 2008 study in Skin Research Technology explored the efficacy of dimethicone skin lotion in preventing dermatitis. The forearms of the subjects in the study were used to test the products. Researchers inferred from the results that dimethicone lotion could be used as a preventative measure against dermatitis (5).
3Glycerin and urea are often listed as an ingredient in face moisturizers to help reduce dry skin. It’s been shown that these two entities attract water and moisture to the skin. In this way, they help moisturize and soothe dry skin.
A 2008 study examined the use of a 20% glycerine cream versus the use of 4% urea cream on dry skin treatment. Patients with dry skin were divided into two groups. They were treated with the cream for 30 days. It was found by researchers that the urea cream was much more effective at treating dry skin than glycerin, but that both did have an impact (6).
4Antioxidants may be used in face moisturizers to help protect the skin and neutralize free radicals causing potential damage and harm. This includes antioxidants found in chamomile, licorice root, pomegranate, green tea, and more.
In a 2011 study, researchers tested a chamomile solution on the skin to determine if it had an effect on skin lesions. The solution was applied twice a day. The chamomile experimental group showed decreased inflammation, itching, and healing of skin lesions. This demonstrates the protective and antioxidant effects of chamomile within the skin (7).
Licorice root had similar results in another study. In 2002, researchers used a licorice root based gel on patients with atopic dermatitis. It was found that the licorice root based gel reduced itching and inflammation, indicating its protective properties and treatment use in dermatitis conditions (8).
Pomegranate has shown to have powerful chemopreventive effects when it comes to the skin and tumors on the skin. A 2004 study resulted in pomegranate seed oil decreasing tumor incidence and growth (9).
Again, this indicates that pomegranate has antioxidant effects. It may act on free radicals reducing cell damage within the skin.
Green tea has also been shown to have similar effects on the skin. A 2001 review stated that green tea has been shown in various studies to reduce oxidative stress on the skin, decrease inflammation, and decrease carcinogenic responses (10).
5Alpha-hydroxy acid may protect the skin. A 1996 study in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology explored alpha-hydroxy acid and its relationship to the skin aging process. Patients with photo-damaged skin applied a 25% glycolic, lactic, or citric acid to one forearm.
A placebo was applied to the other forearm. Both applications were conducted for 6 months. It was found that the alpha-hydroxy acid containing lotion improved epidermis thickness, increased quality of elastic fibers, and increased collagen fiber density. It was found to be very effective at preventing aging and damage in the skin (11).
6Aloe vera is another common ingredient in face moisturizers used to stimulate fibroblasts. These fibroblasts produce collagen and elastic fibers. This makes the skin more flexible and less susceptible to wrinkles. It softens the skin by sticking flaking epidermal cells together. It also acts to tighten the pores (12).
A 2003 study in the American Journal of Infection Control looked at the use of aloe vera gel in 30 female adults with occupational dry skin. Coated aloe vera gloves were used and worn by the study’s participants for 8 hours a day for 30 days. The results showed that the aloe vera gloves improved skin integrity, decreased fine wrinkles, and helped manage dry skin (13).
Another study showed positive effects in adding aloe vera to soaps used by patients with skin reactions undergoing radiation therapy, helping to reduce dermatitis symptoms (14).
7Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are common face moisturizer ingredients that help fight sun damage and provide protection from the sun. They are also commonly found in sunscreen products.
A 2001 study put zinc oxide and titanium dioxide up against each other. Although both were found to have protective effects, it was determined that zinc oxide was superior in protecting the skin from harmful UV rays (15).
8Lanolin, mineral oil, and petrolatum may aid in locking in skin moisture and are often found in face moisturizers and similar products.
Petrolatum, in particular, may aid in repairing the barrier of the stratum corneum, helping to keep moisture in (16).
Humectants in face moisturizers help attract moisture to the skin, rehydrating it and keeping it healthy and fresh.
Humectants, like glycerol, sorbitol, and sodium lactate, may help the skin retain its water capacity and thus, increase the corneum water content (17).
A 2008 study further demonstrated this. Yet, the study showcased how what the humectants are dissolved in determines their effects. The presence of oil significantly reduced their effects (18).
Another study also showed the effects of humectants on skin moisture retention and permeability. Again, the study stated that the formulation and use of other ingredients matters when it comes to humectants and their effects (19).
