Moisturisers – Your protective skincare shield
Updated: Jul 13, 2021
Think of a moisturiser as your dependable suit of armour protecting your skin from the outside world. Whether it’s a cream, gel or lotion it can create a veil over the skin and is multi-functional, a necessity for all types of skin.
A good moisturiser is an essential part of our skincare routine, and can help with many things, such as:
Maintaining the skins natural protective barrier whilst also preventing water loss from the skin. This is hugely important when we are surrounded by things like air conditioning, central heating and the normal changes of the seasons. It’s essentially there to help balance the water and oil in our skin, and by achieving the right balance, it will help our skin to be more hydrated and look healthier.
Maintaining the skin’s natural moisturising factors which are made up of a mix of water-soluble salts and amino acids inside our skin cells. As these are water soluble they can easily be washed out leaving the skin feeling dry. One reason why we shouldn’t opt for a harsh foaming cleanser or rigorous toner.
Some moisturisers are also really effective humectants (they prevent moisture loss from the skin and can also glean moisture from the air to nourish the skin). How fab is that!
Amazing soothing powers to ease irritated skin, for example after shaving.
Protecting the skin against free radicals (environmental damage) such as pollution. If left to their own devises free radicals can be responsible for breaking down our skin’s collagen, resulting in blemishes, fine lines, pigmentation and looser looking skin.
Some moisturisers contain key ingredients that can penetrate to feed and nourish the skin. These may include things like peptides, hyaluronic acid and glycerin to name a few.
Evening out and smoothing dry areas of the skin.
Providing a perfect base for makeup where it stays put and doesn’t slide or disappear throughout the day.
But where does it sit in our skincare routine?
For years the message has always been to cleanse, tone and moisturise as a bare minimum and this is still the case. We are fortunate to have lots of other product options available that can be intertwined into this basic routine. Our cleanser and our moisturiser are always the top and tail of our regimen, the two book ends. Start with cleansing to thoroughly clean your skin, then tone and treat it with toners/acid toners, exfoliators, serums, oils, masks and eye products before finishing off with a moisturiser to hydrate and protect it. If you scroll through my blogs I’ve written about the purpose and benefits of cleansing, toning and exfoliating already. I like to use the analogy of using a moisturiser being like closing our front door when we leave our house. We wouldn’t leave it open to the elements, inviting aggressors in, would you? That’s what we would be doing to our skin if we didn’t moisturise it. Our last port of call would always be sun protection which is an absolute must all year round. Perhaps this is our burglar alarm for extra security!
What type of moisturiser should I choose?
Choose a moisturiser which is right for your skin type, whether that be oily, dry, normal (with no real issues – this, by the way, is very few of us unfortunately) or combination skin (where you might have an oily nose and forehead but dryer cheeks). Any concerns that you have regarding your skin i.e. pigmentation, dehydration, fine lines, uneven surface, lack of radiance can be dealt with by using products previously applied i.e. toners, serums and oils.
Surely I don’t need a moisturiser if I have really oily skin?
Yes you do! I’d suggest going for oil free varieties or a light lotion, gel or serum containing hyaluronic acid to help keep skin moisturised but not overloaded. From my days working on beauty counters and delivering skincare training I knew lots of people who did not moisturise their skin because it was oily. They tried to strip the moisture out by using harsh foaming cleansers, astringent toners containing lots of alcohol and then purposely didn’t moisturise for fear of replacing excess oil. You’d be forgiven for thinking that this is the way forward. But these actions only encourage the skin’s sebaceous glands to produce more oil to replace what has been lost. Therefore exasperating the situation and leaving skin very confused and often oilier than it was before. So please do moisturise if your skin is oily. It’s all about choosing the right products.
What age should I start using a moisturiser?
From your teen years onwards. Basically as soon as you hit puberty. The type of moisturiser you use will change as your skin changes. But essentially a moisturiser is a staple in your skincare routine. As a teen or someone in their early twenties you may benefit from using a light lotion or cream depending on your skin type. As we progress through the years always choose a moisturiser suited to your skin type.
We don’t need lots of different moisturisers. This is in contrast to some of the other skincare steps where it’s quite normal (although not essential) to have more than one option. You may have more than one cleanser to remove make up and SPF, to clean your skin, whether it’s morning or evening etc. Always make your decision on what to do based on what you have on your face at the time and how your skin is feeling. You may have an assortment of toners and acid toners in your cabinet too. For example a glycolic acid and a lactic or salicylic acid based on what your requirements are on any particular day. You may have a Vitamin A (Retinoid) and a Vitamin C serum among others and they should be used until they are finished rather than chopping and changing. When it comes to moisturisers you don’t need a large selection. This is the same with eye creams and SPFs too.
What type of moisturisers are there?
There are generally four types:
These are pretty clever as they attract water from the humidity in the atmosphere and from our epidermis to nourish the skin. They can be found in lots of moisturisers. These work particularly well for oilier and dehydrated skins as they don’t clog the pores or add more oil but they will effectively hydrate the skin.
Sometimes called lipids. The function of these is to add oil to the epidermis (the upper layers of the skin) and help to soften and smooth the skin texture. They are there to imitate the natural lipids and oils that are found in our skin and fill in the gaps within our skin cells. They are great for most skin types but are particularly beneficial for dry and sensitive skins.
These are naturally produced in the body and act as a skin barrier. But when we are lacking in them, we can find ourselves with dry and irritated skin. When found in moisturisers they are just like the ceramides found in our skin. They penetrate quite easily which helps to seal in moisture and strengthen the skin barrier. Great if your skin is dry or sensitive.
The main purpose of these are to provide a coating or film over the stratum corneum (the outer most layer of the epidermis) to prevent water loss and therefore seal in moisture. They are generally prescribed by a professional to help with skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis and extra dry skin. They are usually quite thick in texture.
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Here are some of my favourite moisturisers. This is by no means an exhaustive list as I discover new products regularly: