How to Get the Most Out of Moisturizing
In order to give new Vegan Milk Moisturizer (our first-ever cream moisturizer!) a proper welcome, we thought we’d do a deep dive into the art of moisturizing. When should you do it? How much is too much? Do you even need to moisturize if you’ve got oily skin? These are all questions that we’ll be answering in a series of stories dedicated to keeping your skin hydrated and feeling good.
by Freya Drohan
When someone asks you the awkward party conversation starter – what five items would you bring to a desert island and why – have you ever turned around and said, “Ummm, moisturizer?”
When it comes to fantasizing about the essentials that you would bring to a far-flung remote island, SkinSpa New York esthetician Stacey Kaplan said forget a WiFi router, packing a moisturizer is of the utmost importance.
“Moisturizer and sunscreen are definitely up there,” Kaplan states. “When combined, they provide protection from harmful UV rays and environmental elements such as harsh winds, dry climate, or lack of water.”
Island life or not, finding your perfect moisturizer match is the skincare equivalent of turning on your OOO, booking a one-way flight, and never looking back. Consider this your moisturizing cheat sheet and never feel lost during this skincare step ever again.
What to do before you moisturize…
While moisturizer is a holy grail staple, it’s not as simple as slapping it on, saying a prayer to the skincare gods, and hoping for the best.
Even though its literal ‘you had one job’ is to hydrate, applying product to skin that’s drier than a martini isn’t going to work.
To ensure you’re actually getting the benefits, first exfoliate with a gentle alpha hydroxy acid, like lactic acid, at least twice a week. This will allow hydrating formulas to better penetrate and give you the glow you deserve.
How and when do I apply moisturizer?
Now that your skin is prepped and ready for that *tall glass of water* in product format, consider your method. The perfect time to apply moisturizer is when your skin is still damp, as this locks in the hydration. Kaplan likes to “tap” in the product onto the surface of the skin, before massaging it in.
Those beauty YouTubers who you see rubbing their moisturizer between their palms before applying it? That’s just wasteful TBH. “By warming it in your hands, you end up moisturizing your hands more than your face and end up losing a lot of product,” Kaplan says. “When you massage it directly into your face, you increase absorption. Plus it feels nice!”
Nurse Gigi, aka licensed aesthetician Genevieve Vielbig, advises applying moisturizer in an upward motion using gentle strokes. “It’s best practice to apply [a dime-sized amount] to the back of your hand, then distribute the product evenly to your forehead, cheeks, nose, chin, and neck,” she says.
How do you layer your hydrating products?
When layering serums and boosters and oils, the rule of thumb is to apply them in order of thinnest to thickest. “Start with a cleanser – it can be an oil cleanser if you prefer – then toner, eye cream, serum, moisturizer, and lastly SPF if it’s daytime,” Kaplan says. “By layering this way, you allow the thinnest or smallest molecule to absorb instead of just sitting on your face.”
What happens when you don’t use moisturizer?
If you fail to moisturize your skin, you run the risk of experiencing common complaints like rashes, acne, and dermatitis. Kaplan states: “By not using moisturizer, there is nothing protecting your skin from the environment. I see this in clients who use very drying products or clients who are oily and don’t think they need to moisturize at all. It leaves the skin looking red and blistered and can even cause acne due to continuous irritation.”
Nurse Gigi adds that other potential problems include pimples, rapid aging, and dullness. She says: “In individuals with dry skin, not properly moisturizing the skin can lead to deeper fine lines over time, leaving your skin looking dull and dehydrated. For people with oily skin, it will start overproducing oil to compensate for the lack of moisture, sometimes causing breakouts.”
Because dealing with irritation is not on our list of preferred winter hobbies, Vegan Milk Moisturizer is formulated not only to be deeply hydrating but to simultaneously soothe sensitive winter skin thanks to oat milk, which calms and comforts like a pro. (BTW, 100% of people said that Vegan Milk Moisturizer is non-irritating and feels gentle on skin. Nice.*)
TL;DR: Whether your skin is oily or dry, please moisturize no matter what.
What moisturizer should people with oily skin use?
Not hydrating your oily complexion? That’s a hard no from Kaplan. When it comes to keeping things under control, it’s all about the right product as opposed to not using any product.
“If you are on the oily side, moisturizing will counter your own oils to create homeostasis: When you put oils on to oily skin it tricks the skin into thinking it’s already produced oil, therefore producing less naturally,” Kaplan explains.
“Because of the excess oil being produced, most oily skin types should reach for a water-based moisturizer. Something lightweight and fast-absorbing will make them feel less greasy,” she adds.
How do I know if my moisturizer is working?
Do you own more products than a French pharmacy? Here’s how to find the one that works. “Your moisturizer should not make you look or feel oily,” Kaplan says. “A good moisturizer will be easy to apply, fast to absorb, and give your skin a softer feel. If it’s leaving you too shiny or too slippery to the touch, it may be too heavy.”
“Your skin should look plumper, with reduced skin creases and dehydration. If it’s not doing that for you, it’s not working properly.”
Nurse Gigi adds that in an ideal world, your skin should feel “less tight, less dry, and makeup should look seamless on top.”
If you’ve found your soul mate in moisturizer format and it’s running low, Kaplan says to extend its life by adding a few drops of lightweight oil.
Hydration hacks from the experts.
When it comes to boosting hydration, Nurse Gigi’s got some hacks. Drinking at least eight glasses of water is the skincare expert’s equivalent advice to doctors preaching that patients should eat an apple a day.
Unfortunately, chugging H2O won’t give you the glow-up you deserve if you don’t team it with a dedicated hydrating skincare approach too. “Consistency with any skincare regime is key,” Nurse Gigi says. “Use a moisturizer both morning and night. Moisturizer is best applied after any serums in the morning followed by sunscreen and makeup if needed, and at bedtime after your retinol or serum.”
She also warns against using saunas and steam rooms if your skin is on the dehydrated side.
As for Nurse Gigi’s own desert island essential, she’s got one non-negotiable in mind. “The ‘magic bullet’ in the winter is to use a humidifier at home and in the office to keep the skin’s barrier intact,” she recommends. “Much of the dehydration that our skin endures is because of the dry, cold air outdoors and the overheated indoor environments.”
Kaplan suggests treating yourself to a super hydrating facial. On a budget? She recommends stocking up on a refreshing, hydrating facial mist and spritzing your face during the day, particularly if you’re wearing makeup. Alternatively, investing in a facial steamer to keep at home is another solid choice.
So while nailing the perfect routine in your day-to-day life often seems like a concept as far away as that desert island, staying hydrated will at least help to create some semblance of balance when it comes to your skin.
*In a consumer perception study.
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