9Jojoba acts as a potent antioxidant and face moisturizer. Jojoba esters are an excellent moisturizing ingredient because of how molecularly similar it is to the sebum naturally produced by human skin. As a result, this ingredient won’t clog your pores or cause irritation, yet it can provide deep moisture directly where the skin needs it the most.
Research shows that Jojoba works to seal your skin with a protective barrier to keep it from losing moisture, which can help prevent bacterial infections, acne, and dandruff from forming (20).
Jojoba oil also contains natural forms of vitamin E, which is a powerful skin antioxidant. As such, jojoba oil can help your skin fight oxidative stress caused by everyday exposure to pollutants and other toxins (21).
10Ginkgo biloba may increase skin moisture. A 2010 study assessed the effects of topical application of ginkgo flavonoids. 0.3% of ginkgo flavonoids in a facial cream given to women to be applied twice daily to the inner forearm for 28 days. There was improvements in skin smoothness and roughness as well as a minor reduction in wrinkles. The increase in moisture content was highly significant at 27.88% (22).
11Moringa oleifra can improve skin moisture during the winter. In a single blind study on otherwise healthy men with no skin abnormalities, a topical cream of 3% moringa oleifera leaf applied twice daily for three winter months appears to have benefits to hydration, resulting in visually smoother skin and less appearance of wrinkling (23).
1Long-term use of facial moisturizers may increase the skin’s susceptibility to irritants, making it more sensitive (24).
2Facial moisturizers containing lanolin, mineral oil, shea butter, or waxes may clog the sensitive pores of the face, causing breakouts and acne.
3Added colors or perfumes may irritate the skin, especially for those with sensitive skin.
4Moisturizers containing urea or lactic acids can irritate already existing skin irritations or conditions.
5Long-term use of titanium dioxide or zinc oxide may lead to long-term health effects in rare cases (25).
6Parabens in face moisturizers may also cause some irritations. Parabens are used to increase the shelf life of many cosmetic and skin care products.
7Using a face moisturizer that is incorrect for your skin type or contains any irritants may result in rashes, redness, more dryness, acne, or oiliness.
There is no standard dosage for face moisturizer products as every product is different, and skin types vary. That being said, the application of 1-2 times per day is generally accepted as the correct dosage.
What is a face moisturizer? Facial moisturizers can enhance the functioning of the stratum corneum, the uppermost layer of skin. The stratum corneum is made up of fat, oil, and skin cells that help keep moisture in the skin.
Is water a good moisturizer? Water alone isn’t a strong enough ingredient to keep your skin moisturized. It’s also likely that by the time you leave the bathroom, it would’ve evaporated away — along with your skin’s natural oils. In fact, the more you wash your skin without applying a moisturizer or hydrator, the more likely your skin will dry out.
What should I look for in a face moisturizer? Aim for a heavier moisturizer and look for ingredients like hyaluronic acid and dimethicone, which help keep skin hydrated. Glycerin, propylene glycol, proteins, and urea also help attract water to your skin. Lanolin, mineral oil, and petrolatum lock in moisture
How often should you moisturize face? Twice is usually the optimal dosage. Not only should you apply your moisturizer daily, but you might want to do it twice each day if you have particularly parched skin: once in the morning and once in the evening.
When should I use moisturizer for my face? According to the American Academy of Dermatology, the best time to apply moisturizer is when your skin is damp, as this can help lock in the hydration from your moisturizer. So, use your moisturizer before your skin has dried post-cleansing.
Is coconut oil a good face moisturizer? In addition to its effects on acne and inflammation, applying coconut oil to your skin can also help keep it hydrated. The two-week study found that coconut oil significantly improved skin hydration and was just as effective as mineral oil.
What is a good natural face moisturizer? For most people, pure coconut oil is all that is needed for moisturizing the face. It is naturally full of collagen supporting lauric acid and is easily absorbed by the skin. Even for oily and acne-prone skin, coconut oil’s natural anti-bacterial properties make it a great option.
Should I wash my face after applying moisturizer? No, this would wash away the moisturizer before it has a chance to act.
Is Vaseline good for your face? While petroleum jelly has many benefits, it shouldn’t be used for everything. Avoid putting petroleum jelly on your face if you are acne-prone, as this may cause breakouts in some people.
