Almost 1.6 million jars of the moisturizer sell each year.
If you came up with a Venn diagram of popular beauty brands and those doing good things for society, the overlap wouldn’t be huge. The number’s growing, but it’s tough to find a brand that commits to donating more than, say, one percent of profits to a cause — and when they do, it’s often from a single specialized product or sale, not their overall bottom line. This year, skincare brand First Aid Beauty effectively said screw that, and made good on its burgeoning popularity by saving 24 people from crushing student loan debt.
If you’re not familiar with the brand, you’ve been missing out on one of Amazon, Sephora, and Ulta’s perennial best-sellers. According to First Aid Beauty, more than 1,575,000 jars of the brand’s Ultra Repair Cream are sold each year, which equals one every 20 seconds — and if you take a look at the moisturizer’s reviews and its ranking as one of Amazon’s best-selling body creams, it’s easy to see why.
One Amazon shopper wrote that the cream saved their skin after a move to Colorado, where the lack of humidity left them “breaking out like a teenager.” After incorporating the Ultra Repair Cream into their routine, they say their skin is the healthiest and clearest it’s ever been. Others agree that the cream is “by far one of the best moisturizers” they’ve ever used, and more call it a “miracle cream” that soothes spots expensive creams, serums, exfoliants, and steroid creams can’t touch. It’s incredibly effective for eczema in particular, 158 reviewers say, and for allergic reactions like those from face masks.
Seeing First Aid Beauty reinvest money in its customers is the best kind of payback. This past February the brand announced its commitment to paying off $1 million of student loan debts through its FAB AID initiative, with 10 percent of proceeds from a special edition FAB AID Ultra Repair Cream added on top of that million dollar contribution. Last week, the brand announced its 24 winners, and that it’d be wiping out almost $1.3 million in student loans.
The reactions alone are enough to make your skin glow. One recipient with $91,765 paid off said, “You have no idea how much this means to me. I feel like I just lost this weight that I’ve been carrying for so long,” while another person with $17,680 paid off said the freedom is going to launch her further on her “calling” to become a nurse and advocate for the Hispanic community.
The combination of an excellent product with a fantastic cause is unbeatable — it feels like the skincare equivalent of peanut butter and chocolate. First Aid Beauty is continuing the program into 2021, and expanding eligibility to include residents of the US and Canada who have or will graduate from an undergraduate program from January 2011 to August 2021. There’s no purchase necessary to enter, but if you’re looking for a winter “miracle balm” that leaves aggravated skin silky and baby soft, on top of funding a good cause — look no further.
This squalane-based balm not only nourishes dry under-eyes, but it also is packed with concentrated encapsulated retinol (which is more gentle on the sensitives skin region) to smooth the look of fine lines.
From the brand’s first foray into the curly hair category, this cloud-like cream — designed for type 4A, 4B and 4C coils — gives game-changing definition. It also contains a Healthy Curl Complex, which provides a protective, strengthening barrier around each strand.
Besides looking oh-so gorgeous on your vanity, this pretty pink potion really does pack a punch. The eco-conscious brand (this packaging is 100% recyclable through Terracycle) partnered with Harvard University to develop a patent-pending booster that’s proven to pump up your skin’s natural production of hyaluronic acid and collagen.
The thought of slathering on a face mask before you go to sleep sounds like a bed linen nightmare, seeing as no one wants to wake up to product smeared all over their pillow.
But the good news is overnight face masks are pillow-proof formulas that quickly dissolve into the skin when applied, and stay put as you sleep. And they offer a lot of skincare benefits, too.
“While you sleep, blood flow to the skin increases, and the skin tries to repair itself,” explains Dr. Rosemarie Ingleton, dermatologist and medical director of Ingleton Dermatology. “Overnight face masks can help this recovery process as active ingredients are better absorbed and penetrate more deeply.”
So if you’re looking to take your nighttime skincare routine to the next level, it’s time to try this bedtime treat.
Ten overnight masks that will help enhance your skin while you get your beauty sleep, ahead.
Chanel Hydra Beauty Masque de Nuit au Camèlia Hydrating Oxygenating Overnight Mask
This creamy formula transforms to a water-like texture when massaged into skin, helping to soothe, plump, and intensely hydrate. A great restorative mask, its exclusive complex of zinc, copper, and magnesium encourages skin oxygenation for a radiant morning glow.
This super-cooling gel mask is clinically proven to lock in moisture for up to 24 hours, creating a veil that helps prevent overnight water loss. It also fights the visible signs of tired, dull skin with peptide4, a yeast peptide that helps balance and support the skin’s barrier function.
Think of this overnight mask as a corset for the face. Its potent blend of black tea extract and other powerhouse ingredients improves the skin’s elasticity for a visibly more defined, contoured look. Black tea is known for its ability to protect against free-radical damage and soothe the skin. Other ingredients include blackberry leaf extract; known for its firming properties, and lychee seed extract, which helps maintain elasticity and smoothness.
Glow Recipe Avocado Melt Retinol Sleeping Face Mask
Avocados aren’t just great on toast; they are rich in antioxidants, which help soothe acne and inflamed skin. We love this mask because it combines avocados with retinol to help reduce hyperpigmentation, and also helps to nourish and repair blemish-prone skin.
If you’ve been feeling a bit stressed lately, chances are it’s affecting your skin. This mask delivers powerful regenerating effects through its infusion of cica, a perennial herb that boosts collagen production to strengthen the skin’s barrier.
Neogen Dermalogy A-Clear Aid Soothing Overnight Mask
Prevent future breakouts with this soothing face mask, made with salicylic acid to help remove pore-clogging impurities and control excess sebum. Extracts of centella asiatica and tea tree instantly help repair the skin and reduce the appearance of acne scars, to reveal a brighter, clearer complexion.
Olay Firming Overnight Gel Face Mask with Vitamin A
Sleep like a queen knowing this firming face mask is working through the night to plump your skin with moisture for a visibly toned look. The ingredients at work include vitamin A, vitamin B3 and hyaluronic acid, specially formulated to promote smooth, firm skin.
Origins Drink Up Intensive Overnight Hydrating Mask with Avocado & Swiss Glacier Water
Every application of this emollient rich mask is like drinking a tall glass of water for your skin. Packed with omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins A, D, E, Swiss glacial water and avocado oil, your skin will benefit from intense, targeted hydration, and 72 hours of long-lasting moisture.
Say goodbye to dry, dull skin with this radiance boosting mask, formulated with natural-origin glycolic and hyaluronic acid. The result? Brighter-looking, moisturized skin that looks renewed and well-rested.
Dry skin can cause all types of annoying irritations, from itchiness to flaking. Made up of a combination of powerful plant-based ingredients, including saffron flowers and shea butter, this soothing mask helps intensely nourish and moisturize dry skin to help it regain comfort and suppleness.
Blame it on Zoom or spending a significantly increased amount of time at home, 2020 saw our interest in all things skincare peak to new heights. Frantically Googling the best skincare formulas to slather on our skin, we became a nation obsessed with the hardworking ingredients that promised to boost glow, plump, firm and smooth. So, what ingredients should we be looking out for in 2021? Here, find the top five skincare buzzwords we’re touting as big news in the new year.
Forget salicylic and glycolic, there’s a new acid in town: succinic. Perfect for those with spots, it’s a gentle exfoliator that helps peel dead skin cells from pores while also preventing them from clogging again. Naturally found in amber, succinic acid has antimicrobial properties and recent studies have shown it’s also excellent at defending the skin against external aggressors, thanks to its antioxidant properties. Keep an eye out for The Inkey List’s Succinic Acid Blemish Treatment which launches in January (join the Cult Beauty waitlist here). But for now, you can also find it in Zelens’s Z Hyaluron Hyaluronic Acid Complex Serum Drops and Elemis’s Pro-Collagen Energising Marine Cleanser.
While you might occasionally enjoy a glass of milk to keep your bones strong, did you know that calcium is also important for the skin? “The skin has what we call a ‘calcium gradient’ which plays an important role in creating a strong skin barrier,” explains Dr Ellie Bradley, a senior scientist at Boots. “The calcium gradient is lost with age, meaning skin renewal becomes thinner as you get older. By adding calcium to the top outer layer of the skin, it helps support optimal skin renewal and strengthening of the skin.” Get your fill via L’Oréal Paris’s Calcium Day Cream,Vichy’s Neovadiol Rose Platinum Night Cream or Herbivore’s Orchid Youth Preserving Facial Oil.
We all know that collagen is one of the building blocks of healthy, firm skin but 2021 will see more of an onus on applying it topically. “It’s a great ingredient to incorporate into your skincare regime if you want plump, smooth skin, plus it helps reduce the appearance of lines,” explains Dr Bradley. Alexia Inge, founder of Cult Beauty, also believes that marine collagen, in particular, will be big in 2021 thanks to the beauty industry’s obsession with ingredients found in our oceans. Boots will launch its Collagen Youth Activating Day and Night Creams in January and Dr Dennis Gross’s Hyaluronic Marine Collagen Lip Cushion is the ultimate lip product, working to deeply hydrate and plump.
Bright skin is always in, and for that liquorice root can help. An extract from the root of the liquorice plant, it’s also a potent antioxidant and helps soothe the skin, making it perfect for sensitive, red or blemish-prone skin. “Due to its brightening abilities, this is the ultimate skincare ingredient for those who want glowy skin,” says Dr Bradley. Find it in No7 Laboratories Clearing Skin Paste and 111 Skin’s luxurious Celestial Black Diamond Cream.
One of K-beauty’s most beloved ingredients isn’t going anywhere for 2021. In fact, it’s getting a luxe makeover in the form of Dior’s must-try Cica Recovery Balm, which promises to soothe, soften and revitalise skin for up to 72 hours. Meanwhile, Dr Jart+ is relaunching in the UK in the new year, with its bestselling and ultra-effective Cicapair Tiger Grass range in tow.
If I told you there was a skincare equivalent of bundling yourself up in a cashmere tracksuit, would you believe me? Buckle up naysayers – you skincare non-believers of the world – for there actually is a product that cossets and comforts the skin just like the softest ensemble. Its name? Weleda Skin Food.
A beauty editor and makeup artist favourite (most have it in their kit), Weleda Skin Food is an under-the-radar cult moisturising cream that promises “rich, intensive skincare” for the face and body. Its certified natural formula contains wild pansy, sunflower seed oil, chamomile, calendula and rosemary extract, to deeply nourish, hydrate and soften rough or compromised skin. Put simply, it’s a winter saviour.
“I love it as it penetrates deeply, offering instant hydration and nourishment,” agrees make-up artist Celia Burton, who knows her way around a juicy skin situation. “It was one of the first products I discovered as a make-up artist and it’s stood the test of time, sitting in the same place in my kit 12 years later. It enriches and brightens the skin, smells divine, and its ingredients list is small and uncomplicated. It’s an all rounder.”
She also attests to its multifaceted nature: she uses it as a base under make-up, as a rich, nourishing mask on flights, a salve on dry patches and as a night cream in the winter months. “I use it religiously all year round under make-up, and apply it to my cheeks and around my temples and eyes to impart glow before I apply my foundation.” Trust me when I tell you this little trick (learned from make-up artist Katie Jane Hughes, another big Skin Food fan) adds a whole lot of oomph to a bog-standard foundation. The compliments will come thick and fast.
As a thick, rather unctuous cream (housed in a distinctive and very easy-to-use green tube), oily skin types might prefer the Light formula, which contains many of the same skin-loving ingredients but feels that little bit more comfortable if heavy creams aren’t your thing. Given it’s winter and our skin barriers are always in jeopardy – thanks to the combination of cold weather and central heating – it’s a fantastic cream to add to basket, and given that it’s a mere £7.95 for a 30ml tube (£12.95 for 75ml), it’s an affordable one, too.
Every few years, a new “it” ingredient starts making the skin-care rounds—even if it’s not new at all. This time it’s niacinamide, a form of vitamin B3 that’s been a fixture in commercial cosmetic formulations and dermatologists’ offices for decades. Recently, though, it’s been popping up in all types of products as a recognizable and desirable skin-care ingredient.
But if you’re not quite sure what niacinamide is or what it’s doing in your moisturizer, you’re not alone. Here’s what you should know before adding it to your skin-care routine.
What exactly is niacinamide?
Niacinamide, which is also called nicotinamide, is one of two major forms of vitamin B3 (niacin) found in supplements (the other is nicotinic acid). It’s often touted to help manage acne, rosacea, pigmentation issues, and wrinkles. But is there any science behind those claims?
Scientists theorize that niacin (and therefore niacinamide/nicotinamide) may be effective because it’s a precursor to two super-important biochemical cofactors: nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+/NADH) and nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate (NADP+). Both of these molecules are central to the chemical reactions that your cells—including skin cells—need to repair damage, propagate, and function normally. Many of these essential reactions can’t occur at all without NAD+, which your cells can’t make without niacinamide.
“By giving your body the precursor, the thought is that it allows your body to make more NAD+,” John G. Zampella, M.D., assistant professor in the Ronald O. Perelman department of dermatology at NYU Langone Health, tells SELF. This fuels your cells to proliferate and also allows your body to absorb and neutralize more free radicals.
Essentially, free radicals are molecules that have either lost or gained an extra electron, which makes them unstable and highly reactive. In high enough doses, they can damage healthy cells. But NAD+—courtesy of niacin (and niacinamide)—contributes an extra electron to those unpaired free radicals so they can chill out and stop wreaking havoc all over the place.
Interestingly, the same process—helping your body create more NAD+ and, therefore, repair damage—is thought to be the root of both topical and oral benefits derived from niacinamide on the skin. (Reminder: Niacinamide is just another form of niacin.) There’s also evidence that topical niacinamide can increase the production of ceramides (lipids that help maintain the skin’s protective barrier), which may contribute to its topical effects on wrinkles, fine lines, and the skin’s moisture barrier. All of this is probably why you’re seeing niacinamide listed in a bunch of skin-care products.
However, there aren’t a ton of high-quality studies looking at topical niacinamide for many cosmetic uses.
What can niacinamide actually do for you?
If niacinamide is involved in most important cell functions, then there’s nothing it can’t cure, right? Well, no—if every cellular process in our bodies could be perfected with vitamin supplements, we wouldn’t need antibiotics or radiation therapy. That said, oral and topical niacinamide may have some actual benefits for skin health:
Skin cancer prevention:
Ask a dermatologist what niacinamide does best, and the very first thing they’ll say is probably “skin cancer prevention.” In a 2015 study in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers gave 386 patients 500mg of oral niacinamide or a placebo twice daily for 12 whole months. All the participants had at least two non-melanoma skin cancers within the previous five years and, therefore, were at a high risk for developing another skin cancer. Results showed that during the study year there were 23 percent fewer new cases of skin cancer in the group that received niacinamide (336 cancers) compared to those who got the placebo (463 cancers).
Both Dr. Zampella and Laura Ferris, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor in the department of dermatology at the University of Pittsburgh, told SELF they frequently suggest oral niacinamide to their patients with a high risk for non-melanoma skin cancers, and cited this study as the reason why.
This doesn’t mean that two niacinamide capsules a day (which is what participants took in the study) will stave off skin cancer forever. The study focused on people who had experienced skin cancer before—not the general public. And it doesn’t tell us anything about using niacinamide to help prevent melanoma skin cancers (and the research we do have suggests it’s not super helpful for those). But if you’ve had multiple non-melanoma skin cancers in your life, it could be worth asking your dermatologist about oral niacinamide.
So, there is some evidence that oral niacinamide can be helpful for skin health in this specific situation. But is topical niacinamide helpful too?
Acne, rosacea, and other inflammatory skin conditions:
Niacinamide’s anti-inflammatory properties make it an attractive treatment for skin conditions marked by inflammation, like acne. In fact, in two double-blind studies—one published in 2013 and the other published in 1995, both in the International Journal of Dermatology—a topical preparation of 4 percent niacinamide treated moderate acne just as well as 1 percent clindamycin (a topical antibiotic commonly prescribed to acne patients) when applied twice daily for eight weeks.
Other research suggests that a 2 percent topical niacinamide may also inhibit the production of oil, which could be beneficial to people dealing with acne. Plus, both dermatologists we talked to say that niacinamide is relatively nonirritating compared to other acne treatments, making it an especially attractive option for people with dry or sensitive skin.
In addition to topical preparations, oral niacinamide supplements have been shown to reduce inflammation associated with mild to moderate rosacea and acne, particularly when oral antibiotics aren’t an option. But according to both Dr. Zampella and Dr. Ferris, the key words here are “mild to moderate.” They advise that severe cases usually call for stronger medications like retinoids or systemic steroids in the case of acne, not vitamins.
There is also limited evidence that topical niacinamide can help repair the function of the stratum corneum, the protective outer layer of skin, which may add to its anti-inflammatory effects.
Pigmentation issues, fine lines, and wrinkles:
There are very few clinical studies on the effects of niacinamide on fine lines and wrinkles, so the evidence we have is somewhat sparse. But there are a few studies. For instance, in one study published in 2004 in the International Journal of Cosmetic Science, researchers had 50 women (all white and between the ages of 40 and 60) apply a moisturizer containing 5 percent niacinamide to one half of their face and a placebo moisturizer to the other half for 12 weeks. Their results showed that the halves of their faces receiving niacinamide had significant improvements in hyperpigmentation spots, fine lines, and wrinkles compared to the control side.
Another split-face study, this one published in 2011 in Dermatology Research and Practice, found that a topical 4 percent niacinamide treatment was less effective than 4 percent hydroquinone (usually considered the gold standard) for treating melasma over eight weeks in 27 participants. Specifically, 44 percent of patients saw good-to-excellent improvement with niacinamide and 55 percent saw the same with hydroquinone. So, the niacinamide wasn’t totally ineffective—and it came with fewer side effects (present in 18 percent of participants) than the hydroquinone (present in 29 percent).
However, niacinamide is more frequently studied in combination with other topical medications—not on its own, which makes it difficult to know how effective it would be by itself. Based on the available evidence, well-studied options like prescription retinoids (and sunscreen!) or other antioxidants, like vitamin C, will probably do more for you than niacinamide if hyperpigmentation, fine lines, or wrinkles are your primary concerns. But if your skin is too sensitive to handle those other options, or you’re just looking for a gentler treatment for whatever reason, niacinamide might be a helpful alternative.
Here’s how to get started with niacinamide.
Adding topical niacinamide to your skin-care routine is simple and low risk: Buy a product that contains it, and apply as directed. Some people experience some mild irritation, which will likely go away with repeated use. (If it doesn’t, or you have any questions about what kind of side effects you’re experiencing, definitely check in with your derm to make sure you don’t end up with something more serious.)
Most major studies used topical preparations containing 2 percent to 10 percent niacinamide, so look for a product in that range if you can. Those who are looking for a moisturizer with niacinamide may want to check out CeraVe PM Face Moisturizer ($16, Ulta), and Dr. Zampella also recommends the Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% serum ($6, Ulta).
There isn’t a prescription version of topical niacinamide, but your dermatologist may be able to add it to topical prescriptions in a process called “compounding”. According to Dr. Ferris, if you go through a pharmacy that specializes in compounded medications, it could be cheaper than a generic. The actual cost depends on your insurance and the compounding pharmacies in your area, so be sure to ask your dermatologist for more information.
Keep in mind that while niacinamide is unlikely to hurt you, it’s not a miracle drug—if you’re thinking niacinamide is the solution to all your problems, you may be sorely disappointed. “Not everything that’s red on your face is going to be acne or rosacea,” Dr. Ferris reminds us, “so make sure you have the right diagnosis before trying to come up with a treatment plan.” A dermatologist can help you decide if niacinamide is worth trying or if there’s another option that may be better for you and your skin.
Best Moisturizer for Acne-Prone Skin: Boscia Green Tea Oil-Free Moisturizer
“Less moisture in the air causes skin dryness,” says Dr. Nussbaum. “If your skin’s natural moisture barrier isn’t properly hydrated, it’s not as equipped to fight off acne-causing bacteria.” If you deal with constant blemishes, look for an oil-free, water-based lotion or gel that will moisture skin without clogging pores. This Boscia gel offers a soothing formula, rich with calming tea tree extract that will minimize breakout-induced redness.
