Moisturisers lie at the core of every skincare routine. Even if you are just starting out, the essential products you will be told to stick to are:
- Face scrub
But why is a moisturiser so important? What does it really do? And how? Let us talk about all this!
What is a moisturiser?
A moisturiser, as its name suggests, is used to add moisture to the skin and trap that moisture within the skin. Roughly 300-400 ml of water evaporates from your skin daily. This is called ‘Transepidermal Water Loss’. It is the job of moisturisers to minimise this water loss. But how do they do this exactly?
How do moisturisers work?
To understand how moisturisers work, we need to first understand our skin. Our skin has primarily three layers:
The Epidermis: The epidermis is the outermost layer of the skin. It acts as a barrier, protecting the inner layers of the skin from environmental stressors such as pollution, dust, UV rays. The acid mantle or the stratum corneum is the uppermost layer of the epidermis. The ability of the skin to hold water is courtesy the stratum corneum. This is why your skin starts becoming dry when you damage the stratum corneum, since it is unable to prevent the water loss.
The Dermis: The dermis is the middle layer of the skin. It contains nerves, blood vessels, hair shafts, sweat and sebaceous glands. If you are not familiar with them, it is the sebaceous glands that produce sebum that gives the skin that oily feeling.
- The Hypodermis: The hypodermis comes after the epidermis and the dermis. It contains nerves, blood vessels and a layer of fat.
Why are moisturisers important?
There are two very important things that moisturisers do for your skin:
Reduce the chance of skin problems: Moisturisers help balance the skin. If your skin is too oily or too dry, it could lead to acne and other problems.
Increases cell turnover rate: The massaging motion that you use to apply moisturiser stimulates blood circulation and promotes cell generation. This is very important because the skin on your face, ears, neck, and chest sheds skin cells faster in comparison to other parts of the body.
- Soothes and protects the skin: The skin on your face, ears, neck and chest is very sensitive to environmental factors such as change in temperature, pollution, and sun damage. Given how it also sheds skin cells faster, the skin needs to protect and repair itself. Moisturisers help with that by strengthening the skin barrier.
What are the different types of moisturisers?
Now, not all moisturisers are made equal. There are three types of moisturisers, each having its own unique properties.
Occlusives are a class of waxes, oils, and silicones. What these do is that they create a barrier over the skin, trapping the moisture and preventing water loss. Beware about which occlusive you pick though. Some occlusives may be comedogenic. This means they may clog your pores and possibly even break you out. Petroleum Jelly is a very popular occlusive.
Emollients are a class of creams, ointments, lotions, and gels. Unlike occlusives, emollients penetrate the skin and fill in any gaps that may occur in the skin cells. They feel a lot less sticky than occlusives.
Humectants are moisturisers that essentially attract moisture to the Stratum Corneum and keep it there. They penetrate into the epidermis, attract moisture to it, and lock it in. They also promote the production of Ceramides that are lipids (fats) that comprise 50% of the epidermis. You have to be a bit careful with humectants though. In dry conditions, they can draw moisture from the younger, moist cells in the lower layers of the skin rather than from the surroundings. This can make your skin even drier.
Most moisturisers today are a mix of all these three categories.
What are the commonly found ingredients in moisturisers?
Now that we have a better understanding of what moisturisers are, what they do, and their various types, let us talk about some ingredients commonly found in moisturisers and what they do for you.
Glycerin is a humectant, and a highly effective one at that. It keeps the skin hydrated for long durations of time. It is non-comedogenic, non-allergenic, and naturally derived from mostly plant sources.
Retinol is a Vitamin A derivative that is known to be highly effective against preventing fine lines and wrinkles. It increases the cell turnover rate and boosts collagen production. Collagen is a naturally occurring protein in our skin which gives it that plump and supple look. As we age, collagen production starts decreasing resulting in fine lines and wrinkles. Retinol is also known to be effective against acne.
Ceramides are lipids or fats that comprise 50% of the epidermis or the outermost layer of the skin and help strengthen the skin barrier, protecting it from external environmental aggressors. They also help lock in moisture and prevent dryness and irritation.
Peptides are short chains of amino acids that are the building blocks of proteins such as Collagen, Elastin, and Keratin. Like Ceramides, Peptides also help strengthen the skin barrier, increase skin firmness and prevent water loss.
