Moisturizer: The Basic Skin Sealant
Like the frosting that locks in the moisture of the cake within, skin moisturizers accomplish the same feat for the outer layers of the skin’s surface. While functioning to maintain hydration, moisturizer provides many more benefits to improving the skin’s appearance, such as protecting, healing, smoothing and covering the skin’s imperfections.
The Function of a Moisturizer
Whether it’s the topper to the skincare regime or the first step in the make-up routine, moisturizers is the most basic cosmetic ingredient. Despite dermatological endorsement, it’s the lack of FDA regulation that keeps moisturizers firmly planted in the cosmetic segment of the skincare industry. Due to its versatility, a purchase of moisturizer requires knowledge of the skin’s type and condition. Generally, moisturizers are especially designed for dry, normal, combination or oily skin. Self-service skincare has grown to include moisturizers geared toward acne, Rosesea and eczema sufferers.
Moisturizers, as a cosmetic, call into question their validity in any skincare regimen. From her book The Complete Beauty Bible, author Paula Begoun, a renowned beauty expert weighs in, “Not everyone needs or should use a moisturizer, especially women with oily, combination, or acne-prone skin”. However, many cosmetic counters and drugstore aisles shelve moisturizers that are appropriated for skin with these characteristics.
The Makings of a Moisturizer
Effect moisturizers rely on the balance within the formula and its ingredients. Moisturizers consist of water-based or oil-based creams or lotions, of which the oil-based variety best benefits dry skin, while normal or oily skin responds best to a water-based one. Generally, moisturizers include a combination of the following ingredients:
- Humectants-Performing best in highly humid environments, humectants, such as glycerin, alpha hydroxy and lactic acid, attract water from the air to hydrate and lock moisture into the skin.
- Emollients-Often water or oil based and derived from plant, animal and mineral oils, as well as Shea and cocoa butters, emollients inhabit the space between the cells to lubricate and soften rough skin and give creams and lotions their rich silky texture, mimicking the substances skin makes naturally. Emollients listed on labels include: urea, glycerin, lanolin, mineral oil, petrolatum and silicones.
- Fragrance-Common additives to moisturizers and skincare products as whole provide little value other than to mask the odors of ingredients. Additionally, fragrances often irritate sensitive skin causing rashes, redness, itching, burning and other allergic reactions and sensitivities.
- Preservatives-required to extend the shelf-life of a variety of products, preservatives are necessary to repetitive-use products such as moisturizers that consist of water and/or oil as they are open to increased bacterial contamination with each use. Preservatives commonly used in moisturizers include: parabens, hydantoin or quaternium-from the formaldehyde family, EDTA and alcohols.
Aside from skin type and ingredients, Lisa VanBockern, licensed Aesthetician and owner of Tempe, Arizona-based Skin Script Products advises looking for moisturizers that “hydrate then occlude to hold the moisture in the skin. Look for humectants such as hyaluronic acid or glycerin…then look for an occlusive ingredient such as Shea butter or silicones, to hold moisture in.” It’s apparent that a good moisturizer should not only hydrate or lock in moisture. It should accomplish both. Also, the skin around the eyes differs from the rest of the face and requires a moisturizer that addresses those specific needs.
Though presented in cute little bottles with sweet smelling aromas and restricted to the vain existence of cosmetics, moisturizers contain as many layers as the part of the anatomy for which they are intended. Take the time to know your skin to achieve the highest results from any chosen skincare moisturizer.