Want to know what dermatologists use to moisturize their skin? Check out this list of their favorite skin hydrators, then pick up one of our favorite products that contain them.
Petrolatum: For seriously dry skin, nothing beats petrolatum-based moisturizer. Also known as petroleum jelly, the ingredient “forms an occlusive barrier on the skin to reduce loss of water,” says Houston-based dermatologist Dr. Jennifer Peterson. The staying power of this ingredient is tough to beat and it’s extremely effective at preventing water that’s in your skin from evaporating. Apply products like Aquaphor Healing Ointment ($5.99) and Vaseline Petroleum Jelly ($4.49) to chapped areas anywhere on the body, from the lips and hands to elbows and knees. The ingredient can feel greasy, though, which is why most women wouldn’t think of applying it to their complexion; it’s too heavy and can cause breakouts on normal and oily facial skin.
Ceramides: Ceramides are a type of fat found naturally in our skin. “As we age, we see more break down of this fat,” says Peterson, which can lead to dehydration in the skin. Like petrolatum, moisturizers with ceramides work by retaining moisture in the skin. The main difference, though, is that this ingredient has a more elegant feel and is far less greasy. Try CeraVe Moisturizing Skin Lotion ($13.99) and Curel Itch Defense Lotion ($7.99).
Panthenol: This derivative of vitamin B5 (or panthothenic acid) “rapidly penetrates into the skin and helps provide long-lasting moisturization,” says Dr. Alan Wohlman, a skincare researcher and developer. The potent hydrator and emollient is also safe and proven effective for people with sensitive skin: Panthenol is a natural substance found in cells and tissues throughout the body, so the ingredient is well-tolerated by all skin types. Product to try: Kiehl’s Panthenol Protein Moisturizing Face Cream ($26).
Hyaluronic acid: This ingredient, found naturally throughout the body, is a humectant, which means it attracts and holds water in the skin. “Incredibly, it can bind up to 1,000 times its weight in water, which can improve skin moisturization,” Peterson says. Hyaluronic acid is another crucial component of skin that decreases with age, which is why moisturizers made with the ingredient are so invaluable. Peterson believes this ingredient works best when used in combination with other hydrators. Apply a serum with hyaluronic acid (like Derma e Hyaluronic Acid Rehydrating Serum, $29.50) first, then follow with a ceramide cream.
Urea: This ingredient possesses two properties that make it an effective moisturizer: It’s both a humectant hydrator that binds water to the skin and a gentle exfoliant. By helping to sweep away dead skin cells and expose fresh new ones, urea enables the skin to attract and retain even more moisture. Try Eucerin Plus Intensive Repair Foot Creme ($5.50).