Cleanse, tone, and moisturize. That’s the mantra. But… is it right?
You definitely need a cleanser. How else are you gonna remove makeup, pollutants, and all the crap that deposits on your skin every day?
You definitely DON’T need a toner. You may use one if you wish, but my skin has been doing amazingly well for the past 10 years without it. Just saying…
What about step 3? Does everyone need a moisturizer, too? Let’s find out:
What’s A Moisturiser And How Does It Help Skin?
First things first: what the heck is a moisturiser?!
A moisturizer is a product designed to… moisturize skin (Shocking, I know). It does this by increasing its moisture levels and repairing its natural protective barrier. When that’s damaged, moisture evaporates out, leaving skin drier than the Sahara.
But… did you know your skin has its own in-built moisturizer? It’s called sebum. Yep, that thing you hate because it can turn your face into a shiny frying pan.
It only happens when skin produces too much of it. When the opposite happens, skin dries out skin. You need to get the balance right.
For most people, the balance isn’t right – especially as you get older and your skin drier and drier.
But when your skin produces just the ideal amount of sebum, it naturally moisturises on its own. No need to waste money on a moisturiser.
What does this mean for you? Do you need a moisturiser?
Related: Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Sebum
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Does Everyone Need A Moisturiser?
It depends on your skin type:
Yes! Yes! Yes! If there’s a skin type that needs moisturiser, it’s you. Here’s why:
Dry skin lacks oil (a.k.a. sebum). Your skin literally doesn’t produce enough of it. Without it, your protective barrier has holes left, right, and centre. Moisture evaporates through these cracks, leaving your skin all dry and flaky.
A moisturiser can fix it. The trick is to choose one high in oils and butters. They contain fatty acids, the moisturising building blocks that heal your skin barrier and deeply moisturise your skin, leaving it soft and supple.
- Drunk Elephant Lala Retro Whipped Cream ($60.00): Available at Cult Beauty, Sephora, and SpaceNK
- Jordan Samuel Soothing Facial Oil ($33.00): Available at Cult Beauty
- Paula’s Choice Omega+ Complex Moisturizer ($35.00): Available at Cult Beauty, Dermstore, Feel Unique, Nordstrom, Paula’s Choice
Related: The Best Skincare Routine For Dry Skin
This is where it gets tricky. Your skin already produces more than enough sebum and has all the oil it needs. No need to add more, ladies.
But, your skin may be dehydrated (i.e. lack water). You know this is the case because you feel like you have a greasy layer on top of sandpaper. Your skin feels tight and dry, but it’s still as shiny as ever…
This is where an oil-free moisturiser comes in. Oil-free moisturisers use humectants, a group of ingredients that draws water from the air into the skin and binds it there. Glycerin, Hyaluronic Acid, and urea are all excellent humectants.
Humectants are great because they give oily skin all the moisture it craves without adding more oil to it. If you have oily skin, I encourage you to use them.
The exception? If your skin is severely oily and not dehydrated at all, you can skip moisturiser altogether. But if, at any point during the day, your skin feels a little tight, add your oil-free moisturiser back into your skincare routine, pronto!
- CeraVe PM Facial Moisturizing Lotion ($15.99): Available at Asos, Dermstore, Feel Unique, and Ulta
- Drunk Elephant Protini Polypeptide Cream ($68.00): Available at Cult Beauty, Sephora, and SpaceNK
- Paula’s Choice Oil-Free Moisturizer ($29.00): Available at Dermstore and Paula’s Choice
Related: The Best Skincare Routine For Oily Skin
Combination skin is a mixed bag. Some areas are a oil slick while others are dry and tight. What are you supposed to do?
Use a lightweight moisturiser. Preferably one with only a little amount of oil. You need their fatty acids to keep your dry areas happy, but you don’t want to go overboard and clog your oily patches.
A lightweight moisturiser keeps every are happy. Win win.
- IT Cosmetics Confidence In A Gel Lotion Moisturizer ($36.00): Available at Cult Beauty, Sephora, and Ulta
- Paula’s Choice Defense Nightly Reconditioning Moisturizer ($29.00): Available at Dermstore, Net-A-Porter, Nordstrom, Paula’s Choice, and Selfridges
- The Inkey List Multi-Bionic Face Moisturizer ($12.99): Available at Asos, Cult Beauty, and Feel Unique
Related: The Best Skincare Routine For Combination Skin
Congratulations, you’ve won the skincare jackpot.
Your skin is already producing all the sebum it needs. Not a bit more. Not a bit less. You can still use a lightweight moisturiser if you want to, but you don’t need to. Your skin is fine without it.
Related: How To Care For Normal Skin
Don’t Confuse Moisturizers With Anti-Aging Products!
Are you one of the lucky few who doesn’t need moisturiser, but want to use it anyway because it helps with antiaging?
Think again. The vast majority of moisturisers out there “fight” wrinkles by hydrating skin. Moisture plumps up skin, so fine lines and wrinkles look smaller, but they’re still there.
If you want to really reduce those wrinkles (not just their appearance), you need retinol. You can get it in serum form. Click here for my product recommendations.
Related: 5 Antiaging Superstars You Should Add To Your Skincare Routine
The Bottom Line
Moisturizers are designed to improve skin’s moisture levels. If yours are already optimal, no need to use one. But for most of us, that’s not the case. *sighs*
Do you think everyone needs a moisturiser? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
I’ve always used an SPF moisturizer when I was younger for environmental protection!
