These days, everyone wants to know about the latest miracle potion, the trendiest anti-aging laser, or whatever else promises to make you look like you sleep 10 hours a night and graduated from high school 10 years ago. But while there are plenty of great products and procedures out there, one of the best things you can do to make your skin look instantly better is also one of the simplest: moisturize.
“When skin is moisturized, it’s plumper, smoother, and it looks younger,” says Deanne Mraz Robinson, M.D., president and co-founder of Modern Dermatology in Westport, Connecticut. Fun fact: Your skin also looks brighter when light can bounce off it more evenly, which’ll give you a glow.
How you apply moisturizer and the type of products you use matter more than you may think. Sure, gooping on a dollop of cream and calling it a day is better than nothing. But to get your softest, brightest, healthiest skin yet, make sure you’re not making these common mistakes.
Only prioritizing your face.
“A lot of women tend to be more focused on ‘aesthetically sensitive areas’ like their face, neck, and décolletage, and skip their body,” Dr. Mraz Robinson says. But moisturizing every day, no matter what, ensures the skin below your neck and chest stays just as healthy looking — not to mention helps you avoid irritation.
You don’t have to spend more than a minute or so to apply, and now spray moisturizers like Aquaphor Ointment Body Spray make it quicker and easier to get hard-to-reach spots like your back and legs. Simply spray, rub, and you’re done.
Moisturizing dry skin.
You’re probably thinking: “Hey, wait a second, isn’t treating dry skin the whole point of moisturizer?!” Yes, but the best way to do it is by sealing in actual H2O when skin is damp.
“I always tell my patients to moisturize within 60 seconds of getting out of the shower, which will lock in hydration,” Dr. Mraz Robinson says. So whether you’re on a morning or nighttime shower routine, when you get out, lightly pat skin dry — rubbing with a towel can be too aggressive and drying — then immediately grab your moisturizer.
Treating hands and feet like the rest of your body.
These are your body’s workhorses, and their skin needs (and deserves!) a little extra TLC. For starters, washing hands often — which is essential, especially during cold and flu season — can decimate the skin on your hands. “Keep a good hand moisturizer by the sink or in your bag and apply every time after you wash your hands,” Dr. Mraz Robinson says.
As for feet, heels take the brunt of the pressure when you walk, which makes the skin there prone to cracking and turning thick and rough. “Pick a product with urea, lactic acid, or other alpha hydroxy acid, which will help take off the top layer of dead skin and reduce some of the thickness,” she says. Her recco: Eucerin Dry Skin Intensive Hand Cream, which contains 5 percent urea.
Using the wrong products.
Nobody likes to feel like they’re coated in a heavy, sticky balm. But more occlusive, ointment-like products are some of the most effective at sealing in moisture and protecting skin. The good news: In spray form, these products deliver all the skin benefits of a traditional ointment but go on and feel lighter. Aquaphor Ointment Body Spray, for example, is the first ointment available as a continuous spray, and is clinically proven to relieve very dry and rough skin.
Aquaphor’s spray is also hypoallergenic and contains no perfumes, dyes or preservatives — key characteristics. “I like products that are fragrance-free and color-free because that means fewer potential irritants that could aggravate dry skin,” Dr. Mraz Robinson says.
Indeed, dry skin often has a compromised barrier, which means it can be even more sensitive to anything you put on it, since irritants can get past the surface layer. Preservatives can also be irritating to some, especially those that have eczema, she says.
Only moisturizing in cold, dry seasons.
Dry, indoor heat and cold wind make skin dehydrated, but the summer can also do a number on skin, leaving it extra thirsty.
“Moisturizer is not a seasonal thing — it’s like sunscreen, you need it year-round,” says Dr. Mraz Robinson, who adds that you especially need extra moisture after a day outdoors.
“The sun does dry out your skin — it causes you to lose natural water content.” So instead of benching your moisturizer until fall, simply switch it up to something lighter, or apply a lighter layer.
Using cleansers that strip the skin’s natural moisture.
Whether it’s a body wash or facial cleanser, unless your skin is superoily, look for products that not only remove dirt, makeup, and oil, but also leave skin softer — or at least won’t dry it out. “A lot of people over-exfoliate and over-clean their skin, which can strip away natural oils,” Dr. Mraz Robinson says. “A creamy cleanser can put a little moisture back into skin.”
Choose an ultra gentle micellar cleanser such as Bioderma Sensibio H2O Micellar Cleansing Water, which contains fatty acid esters that naturally help rebuild the skin’s hydrolipidic film.
Applying products in the wrong order.
Facial moisturizers are meant to work with prescription and other over-the-counter treatment serums and lotions. But if you apply them first, they could block treatment products from fully absorbing. “Order of application matters,” Dr. Mraz Robinson says.
“The order should be: Cleanse, pat dry, apply a prescription and/or serum or treatment, then moisturizer, and finally sunscreen,” Dr. Mraz Robinson says. While dual SPF moisturizers are convenient, a separate product often provides better sun protection since you’re likely to apply a thicker coat, she says.
Her recommendation: One with titanium dioxide product, which you can get tinted and have it double as a primer or even foundation. Try Peter Thomas Roth Max Mineral Naked Broad Spectrum SPF 45.
Over-moisturizing your scalp.
“Unless you have psoriasis, in which case you need a prescription, you don’t usually need to moisturize your scalp,” Dr. Mraz Robinson says. Your daily conditioner should do the job. In fact, any additional products could clog the pores on or around your scalp and potentially lead to acne.
Seeing flakes? Look instead for a dandruff shampoo/conditioner. And, if your hair still needs extra moisture, try to keep the conditioner concentrated on the ends — too much near your scalp could leave hair flat and limp.