Hydration, hydration, hydration
Hunting out the best moisturiser for your skin might seem like a simple enough premise, but how many times have you picked one off the shelf and it’s made your skin feel oily/itchy/or tight?
The thing is, it’s impossible to find the best moisturiser for your skin if you don’t know what you’re looking for or working with.
‘Knowing your skin type is the first step,’ says consultant dermatologist Dr Anjali Mahto. ‘A one-size-fits-all approach just won’t work as dry, sensitive and oily skins all have different needs.’
How to work out your skin type
If you’re unsure, there are a few tests you can do yourself, as each skin type has its own unique hallmarks to look out for.
Dry skin, for example, lacks oil because it produces less sebum than normal skin. It can feel uncomfortable, flaky and itchy, especially near the eyebrows and around the corners of the nose and mouth.
‘Rub gently on one area of skin,’ says Georgia Louise, facialist to Jennifer Aniston. ‘If you see loose skin cells in the form of flakes, or your face quickly turns red and becomes inflamed, then you definitely have dry skin.’
If you’re a little too blessed in the sebum department, have enlarged pores and are prone to blemishes, you most likely have oily skin.
But another check you can do is with a large tissue. Simply wash your face, dry it with a towel and leave it completely unmoisturised for at least one hour. Take the tissue, cover your face with it and blot.
If the tissue is greasy and your face looks shiny, you have oily skin. You have combination skin if you’re left with oil on the T-zone (forehead, nose, and chin) while your cheeks remain dry.
Sensitive skin is probably the most overused description for skin that’s normally dealing with irritation that we, not the skin gods, have caused.
‘Often flare ups are the result of product overload or the wrong mixture of ingredients,’ says skin expert Debbie Thomas. ‘Microscopic cracks appear in the skin that enable toxins and irritants to seep in and cause problems.’
You’ll find out pretty quickly if you have sensitive skin if it turns fire-engine red when you brush your fingers across the side of your face.
What’s the best moisturiser for my skin type?
Now that you know your true skin type, you can start shopping for a moisturiser…
(Remember, you shouldn’t use your moisturiser around your the eye area, because the skin around the ocular bone is a lot more delicate than skin on the rest your face. For this you should use the best eye cream to suit your needs.)
Just because you have dry skin doesn’t mean you should automatically slather on creamy, unctuous products.
Over-moisturising the surface sends a signal that your skin has enough water, lipids and protein. It then starts to produce less hydration and nutrients of its own. The result? Skin gets lazy and we get trapped in a vicious cycle of applying even richer creams.
Those with dry skin should look for moisturisers containing ingredients that prevent water loss.
Hyaluronic acid blows most ingredients out of the water for hydration as a single gram can hold up to six litres of water.
Other ingredients that are a formidable opponent for dry skin include antioxidants and emollients like glycerin.
‘I’m a huge fan of the antioxidant purslane, which also happens to be one of the richest sources of omega-3 fatty acids. It reduces inflammation and repairs the skin’s moisture barrier,’ says world-renowned aesthetic doctor, Dr Barbara Sturm.
And there’s certainly no shortage of moisturising ingredients in the Dr Barbara Sturm Face Cream Rich – one of our top picks for those needing a moisturiser that packs a hydrating punch.
Oily skin can still become dehydrated. Especially if you are also using spot-zapping products, which typically tend to be drying.
The right moisturiser can trick your skin into thinking its sebum levels are balanced. This is important if you want to avoid a breeding ground for acne bacteria.
Just remember to stick to oil-free formulas and steer clear of products containing mineral oil. ‘It’s basically like putting petroleum on your face,’ says Sturm. ‘Mineral oil keeps your pores large, and it actually takes hydration out of your skin.’
Dewy gel moisturisers are a good option as they are lightweight and water-based.
They work a bit like this: ‘Water transports other actives in the product so they penetrate the skin better. The gel then traps the water so that it doesn’t evaporate at room temperature,’ says Benedicte Le Bris, GM of research and development at L’Occitane.
