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When it comes to skin care products, you might be surprised to discover that despite what most people commonly believe, skin moisturizer is a highly undervalued skin care product.  In fact, moisturizer might be the most important part of your entire skin care routine.

Considering how vital it is, you don’t want to simply grab the cheapest bottle of moisturizer you can find on the drugstore shelf.  As an investment in your skin’s health, it’s well worth the time and effort to find a great moisturizer that’s best suited for your particular skin type.

Here’s a list of the best tips and advice for finding the right moisturizer for both your skin type and your budget:

Find the Right Moisturizer for Your Skin Type

Why Daily Moisturizing Is So Important

Age, weather and the environment are a triple threat that regularly attacks and strips moisture from your skin’s surface.  Dry skin, resulting from a lack of moisture, makes it difficult for new skin cells to regenerate and replace older, dead cells. As a result, chronically dry skin is more prone to fine lines and wrinkles due to reduced elasticity.

If you suffer from acne, a common inclination is to think that moisturizer will only clog your pores and create additional blemishes. In reality, the right moisturizer acts as an effective barrier, protecting your skin from dirt and other pollutants that can cause irritation and acne breakouts.

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Matching Moisturizer To Skin Type

All skin needs moisture, but not all moisturizers are created equal.  In order to determine the right moisturizer, the first step is to properly diagnose your skin type. 

All you’ll need is a few sheets of tissue paper and a couple minutes of your time to determine your skin type.  Wash your face carefully, pat it dry and after about an hour, examine your face in the mirror and use tissue paper to do a quick blotting test. Pressing the tissue paper to different areas of your face, forehead, nose, chin and cheeks, you can determine your skin type, based on how much oil the paper has picked up. 

If oil is revealed on the tissue after blotting the shiny-looking areas but not in the areas that appear dry, then you have combination skin.  If your skin is dry, the tissue paper will be clean, but your facial skin will feel dry, flaky and tight after wiping it.  If your skin is normal, the tissue will usually not reveal any traces of oil at all.  Sensitive skin typically won’t reveal oil after a blotting test either because it tends to be very dry and tight as well.

Oily Skin

If you have oily skin, the paper will have more pronounced spots of facial oil on it, in the T-Zone area in particular (nose, forehead and chin) but also on your cheeks as well.  The main consideration for oily skin, especially if you have acne, is avoiding oil-based moisturizers that can clog pores.

  • Choose a water-based product, preferably a gel or lotion, which is lightweight but provides plenty of moisture.
  • The term “noncomedogenic” indicates that a product is free of oils and other ingredients that cause comedones, which are clogged hair follicles, resulting in whiteheads or blackheads.

Dry Skin

If you have dry skin, you are safe to use either oil-based or water-based moisturizers compared to someone with oily skin. However, persistently dry skin tends to respond better to a heavier, oil-based product that compensates for the inadequate amount of natural moisture.  Other important considerations for selecting a moisturizer for dry skin:

  • The inclusion of emollients like lanolin and shea butter will add a silky richness that helps the skin absorb the moisturizer more readily.
  • While hyaluronic acid has benefits for all skin types, it’s very useful in moisturizers for dry skin in particular because of its ability to inhibit moisture loss.

Combination Skin

Combination skin includes characteristics of both oily and dry skin. Oil in combination skin is usually found in the T-zone, with the cheeks tending to be dry or normal. Use the guidelines for oily skin and apply a water-based moisturizer to the T-zone area.  You can supplement your application for the drier, scalier cheek areas with an oil-based moisturizer, but only if necessary.

Normal Skin

Normal skin will feel vibrant, elastic, and supple and is the least problematic of all skin types, almost always appearing very clean and smooth. Even with minimal care, normal skin will typically look great well into your older years.  With normal skin, there really are no specific restrictions or limitations for selecting a moisturizer.  In general, normal skin types will benefit from using the lighter, water-based moisturizers during the summer and possibly a heavier, oil-based moisturizer for the drier, winter months.

Sensitive Skin

There are no hard and fast rules for diagnosing sensitive skin, but in general, sensitive skin can be defined as any skin type that becomes easily inflamed or irritated.  Typically, sensitive skin develops reddish, dry, scaly areas, can be tingly and itchy, and is prone to breaking into spots.

  • Fragrance is one of the more common irritants to sensitive skin. Make sure you look for a moisturizer labeled as fragrance-free. Products that are labeled as “unscented” can still include fragrant ingredients used to counteract other scents.
  • Preservatives, which are used in products containing oil and water to prevent bacteria and fungi, often trigger allergic reactions. If your skin is sensitive to these ingredients, you can find a number of high quality, organic and preservative-free moisturizers.
  • Don’t choose a moisturizer simply because it’s labeled as hypoallergenic. There are no Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations governing the hypoallergenic term, so it effectively serves more as a marketing tool than an accurate designation.

Where Does Moisturizer Fit Into Your Budget?

Moisturizers, like all cosmetics and skin care products, come with a lot of fashionable brand names and slick marketing campaigns, which are not necessarily a reliable indicator of quality.  Above all, keep your focus on the type and quality of ingredients in the product you’re considering. You can find a number of effective moisturizers for your skin type that won’t break the bank here:

General Moisturizing Tips

  • The damaging effects of ultraviolet rays on skin are well documented. Your daytime moisturizer should always include a sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 15.
  • Body lotion should never be used as a facial moisturizer. Your facial skin, in particular, is thinner and more delicate than the rest of your skin. Using a thick body lotion that lacks the ingredients necessary for your face can actually do more harm than good.
  • Apply moisturizer to your neck as well as your face. The skin in the neck area is also thin and susceptible to dryness and wrinkles.
  • Your skin should always be clean before moisturizing. Apply immediately after cleansing to take advantage of your skin’s dampness, which facilitates absorption of the moisturizer.
  • No matter how much a moisturizer costs or how much is left in the container, discontinue use immediately if it causes breakouts, rashes, burning or any other signs of irritation.

Regardless of your skin type, finding the right moisturizer and using it consistently is the foundation for any effective skin care program. Well-hydrated skin resists the effects of aging and creates a barrier to dirt, pollutants and other debris that can cause blemishes. 

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