Does moisturizer help acne? Moisture in the skin helps keep pores open, so that acne does not form. If you have naturally oily skin that gives you lots of whiteheads and great big blackheads, you also may occasionally need moisturizer. But not everybody who has acne needs the same moisturizer in the same amounts all the time.
Can coconut oil clog your pores? Coconut oil is highly comedogenic, which means it can clog pores. Consequently, it may actually make acne worse for some people. It is not recommended for those with very oily skin.
Can you mix retinol with moisturizer? Yes, this can help hydrate and prime the skin and reduce the risk of irritation from retinol.
Is aloe vera a good face moisturizer? Aloe vera has many medicinal properties, helps to get rid of scars, acne, and keep your skin healthy and glowy.
Are parabens good for you? Parabens are an inexpensive and common type of preservative used in many different skin care products to keep the product fresh. They also prevent the product from harboring harmful bacteria.
Parabens resist the growth of bacteria, fungi and other micro-organisms in skincare products, particularly in hot and humid conditions. Parabens are natural organic compounds, with concerns over its association with health issues. There was a scare when parabens were found in breast tumors, but there is no conclusive evidence that the parabens caused the tumors.
Can you put moisturizer over makeup? Its better do it the other way around. Allow the moisturizer to set before applying your makeup, as a recent application of lotion can cause your makeup to smear.
Which is the best moisturizer for dry skin? There are a ton of different products on the market, from balms to oils to creams, gels to ointments to hydration agents — but the truth is, most of them do the same thing. However, certain products are better for your skin type than others. If you have dry skin, try a thicker moisturizer. A thick, emollient moisturizer will help prevent water from leaving your skin — and, with the right formula, will provide the nutrients and nourishment your complexion needs to thrive all winter long.
Which is the best moisturizer for dehydrated skin? If you have dehydrated skin, try a hydrating serum. Look for a hydrating serum with hyaluronic acid, which retains an impressive 1,000 times its weight in water — and will add a healthy dose of hydration back into the skin.
Which is the best moisturizer for oily skin? If you have oily skin, try water-based hydrators and moisturizers. People with oily skin often have compromised barrier function, which makes it hard for their skin to retain moisture. As moisture leaves the skin, it becomes dehydrated, causing the skin to produce more oil. It’s a vicious cycle, and the only way to break it is to give your skin the proper hydration and moisture it needs. Look for water-based, noncomedogenic hydrators and moisturizers.
Frequently, face moisturizers work by trapping in moisture and increasing the permeability of the skin to moisture and hydration. It is recommended by dermatologists and doctors to test a small amount of a new product on one’s forearm or wrist before applying it to the entire facial area. It’s also best to apply moisturizer when the skin is damp, such as after a hot shower.
In summary, water is often used as a main ingredient as it provides the hydration your skin needs. Hyaluronic acid and dimethicone help retain moisture, as well as may have various protective effects on the skin. Glycerin and urea both impact and improve dry skin, with urea possibly having a greater effect.
Antioxidants, including chamomile, licorice root, pomegranate, and green tea are often used in facial moisturizers. These substances act to protect the skin and prevent damage. They act on free radicals, neutralizing them, which prevents them from damaging the skin cells and other body cells.
Various studies have proven the efficacy of these substances as antioxidants. Alpha-hydroxy acid may act on the skin by improving epidermis thickness, increasing quality of elastic fibers, and increasing collagen fiber density.
Aloe vera is also known for its powerful moisturizing effects. It’s also shown to be gentle on sensitive skin. Studies show that it improved skin integrity, decreased wrinkles, and improved dry skin and flakiness.
Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are frequently used in face moisturizers to provide sun protection. Lanolin, mineral oil, and petrolatum are thought to lock in skin moisture, and are often included in face moisturizers for this beneficial reason. Lastly, humectants help retain and attract moisture to the skin. However, researchers indicate that their efficacy may depend on what these substances are dissolved in. Some reduce the effectiveness of humectants.
Some of the better face moisturizers include sun protection of SPF 15 or higher. It’s further recommended to use different moisturizers for the face than the rest of the body, since this area is often more sensitive. If you have a skin condition, check with your doctor before purchasing face moisturizers or similar products to ensure that you are purchasing non-irritant types.
A good skin care regime is part of maintaining healthy and protected skin. Stick to oil and fragrance-free types to reduce the risk of skin irritation.