Moisturisers are used for both the maintenance of healthy skin and for the management of various skin conditions. Choosing the “ideal” and best quality moisturiser depends on a number of factors, including the type of skin and its always changing needs, the users/consumers preferences and the desired attributes. The choices made by users and even healthcare professionals can have a major impact on skin health and overall wellbeing.
What is a moisturiser?
A moisturiser is one of the essentials of daily skin care that is not necessarily about actively promoting change in the skin. Rather, maintaining the skin’s natural moisture (hydration) and in turn, supporting its barrier function to better protect the skin from various environmental elements (sun exposure, heat, cold, pollution and wind), irritants and allergens as well as slowing the rate of skin’s visible ageing. Therefore, the overall purpose of a moisturiser is to maintain and increase the skin’s hydration and to improve its protective role by supporting its barrier function.
Understanding moisturiser ingredients
The best quality moisturiser should contain no soap, fragrance, colour, irritants or other ingredients that may trigger skin reactions and irritation (Figure 1). What it should contain is a combination of moisturising ingredients: emollients, humectants and occlusives to maintain and increase the skin’s hydration[1-6,10] (Figure 1). Emollients fill in rough gaps between the skin cells and make skin feel smooth but do not affect the overall water content. Humectants sponge up water, drawing it up from the deeper layers of the skin to the skin’s surface. Occlusives hold water in and create a protective barrier over the skin, slowing the evaporation of water from the surface of the skin.
Understanding moisturiser formulations
Moisturisers must be a nice product to use; cosmetically elegant, acceptable and affordable (Figure 1). As a general rule, the heavier the moisturiser the better the effect, however, there is a need to balance the heaviness of the moisturiser with what the consumer is willing to use. It does the consumer no good if the best moisturiser for their skin condition is so cosmetically unacceptable, they are reluctant to use it. Moisturisers are predominantly available as lotions, creams and ointments. Generally speaking, lotions are suitable for normal and dry skin, creams are suitable for moderately dry skin, while ointments are suitable for very dry skin.
How to choose the best moisturiser or moisturisers?
There is no single “perfect/ideal” moisturiser for every person, and matching the best suitable moisturiser to a person’s needs is essential for repeated use and good skin health.
The best and most effective moisturiser is the one the user likes and will use appropriately and regularly as required, or as prescribed by a healthcare professional. Additionally, there may be a trade-off between effectiveness and acceptability, and the best moisturiser for a particular person may change over time and vary by body application site (for example the face, lips, hands, eyes, feet) and skin condition, time of the day (day or night) and season. Moisturisers can be applied to the skin in a number of ways as they come in many different formulations containing a range of ingredients.