Mad About Moisturizers

A solution for every skin type
By Kate Hanley

You’ve pulled your sweaters from the back of the closet, polished your boots, and dusted off your coat collection. But have you also remembered to winterize your moisturizer? Just as cold-weather clothes insulate you from freezing temperatures, your moisturizer protects your face from the drier, harsher air of winter. Wearing the same moisturizer year-round is the equivalent of showing up to ski in a tank top and shorts—likely to leave you overexposed and underprotected.

Although spending 10 minutes in a whipping wind can make you think the cold itself is the culprit of drier winter skin, the true cause is different. “The biggest outside influence on your skin is the humidity level,” explains Barbara Close, author of Pure Skin (Chronicle Books, 2005) and founder of Naturopathica Holistic Health Spa in East Hampton, New York. As the temperature falls, humidity falls with it. And the colder the weather outside, the higher you have to crank up the heat, which causes indoor air to dry out even further. As a result your skin’s need for moisture increases in the winter, particularly on your face where exposure is greatest and your skin is most delicate.

Moisturizer 101
Moisturizer provides two basic types of protection: occlusive and humectant. Occlusives form a seal on the skin that locks existing moisture in. Natural examples include beeswax, nut and seed oils, and shea butter. Humectants, such as honey, seaweed, and glycerin, draw moisture from the atmosphere into the skin. While you can still find moisturizers that have either humectant or occlusive properties, “a good moisturizer will have humectants to attract moisture and occlusives to seal it in,” says Close. “Look for one that has both.” From there, find a combination that suits your skin type and includes only natural ingredients. “A basic rule of thumb to follow when choosing a skincare product: Don’t put it on your skin if you wouldn’t put it in your mouth,” says David Simon, MD, co-founder of The Chopra Center, an ayurvedic spa, in Carlsbad, California. “Anything you put on your skin will be absorbed within 20 to 30 minutes. It’s not evaporating. It’s going into the different tissue layers of your body.”

Dry skin
Dry skin feels tight after cleansing, tends to wrinkle, and may even get to the point where it starts flaking. If you have dry skin and/or live in an arid climate, look for a product with heavier occlusives, such as oils or butters derived from almond, avocado, or sesame.

Sensitive skin
If you blush easily or your skin gets blotchy after being exposed to a cold wind, your sensitive skin needs gentle care. Look for products that contain soothing, anti-inflammatory ingredients such as coconut oil, olive oil, German chamomile, or lavender.

Oily skin
With its tendency to be thick and have larger pores, oily skin may be prone to breakouts. Although people with oily skin require a lighter, less occlusive moisturizer, it’s not necessary to completely eliminate oil from your skincare routine. “Your skin produces oil to protect itself from the environment,” explains Simon. “If you remove all oils from the skin, you can become more prone to bacterial infection,” which can only make acne worse, he says. Look for a moisturizer with a lighter, more stimulating emollient such as sunflower or safflower seed oil, and a greater emphasis on humectants. When you try a new product for the first time, trust the reaction of your skin more than you trust the marketing copy on the box. “You want to use the smallest amount of the lightest oil your skin tells you it needs,” Simon says.

Timing and technique
Simply choosing the right product isn’t enough. You also have to consider timing. Apply moisturizer right after cleansing and before applying SPF or makeup, says Wilma Bergfeld, MD, head of clinical research for the dermatology department at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation. “Moisturizing right after showering or washing your face will trap some of the moisture from the water,” Bergfeld says. How you apply your moisturizer is also important, she says. “Rub the product in gently, as too much pulling on the skin can induce wrinkles, especially around the eyes.”

Kate Hanley is a freelance writer whose sensitive skin just barely tolerates the brisk Brooklyn winters.


Healthy Hydration
We loved these moisturizers made from naturally derived ingredients. Consider them the equivalent of a new winter coat for your face.

Oily skin
MyChelle Grapefruit Cream
This light, fresh-smelling lotion contains the humectant glycerin and several emollients derived from coconuts to keep skin moist without trapping too much oil on the skin. It also contains organic essential oils—such as pink grapefruit and rosemary—for their antibacterial and antimicrobial properties. $27.95 for 1.2 oz.; mychelleusa.com

Sensitive skin
Dr. Andrew Weil for Origins Plantidote Mega-Mushroom Face Cream
Specifically designed to reduce inflammation, this hydrating cream contains Hypsizygus ulmarius, Chaga mushrooms, and turmeric—all hailed for their anti-inflammatory abilities—as well as extracts of Okinawan seaweed, a humectant.
($60 for 1.7 oz; origins.com)

Dry skin
Pratima Skincare Rejuvenating Pearl Cream
From a New York City ayurvedic spa, this cream contains a powder made from pearls, which are hailed in ayurveda for their ability to heal and strengthen skin.
($23 for 2 oz; pratimaskincare.com)

All-purpose moisturizers
Naturopathica Crème Cassis Bio Amino Replenishment Cream
Richly moisturizing without feeling heavy. Contains black currant oil, an occlusive high in essential fatty acids; natural hyaluronic acid, a powerful humectant; and the antioxidant vitamin B.
($85 for 1.7 oz; naturopathica.com)

Osea Advanced Protection Cream
This lavish cream gets its occlusive properties from avocado, jojoba, and macadamia nut oil, and it’s high price tag from DPHP, a plant-based amino acid that firms, tightens, and draws moisture to the skin. Designed to be multipurpose, it can be used on face, eyes, and lips. This rich lotion is appropriate for all skin types, but if you have an oily complexion and it feels heavy on your skin, use only at night so it can absorb as you sleep.
($96 for 2 oz; oseaskin.com)

derma e’s Hyaluronic Acid Night Crème

Perfect for rehydrating dry, thirsty skin, this extra-rich, deeply-penetrating crème delivers maximum moisture while plumping to help diminish the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles for hydrated, younger looking skin.
($29.50 for 2 oz
; dermae.com)