Best Moisturizer for Sensitive Skin: Aveeno Ultra-Calming Moisturizer SPF 15
If your skin leans on the sensitive side, Dr. Nussbaum recommends avoiding moisturizers with “irritants such as fragrances, dyes, lanolin, parabens and formaldehyde.” This drugstore staple checks off all the boxes. Aveeno’s moisturizer is light, fast-absorbing, and is formulated with skin-calming botanicals. Bonus: It also serves as a second layer of SPF protection.
Best Moisturizer for Hyperpigmentation: Murad Essential-C Day Moisture Broad Spectrum SPF 30 PA+++
Whether your uneven skin tone is the result of a bad breakout or caused by sun damage, a vitamin C-infused moisturizer will help brighten dark spots while simultaneously hydrating skin. But don’t forget the sunscreen. “Moisturizers containing SPF will reduce the oxidative damage of the sun,” explains Dr. Nussbaum. That’s exactly what this Murad tube is made to do.
Best Moisturizer for Oily Skin: Neutrogena Hydro Boost Gel-Cream
Fun fact: Hyaluronic acid is an all-star moisturizing ingredient, because it can hold up to 1000 times its weight in water. That’s what makes Neutrogena’s gel-based, HA-packed moisturizer ideal for oily skin types. Instead of a heavy cream, this lightweight water-based product pulls in moisture without clogging already congested pores.
Best Moisturizer for Combination Skin: The Ordinary Natural Moisturizing Factors + HA
The Gemini of skin types, finding the right moisturizer for combination skin can be tough because it has to jive with both oilyness and dryness. That’s where The Ordinary’s Natural Moisturizing Factors comes in. The lightweight, non-greasy cream includes dermal lipids to protect the outer skin layer, hyaluronic acid to draw in moisture, and amino acids to hydrate. It’ll moisturize the right areas of the face without making oily spots shinier.
Best Moisturizer for Aging Skin: Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Ferulic + Retinol Anti-Aging Moisturizer
Important PSA: The sun can still cause oxidative damage in the winter, which can lead to photoaging. That said, Dr. Nussbaum suggests looking for a moisturizer that’s packed with antioxidants to counteract the harmful effects of UV/UVA rays. What else should an anti-aging moisturizer include? Retinol, along with skin-plumping hyaluronic acid and moisture-sealing ceramides. “Certain moisturizers will contain a form of retinol that increases skin cell turnover,” she says. “The shedding of the dead skin cell layers also enables increased absorption of moisturizers.” Look no futher than this Dr. Dennis Gross jar, which is formulated with both retinol and ferulic acid, a powerful antioxdant.
Best Moisturizer for Dry Skin: Dr. Jart+ Ceramidin Cream
“Ceramides are lipids that help form the skin’s natural moisture barrier,” explains Dr. Nussbaum. “In dry, cold weather, your skin’s ability to naturally produce ceramides may be compromised, leading to dry, dull skin.” If your skin is extremely dry year-round, go with a ceramide-rich moisturizer for winter, like Dr. Jart+’s cult-favorite cream. The lipids will strengthen the skin barrier so less moisture gets out.
Best Moisturizer for All Skin Types: Olay Regenerist Micro-Sculpting Cream Face Moisturizer
If your skin doesn’t fall into one particular category, Dr. Nussbaum is a fan of Olay’s Sculpting Cream because it’s a rich, nourishing cream that works well for balanced skin, but also targets dryness and aging. “It contains niacinamide (vitamin B3), a hard-working ingredient which regenerates surface cells and strengthens skin’s natural moisture barrier,” she says. “It also contains amino-peptides, known to boost collagen production and improve skin’s elasticity, smoothness and firmness as well as hyaluronic acid & glycerin.”
The main focus of your morning routine should be hydration, plus setting the stage for the day with protection against whatever elements your skin is going to come into contact with.
