The Right Way To Facial Moisturizer, Once And For All

September 22, 2015 by Lisa Fogarty
shefinds | beauty

Of all the skincare products you use on your face each day, moisturizer may seem, at first, like the least perplexing. Unlike a specialized serum, many of us just slather on the first daytime moisturizer we find and dash out the door.

But you may not be giving your moisturizer the credit it deserves as a hydrating, skin-protecting soldier of sorts that wards off dehydration and keeps your face looking and feeling soft and smooth. For anyone who has ever wondered why moisturizer is so important, as well as its limitations, Dr. Jill Waibel, medical director and owner of the Miami Dermatology and Laser Institute in Miami, sheds light on the matter.

What Moisturizer Does

“Moisturizers–creams, lotions, oils–trap moisture and oil on the skin leaving it soft and supple,” Waibel says. “A good moisturizer also serves as a barrier between your skin and environmental elements (sun, wind, pollution, chemicals), which means choosing the right moisturizer is key to keeping skin smooth while not clogging pores. It’s also important to remember that the needs of your skin change as you age and travel, so when choosing the best moisturizer you need to consider skin type and seasonal changes. The bad news about moisturizers? Despite what your mother told you, they will not prevent wrinkles. Luckily, sunscreen and Retin-A products will.”

When To Apply Moisturizer

The correct way to apply your skincare products, according to Waibel, is to first wash your skin with a gentle cleanser and then apply the most active ingredients first; this is when you would break out anti-aging elixirs, serums, or lotions that contain Vitamin C or E. Next, if it’s morning, always apply SPF 15 or higher, and then follow up with your daily moisturizer. If you’re taking care of your skin before bed, Waibel says to wash your face, apply Retin A and then work in your moisturizer.

As far as whether you need to invest in a specific night cream, Waibel says that all depends on your skin type. “If you have dry skin you may need a thicker moisturizer in the evening,” she says. “Also, many of our morning moisturizers are power players that include tint, sunblock and often anti-aging ingredients. We want our skin to breathe at night so it’s not optimal to use sunblock and tint when sleeping.”

How Much Moisturizer To Apply

Believe it or not, you can apply too much or too little moisturizer–and neither is going to do your skin any favors.

“Too much moisturizer, especially a thick moisturizer on young patients, may lead to milia cysts and exacerbate acne,” Waibel says. “Also, if you live in a warm climate or it’s summertime, you may need less moisturizer versus winter or drier climates. Putting on moisturizer is like getting dressed–if it’s hot you wear a sundress, if it’s cold, a jacket. If your skin is dry, more moisturizer is needed; if skin is normal, then use less.”

You’ll know if you haven’t been feeding your skin the moisture it requires by simply monitoring how it reacts to your moisturizer. If you’re using too little, skin looks dull and flaky. “Take a cue from dry lips–usually if you have dry lips you’ll have dry skin,” Waibel says.

What To Look For In A Moisturizer

Effective ingredients are the secret to moisturizer success. Before you spend money on a cream that isn’t going to live up to its potential, Waibel lists a few effective additives you’ll want on your radar. “Some ingredients that are great to incorporate into your daily skin care regimen include Vitamin C, as this can reduce brown spots and signs of aging,” Waibel says. “An ingredient that can be tough to find but great to use is called PSP, which is a balanced mixture of proteins associated with optimal nutritive properties for the skin. One product I recommend in which PSP can be found is Neocutis Lumiere Bio-restorative Eye Cream, as this works to reduce the appearance of puffiness and discoloration. Other ingredients to look out for include Retinoids, Vitamin A, and Vitamin E.”

For more beauty tips, check out 6 drugstore face washes with incredible reviews and why everyone is buzzing about Jane Iredale’s Golden Shimmer Face & Body Lotion.


Lisa Fogarty is a lifestyle writer and reporter based in New York who covers health, wellness, relationships, sex, beauty, and parenting.

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