Great Facial Moisturizers for Dry Skin

Skin Care


Fall and winter weather can leave even the most normal of skins feeling dry. According to Dr. Leslie Baumann in her textbook, Cosmetic Dermatology, “dry skin occurs more during the fall and winter months because of low humidity and excessive bathing.” Fortunately, according to NYC derm Heidi Waldorf, “It’s the easiest skin problem to solve.”

What causes dry skin?

According to this Baumann-cited study in Exogenous Dermatology, dry skin results from an increase in fatty acids, a decrease in ceramide levels, and impaired enzyme function for desmosome digestion, resulting in unsightly clumps of skin cells that cause the skin to appear rough and dry.

Two disorders feature dry skin. The first is atopic dermatitis, which was reported in this Baumann-cited study, amongst others, to be characterized by an insufficiency of ceramides (ceramides are lipids). The second disorder is xerosis. However, a 1993 study in the Journal of Dermatology found that there was no link between an insufficiency of lipids and xerosis. Yet, a second 1993 study by L’Oréal found that, while total lipid amount does not vary in patients with xerosis, ceramide levels decrease substantially in such patients, and particularly ceramide 2.

What can be done to treat dry facial skin?

According to Waldorf in this month’s Glamour, wash your face morning and night with a gentle, non-foamy cleanser (like Cetaphil) and then moisturize (some suggestions are below). If you have combination skin, put oil-free moisturizer only on your dry spots.

Two Baumann-cited studies by Unilever indicate that TAPS, or tetraacetylphytosphingosine and/or 1% linoleic acid and 1% juniperic acid increase ceramide levels, perhaps by incorporating precursors into the ceramide biosynthetic pathways in the skin. However, despite a patent existing for the incorporation of all three ingredients into one product, I could not find one on the market.

According to Baumann, other treatments include using humectants (glycerin, hydroxy acids, lactic acid, propylene glycol, urea) to seal in moisture and occlusives (lanolin, mineral oil, petrolatum) to seal in moisture and smooth the skin’s surface. Four of the facial moisturizers for dry skin I have run across are reviewed below.

What are some great facial moisturizers for dry skin?



SkinMedica TNS Ceramide Treatment Cream ($58.80, has anti-aging properties with bioengineered human growth factors and emollient ceramides. Bioengineered human growth factors, while not well-researched, have resulted in smoother and softer skin. For a complete review of this product, please visit my past blog entry here.
What Allure magazine editors said in December 2007: “Our skin still fight tight and dry when we first applied it, but after a few hours it was the softest it’s been since summer.”
What dermatologist Dr. Jeffrey Dover says: “Studies show that human growth factors have the potential to heal. It’s similar to technology used in burn centers.”
Ingredients (courtesy
Human Fibroblast Conditioned Media, Hydroxypropyl Bispalmitamide MEA, Palmitoyl Oligopeptide, Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-7



Osmotics TriCeram ($30.00, takes no chances in the fight against very dry skin, with occlusives lanolin, petrolatum, and propylene glycol to smooth and hydrate the skin, humectant glycerin to hydrate, and water-binding dimethicone, hyaluronic acid and linoleic acid. Further, linoleic acid is anti-inflammatory, so it should help to reduce some of the visible signs of dry skin.
What consumer advocate Paula Begoun says: “An excellent moisturizer for dry to very dry skin. It contains some of the ingredients essential to restore a healthy skin barrier function while potent ingredients work to minimize damage and reduce inflammation. TriCeram is fragrance-free and not only is one of the best products Osmotics offers, but is priced sensibly.”
Ingredients (courtesy Purified Water, Lanolin, PEG-20 Methyl Glucose Sesquistearate, Cetyl Alcohol, Ceramide, Glycerine, Petrolatum, Dimethicone, Curcumin, Soybean Sterol, Linoleic Acid, Tocopheryl Acetate, Stearic Acid, Hyaluronic Acid, Carnosine, Carbomer, Tromethamine, Propylene Glycol, Diazolidinyl Urea, Methylparaben, Propylparaben.



Osmotics Cream Extreme ($75.00, is very thick and contains lanolin, dimethicone, glycerin, petrolatum — you name a hydrator, it’s here. The cream also includes antioxidant vitamin E to fight future signs of aging. Just keep in mind it’s very thick! The ingredients are similar to Osmotics TriCeram, but Osmotics Cream Extreme has a heavier texture, more like a heavy balm than a cream.
What Allure magazine editors said in December 2007: Osmotics Cream Extreme is so thick it left a mark on their pillowcases! Dermatologist Dr. Jeffrey Dover adds that “this is packed with nonirritating hydrating ingredients. This is a super moisturizer for people with dry skin and even eczema.”
What Paula Begoun says: “Is a very emollient, balm-like moisturizer for very dry or sensitive skin. It contains some outstanding ingredients to prevent moisture loss and prevent barrier destruction.” Begoun goes on to express some concern over antioxidants becoming unstable in the cream due to the way in which it is packaged; however, as far as antioxidants go, vitamin E is among the more stable, as stated in Randy Schueller’s Multifunctional Cosmetics.
Ingredients (courtesy Purified Water, Lanolin, Glycerin, Cetyl Alcohol, Dimethicone, Hydrogenated Lecithin, Petrolatum, Hyaluronic Acid (Polysaccharide), Soybean Sterol, Ceramide, Tocopheryl Acetate (Vitamin E), Linoleic Acid, Stearic Acid, Allantoin, L-Carnosine, Carbomer, Tromethamine, Diazolidinyl Urea (and) Iodopropynyl Butylcarbamate.


