How to Moisturize Your Face

Woman applying moisturizer
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The cracked, weatherworn look of your vintage leather trench hints at exotic adventures in faraway places. Sadly, cracked, weatherworn skin typically doesn't hold the same alluring appeal. Luckily, there are a plethora of moisturizers available to help keep your skin supple and healthy looking -- you just need to know what to select and how and when to use it.

It's a myth that moisturizers add moisture to your skin -- that's not really what they do at all [source: American Academy of Dermatology]. The job of a moisturizer is to attract moisture and to protect the skin on your face by forming a barrier that holds in the water that's already there. By using a moisturizer, you can stop your skin from losing its hydration and allow it to put the moisture it does have to good use.


While moisturizers differ in what ingredients they use, most moisturizers have two common components: emollients make your skin smoother and humectants hold in moisture. The best part is that they both help soften your skin. Moisturizers can contain a host of other ingredients, such as fragrances, vitamins, botanical extracts, age-fighting compounds and sunscreens [source: Mayo Clinic]. And most also include preservatives to keep them fresh.

Choosing the right moisturizer for your face depends on what type of skin you have, which often can dictate its needs. Some general guidelines are:

  • If you have severely dry skin and the humidity is low, you might want to try a moisturizing ointment, because ointments contain the most oil [source: American Academy of Dermatology].
  • If you have oily skin, try using a lotion, because these tend to be less greasy than other types of moisturizers [source: University of Iowa Health Care].
  • For sensitive skin, try to avoid moisturizers with lots of fragrances and dyes, as these can irritate your skin [source: Mayo Clinic].

Now that you have an idea about what moisturizers do for your face, read on to find out how to apply your moisturizer to get the most out of it.


When to Moisturize Your Face

If you haven't been moisturizing properly, you could be sporting dry, flaky skin rather than a healthy-looking, dewy complexion. To achieve that happily hydrated look, knowing how and when to moisturize is important. When you apply your moisturizer, follow these simple rules:

  • Don't wait. Make the most of your shower by applying your moisturizer within three minutes of turning off the water [source: American Academy of Dermatology]. If you're washing your face at the sink, apply the moisturizer immediately after you've cleansed and patted dry your face [source: Day].
  • Resist pulling. When you apply moisturizer to your clean face, use a gentle touch -- you should refrain from pressing and pulling down on it. Instead, use light, even pressure, moving in upward strokes from your neck up to your forehead [source: Day]. Be especially careful of the skin surrounding your eyes, as it is even more fragile.
  • Twice is nice. Not only should you apply your moisturizer daily, but you just might want to do it twice each day if you have particularly parched skin: once in the morning and once in the evening. Remember to apply your evening moisturizer at least 30 minutes before you hit the sack, so it has time to sink in and doesn't rub off on your pillow [source: Day].

Before you head out and grab the nearest jar of moisturizer, read on to check out some tips on how to make the most of it.


Tips for Moisturizing Your Face

With moisturizer in hand, you're ready to get down to some serious skin care business. But before embarking on your new hydrating routine, take a moment to consider the following tips, which could help you maximize the power of your moisturizer.

  • Use a gentle cleanser. Before you apply your moisturizer, make sure that you use a cleanser that doesn't end up drying out your skin even more. You could try using a cleanser with a pH of 5.5, the same pH as your skin [source: New Zealand Dermatological Society]. After you cleanse, instead of vigorously drying your face, gently pat or blot it dry with a soft towel.
  • Use sunscreen. Either use a moisturizer with a sunscreen or apply one on top of your moisturizer. Using a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher has many possible long-term health benefits for your skin, including preventing wrinkles and skin cancer [source: American Academy of Dermatology].
  • Don't avoid moisturizer just because you have blemishes. Acne-prone skin needs moisture, just like any other kind of skin does. If you have acne, just be careful to choose a moisturizer that's noncomedogenic and oil-free. That way, you get the skin-soothing benefits of the moisturizer without clogging up your pores [source: Mayo Clinic].
  • Test new products before applying a full application. If you're trying out a new moisturizer, test it on your forearm first. Even if a product's label says that it is hypoallergenic, it still might contain something to which you're allergic [source: American Academy of Dermatology].

With a little time and attention, you can keep your face hydrated and healthy. Then the only cracked, weatherworn thing on you people will be noticing is that fabulous vintage leather jacket you're wearing as you stroll down the street.


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  • American Academy of Dermatology. "Bathing and Moisturizing Guidelines." (Accessed 9/13/09)
  • American Academy of Dermatology. "Complementary Therapies: Applied to the Skin." (Accessed 9/13/09)
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  • American Academy of Dermatology. "Dry Skin & Keratosis Pillars." (Accessed 9/13/09)
  • American Academy of Dermatology. "Skin Care for People with Acne." (Accessed 9/13/09)
  • Bruno, Karen. "What's New: Advances in Face Care." WebMD. (Accessed 9/13/09)
  • Day, Doris, MD. "Dr. Day's Skin Care Regimen." The Skin Cancer Foundation. (Accessed 9/13/09)
  • Mayo Clinic. "Dry Skin." (Accessed 9/13/09)
  • Mayo Clinic. "Moisturizers: Options for Softer Skin." (Accessed 9/13/09)
  • New Zealand Dermatological Society. "Emollients and Moisturizers." DermNet NZ. (Accessed 9/13/09)
  • University of Iowa Health Care. "Winter Dry Skin." (Accessed 9/13/09)