You want to buy a new facial moisturizer. It’s just one step of your skincare routine, so it shouldn’t be that hard, right? But even early in your search you find there are too many options to choose among. Do you need a cream or lotion? What’s the difference between an AM and a PM moisturizer? Will a moisturizer make acne-prone skin break out? Considering all of the different options, choosing a facial moisturizer to meet your needs can be more challenging than it seems. That’s why this article will help you to understand what you should look for in a facial moisturizer.

What are the different types of moisturizers?

Moisturizers can be classified into three different generations: occlusive, humectant, and reparative.

The first generation of moisturizers are called occlusive moisturizers because they coat the skin and act as a barrier. This barrier prevents trans-epidermal water loss, one of the major causes of dry skin. Examples of occlusive moisturizers include petrolatum, mineral oil, jojoba oil, olive oil, and many more. The drawback of these moisturizers is that they can be messy and not very cosmetically appealing. Since they are helpful with severe dryness, it is recommended to use this type of moisturizer at bedtime.

Second generation moisturizers are called humectant moisturizers because of their ability to absorb water from the atmosphere and also from the lower layers of skin. Examples of humectant moisturizers include hyaluronic acid, glycerin, sorbitol, urea, and lactic acid. A disadvantage of these moisturizers is that at higher concentrations they can be irritating to the skin. However, since they are lighter and more cosmetically appealing than occlusive moisturizers, they can be applied to the face during the daytime.

The third generation, or reparative, moisturizers have both occlusive and humectant properties. Additionally, they are formulated to repair the damaged skin barrier and replenish the lost barrier components.

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Do you have dry, oily, or combination skin?

Before you purchase a facial moisturizer, determine your skin type: dry, oily, or combination. If you struggle with dry skin, you know that moisture is your friend. But you probably also know by now that not all moisturizers are created equal. Third generation reparative moisturizers are recommended for dry skin because they don’t just treat the symptom (skin dryness), they also treat the cause (damaged skin barrier).

Look for ingredients such as hyaluronic acid and dimethicone, which help keep skin hydrated. Those with oily or acne-prone skin often believe that they should not use a facial moisturizer as it might clog the pores and contribute to more breakouts. Quite the opposite is true! Acne is the result of an overproduction of sebum, the skin’s natural oil, which can clog the pores. A moisturizer prevents the dryness which would ultimately lead to excess sebum production. With an oily or acne-prone skin type, skipping the moisturizing step in your skincare routine can actually make acne worse. Therefore, using a moisturizer that is light, oil-free, and noncomedogenic will help to better manage acne symptoms. If you have combination skin, meaning it can be dry some of the time and oily at other times, you’ll want a moisturizer that can help with both conditions. An excellent ingredient to look for in a moisturizer is hyaluronic acid. Hyaluronic acid can absorb up to 1,000 times its own weight in water! Properly formulated and administered, hyaluronic acid nourishes the collagen and elastin fibers that plump and firm your skin. Thus, hyaluronic acid can hydrate skin and increase skin firmness.

 

AM vs PM moisturizers

When browsing the skincare aisle, you may notice that some of the products are labeled AM or PM due to the skin’s need for different ingredients during the day versus overnight. A morning facial moisturizer will ideally contain SPF, eliminating the need to apply sunscreen on top of your moisturizer. Ensure that the moisturizer contains a broad spectrum SPF of at least 30. Additionally, look for ingredients in your morning facial moisturizer that offer skin benefits, such as antioxidants.

Ingredients such as L-ascorbic acid (vitamin C), alpha-tocopherol (vitamin E), resveratrol, and green tea are excellent antioxidants that help to keep your skin looking bright and youthful. Nighttime facial moisturizers often include anti-aging ingredients such as retinoids. Retinol is offered in PM formulas because it may increase skin sensitivity to the sun and consequently should not be used during the daytime. Nighttime facial moisturizers may also be formulated with antioxidants to aid in repairing your skin while you sleep.