Choosing a Moisturizer


Hey Face Freaks!

When I first started caring about my skin, right away it was a priority for me to find a lightweight moisturizer that was Caroline Hirons’ methods compliant. I had to ditch an old one I had been using because it had mineral oil derivates in it, but I did like the way it felt—very smooth and fairly thin. As a person with a tendency towards oilier skin, when I feel like I put too many oils or moisturizer on my face, I start to break out—whiteheads pop up.

Everyone’s skin is different though, so how can YOU choose a product that will work well for you? First off I just want to say that queen Caroline has an excellent post that lists common ingredients to look for and ones to avoid by skin care type. Please, have mercy on yourself and get really familiar with good and bad ones for your skin.

Her blog here.


So next, there are many ingredients that formulators use for different effects in a skin care product. And when that product is supposed to increase or maintain the moisture level of your skin, there are common ingredients they will turn to. Sometimes they want it to tackle lower layers of the skin, and sometimes they want it to increase surface hydration. Sometimes they formulate it to address multiple issues. There are three general types of moisturizing categories: occlusives, emollients, and humectants. Some ingredients are good at covering more than one category.

Occlusives: This category is good at preventing water loss. They create a barrier and physically stop water from leaving the top layer of skin. Our non-favorite friends mineral oil and petroleum are occlusives—one of the reasons they make superb hydrators is because they create such a great barrier on the skin, and for other (less sensitive) areas of the body, can be a very helpful moisturizing element. Caroline Hirons often says they’re just cheap fillers, which can block pores: she and many of her clients over the years break out from using them. Another much nicer occlusive is silicone--dimethicone in particular. Brandon Truaxe likes to defend modern silicones. When people tout them as evil plastics he quips that they are actually made from silica, and are amazing, stable, and beautifully uniform in their molecular makeup. They play nice with other ingredients, which is so wonderful from a formulation perspective, because they don’t react to them.

Emollients soften skin by smoothing out the rough top layer of skin. They fill in gaps—no person on earth has perfectly smooth skin—we all have gaps, holes, and textural issues. (Some of us more than others! Ahem!) A good emollient fills in these deficiencies and makes our skin FEEL smoother. They don’t fix anything, but they do make our skin feel better temporarily while using them. Common types are sesame seed oil, grape seed oil, fatty acids: linoleic, oleic, cetyl stearate, stearic, and lauric. Ceramides can also be great emollients. Castor oil and jojoba oil are emollients and occlusives—they fill in gaps and stop moisture loss.

Humectants attract water to the rough outer layer of the skin. Really common ones are glycerin and glycerol, hyaluronic acid, sorbitol, lactic acid, and urea.


I’m going to show you an example of one of my favorite night time hydrators.

Missha Time Revolution Night Repair Borabit Ampoule

Here are its ingredients (crazy long list doesn’t always mean bad):

Water, Bifida Ferment Lysate, Glycereth-26, Juniperus Chinensis Xylem Extract, Sorbus Commixta Extract, Bis-peg-18 Methyl Ether Dimethyl Silane, Butylene Glycol, Glycerin, Niacinamide, Betaine, Leuconostoc Ferment Filtrate, Cyclopentasiloxane, Ethyl Hexanediol, Dimethicone, Grifola Frondosa (maitake)/ophioglossum Vulgatum Extract Ferment Filtrate, Peg-11 Methyl Ether Dimethicone, Peg-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Ppg-26-buteth-26, Polysorbate 20, Carbomer, Glyceryl Caprylate, Triethanolamine, Chamomilla Recutita (matricaria) Flower Extract, Dimethicone/vinyl Dimethicone Crosspolymer, Hydrolyzed Rice Extract, Lactobacillus/rice Ferment Filtrate, Portulaca Oleracea Extract, Sea Water, Sodium Hyaluronate, Octyldodecanol, Carthamus Tinctorius (safflower) Oleosomes, Acacia Arabica Stem Bark Extract, Hydrolyzed Extensin, Adenosine, Xanthan Gum, Aronia Arbutifolia Extract, Beta Vulgaris (beet) Root Extract, Brassica Oleracea Capitata (cabbage) Leaf Extract, Daucus Carota Sativa (carrot) Root Extract, Vaccinium Angustifolium (blueberry) Fruit Extract, Dipropylene Glycol, Echium Plantagineum Seed Oil, Tocopheryl Acetate, Cyclomethicone, Hydrogenated Lecithin, Disodium Edta, Ascorbyl Tetraisopalmitate, Cassia Alata Leaf Extract, Dextrin, Lactobacillus Ferment, Lactococcus Ferment Lysate, Laminaria Digitata Extract, Manilkara Multinervis Leaf Extract, Theobroma Cacao (cocoa) Seed Extract, Lauryl Methacrylate/glycol Dimethacrylate Crosspolymer, Saccharomyces Ferment Filtrate, Lactobacillus/soybean Ferment Extract, Glyceryl Polyacrylate, Saccharomyces/viscum Album (mistletoe) Ferment Extract, Yeast Ferment Extract, Pogostemon Cablin Oil, Dimethiconol, Cardiospermum Halicacabum Flower/leaf/vine Extract, Helianthus Annuus (sunflower) Seed Oil Unsaponifiables, Pseudoalteromonas Ferment Extract, Alpha-glucan Oligosaccharide, Limnanthes Alba (meadowfoam) Seed Oil, Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein, Beta-sitosterol, Panthenol, Hydrolyzed Soy Protein, Propylene Glycol, Cholesterol, Ascorbyl Tetraisopalmitate, Ceteth-24, Choleth-24, Glyceryl Arachidonate, Glyceryl Linoleate, Glyceryl Linolenate, Ubiquinone, Hydroxypropyltrimonium Maltodextrin Crosspolymer, Cetyl Phosphate, Caprylic/capric Triglyceride, Macadamia Ternifolia Seed Oil, Retinol, Lecithin, Phenoxyethanol, Cucumis Melo (melon) Fruit Extract, Amaranthus Caudatus Seed Extract, Biotin, Brassica Campestris (rapeseed) Sterol, Peg-5 Rapeseed Sterol, Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate, Tripeptide-10 Citrulline, Acetyl Hexapeptide-8, Bht, Ceteth-3, Ceteth-5, Copper Tripeptide-1, Silica, Tripeptide-1



There are ingredients from all three categories of moisturizers on this list in bold—some in multiple amounts of varying forms, and I’m sure I’ve missed a ton. I love this product, because it contains all types of hydrators, but also because it’s chock full of other helpful ingredients. It’s a killer all-purpose product for me.

If you have a lovely oil or oil blend that you feel locks in all of the actives you’ve applied prior to it, that’s great! Use it. You may or may not need to use an additional traditional moisturizer over it. Try both ways and see what feels right. Listen to your skin. If you put on one product and you realize you wake up with pores OOZING with oil, you probably didn’t apply something hydrating enough, and your skin had to overcompensate for it.

Try different products, read ingredients, think about your skin, and figure out if you need to go lightweight or heavy duty. There will absolutely be a product that will be wonderful for your skin needs. Please feel free to leave a comment below if you need additional help.


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