Fact-check Feature: How to choose a moisturiser

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Choosing your moisturiser can be a difficult process. The beauty section is full of moisturisers for different skin types, but I’m sure many of you have had the annoying experience of taking a moisturiser home that’s supposed to be for your skin type, then finding that it’s just wrong. What can you do?

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The most foolproof way to improve your chances of picking a suitable moisturiser, in my opinion, is to learn to how read an ingredients list. But first, you need to work out your skin type and skin conditions.

Here’s a very quick guide – there’s a more comprehensive discussion on the process of letting your skin reset and checking what your skin type and conditions are in my eBook, The Lab Muffin Guide to Basic Skincare.

Dry vs oily

This differentiation is all about the natural oil your skin secretes, also known as sebum. Dry skin lacks oil, oily skin has too much oil.

Signs you have dry skin:

  • frequent tight feeling, especially after washing
  • you are prone to powdery flaky patches of skin, redness and loss of elasticity
  • your skin is frequently dull
  • premature lines
  • no visible pores
  • you need to apply moisturiser at least once a day
  • you don’t need to apply powder foundation

Signs you have oily skin:

  • your skin is frequently shiny
  • you are prone to blackheads and pimples
  • you have big pores
  • you can go without daily moisturiser without a skin freakout
  • you are a fan of powder makeup and blotting tissue

If your skin has none of these problems, then you have normal skin, you lucky thing!

You can also have combination skin like me – parts of your face are dry, while parts are oily (usually it’s dry cheeks and oily T-zone – that’s your forehead, nose and chin). Unluckily for us, we may need different skincare regimens for the two areas.

Dehydrated vs hydrated

Both skin types can be dehydrated, and both can be hydrated. Hydrated skin is always good! It refers to the amount of water in your skin. You can have dry and dehydrated skin, and you can even have oily and dehydrated skin (lots of oil, but not much water under the oil).

The main feature of dehydration is rough, flaky skin. Additionally, your skin may look less smooth, or less plump with less “bounce”.

Related post: Is Your Skin Dry or Dehydrated? And How to Treat It (with video)

Sensitive skin

On top of these, your skin may be sensitive to certain ingredients – signs of sensitivity include redness, itching and rashes. Comparing the ingredients lists of products you reacted to and products which were fine can help you narrow down which ingredients to avoid.

Skin type changes

It’s also possible for your skin type to change – between childhood and adolescence, most people’s skin will become oilier. It might then become drier once you leave your teenage years. As people grow older, their skin tends to become drier. Your skin can also have different needs throughout the year.

Once you’ve narrowed down what your skin type is, you can look for products that contain what your skin needs.

What ingredients to look for

There are three types of basic moisturising ingredients that I’ve posted about before: occlusives which seal in water, humectants which attract water to the skin, and emollients which smooth rough skin and make it flexible and soft.

Examples of each type:

  • Occlusives: Mineral oil, petrolatum (petroleum jelly), dimethicone
  • Emollients: Most natural oils, ceramides, fatty acids, squalene
  • Humectants: Glycerin, hyaluronic acid, urea, alpha hydroxy acids

Many occlusives are also emollients, and vice versa.

Dry skin needs more emollients and occlusive ingredients to boost the amount of oil present to block water evaporation.

Oily skin might not even need a moisturiser – when it’s needed (e.g. when it’s dehydrated), something water-based with humectants and some emollients may be good.

The more solid a moisturiser feels, the more occlusives are likely to be in it, since many occlusive ingredients are thick. The more watery it feels, the more likely it is to contain less occlusives and more humectants.

Later on this week I’ll show you some typical moisturiser ingredients lists and how to deconstruct them – it’s a bit tricky to pick up at first, but you’ll get the hang of it in no time!

For a more comprehensive guide to skin type and conditions, as well as choosing and using moisturisers (and a lot more!), check out The Lab Muffin Guide to Basic Skincare.

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