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Shea Keaveney

What Moisturiser Is Best For Dry Skin?

The average British woman spends £570 a year on skincare, with moisturiser being the most commonly purchased product but how much attention are you paying to the ingredients in your products?

Choosing the right moisturiser for your skin is much more intricate than it may sound, and spending lots of money on the latest ‘must have’ moisturiser may not be best!

Dry Skin

Why do we get dry skin?

Sufferers may experience tight, dehydrated and/or flaky skin that may even become sore. Moreover, dry skin can be quite difficult to cover up and using makeup to achieve this may actually make the problem worse.

When trying to fix dry skin we need to be concerned with the water content of our top layer of skin. Our face’s outer-most layer of skin is called the stratum corneum. The stratum corneum is composed of dead skin cells that act as a protective layer to the living skin cells below. Dry skin occurs when this protective layer shrinks as a result of water deprivation. As this layer shrinks and tightens against the living skin below, it forces cracks in the stratum corneum which produces what we would refer to as flakiness. 

Factors that can trigger dry skin

Factors that can cause water loss in your skin include dry air, hot weather, exposure to harsh chemicals in skincare products, smoking and conditions such as psoriasis. It is also thought that the temperature of your shower can be a causal factor. Dr. Harry Dao recommends taking lukewarm baths and showers as overly hot washes can dry out skin, especially in winter.

Makeup can also be a cause of dry skin, and if you already have dry skin then applying makeup could make your skin even drier. If this is a problem for you try using products specifically designed for dry skin.

Moisturiser for dry skin

So to eliminate dry skin, which ingredients should you look out for?

Humectants: A humectant is a moisturising agent that helps to retain moisture. So how do they do this? Heather L. Brannon – a physician for over 20 years – explains, “Humectants work by pulling water from the dermis (the second layer of skin) to the epidermis (the top layer of skin). This process increases the level of moisture in the stratum corneum, the layer of dead cells that comprise the outermost crust of the epidermis.” Humectant ingredients can be either natural or synthetic. Examples of natural ingredients that act as humectants include glycerin, hyaluronic acid, aloe vera, alpha hydroxy acid. Whilst synthetic humectants such as butylene glycol and sodium PCA can serve the same purpose, they don’t provide any nutrients to the skin like natural ingredients.

Emollients: An emollient works by filling cracks, that are caused by dry skin, with fatty substances that make your skin smoother and softer. This process helps to restore the skin’s natural barrier. This means emollients may be particularly useful to older age groups whose protective barrier has naturally depleted with age. Examples of emollients include Shea butter, cocoa butter and plant oils.

If you suffer from severely dry skin you may want to consider using a thicker moisturiser. Nazanin Saedi, a board-certified dermatologist, recommends people who suffer from conditions such as eczema should try using a cream as opposed to a lightweight gel. He states that ‘in general, the thicker the product, the more moisturising it is.’ Examples of these thick moisturising agents include: Shea butter, Vitamin E and Squalane oils.

Ingredients to avoid for dry skin

We recommend sticking to natural ingredients in your moisturiser as some synthetic ingredients may cause your skin to lose its moisture.

INGREDIENTS TO AVOID: Alcohol, Sulfates, Parabens, Phthalates, Benzoyl Peroxide.

One of the main ingredients to be aware of is alcohol. As board-certified dermatologist Kristin M. Baird suggests, it can make the skin drier than it already is, as it counteracts the degreasing effect of the skin.

It is also important to consider your whole skincare routine to ensure you are avoiding all ingredients that can cause dry skin. One ingredient group that is commonly found in soaps and face washes is sulfates. Companies use sulfates in products to act as a cleanser but also to help create that soft, foamy lather. One of the most common sulfates found in soaps is Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS). SLS strips the skin of its natural oils which can be highly problematic for those that already suffer from a lack of moisture in the skin. Whilst sulfates aren’t commonly found in moisturisers, we recommend using sulfate-free products before moisturising. 


Moisturisers for other skin types

Moisturiser for sensitive skin

We recommend choosing a moisturiser with fewer ingredients. California dermatologist Sonia Badreshia-Bansal, MD, advises “In general, choose one that contains less than 10 ingredients." The fewer ingredients a product contains, the less chance there is of coming into contact with a potential irritant.

Additionally, as sensitive skin is more reactive to chemicals we recommend trying to steer clear of synthetic ingredients. One of the most common reasons for using synthetic ingredients in skincare products is to create an attractive scent. These ingredients can be listed in the ingredients simply as fragrance. However fragrance is a common problem for those with sensitive skin. Dr Marchbein supports this by saying “If you have sensitive skin, you know how hard it is to find skin-care products that you not only tolerate but that feel good on the skin. For those with skin sensitivities, I recommend using fragrance-free products and being cautious with any product or chemical/ingredient that may exacerbate irritation or inflammation." For this reason we would recommend choosing a moisturiser with no added fragrance or a natural scent.

INGREDIENTS TO INCLUDE: Aloe Vera, Chamomile extract, Shea butter, Squalane.

INGREDIENTS TO AVOID: Alcohol, Fragrance, Sulfates, Apricot kernels.

Moisturiser for oily/acne-prone skin

If you suffer from oily skin the last thing you want to add to your skin is more oil. Instead try a lightweight moisturiser that is water-based. Lana Pinchasov, a dermatology-certified physician’s assistant in New York City, states “When you’re feeling dehydrated, you drink water so your body can rehydrate, and the skin uses water to rehydrate, too. Applying a water-based moisturizer helps your skin lock in moisture and replenish nutrients. And since water doesn’t stick to the skin like oil does, it prevents it from filling pores and causing breakouts.”

It is vital that those with acneic skin choose products that won’t clog pores as this is probably an issue they already suffer from. Substances that don’t clog pores are called non-comedogenic. Examples of ingredients that are non-comedogenic include: Sulphur, grapeseed oil, sunflower oil and sweet almond oil.

INGREDIENTS TO INCLUDE: Sulfur, Grapeseed oil, Sunflower oil and Sweet almond oil.

INGREDIENTS TO AVOID: Sodium lauryl sulfate, Silicones, Alcohol, Fragrance, Isopropyl Myristate.




Hopefully our guide to choosing a moisturiser will help you fix your skin issues. Whilst there is no one-size-fits-all approach, there is a common theme of synthetic ingredients being problematic regardless of your skin type. Here at Kokoa, we are advocates of using natural ingredients in all our products and would always advise you to purchase moisturisers that contain natural ingredients. Why not try swapping your fragrance loaded lotions for honey and humectants the next time you’re replacing your moisturiser. 

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