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant. It helps brighten the skin and prevents the signs of ageing. Vitamin C is also particularly effective in dealing with pigmentation and dark spots. It also helps prevent sun damage.
Vitamin E is naturally found in our bodies and in some foods. The term ‘vitamin E’ actually refers to a group eight of oil-soluble antioxidants. Vitamin E helps repair and heal the skin, protect against sun damage, and heal scars and burns. It also helps prevent oxidative damage to skin cells by free radicals.
Menthol is an organic compound that has a minty smell. It can be derived synthetically or naturally (from eucalyptus and peppermint plants). Menthol gives a cooling sensation when applied on the skin by blocking the calcium current along the nerves responsible for detecting temperature. The message that the individual receives via the nerve endings is that the skin or body is cooling. It also helps improve the blood flow of the area where it is applied.
How to Use Moisturisers?
Knowing the right order in which you are to apply your skincare is just as important as applying good products. As a rule of thumb, you move from thinnest to thickest.
Cleanser > Toner/Mist > Ampoule > Serum > Eye Cream > Moisturiser > Face Oil
When you are starting your day, it is important to opt for moisturiser that will offer some type of sun protection. While you should still apply sunscreen separately, it is still a good idea to opt for some extra protection. Ingredients such as Vitamin C are also a great idea because the antioxidant properties help protect your skin from all that it will face during the day.
Ilana Organics’ All-Time Moisturiser is a great option for a day-time moisturiser.
In the nighttime you can opt for a moisturiser that contains ingredients such as Retinol. It is also a good idea to opt for a heavier and thicker cream as opposed to the lighter option you may use during the day.
Juicy Chemistry’s Sandalwood & Myrrh Organic Night Cream is a great night cream for drier skin types.
Coccoon’s Repairing Night Cream is a great night cream for other skin types.
Which type of moisturiser works for which skin type?
If you have oily skin, it is a good idea to opt for a lightweight or gel moisturiser. If you opt for something too rich it may break you out. Look for moisturisers that have labels such as ‘oil-free’ and ‘non-comedogenic’. Humectants such as Glycerin and Hyaluronic Acid are great ingredients.
Sukin’s Oil Balancing Mattifying Facial Moisturiser is a great choice for oily skin. To know more about which moisturiser you should pick for oily and acne-prone skin, head over to this article.
For people with dry skin, you need a relatively richer cream that adds moisture and locks it in. For people with oily skin, it does happen that their natural oils help trap the moisture but that does not happen for drier skin types.
Sukin’s Super Greens Nutrient Rich Facial Moisturiser is a great option for dry skin.
If some parts of your skin are tight and dry and other parts are oily, it means you have combination skin. Such a skin type indicates your skin is trying to balance itself. Look for moisturisers that contain Ceramides.
Zyna’s Daily Defence Anti-Pollution Cream is a great choice for combination skin.
For people with normal skin, opt for a moisturiser that has a mix of emollients and humectants.
Coccoon’s Restoring Day Cream is a great option.
What are some common moisturiser myths?
- If you have oily skin you do not need a moisturiser: Skipping out on a moisturiser can cause overproduction of oil to compensate for the lack of moisture and cause a range of problems such as acne. Moisturise no matter what your skin type is!
- The more you moisturise the more hydrated your skin will be: If you use too much product, it might just sit on top of your skin, clog your pores, and cause breakouts or greasiness.
If your moisturiser contains SPF your skin is protected: This is not true at all. While SPF in a moisturiser is great, the protection it offers is nowhere near as good as what one can get from a proper sunscreen. So do not skip your sunscreen!
- The heavier the cream, the better the moisturiser: The consistency of the moisturiser does not determine its efficacy. Choose a moisturiser according to your skin type for best results.
- You should apply moisturiser to dry skin: Products such as moisturisers absorb better when your skin is slightly damp.
Moisturisers are an important part of everyday skincare and, irrespective of how simple you like to keep your routine, you have to moisturise. It may seem like a very simple product but daily use of a moisturiser can really work wonders for your skin. So be sure to never skip on moisturiser, even if you have oily skin!
- Gauri Sindhu