Interpreting Moisturizer Ingredients Lists: What to Look For

What ingredients should be in your moisturizer? Here's how to read that label. Pick a moisturizer with the right ingredients for your skin.

Moisturizer Ingredients For Healthier Skin

When you are shopping the aisles of your local Walgreens, Rite Aid or CVS, make sure to bring your reading glasses. Reading the large print on the front of the label will often give you only the broad promises that face cream marketers believe will catch your eye. Instead, you can get past the empty promises and right to the facts of your face moisturizer by reading the ingredients list and understanding what the components of your face cream can actually do for you. The best drugstore face moisturizers will contain certain key ingredients to deliver what you are looking for just as effectively as the more expensive brands.

Key Ingredients in the Best Drugstore Face Moisturizers

Water: Because the entire goal of any moisturizer is to add moisture to the skin, the first ingredient on any moisturizer list should be water. It may seem odd to pay for water for your face when it comes out of your faucet for free, but water combined with ingredients to help your skin to retain it, is essential in a moisturizer. Oil doesn’t moisturize, it only promotes a skin barrier to keep your skin’s own moisture, and the water added by the moisturizer itself, inside the skin cells. To maximize this hydrating effect, take advantage of what the best drugstore face moisturizers have to offer by applying your face moisturizer immediately after a shower or bath to trap in as much moisture as possible.

  • Emollients: Emollients are also crucial in a face moisturizer. Emollients are the key ingredient to leave a barrier on the skin to entrap moisture, as well as the other skin-nourishing ingredients in the best drugstore face moisturizers inside your skin cells. Some emollients which may be included in the ingredients list are petrolatum, lanolin, mineral oil, and various plant-based oils such as jojoba and argan oil.
  • Dimethicone: If you are shopping for an oil-free moisturizer, the key emollient to look for is dimethicone, a silicone-based emollient that not only is safe for all skin types, but provides an unbeatable moisture barrier and gives your skin a very smooth feel and appearance.
  • Hyaluronic Acid: The best drugstore face moisturizer should contain hyaluronic acid, just as the more expensive labels. Hyaluronic acid already exists in the human body. It’s part of what keeps our joints—and even our eyeballs—well lubricated. Unfortunately, like many other key skin components, hyaluronic acid in our body becomes depleted as we age. Adding it to a moisturizer helps to give our skin back something essential that it’s been lacking. Hyaluronic acid actually pulls moisture from the humidity in the air around us and feeds it to our skin cells. This is part of what helps younger skin to look so plump and well-hydrated.
  • Glycerin: Glycerin is an important humectant that helps your skin to absorb and retain water. According to a recent study, subjects who treated their skin with a 20 percent glycerin solution saw a significant increase in skin hydration levels.
  • Antioxidants: Antioxidants are powerhouse agents that help your body to fight free-radicals. Because many of the signs of aging in our skin stem from sun exposure, antioxidants can help to fight the skin-damaging free radical cells that come from environmental effects on the skin. The best drugstore face moisturizers will have antioxidants in the list of ingredients, often in the form of plant extracts such as green tea extract and grape extract. It also may be listed as vitamins C and E, or resveratrol or ferulic acid.
  • Ceramides: This is another key ingredient to look for and is often listed on the labels of some of the best drugstore face moisturizers. Ceramides are fats that help to bind the skin cells together to keep them structurally sound and to counteract damage from the environment. Ceramides are another beneficial natural component of younger skin which becomes depleted as we age.

Night Face Moisturizers vs Daytime Moisturizers

It’s also important to consider the different ingredients you need in a daytime moisturizer vs a night time one. The best drugstore face moisturizers for daytime should absolutely contain broad-spectrum SPF sunscreen protection. It’s also generally best to choose a lighter weight moisturizer for daytime, and a thicker, creamier formula for nights when you want deep hydration to replenish your tired skin.

Resources— WebMD, HowStuffWorks, Paula's Choice

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