Dermatologists’ 8 Rules for Using Moisturizer

Updated: Mar. 29, 2017

Moisturizing is essential, but it's also easy to screw up, leaving skin greasy, pimply, or even drier. Follow these skincare commandments to get healthy and glowy in the best kind of way.


Moisturize every single day

Maintaining healthy skin requires consistency. Create a daily skincare routine and stick to it, making sure that moisturizing is a top priority. Elizabeth Tanzi, MD, director of Capital Laser and Skin Care in Chevy Chase, Maryland, suggests moisturizing at night, every single night, just after washing. In cooler months, you’ll want to use rich moisturizers to combat the dryness from cold wind and drying indoor heat; in warmer months, you’ll want to use lighter formulas, or even switch to serums. Check out the skincare secrets of women with touchably soft skin.


Moisturize immediately after cleansing

“Don’t wait too long after washing to apply moisturizer,” Dr. Tanzi advises, because you want to seal in the moisture and keep your skin hyrdated and soft. Whether you have just washed your face or stepped out the shower, apply your moisturizer while your skin is still damp. If you’re also using essences or serums, apply those first. And don’t forget sunscreen as the final step! (Avoid the sunscreen mistakes that make dermatologists cringe.)


Got dry skin? Moisturize AM and PM

If you have dry skin, you might have rough patches, itchy and flaky skin, and even cracking and bleeding. The best way to remedy this extreme dryness is by using moisturizers with ingredients that help restore and maintain the skin’s natural moisture barrier, the top layer of skin cells that keeps moisture in and bacteria out. Look for humectant ingredients such as urea, glycerine, and dimethicone, plus emollients such as petrolatum and squalene to help reinforce the barrier. For extremely dry skin that’s prone to eczema, consider Avene XeraCalm A.D. Lipid-Replenishing Cream, a rich balm designed to heal and replenish moisture loss from sensitive skin conditions, atopic dermatitis, and eczema. For severe cases, ask your doctor about the prescription EpiCeram, developed by dermatologists to mimics our skin’s natural composition. For the body, soothe the itch of dry skin with a product such as CeraVe Itch Relief Moisturizing Lotion, or for cracked skin, CeraVe Healing Ointment.


Oily skin needs moisturizer too

Although it seems counterintuitive, skin that is oily, greasy, or acne-prone still needs moisture, because when you skip it, the oil glands might sense dryness and respond by overcompensating and producing more oil. Choose a lightweight, oil-free, noncomedogenic (non-pore clogging) formula that also contains a gentle exfoliant, such as salicylic acid or glycolic acid. Try NeoStrata Lotion Plus 15% AHA, with powerful exfoliants to remove the dead skin cells that can contribute to oil buildup and acne, or Glytone Rejuvenating Lotion 10, which is designed to decongest and shrink pores. Learn more about the skincare commandments for oily skin.

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Don’t napalm your face

Take care to avoid ingredients that can be overly aggressive, especially on sensitive or dry skin. When purchasing a moisturizer, the American Academy of Dermatology suggests checking labels on skincare products to make sure they’re free of alcohol and fragrances, which are known for pulling natural oils from the skin and potentially causing irritation. Gentle moisturizing formulas include Purpose Dual Treatment Moisturizer, which is great for sensitive skin or Cetaphil Daily Advance Lotion, which is non-greasy and fragrance-free. These are the skincare rules dermatologists follow themselves.


Look for superstar ingredients

Not all moisturizers are created equal. When shopping for a new moisturizer, pay close attention to what’s on the label. Any moisturizer that includes ingredients such as shea butter, hyaluronic gel, and ceramides will be especially moisturizing, according to Dr. Tanzi. Try SkinCeuticals Triple Lipid Restore 2:4:2, an intensive moisturizer specifically formulated with a proven ratio of natural fats—2 percent ceramides, 4 percent cholesterol, and 2 percent fatty acids—to help restore that all-important skin barrier and support skin’s natural repair functions.


Pick a formula for your skin type

Each skin type has its own unique skincare needs. Whether you have oily or dry skin, or you are especially sensitive to harsh ingredients, there is a moisturizer made for you. Dr. Tanzi suggested reading the labels carefully before choosing a moisturizer, in addition to look for the ingredients you should avoid check to see who the product is created for. Most products will be labeled “for dry skin,” “for oily skin,” or “for sensitive skin.” If you’re not sure, stick to a basic formula designed for “normal skin,” and see how your skin fares—whether it starts to feel noticeably drier or oilier. Check out these natural recipes for amazing skin from a plastic surgeon.


Don’t ignore symptoms of problems

A great skincare routine is crucial to maintaining healthy skin, but it can’t replace the help of a professional if you are struggling with certain skin problems. If you have stubborn rough patches, cracked and bleeding skin, severe acne, rosacea, eczema or an oil imbalance that you haven’t been able to remedy with an over-the-counter product, make an appointment with a dermatologist who can help you find the best products for your skin. Using the wrong formulas is just one of many beauty mistakes that could be wrecking your look.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest