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8 Tips for Choosing a Moisturizer

A well-chosen moisturizer can be a game-changer for your skincare routine. Moisturizers keep your skin hydrated, supple, and healthy.

With more and more moisturizers designed for men’s naturally rugged and thick skin, their significance and benefits are increasingly apparent. However, choosing a moisturizer is not as simple as grabbing the first one off the shelf.

Here’s what you need to know when making your selection.

1. Understanding Your Skin Type

The foremost step in choosing a moisturizer is understanding your skin type. Skin types typically fall into four categories: normal, oily, dry, and combination.

  • Normal Skin: Less prone to sensitivity, dryness, or oiliness.
  • Oily Skin: Prone to excess oil production, leading to a shiny appearance and possible acne issues.
  • Dry Skin: Characterized by tightness, dullness, and possible flakiness.
  • Combination Skin: Exhibits characteristics of both dry and oily skin types in different areas.

These all have to do with the moisture or oil your skin naturally produces.

However, men with sensitive skin need to be even more judicious in their selection. Sensitive skin can react negatively to certain ingredients found in skincare products, leading to irritation, redness, or even breakouts. For this skin type, hypoallergenic, non-congealing, and fragrance-free moisturizers are typically the best options.

2. Identify Your Needs

No matter where you are in your journey of life, your skin encounters different issues. A man in his 20s might struggle with acne while a man in his 50s may be dealing with fine lines and wrinkles. Pinpoint exactly what your skin needs.

This allows you to shop for the appropriate moisturizer that addresses these concerns. Products on the market today cater to a wide variety of skincare needs, including acne control, anti-aging, brightening, calming sensitive skin, and much more.

3. Know the Active Ingredients

Following up on the previous section, once you know your needs, then you can look for the active ingredients that’ll serve those needs.

  • For anti-aging: Look for ingredients such as Retinol, which promotes skin cell renewal and collagen production. Other notable ingredients include Peptides for firming the skin and antioxidants like Vitamin C and E for combating free radicals and promoting a youthful, radiant glow.
  • For oily or acne-prone skin: Look for non-comedogenic moisturizers, meaning they won’t clog pores, which can lead to breakouts. Some beneficial ingredients include Salicylic Acid or Benzoyl Peroxide, both of which can help regulate oil production and fight acne bacteria.
  • For dry skin: Seek ingredients like Hyaluronic Acid, which is renowned for its ability to retain moisture and create a hydration barrier on the skin, or Glycerin, which attracts water to the skin and ensures it stays locked in. Ceramides are also crucial as they help strengthen the skin’s natural barrier and prevent moisture loss.
  • For sensitive skin: Light, fragrance-free, and hypoallergenic moisturizers are the norm. They may contain Aloe Vera, Chamomile, or Oatmeal, ingredients known for their soothing and calming properties. Niacinamide can also be beneficial, as it helps strengthen the skin’s barrier and reduce inflammation.

4. Considering Your Environment

Do you live in a hot and humid climate like Florida, or perhaps you are in an arid region like Arizona? Your geographical location also plays a role in the type of moisturizer you need.

  • Hot and humid climates: These conditions often increase oil production, creating a shiny or greasy appearance. Therefore, you want to account for this and go for a lightweight, oil-free, or gel-based moisturizer.
  • Cold and dry climates: Low humidity can strip your skin of moisture, leading to dryness and flakiness. In these conditions, a heavier, cream-based moisturizer would be ideal to provide the necessary hydration. They should also contain ingredients such as Hyaluronic Acid or Ceramides that help retain the moisture.
  • Variations throughout the year: If you live in an area with seasonal changes, you may want to consider a summer/winter moisturizer routine to adapt to the environment accordingly. For instance, lightweight lotions or gels that are quickly absorbed by the skin are more comfortable during warmer months, while richer creams and oils are beneficial during colder months when the skin is prone to dryness.