‘Another benefit of gel moisturisers is they won’t block pores. They are free from the fatty ingredients that normally make moisturisers creamy.’ So your face never feels congested and greasy. Sound like what your skin needs? Try L’Occitane Aqua Reotier Ultra Thirst-Quenching Gel – a feather light hydrator that doesn’t clog pores.
Note that the best moisturisers for combination skin actually involve multi-moisturising. In other words, using creams for dry skin on the cheeks and a gel moisturiser on the T-Zone only.
Best moisturisers for sensitive skin
If your skin is sensitive, you’re probably already aware that certain ingredients cause inflammation. You’ll have some idea of what triggers your skin, but it may be best to avoid creams that contain alcohol, essential oils or fragrance.
‘Most skin types experience sensitivity at some point,’ says Thomas. ‘If skin is exposed to changes in weather and allergens such as dust it can read them as the enemy. It fights them off by producing inflammatory hormones.’
Now that you know what you’re looking for are you ready for our roundup of the best?
Keep scrolling to find the moisturiser of your dreams…
A dry skin saviour, here you’ll find purslane and glycerin, alongside skin-nourishing shea butter, avocado and olive fruit oils to top up scaly skin’s hydration levels.
Calcium-rich mineral water, which controls sebum, joins forces with hyaluronic acid and glycerin for moisture with zero shine, making this one of our favourite moisturisers for oily skin. Apply with abandon as this gel is practically weightless.
Sensitive, riled and sore skin will immediately benefit from the combination of soothing spring water, hydrating glyerin and neurosensine – a peptide that can block pain sensations and make your face feel immediately more comfortable.
Meet the new Deciem of the skincare world, French brand Typology. It's fuss free but also fragrance free, vegan and 99 per cent naturally derived. With just nine ingredients, including hyaluronic acid and organic coconut oil, this face cream for dry skin types is exactly the sort of product you can imagine your graphic designer boyfriend using.
Two weights of hyaluronic acid flood parched cells in both the deep and top layers of skin with moisture. Store in the fridge to ramp up the jelly's satisfyingly cooling texture.
The bouncy texture of this cream-gel is almost as addictive as slathering on copious amounts of lip balm. Together orange blossom and ribose - a type of sugar found in cells that keeps them energised - make the upper layers of skin as plump as a hotel pillow.
They may not be particularly sexy, but ingredients such as ceramides – the ‘glue’ that holds skin cells together – and fatty acids are pretty much guaranteed to prevent moisture loss. The lack of essential oils and fragrance will keep sensitive skin happy, too.
It’s not often that a product for under a fiver has a transformative effect on the skin. But that’s the nub of The Ordinary’ s beauty philosophy : high-tech formulations for everyone’s budget. In this case, multiple amino acids, ceramides and hyaluronic acid, which feel like a tall glass of water for lizard-like skin.
The ingredients list reads like an entire juice bar menu put together. Superfood extracts like avocado, kiwi and kakadu plum, plus adaptogenic shatavari root and a hefty dose of niacinamide (B3) work hard to combat stress-induced ageing, including redness, dry, patches, dullness and worry lines. The smoothie-like texture is comforting, too.
Starring water specially treated with a solution of amino acids, peptides, vitamins and minerals. All you need to know is it draws plumpness and moisture to skin like a magnet.
This rich night balm feeds sensitive skin with lipids from olive, borage and linseed oils. The soothing doesn’t stop there as jojoba oil, which has the closest consistency to your skin’s own sebum, strengthens its protective barrier keeping the good stuff in and irritants out.
CeraVe's dermatologist-approved skincare products are world renowned. This lightweight lotion is a great starter moisturiser for most skincare types, although we recommend applying a higher SPF on top in the summer months.
Kiehl's famous, and arguably most recognisable product, has had a update. It's now twice as moisturising as before by throwing olive-derived squalane at the problem.
We're not saying that you *have* to spend upwards of £140 to find a good moisturiser. But if you are feeling a bit flush, this is just the ticket. Carefully formulated for skin that's especially dry, omegas and vitamin E protect skin against the effects of pollution, shea butter is like a nourishing blanket and saffron flower calms any irritation. Dry skin, who?