Skincare basics: Moisturizer

Skincare basics: Moisturizer

You’re probably are pretty familiar with moisturizer. Moisturizers are a combination of water based ingredients and oil based ingredients that are combined to form an emulsion-lotion or cream.

Moisturizers have three basic functions:

They add moisture to your skin.

They prevent moisture loss.

They help repair the skin barrier.

It’s true that not everyone needs to use a moisturizer. But if you’re over 35-40, and absolutely if you’re over 50, your skin is becoming drier and thinner as the years roll by. To keep your skin healthy and looking good, you need a moisturizer. Twice a day.

In the drier winter months, you’ll need it even more.

Moisturized skin is healthy skin

Dry, flaky, red, and lined skin means your skin barrier isn’t as healthy as it should be.

 Your skin barrier is the outer most layer of your skin and the one that protects you from the outside world.

It helps you by:

  • Controlling water balance so your body doesn’t dry up
  • Guarding against invasion by microbes and foreign matter
  • Shedding old skin cells
  • Maintaining the skin’s elasticity, which lets your skin bounce rather than tear (ouch!)

When your barrier dries and thins, it’s more susceptible to damage. Damage makes your skin irritated and dry which makes it susceptible to even more damage.

It’s a vicious cycle and the quickest way to put a stop to it is moisturizer (at least) twice a day

Study after study has confirmed how effective moisturizer is in helping the skin barrier repair itself.

 But here’s the sad truth. All moisturizers aren’t good for your skin. You need a properly formulated one with the proper ingredients.

 A good moisturizer needs to:

  • Reduce the amount of moisture that evaporates from your skin into the atmosphere.
  • Restore the your skin barrier and help to fill in the “mortar” that holds your skin cells together
  • Not cause your skin to become sensitized (fragrance and some essential oils are usually the culprit ) and not cause breakouts
  • Absorb immediately (no greasy layers)
  • Feel good on your skin 


Ingredients to look for

 You need a combination of humectants to draw water to your skin, occlusive to seal in the moisture, and fatty acids to support the lipids in your skin’s barrier.

 Humectants: these are the actual hydrating ingredients that attract moisture to your skin cells. Here are some ingredients that are humectants:

Hyaluronic acid


Sodium hyaluronate



Panthenol (B5)

Humectants will plump up your skin cells (and soften wrinkles and fine lines in the process). But for long lasting results, you need to keep that lovely moisture from evaporating out of your skin and into thin air.

 That’s why you need occlusives

 Occlusives are ingredients that help to prevent your skin’s moisture from escaping. They form a protective layer that helps to seal in both your natural moisture and the moisture that the humectants have attracted.

 Occlusives include butters and oils (also silicones and petroleum based ingredients but you might not want to use them on your beautiful skin):

Shea butter


Tamanu oil

Rosehip oil

Sea buckthorn oil

Coconut oil

Cocoa butter


Cetyl alcohol


Many more…

Occlusives are good for sealing in moisture that’s already there. They don’t actually add any moisture on their own. This is why using a product that includes both a humectant and occlusive is more effective for dry, damaged skin.

 The other critical ingredients to look for in your moisturizer are barrier healing emollients or barrier repairing ingredients

 Remember that your skin is built like a wall. The skin cells are the bricks (or if you’re from New England like I am-stones). The mortar that holds them together is a fat based substance that fills in the cracks and supports the skin cells.

Essentially barrier repairing ingredients are  fat based oils and butters that “fill in” the cracks in your mortar and crevices between your skin cells to give your skin a smooth feel and look. Some of the lipid based occlusive ingredients do double duty and act as both occlusive and emollients.

 Barrier repairing ingredients are a combination of ceramides, cholesterols, and fatty acids:




Fatty acids like stearic acid, glyceryl stearate and palmitic acid

Silicones like dimethicone, cluclomethicone, etc (you won’t find these in SunWindSnow products but they’re in a lot of skincare products out there)

These are the big 3 classes of moisturizer ingredients that you need to have for an effective moisturizer.

Other moisturizer ingredients to look for:

Moisturizer can also deliver other ingredients that your skin needs. Like:

Antioxidants to combat oxidative stress and environmental damage to your skin

 Ingredients to address specific issues like peptides for firmness

Herbal extracts that help fight free radicals, inflammation, enhance collagen production and more

 Vitamin and minerals that support your skin

Since moisturizer is meant to be absorbed into the outer layers of your skin and form a protective barrier, it can help seal in the active ingredients in your serums and enhance their function.

 Here’s how it works:

If you use a serum (like GloDrops) with retinol and hyaluronic acid, topping it with a good moisturizer will make the effects even better. It works keeping the moisture that the hyaluronic acid and glycerin attract in your skin’s layers and helping the retinol do its work without drying your skin.

If your skin is very dry or dehydrated, patting a few drops of facial oil over your moisturizer will help even more

 It’s important to note that as good as a good facial oil can be for your skin, facial oil by itself won’t actually increase your skin’s moisture. Facial oil works by forming an extra protective layer on your skin and keeping in the moisture that’s there. Including what the humectants attract.

A good facial oil will also add nutrients as well. Like fat soluble vitamins and antioxidants.

Some things you might want to avoid:

 Fragrance. This is a vague term that’s allowed to used because of the tiny amounts that are added to formulas. The problem is that even tiny amounts can cause sensitization and sensitivity in some people.

The result is angry, inflamed skin that’s the very opposite of why you’re using skincare in the first place.

In truth, any ingredient, natural or not, can cause a reaction in some people. Just like a person can be allergic to anything, even if it’s not a common thing.

But fragrances are the most common culprit in skincare reactions and add nothing beneficial for your skin.

 Even some essential oils can be sensitizers, so be cautious if you have sensitive skin.

 This is why doing a patch test first is a good idea especially if you tend to have sensitive skin.

 Silicones. These synthetics are really common in skincare and for a good reason. They form a nice occlusive layer and make your skin feel smooth as silk. The problem is that, for some people, they do their job a little too well and cause breakouts.

 Mineral oil and other petroleum based products. They’re also great at making your skin look smooth and line free. For a while.

Like silicones, they tend to do too good a job and don’t allow your skin to breathe and perform functions like shedding dead skin cells.cell Over time, your barrier can become drier and more damaged.

How to apply your moisturizer (it’s easy)

It’s best to apply your moisturizer after you cleanse and put on your serums (if you use serums and I recommend you do).

Once the serum is absorbed, put a nickel sized portion of moisturizer on your hand and dot it all over your face, neck, upper chest. Then pat the dots all over and into your skin.

Pro tip: don’t forget the backs of your hands. The skin there is drier and thinner and your hands are constantly exposed to…well, everything

A good moisturizer is essential for skincare if you’re outdoors (or indoors in heated buildings) a lot and as you get older and produce less of your own natural moisturizers and oils.

All of SunWindSnow’s moisturizers are formulated with humectants, occlusives, and barrier preserving and repairing ingredients.

They're designed to work with your skin’s natural chemistry rather than against it:

SunUp Antioxidant Day Cream: as the name says it’s loaded with antioxidants to keep your skin protected from daily environmental insults (you still need to wear sunscreen though)

SunDown Restoring Night Cream: chockful of ingredients that restore and refresh your skin while you sleep

AlpenGlo: harnesses the healing powers of bee propolis and royal jelly and peptides to promote firmer and more radiant skin.


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