Top 5 Tips for Choosing a Daily Facial Moisturizer

Use a daily facial moisturizer to keep skin looking healthy and young. See more pictures of getting beautiful skin.
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Dermatologists recommend using a daily facial moisturizer as part of a skin care routine. Gently cleansing the face removes dead skin cells, dirt and bacteria, but it also strips the skin of needed hydration. Water -- not oil -- in the skin keeps it plump and smooth, whereas dry skin loses elasticity, making it more prone to developing wrinkles. Facial moisturizers, which are usually lipid-based, lock in that water by either blocking it from escaping from the outermost layer of skin (occlusive moisturizers) or drawing water from the inner dermis toward the top the of skin (humectant moisturizers) [source: American Academy of Dermatology].

Mastering the "how" of facial moisturizers is the easy half of the equation. For instance, it's better to apply them to damp skin, and they should cover the face as well as the neck [source: Bank and Sobel]. But selecting the appropriate face moisturizer can be as frustrating as noticing a pimple before a hot date. And since moisturizers stay on the skin for extended periods of time, the wrong ones can wreak pore-clogging, skin-irritating havoc. To avoid unwanted breakouts and excessive skin care expenses, follow these five tips to help you select the right daily facial moisturizer.


5: Don't Let Price Fool You

lotion bottle
Some generic lotions will work just as well as the expensive ones.
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In the skin care industry, you don't always get what you pay for. That $200 tonic promising radiance, wrinkle reduction and blemish control may end up leaving you with nothing more than an adult acne flair up. Since the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) classifies facial moisturizers as cosmetics, they aren't as closely regulated as, say, the cucumbers you slice to cover up your eyes. For that reason, the marketing jargon on packaging can't be entirely trusted.

Instead, pay attention to ingredients. If you have sensitive skin, look out for fragrance-free and oil-free options. For oilier faces, keep your eyes peeled for noncomedogenic (non-clogging) formulas [source: Mayo Clinic]. While the FDA doesn't require companies to disclose exactly how much of every ingredient is in each product, they do list ingredients in order of amount. By scanning the fine print, you may find that even generic brands offer the right combination for a much better price.


4: Take Note of the Weather

cold face
Richer formulas provide extra face protection from dry winter air.
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The time of year that you shop for a daily facial moisturizer can influence what type you should buy. When the weather turns warm, it may be time to lighten up on your daily skin care routine. With a more humid atmosphere and increased perspiration, thick moisturizers may trigger seasonal breakouts. If your skin suddenly seems like an oil rig, consider switching to a lighter, non-greasy formula. Chilly winter air calls for greater facial skin protection. Unless you have particularly oily skin, a richer lotion may be necessary to prevent the face from drying out. When applying cold weather lotion, also pay attention to areas around the lips and eyes that are particularly prone to winter skin damage.


3: Look for Enriched Formulas

old woman with face lotion
Retinol and soy compounds can build collagen fibers to delay wrinkles.
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It doesn't take a fancy formula to adequately moisturize your face. A simple daily facial moisturizer plumps up otherwise dry skin cells to help erase fine lines and smooth your skin's overall texture. Dermatologists have also found that certain vitamins and antioxidants may stimulate collagen production in order to maintain elasticity in the skin and promote skin cell repair.

Among nonprescription additives, the vitamin A compound retinol has shown the most promise for temporary wrinkle reduction. Synthetic hydroxy acids are commonly found in moisturizers as well; they're meant to exfoliate dead skin cells and trigger new skin cell growth [source: Mayo Clinic]. Soy compounds may even out skin tone and build collagen fibers that give skin its smooth texture. Vitamin C is also thought encourage collagen production, although it doesn't interact well with vitamin A (which retinol is derived from).


2: Know Your Skin Type

girl with lotion
Before you buy face lotion, understand your skin type.
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Before you begin searching for a daily facial moisturizer, you need to know a little bit about your skin. For instance, during the day, does your face tend to stay dry, or does it develop a greasy sheen? Do you have any fine lines or an uneven skin tone? The answers to these questions help determine your unique skin type.

Dermatologists have designated 16 different skin types, based on the following four categories:


  • Dry or oily
  • Pigmented or nonpigmented
  • Wrinkled or tight
  • Sensitive or resistant

Knowing which skin type you fall into makes it much easier to pick the right daily facial moisturizer. Often, skin care companies will label their face lotions with the corresponding skin type. For normal skin, you'll want to choose a non-greasy, water-based variety with silicone-derived ingredients; heavier oil-based products with mineral oil and glycerin better suit drier skin that feels dry and taut after washing [source: Dermatology Nursing].

1: Sunscreen Is a Must

Choose a daily facial moisturizer with sunscreen.
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The most important additive in a daily facial moisturizer is sunscreen. The ultraviolet rays (UVA and UVB) from the sun rob the skin of hydration, leading to wrinkles, skin damage and possibly cancer. By applying a face lotion with sunscreen in it, you can protect your skin from premature signs of aging and maintain a healthier appearance. Dermatologists generally recommend a moisturizer with at least an SPF 15 to adequately safeguard against the sun. If you're out in direct sunlight for an extended amount of time, the American Academy of Dermatologists also advises reapplying sunscreen every two hours.



Lots More Information

Related HowStuffWorks Articles

  • American Academy of Dermatology. "Cosmeceutical Facts & Your Skin." Revised 2004. (Aug. 4, 2009)
  • Bank, David E. and Sobel, Estelle. "Beautiful Skin: Every Woman's Guide to Looking Her Best at Any Age." Adams Media. 2000. (Aug. 4, 2009)
  • Dermatology Nursing. "Moisturizers Do More Than Just Soften Skin." October 2006.
  • Mayo Clinic. "Moisturizers 101: The basics of softer skin." Dec. 16, 2008. (Aug. 4, 2009)
  • Mayo Clinic. "Wrinkle creams: Your guide to younger looking skin." Oct. 11, 2008. (Aug. 4, 2009)