Paula’s Choice Skin Recovery Moisturizer for Normal to Very Dry Skin ($16.95, contains emollients, although it works for “normal to very dry skin,” so if dry skin is your primary concern, you may want to order a sample of the product for 80 cents (!) before ordering a full bottle. Also included in this product are network antioxidants vitamins C and E, and peptide palmitoyl pentapeptide-3 (Matrixyl). According to a board-certified dermatologist hailing from Great Neck, NY, matrixyl is a five-peptide sequence (KTTKS). Like argireline, matrixyl is combined with a fatty acid component (an acetyl-component in argireline, a palmitoyl-component in matrixyl), in order to increase its penetration into the skin. At the 2002 World Congress of Dermatology in Paris, France, matrixyl was found to decrease wrinkle depth by 68% and wrinkle density by 47% over six months. Matrixyl, like argireline, promotes fibroblasts to produce collagen, but has the additional benefit of promoting hyaluronic acid production in the skin. According to a Paula’s Choice, Matrixyl must be applied in minimum concentrations of 2%, but ideally between 4 and 8%, in order to be effective. For maximum anti-aging benefits, apply under sunscreen everyday.
What Paula Begoun says: “Restores vital moisture to intended skin types and has an elegantly creamy texture. Skin is fortified with emollients, peptides, antioxidants, and skin-identical ingredients to deliver soft, smooth skin.”
Ingredients (courtesy Water, Cetearyl Ethylhexanoate (emollient), Butylene Glycol (water-binding agent), Glycereth-26 (thickener), Oenothera Biennis (Evening Primrose) Oil (non-volatile plant oil), Cetyl Alcohol (thickener), Cyclopentasiloxane (skin-conditioning agent), Stearic Acid, Glyceryl Stearate, PEG-100 Stearate (thickeners), Glycerin (water-binding agent), Cyclohexasiloxane (skin-conditioning agent), Palmitoyl Oligopeptide, Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-3 (cell-communicating ingredients), Sodium Hyaluronate (water-binding agent), Tocopheryl Linoleate, Tocopheryl Acetate (antioxidant/vitamin E), Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate (antioxidant/vitamin C), Dipotassium Glycyrrhizate (licorice-derived anti-irritant), Sodium PCA (water-binding agent), Panthenol (soothing agent), Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Extract (anti-irritant/soothing agent), Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice (water-binding agent), Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate (antioxidant/vitamin C), Tetradibutyl Pentaerithrityl Hydroxyhydrocinnamate (antioxidant), Saccharide Isomerate, Sodium Chondroitin Sulfate (skin-conditioning agents), Hydroxypropyl Guar (gel-based thickener), Propylene Glycol (slip agent), Allantoin (anti-irritant), Rosa Canina (Dog Rose) Fruit Oil (non-volatile plant oil), Dimethicone, Simethicone (silicone slip agents), Polysorbate 20 (emulsifier), Cetyl Hydroxyethylcellulose (thickener), Carbomer (gel-based thickener), Sodium Citrate, Triethanolamine (pH adjusters), Trisodium EDTA (chelating agent), Batyl Alcohol (stabilizer), Benzoic Acid, Chlorphenesin, Sorbic Acid, Phenoxyethanol (all preservatives).

As a result…

Dry skin is common, but fortunately, based on dermatologists’ advice, seems relatively easy to treat, unless you have eczema, atopic dermatitis, psoriasis, or another condition characterized by dry skin, in which case you should get to a derm stat. 🙂 I hope you found this useful, and if you want to find body moisturizers for dry skin, here is an article. 🙂

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  • Astrid

    I’m a bit confused. I feel like people are constantly mixing dehydrated skin and dry skin. I’ve at least been taught that dry skin in is a skin type (born with it), while dehydrated skin is a skin condition that can – like this article says – be quite easily treated. Dry skin lacks mainly oils, while dehydrated skin lacks mainly water. What am I missing here? Is this article supposed to be for dehydrated skin? It talks about “water binding”, “hyaluronic acid” and “hydrating” – things that are normally more relevant for dehydrated skin? I’ve been told I have very dry skin, and I’m honestly extremely tired of bad purchases and creams that won’t work for me because some people think dehydrated and dry is the same.

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