Choosing the right moisturizer for your skin

Last week&rsquo;s <em>Skincare 101</em> segment covered the anatomy of the skin and what a basic routine should look like. Before jumping into this week&rsquo;s topic of how to properly choose the moisturizer which is most effective for your skin type, let&rsquo;s take a minute to look at skin types.</p>

Most skin can be categorized into five types: dry, oily, combination, sensitive or normal. Dry skin is categorized by a rough or dry texture to the skin. It is typically less elastic and wrinkles are more prominent. Shine is a major component of oily skin, along with enlarged pores and blemishes. Combination skin is a mixture of both dry and oily — typically, combination skin has an oily T-zone (from your forehead near your eyebrows, down to your nose and chin). Sensitive skin can be dry or oily, but tends to react harshly to the elements, producing redness, itchiness, dryness, and possibly a burning sensation. Normal skin has none of the tendencies described above, but can be prone to dryness or blemishes all the same.

When it comes down to it, the differences in skin types can be attributed to differences in how moisture stays in the skin. Despite popular belief, oily skin needs moisture the same as normal or dry skin does. 

Oily skin is simply a product of the overproduction of sebum (skin oil) by the sebaceous glands. An excess production of sebum can block the duct of the sebaceous gland, leading to acne (whiteheads and blackheads). This sebum is not necessarily full of moisture.

Knowing your skin type is essential to picking out a moisturizer, as not all moisturizers are created equally.

Moisturizers are a topical product (something you apply to a body part) to create a balance between moisture and oil in the skin. Three main types of ingredients make up the moisturizing properties in moisturizers: humectants, emollients, and occlusive agents. Each one brings moisture to the skin in different ways. Some are more ideal for particular skin types than others.

While many moisturizers contain all three properties, the concentration of each one decides the principal characteristic of the moisturizer.



Humectants work by drawing water molecules from the outside environment into your skin. The main humectants on the market are glycerin and hyaluronic acid, however, urea and sodium lactate are other popular ones. 



Emollients work by filling in the bumps in between the stratum corneum (the last layer of skin, where dead skin sheds off). Many emollients end in –ic; lauric and linoleic are widespread. The most well-known emollients are ceramides, which are lipid molecules. 


Occlusive agents

Occlusive agents are the exact opposite of humectants. They form a protective barrier on the skin, sealing in water while letting none escape. The best known occlusive agent is vaseline (petroleum jelly). Silicones and zinc oxide both function in the same way.


Now, knowing this, what type of moisturizer can be more effective on what skin type?

Moisturizers targeted towards dry skin feature emollients, humectants, and occlusive agents. The emollients work short-term to give skin a plumper appearance, while the humectants draw extra moisture into dehydrated skin. 

On the other hand, moisturizers targeted towards oily skin tend to have low concentration of occlusive agents. The reasoning behind this is that having less lipids will stop pores from getting clogged. 

In Canada, cosmetics list their ingredients from highest to lowest concentration. Take a look at your moisturizer to see how it works for you.


Please note that this article does not constitute medical advice. Consult a medical doctor for healthcare issues.


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