Jamilla, wearing a moisturizer (or any lotion) with SPF is always good 🙂
I use them only when I feel I need it. And that’s usually after taking a shower or right before bed. 🙂
Trisha, I think that’s what’s best for skin. There is no point in using it if skin doesn’t need it.. 🙂
i have always used a moisturizer, despite having oily skin. I noticed that if I don’t use it, my skin goes into an even oilier state sometimes, or it just doesn’t feel right.
I think the key to people with oily skin in using a moisturizer is to make sure it’s oil free, so it doesn’t get worst. Most of the blogs/ reviews I read (from Taiwan, Japan and Korea) has always said that having oily skin doesn’t mean your skin is well hydrated. They say our skin produce even more sebum to compensate the lacking of moisture in our skin. Not sure how true this is though, but I believe there is some truth in it. Haha.
By the way, was wondering like those moisturizers which are to be of the anti aging range like olay/ neutrogena or other brands, does it mean it’s still not sufficient for the anti aging ingredients for it to work, and it would be better off to use a anti aging serum instead?
Sorry for the long post, but I had to ask 😛 I hope you don’t mind.
Plue, I actually enjoyed your long comment and of course I don’t mind. 🙂
I think, at the end of the day, everyone’s skin is different and we need to use the products that best suits our needs. If your oily skin needs a moisturizer, by all means use it. And I definitely agree that if you have oily skin and want to use a moisturizer, you need to choose an oil-free one not to make things worse.
As for antiaging moisturizers and serums, they are both effective as long as they contain high enough concentrations of antioxidants and retinoids. I just think that serums are better suited to those with oily skin though because they have a lighter texture.
I have comb/oily skin and acne prone skin. Moisturizers (even the ones from the pharmacy formulated for acne skin) give me bad acne! SPF moisturizers are like a film of grease on my face (I really don’t like them). I just don’t get it when people complain that sunscreen makes them breakout and wear moisturizer everyday all over their face. Moisturizer breaks me out and I as long I use a pharmacy brand face sunscreen for oily/comb skin and remove it in the end of day, I don’t have big problems.
Cristina, I’m sorry to hear that moisturizers make you break out. At least you know what you have to avoid… I’m also glad you find something that works well for you without side effects. 🙂
I only use a facial moisturiser where I need it and it’s rare that I put any on my forehead as it stays oily throughout the day and I know this because I’m always blotting it with oil blotters.
I put whipped or thick body butter on my legs as they get the driest and then use a body lotion on the rest of me. I have to maintain softness at all times! lol
Annabella, lol. I do think it’s best to know what you need where you need it, like you’re doing. 🙂
Do you really mean that only those with combination or dry skin need applying moisturizer? I can’t really believe it, because all of my friends use moisturizer no matter their skin type. You are REALLY blessed if you don’t need a dollop of moisturizer. Which I find to be a rare case.
Amanda, by moisturizer I mean a product whose purpose is to add moisture/water to the skin. That’s something that not all skin types need as skin already has its own natural moisturizer. Most women use it anyway just because we are taught we have to cleanse, tone and moisturize but the truth is that not everyone needs the last step. Some moisturizers though do contain antioxidants or SPF and these can be used by all skin types as they help fight wrinkles and premature aging, which is something everyone needs.
Even though I have oily skin I like to use a moisturiser, because my skin gets dehydrated even though it’s oily on top, if that makes sense. It gets tight and dry feeling when its cold, so I like to use a really little bit of organic rosehip oil or something similar – I find that since that’s quite close to the skin’s oils, it regulates my skin really well. I find mattifying moisturisers okay for the first few hours, but then my skin tries to compensate for the oil loss by producing even MORE oil.
Alexz, if your skin feels tight and dry, then it definitely needs a moisturizer. I’m glad you found something that works well for you. I have tried mattifying moisturizers on my oily t-zone but they didn’t work that well for me either..
Actually people with oily skin do need moisturizer, because they use quite strong cleansers to remove all the excess oil and their skin gets dried out, so if they don’t use some moisturizer their skin will produce more oil than usual to make up for the lost moisture. So, a very light moisturizer (gel for example) is needed 😉 x
Stavroula, I think it depends on the person and the cleanser they use. Some people may not need a moisturizer after cleansing, while others may find their skin dry afterwards in which case they need one. And I agree with you that it has to be a light one such as a gel.
so true! for years I have used nothing but a hydraulic acid toner for my post-cleasing skincare while occasionally using a moisturizer when it’s dry (esp in Europe). In Asia (where I used to live), the high humidity explains why moisturizer is not always necessary, however, many women still buy into the marketing BS concocted by the cosmetics companies.
Sugar, I agree. We’re so used to being told that moisturizer is always necessary that very often we don’t question it and keep using it even when it’s not needed. Instead, we should just listen to our skin and use only the products it really needs.
I have oily skin, but I don’t really know if
my skin was dehydrated or not…Do you write about it? If yes, can you link it here?
I guess I could do the skincare differently everyday and just blotting my skin to see which is right for me. Do you think that’ll work?
Grace, I think you would know if your skin were dehydrated. Does it every feels tight, flaky and sensitive? Is it oily and dry at the same time? If you’ve answered no to these questions then your skin is simply oily so stick with your current routine. 🙂
I have very dry skin so I need moisturizer all year. I also live in Canada and the winters are very drying. I think most people living here require moisturizer in the winter.
Kim, I agree. When the climate’s that harsh, almost everyone needs a moisturiser.