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Moisturizers have long been a part of skin care routines. Even Cleopatra was said to bathe in milk for its moisturizing qualities.

There are plenty of reasons why. Moisturizers have been shown to increase the water content in the stratum corneum, the skin’s outermost layer, which relieves dryness.

They’re also known to fight signs of aging and help skin look healthier.

However, with a huge array of moisturizers on the market, it can be hard to know which one to use or how to do it correctly. Read on for expert tips for dewy, supple skin.

Whether it’s a tried-and-true skin care regimen, how often you wash your hair, or the cosmetics you’re curious about, beauty is personal.

That’s why we rely on a diverse group of writers, educators, and other experts to share their tips on everything from the way product application varies to the best sheet mask for your individual needs.

We only recommend something we genuinely love, so if you see a shop link to a specific product or brand, know that it’s been thoroughly researched by our team.

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Moisturizers should be applied to clean skin after you cleanse your face, as they prevent skin from drying out post-wash. They’re also most effective when applied to slightly damp skin, as they seal in moisture.

“It’s important to lightly exfoliate your skin, which you can do by using a baby washcloth every time you wash your face or using a cotton pad,” says Debra Jaliman, MD, a board certified dermatologist. “This helps to take off the dead skin on the face so that the moisturizer penetrates into your skin.”

Then, apply a pea-sized amount of moisturizer to your face using your fingertips, and lightly rub it in using circular motions until it’s all absorbed.

For a good video guide to see the application process, see:

Just don’t forget to get your neck and décolletage in your application.

In sum, follow these steps:

  1. Cleanse.
  2. Lightly exfoliate with a baby washcloth or cotton pad.
  3. Apply moisturizer by rubbing in circular motions, including the neck.

How to moisturize overnight

There are plenty of overnight creams and lotions out there.

Popular options include CeraVe Skin Renewing Night Cream with hyaluronic acid and biomimetic peptides or Cetaphil Rich Hydrating Cream with hyaluronic acid, vitamin E, and vitamin C for dry to normal skin.

Dr. Ellen Marmur, board certified dermatologist and founder of MMSkincare, prefers an all-in-one product.

“I like to multitask everything, so my night serum moisturizer MMRepose contains rich humectants plus microbiome, antioxidant, and peptide ingredients,” she says.

You can also use overnight masks when your skin is feeling particularly dry or dull. Try Doppeltree Renew Overnight Sleeping Facial Mask or Glow Recipe Watermelon Glow Sleeping Mask.

“Sleep and relaxation have been proven to help moisturize the skin naturally,” says Marmur.

Prioritizing a good night’s sleep in addition to using a good night cream or lotion will help your skin retain moisture and eliminate dryness.

Marmur uses the MMSphere red LED light for 20 minutes to destress and induce better sleep.

“The red LED light releases dopamine in the brain that makes us sleep deeply,” she says.

How to moisturize naturally

“Natural ways you can moisturize your face are with aloe vera or algae gels, which help to soothe and hydrate the skin, or even use milk which has anti-inflammatory properties,” says Marmur.

A 2006 study found that freeze-dried aloe vera extract is an effective natural ingredient for improving skin hydration and reducing dryness.

Try Aloe Infusion Organic Aloe Vera Gel or Nature Republic Soothing Moisture Aloe Vera Gel.

How to moisturize without product

“Lifestyle tricks help you naturally hydrate your skin and retain that moisture,” says Marmur. “Stress causes microscopic cracks in the skin, increasing dehydration with a phenomenon called transepidermal water loss.”

According to Marmur, other ways to help your skin retain moisture include:

  • frequent exercise
  • limiting alcohol consumption
  • reducing salt intake
  • eating foods high in water content, like lettuce, cucumber, and tomatoes
  • maintaining relaxing habits that help reduce stress

“It’s good to put moisturizer on after you cleanse your face,” Jaliman says, which can be twice a day, morning and night.

Plus, moisturizing immediately after bathing or showering will help seal in moisture.

When the skin doesn’t retain adequate moisture, it can become dry or rough. This occurs because of environmental influences, frequent cleansing or bathing, or medical conditions.

“Moisturizing your face helps to protect the skin’s barrier from irritation. It also helps to reduce the development of dryness, or helps you to revive your skin from dryness,” says Marmur.

Moisturizer creates a barrier between your skin and the climate, including cold, dry air that can further dry out skin.

Moisturizing also helps to rehydrate and enhance the capacity of the skin to hold water.

This is through the use of products designed to rehydrate the outer layer of the skin, seal in moisture, and protect against external factors.

Products such as lotions, creams, serums, and ointments are the primary method of adding moisture and treating dry skin.

Jaliman suggests looking for moisturizers that have:

Noncomedogenic means it won’t clog pores. One noncomedogenic product to try is Neutrogena Hydro Boost Gel-Cream.

It’s also good to look for a moisturizer with SPF for sun protection, such as Mario Badescu Oil Free Moisturizer with SPF 30.

If you have acne-prone skin, try Revision Skincare Intellishade Original Tinted Moisturizer with SPF 40, formulated with peptides and broad-spectrum UVA and UVB protection.

Other ingredients to consider in moisturizers include:

  • Occlusives: oily substances that block the evaporation of water, such as petrolatum, cetyl alcohol, anolin, lecithin, mineral oil, paraffin, and stearic acid
  • Humectants: substances that pull water from the air into the outer layer of the skin, such as glycerin, honey, and panthenol
  • Vitamins: help reduce fine lines and wrinkles and stimulate the production of collagen, such as vitamin C and E

Marmur’s tip for effective face moisturizing is to keep your skin care regimen simple and not overdo it with products.

“You should have three things max and be mindful about what you’re using,” says Marmur.

It’s also important to find a moisturizer that suits your skin type, such as dry, oily, or combination skin.

If you have dry skin, try Proactiv Green Tea Moisturizer. For oily to combination skin, you can go for Formula 10.0.6 Seriously Shine-Free Moisturizer or Cetaphil Face Moisturizer.

If you don’t know your skin type, check with a dermatologist.

Although moisturizers are rarely associated with negative impacts, some skin discomfort or skin irritation can occur. To prevent this, be sure to patch test all new products. If you notice a reaction, talk with a dermatologist.

If you experience skin conditions such as acne or allergic dermatitis, consult a dermatologist about what products may be right for your skin.

Using a moisturizer can help skin retain moisture, alleviate dryness, and protect against environmental or external factors.

Choose a product designed for your skin type or check with a dermatologist for the most personalized skin care plan.

Marnie Vinall is a freelance writer living in Melbourne, Australia. She’s written extensively for a range of publications, covering everything from politics and mental health to nostalgic sandwiches and the state of her own vagina. You can reach Marnie via Twitter, Instagram, or her website.