by Brian Goodwin, Esthetician
Though it is common knowledge that applying moisturizer is a critical step in any skin care routine, knowing the reason why is not as common.
Just as keeping the body hydrated internally is essential to overall wellness, maintaining moisture in skin is also paramount, as moisturization enhances the skin barrier, helping it withstand negative environmental stressors such as weather change, ultraviolet light exposure, and pollution. By enhancing the skin barrier through moisturization, its resistance to damage and sensitization is also increased.
With countless moisturizers on the market and a range of different skin types, it can be difficult to know which moisturizer to recommend for clients' unique needs. Understanding the difference between dry versus dehydrated skin and the best types of moisturizers for various skin types and concerns can assist in making the best moisturizer recommendations for clients.
Moisturizing skin benefits all skin types and conditions, including the oiliest of skin. Though each skin type requires different moisture levels due to varying density of sebaceous glands, they all benefit from the hydrating effects of a good moisturizer. It is important to first identify a client's skin type.
DRY VS. DEHYDRATED
Dehydrated and dry skin are often thought of as one and the same; however, there are key distinctions between the two. Dry skin is typically an innate state of skin due to a lack of sebum production and natural oils. If a client has dry skin, it is likely that they have had long-term dryness. Though dry skin typically cannot be immediately changed, improvements can be made through topical products.
On the other hand, dehydrated skin is usually a state caused by lack of water in skin. Signs that clients' skin is dehydrated include itchiness, tightness, dullness, redness, and fine lines and wrinkles. Unlike dry skin, dehydrated skin can almost always be rapidly improved with topical skin care and lifestyle changes, such as changing dietary habits, decreasing stress levels, and increasing water intake. Dehydrated skin can be more difficult to detect as it can also be oily at the same time. When skin lacks hydration, the sebaceous glands compensate by producing oily, waxy excess sebum that can result in shiny, congested skin.
As a side note, skin may also be dry and dehydrated at the same time, requiring a multipronged approach using various types of moisturizers.
There are three categories of moisturizers. Humectants attract water molecules from the air and into the top layer of skin. Humectants are like microscopic humidifiers that can be absorbed throughout the epidermis, keeping it supple and hydrated. Humectants include ingredients like hyaluronic acid, honey, and aloe vera.
Emollients are categorized as butters, oils, lipids, and fatty acids which help fill in the cracks and seals of skin's surface to provide a smooth, soft complexion. Emollients usually take the form of lotions or creams and can include ingredients like ceramides, jojoba oil, and vitamin E.
Occlusives provide a thicker barrier on the surface of skin to protect against water loss from the epidermis and can be thought of as a protective topcoat. They are especially beneficial for ultra-dry skin types, as they take the place of the missing oils that should be produced by skin and help to seal in humectants to prevent water from evaporating. Examples of occlusives include thicker oils and butters like coconut oil or mango butter and waxes like beeswax. Each skin type has different needs, and it is important to recognize these to select the best moisturizer for clients.
Clients with clinically dry skin lack lipids, so look for a richer moisturizer with higher emollient and occlusive ingredient content to further enhance skin's barrier. This will help prevent and lessen the appearance of redness, blotchiness, and discoloration.
Combination skin presents a unique challenge as there are different types of oil secretion throughout, which is reflected by various pore sizes on the face. A balancing moisturizer is recommended for clients with combination skin to create an even and toned complexion. Some clients find success in using two different moisturizers throughout zones of the face to control oil where necessary and increase lipids in dry areas.
If a client has sensitive skin prone to redness and irritation, look for a moisturizer that is balancing and calming. Moisturizers with natural and organic ingredients like chamomile, aloe vera, or zinc are recommended to soothe and treat sensitive skin while still protecting the moisture barrier. These skin types should especially avoid products with artificial fragrances and colors.
For clients with oily or problematic skin, stick to a lightweight and mattifying moisturizer. The goal is to control oil and minimize the look of pores, so a moisturizer with a lightweight gel or cream-gel consistency with hydrating, soothing ingredients like cucumber, tea tree oil, and stone crop would be best.
How skin is prepared before applying a moisturizer is just as important as choosing the right moisturizer, and exfoliation is a key preparation step. As aging occurs, the epidermis thickens, making it more difficult for hydrating ingredients to penetrate skin. Exfoliating one to two times a week will remove dead skin cells to make ingredient absorption more efficient. Additionally, incorporating an essence into a client's routine can increase the hydrating benefits of the moisturizer and make application easier.
DAYTIME VS. NIGHTTIME
Implementing a day and night moisturizer into a skin care routine can benefit all skin types. Night creams have a heavier texture due to increased lipid content and include more hydrating and restorative ingredients. During sleep, skin produces up to 50% less oil and undergoes transformative repairing processes where the epidermis becomes more penetrable. This allows ingredients commonly found in nighttime moisturizers to become easily absorbed, resulting in healthier, more hydrated skin in the morning.
Ultimately, it is incredibly important to incorporate both a daytime and nighttime moisturizer into a client's everyday skin care routine to ensure that skin is hydrated and healthy. When recommending the most optimal moisturizer for a client, it is essential to first understand what skin type they have, and then choose a moisturizer that will work in harmony with their skin concerns. Though it may seem like the simplest step in any skin care routine, moisturizers are crucial and when done correctly, assist in achieving the glowing, youthful, radiant skin everyone desires.
Brian Goodwin is an award-winning international educator for Eminence Organic Skin Care. As a master aesthetician, master herbalist, and consultant, Goodwin leverages over 10 years of spa industry experience to bring fun, engaging education to spa professionals around the world.