5. Does Consistency Matter?

Like most skincare products, moisturizers aren’t strictly regulated, leading many companies to use different terms to describe their products’ consistency loosely. However, it’s important to understand these terms because the consistency of a moisturizer can play a role in how it feels and how well it works on your skin.

Gels are typically lighter and cooling, making them great for oily and acne-prone skin that doesn’t need heavy moisturization. Lotions are slightly thicker than gels and are suitable for normal to combination skin. Creams are thicker still and are great for maintaining hydration in dry to extremely dry skin. Ointments are the heaviest consistency and are often used for treating extremely dry, cracked skin or certain skin conditions.

6. Should the SPF Content Matter?

One of the most impactful ways to improve the appearance of your skin is by simply applying sunscreen daily.

Sunscreen protects against harmful UV rays that accelerate skin aging and cause conditions like hyperpigmentation, sunspots, and even more severe health issues like skin cancer.

Therefore, a moisturizer with built-in SPF can be a convenient way to ensure you get that daily protection, especially if you’re someone who frequently forgets to apply a separate sunscreen. However, a recent study has shown that SPF in moisturizers often doesn’t offer the same level of protection as dedicated sunscreens. A key reason is that we tend not to apply as much product when using a moisturizer, which reduces the efficacy of the SPF.

For the best protection, a standalone sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 is recommended and should be applied after moisturizing. However, if you opt for a moisturizer with SPF, aim for a factor of 30 or higher and ensure broad-spectrum protection against both UVA and UVB rays. Do keep in mind that this should not replace dedicated sun protection if you plan to spend extended time outdoors.

7. What About Price?

Here’s the dirty little secret: price doesn’t always reflect quality. Just because a moisturizer is high-end or expensive doesn’t necessarily mean it’s superior. While it’s true that some costly products contain high-quality ingredients or rare components, there are plenty of affordable options in the market that deliver the same results, if not better.

To ensure you’re not simply paying for a brand name, take time to look at the ingredients. Research the key ingredients listed, particularly the top five, as they make up the majority of the product. For higher-priced options, see if the product contains unique ingredients or properties that justify the cost. Remember, a high price tag is not an assurance of effectiveness.

Pair this with a review of customer experiences and clinical studies (if applicable) to evaluate the product’s effectiveness. Company-provided studies are always skewed to show their product in the best light, so be discerning and also seek out independent studies and reviews to get a more unbiased evaluation. A good strategy is to try a smaller or travel-size product first before committing to a full-sized, potentially pricier option.

8. Packaging

An important aspect of any skincare product is the packaging of the product. Proper packaging is imperative not only for convenience but also for the preservation of the ingredients. Here are some packaging factors to consider:

  • Airless Pumps: This type of packaging prevents oxidation of the moisturizer’s ingredients, which can degrade their effectiveness over time. It’s particularly beneficial for products containing ingredients like Retinol, Vitamin C, and Peptides that are sensitive to air and light exposure.
  • Opaque Bottles or Tubes: Similar to the function of airless pumps, opaque or tinted bottles/tubes protect the product from light exposure, which can also degrade certain ingredients. Products containing antioxidants, Retinol, and other sensitive ingredients often come in tinted or opaque packaging.
  • Jars: While jars may seem convenient for access, they may not be the best choice for certain moisturizers. Exposure to air each time the jar is opened can reduce the effectiveness of the ingredients, and dipping your fingers into the product can introduce bacteria, leading to degradation and potential skin irritation.
  • Tube with a Flip-Top or Screw-On Cap: These are a great choice for thicker cream or ointment-type moisturizers. They keep the product sealed from air exposure, and you can easily squeeze out the desired amount with minimal contact, which helps reduce bacterial contamination.

Adam Williams

As the lead editor of Tools of Men, Adam loves men's grooming products. Particularly of interest is managing facial hair and perfecting the art of the modern man's skincare routine. His work has been featured or quoted in several publications, including New York Magazine, Vice, Sharpologist, MIC, Elite Daily, and more. When Adam isn't working, he enjoys spending time with his two little kids who keep him both on his toes and young at heart.

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