One of the easiest ways to get glowing, healthy-looking skin is to make sure your skin is effectively moisturized. But doing so—and finding the right product to do this—is a little more complicated than it seems.
First, know that there is a difference between moisturizing and hydrating ingredients, as SELF explained previously. Hydrating ingredients literally add hydration—water—into the skin. Moisturizing ingredients, on the other hand, help keep that hydration in the skin by preventing trans-epidermal water loss (TEWL), the process by which water evaporates from your skin.
Some products, like most moisturizers, usually contain a combination of moisturizing and hydrating skin-care ingredients, but that’s not always a given. Hydrating serums, for instance, often just contain hydrating ingredients and require other products to seal the water they provide into your skin.
The right combination of hydrating and moisturizing ingredients for your skin will depend on your skin type and the concerns you’re trying to address. Skin that tends to be dry will likely need both hydrating and moisturizing ingredients, whereas with oily skin, more occlusive moisturizing ingredients may cause breakouts. (For the record, all skin needs at least some help with moisturizing.)
To help you figure out what to look for, we’ve collected some of the most common moisturizing and hydrating skin-care ingredients out there—especially those that dermatologists consistently recommend to us.
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Glycerin is a humectant, meaning that it draws water to itself. Putting it on your skin helps draw water to the skin. Although other humectant ingredients may be in the spotlight these days, glycerin is still one of the most common hydrating ingredients that you’ll see on ingredients labels.
Products to try:
- Cetaphil Fragrance Free Daily Facial Moisturizer ($17, Ulta)
- First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Face Moisturizer ($24, Dermstore)
- La Roche-Posay Hydrating Gentle Soap Free Cleanser ($15, Amazon)
2. Hyaluronic acid
Here it is, one of the buzziest skin-care ingredients of the past few years: hyaluronic acid. It’s estimated that this trendy humectant can hold up to 1,000 times its own weight in water, SELF explained previously.
It’s present in all kinds of skin-care products, and dermatologists frequently recommend that basically all skin types look out for it when in need of hydration. Because it’s present in your body naturally, it’s very unlikely to cause any sort of irritation (on its own, anyway), so those with sensitive skin should feel comfortable trying out products that contain it—but it may still be worth patch testing, because other ingredients in the product could cause a reaction.
Products to try:
- Neutrogena Hydro Boost Gel-Cream ($25, Ulta)
- SkinCeuticals HA Intensifier ($100, Dermstore)
- Drunk Elephant B-Hydra Intensive Hydration Serum ($48, Sephora)
Ceramides are an important part of the stratum corneum, the skin’s natural protective barrier. They exist between your skin cells, helping to seal the barrier shut, which both keeps hydration in and keeps potential irritants out, SELF explained previously. Skin that is perpetually dry, as in the case of eczema, likely has an issue with the functionality of this barrier, and some prescription treatments designed to treat those conditions specifically use ceramides.
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