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How to moisturise your skin right

Is your skin dry or dehydrated? Do you need a cream-based or a gel-based moisturiser? What acids help moisturise the skin? Two skincare experts answer your questions

With winter around the corner, it’s important to lock in on the right moisturiser based on your skin type. (iStock)
With winter around the corner, it’s important to lock in on the right moisturiser based on your skin type. (iStock)

With more time to spend at home, many of us are spending a few extra minutes on self-care and wellness now, or following elaborate skincare routines involving multiple steps. Having a well-moisturised face as the base with no dry patches is crucial for a flawless natural look. And with winter around the corner, it’s important to lock in on the right moisturiser, based on your skin type.

Is your skin dry or dehydrated?

“Dry skin is a skin type (like oily and combination skin) and is more of a genetic condition, which worsens with a bad lifestyle. It’s not just the face that feels dry but your arms and legs too. The skin gets irritated easily as its protective barrier is compromised. Dehydrated skin can also happen if you have an oily skin type and can lead to dry patches on the skin,” says dermatologist Dr. Madhuri Agarwal, founder of Yavana Aesthetics Clinic, Mumbai. In case of dry skin, it’s the lipids that are lacking in your skin and the problem worsens with lifestyle factors, such as not using SPF or using the wrong products.

Dehydrated skin means your skin lacks water. Dry skin feels rough and can appear flaky while dehydrated skin looks dull, feels tight and rough, can be sensitive and show signs of ageing like sagging, deep wrinkles and fine lines, says Dr. Geetika Mittal Gupta, founder and medical director at ISAAC Luxe, New Delhi. “Dehydrated skin could also be a result of frequent hot showers, improper skin routine or just the environment. It is one of the major causes of ageing,” she adds.

The search for moisture

A moisturiser is not the only thing that moisturises your skin, it rather supplements your skin's moisture levels by locking in moisture and/or by preventing water loss. “Applying a moisturiser creates a barrier on your skin that keeps oils and water from escaping and harmful outside elements from causing dryness or irritation,” says Dr. Gupta.

Just like there are different skin types, there are different kinds of moisturisers too. “Moisturiser is an umbrella term used for a product that holds moisture and keeps the skin hydrated. The difference lies in the formula and the benefits they provide. [In moisturising terms], humectants pull in the water from the atmosphere, occlusives are thicker and act as a seal that protects the moisture in the skin. Emollients help repair and soften the skin. Moisturisers may contain all of these,” says Dr. Agarwal.

People with normal skin need a light moisturiser that contains natural oils, those with dry skin may require heavier lotions with humectants to lock in moisture. Those with oily skin should use oil-free, non-comedogenic moisturisers, which won't clog the pores.

Dr. Gupta says if the first ingredient on the label is water, it is a water-based moisturiser. If the first ingredient is an oil, such as jojoba oil or sweet almond oil, it is an oil-based moisturiser, which may refer to a thick cream, ointment, body butter, or face or body oil. Other common occlusive ingredients are cetyl alcohol, lanolin, beeswax, mineral oil, silicones and petrolatum. Emollients (which form a film and fill in the space between dead cells) include nourishing ingredients like shea and cocoa butter, ceramides, fatty acids, esters and oatmeal. Common humectants include hyaluronic acid (which is naturally present in the skin), urea, glycerin, seaweed, aloe vera, propylene glycol, sugar alcohols (glycerol and sorbitol), honey, molasses, egg white and yolk, ceramides, and alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs like lactic acid are hydrating and exfoliating). If you have sensitive skin, look for a moisturizer labeled hypoallergenic.

“The ingredients are more or less the same, what differs is the way they are delivered and the percentages and concentration,” says Dr. Agarwal.

Ingredients to look for

In addition to the ingredients above, you should also look out for ceramides in your moisturiser. “Ceramides are lipids that help form the skin’s barrier and retain moisture. They also help protect against environmental aggressors like irritants and pollution,” says Dr. Gupta.

Another favourite is niacinamide, a water-soluble vitamin that works with the natural substances in the skin to help visibly minimise enlarged pores, tighten lax pores, improve uneven skin tone, soften fine lines and wrinkles, diminish dullness, and strengthen a weakened surface. It’s versatile for almost any skin care concern and skin type.

If you struggle with dry skin, topical application of niacinamide has been shown to boost the hydrating ability of moisturisers. Unlike vitamin C, niacinamide is a stable ingredient that works with common moisturising ingredients such as glycerin, non-fragrant plant oils, cholesterol, sodium PCA, and sodium hyaluronate.

Whatever you do, your skin needs nourishment from within, too. “Dry skin needs zinc, which is available in green vegetables. Dehydrated skin tends to lose protein very easily, so have cottage cheese, pulses or chicken. Drink enough water daily,” says Dr. Agarwal.

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