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Dermatologist-Recommended Moisturizers Based On Your Skin Type

We're here to help find the one right for you.

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Aside from protecting your skin from the sun, ensuring it’s hydrated is key to how healthy it appears. A dry complexion can accentuate fine lines and wrinkles, lead to irritation and flaky patches, and make it difficult for your makeup to lay properly.

Moisturizers are an integral part of any skincare routine, and using your skin type to determine which formula to use will ensure you reap the best results — but the type of formula is also important.

For instance, lightweight formulas like gel creams and thin lotions will suit those with oily skin best, as this skin type doesn’t need intensive nourishment and a heavy product will only weigh their skin down, says Dr. Geeta Yadav, a board-certified dermatologist and founder of FACET Dermatology in Toronto. In contrast, someone with very dry skin will need more moisture, so a rich, heavy cream or even a balm-like texture would be best. Those with sensitive or combination skin should opt for something in the middle — a lightweight gel or lotion.

But first, let’s learn more about the three different types of moisturizers and find the one right for you.


“Humectants are ingredients that help draw water from the surrounding environment into the skin,” says Dr. Yadav. “All skin types can benefit from humectants because all skin needs moisture, and humectants provide that without the added weight.” In addition to being great for all skin types (oily included), humectants can also be used year-round, making them great for those who aren’t into swapping their skincare seasonally.

Glycerin, aloe and hyaluronic acid are examples of humectant ingredients. The OLEHENRIKSEN Strength Trainer Peptide Boost Firming Moisturizer, suitable for all skin types, uses hyaluronic acid, vegan peptides and collagen to hydrate the skin and keep its moisture barrier intact. Another option that may be better for those with oily skin is the Glow Recipe Watermelon Pink Juice Oil-Free Moisturizer, as it’s formulated with hyaluronic acid and glycerin and doesn’t contain any pore-clogging oils.


Occlusives like petrolatum, squalane and shea butter work by trapping moisture and nourishment into the skin, kind of like a topcoat.

“Occlusives are truly best for very, very dry skin,” says Dr. Yadav. “Or skin with a damaged skin barrier, such as those with eczema or someone who has overdone it with their retinoids.”

Because they’re prone to congesting the skin and clogging pores, occlusives aren’t ideal for those with oily skin. If your skin is severely dehydrated, keep an occlusive-rich moisturizer like the Good Molecules Lightweight Daily Moisturizer on hand for the winter season when moisture most easily escapes the skin, says Dr. Yadav.

Occlusive moisturizers are also what you’d use if you want to partake in the K-Beauty “skin slugging” trend — that is, slathering your skin with an occlusive moisturizer until it resembles a thick coating on your face, hence the “slug” reference. The idea behind skin slugging is that it creates a protective barrier that traps moisture and prevents it from seeping out. Many turn to the Aquaphor Healing Ointment for skin slugging, as petrolatum is its main skin-protecting ingredient.


“Our skin barrier is made up of skin cells and lipids that act like the ‘grout’ to the skin cell ‘bricks,’ and emollients provide those lipids with support,” explains Dr. Yada. You’ll find emollients in products geared toward softening the skin and repairing the barrier. “I often recommend applying emollient-rich products on top of humectants to ensure skin is getting the nourishment it needs while maintaining hydration levels.”

Although emollients are suited for all skin types, Dr. Yadav points out that those prone to oiliness may find their skin’s natural oils are already doing the job an emollient skincare product would. When in doubt, try a few different moisturizers to see what agrees with your skin. Examples of emollient ingredients are ceramides (as in the SkinCeuticals Triple Lipid Restore) and lanolin (try Lano’s 101 Dry Skin Super Cream - Multipurpose For Face + Body).

What's your favorite moisturizer? Let us know in the comments below.

Follow Article Topics: Lifestyle