10 Tips to Make Your Moisturizer Work Better

10 Tips to Make Your Moisturizer Work Better featured image
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Moisturizer may be a standard skin-care product, but these experts have some simple tips to make it even better.

Featured Experts

  • Dr. Karan Lal is a board-certified dermatologist in Phoenix, AZ
  • Elizabeth Bahar Houshmand, MD is a board-certified dermatologist in Dallas
  • Ginger McLean is the director of spa operations at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City
  • Lydia Sarfati is the CEO and founder of Repêchage

Wet Your Skin First

You probably heard this one before and Phoenix, AZ dermatologist Dr. Karan Lal says it’s currently taken on a new name via the “skin-flooding” trend. “This is kind of how the hyaluronic acid before moisturizer became trendy. If you use HA first, it attracts water and then that helps your moisturizer retain moisture.”

…And That Can Mean With a Spray

As Dallas dermatologist Elizabeth Bahar Houshmand, MD stresses, moisturizing is key to optimizing your skin barrier, and she has a very specific step she swears by before applying it. “I always apply my moisturizer after using a thermal spring water packed with minerals and probiotics. Two of my favorites are from Vichy ($12) and Avène ($19).”

Properly Cleanse

Repeat this prep step: Proper cleansing is key for your moisturizer to be more effective, says Ginger McLean, director of spa operations at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City. “Moisturizers should be applied to clean skin, as this will prevent skin from drying out after washing.”

Don’t Skip Exfoliation

“Always exfoliate your skin once a week with a glycolic or lactic acid overnight to allow your moisturizer to be fully absorbed,” advises Dr. Houshmand. “The dead skin cells need to turnover.”

Actually Apply One

A bit of a no-brainer, but McLean says this is the single-biggest mistake she sees clients make. “Many people believe they do not need a moisturizer. All adults need to moisturize, even if you have oily skin,” she advises. “Additionally, how we apply product is important, as well as how much. Commonly, we use too much or too little, so seeking professional guidance from an expert will benefit on how to best use the product.”

Worry About Ingredients

McLean lists not paying attention to the ingredients as a “miss” when it comes to moisturizers and Lydia Sarfati, CEO and founder of Repêchage, drives the point home: “So many times, a person will choose based on whether a moisturizer is ‘heavy’ or ‘light,’ but it is the ingredients and delivery system that are most important when choosing a moisturizer. This is why it’s essential to consult with a skin-care professional who can accurately identify skin concerns and knows the proper formulations and ingredients to best address the individual.”

Go Hot and Cold

Sarfati believes in this one so much, she used it as the basis for creating her brand’s signature Four-Layer Facial (it includes a cooling mask and a warming, thermal mineral layer). “Employing warm and cold is another way to augment moisturizing,” she says.

Make Massage Moves

Massage doesn’t just feel good, it is also an important way to increase the benefits of a moisturizer, Sarfati says—and science backs it up. “Numerous studies have shown that, in addition to providing mental satisfaction and relaxation, skin massage can result in improvements in skin texture, and quantifiable, morphological changes in the face, such as improvements in facial sagging and lifting effects on the cheeks,” she explains. “One study found that using a massage device can help increase the benefits of a moisturizing cream, to help increase anti-aging benefits, leading to higher rates of production of decorin, fibrillin, tropoelastin, and procollagen.

Mix in Some Makeup

“One of my derm tips is for the day to give your skin an all-over glow,” says Dr. Houshmand. “I mix a few drops of a liquid highlighter into my moisturizer and that’s it followed by sunscreen. Perfect for spring and summer—that no-makeup glow.”

Extend, Extend, Extend

Dr. Houshmand says she sees this moisturizer “miss” a lot. “Also, don’t forget to apply your moisturizer past your jawline onto your neck and earlobes!”

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