Although most of the world is still abiding by shelter-in-place or social distance mandates, our day-to-day routines right now still impact our skin, from wearing a face mask regularly to the endless Zoom work calls you’re doing all day long. And if you’re anything like me, not adhering to proper posture and resting your chin on your hands instead.
“You may believe that most of the skin damage you get is caused by sun exposure and outdoor pollution, but the World Health Organization has now determined that indoor pollution is worse than outdoor pollution,” says Dr. Loretta Ciraldo, a board-certified dermatologist and founder of Dr. Loretta skincare. “Consider what you’re doing during the day and what elements you may be facing when you’re applying your skincare products in the morning.”
Step 1: Cleanser
Using a gentle cleanser in the morning is important for any skin type, concern, etc.
“Cleansers for sensitive skin in particular should have a creamy or milky formulation,” says Dr. Jennifer MacGregor, dermatologist at Union Square Laser Dermatology, who also notes that any topical treatments can have a bit of a drying effect at first. “I love Cetaphil milky cleanser because it gently cleanses without drying or stripping your skin’s moisture barrier.”
Step 2: Any topical treatment
“Differin is the only topical that can be applied day or night,” says MacGregor, but it should always be applied to skin directly after cleansing and patting — never rubbing — skin dry.
“Use only a pea-sized amount of Differin gel around your entire face,” recommends MacGregor. Then gently massage until the gel is absorbed.
Step 3: Serum
A hydrating serum is a great option for morning to ensure the skin is moisturized. MacGregor’s favorite, Alto Defense Serum by Skin Better, offers a generous mix of antioxidants, fatty acids, and ceramides. These powerhouse ingredients build a saran wrap-like cover over the skin, which protect from dryness and free radicals, plus it soothes inflammation and the appearance of skin redness. Remember: Hydrated skin is happy skin.
Step 4: Eye Gel
An eye gel can de-puff smooth out the under-eye area, which will make makeup application easier. Tap Biossance Squalane + Peptide Eye Gel around the upper and lower eye area with your fingertip to calm and hydrate skin.
Step 5: Moisturizer
Once your serum and eye gel are fully absorbed, follow up with a lightweight, but seriously hydrating moisturizer to further prime and prep your skin for the day ahead.
When it comes to the best ingredients in a moisturizer to satisfy thirsty skin, “look for barrier repair ingredients, like fatty acids and squalane,” recommends Alexiades, as a healthy skin barrier is essential to smooth, hydrated skin. Omega-3 and omega-6 are the most popular fatty acids. Although common plant, nut and seed oils, like sunflower, safflower, flaxseed, and rose-hip seed, also have high concentrations of omega acids, so keep an eye out for those ingredients, too.
But before you settle on a morning moisturizer, evaluate whether stress is also affecting your skin’s oil production, causing your face to look extra shiny by lunchtime.
“If moisturizers with those ingredients are too creamy and your skin is oily, consider Theraplex HydroLotion or CeraVe moisturizing cream,” says MacGregor, adding that these formulations were specifically designed for sensitive skin.
Step 6: SPF
“You should finish off with SPF,” says Dr. Ellen Marmur, dermatologist and founder of Marmur Metamorphosis Skincare. “No matter the time of the year, this ingredient should always be a factor in your routine in order to fully protect your skin from the sun’s UV rays.”
Active topicals (like Differin) that work to increase cell turnover tend to also increase photosensitivity, says Alexiades, making daily sunscreen applications an absolute must.
Marmur suggests using a mineral sunscreen with zinc or titanium dioxide, which sits on top of skin instead of getting absorbed. EltaMD’s UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46 is a sunscreen beloved by beauty editors and dermatologists alike.
Nighttime Skincare Routine
At night, Dr. Marmur says that your primary concern should be repairing and rejuvenating your skin.
“Your skin needs to be nourished morning and night,” adds Dr. Ciraldo. “But nighttime is when you should address your personal skin issues.”
Plus, let’s be realistic: Who has time to do a face mask when they’re getting ready in the morning?
Step 1: Cleanser
You’ve probably heard how important it is not to sleep with your makeup on, so unsurprisingly, cleansing your face should be the first step in your nighttime routine, but which cleanser you reach for depends on your skin type.
“People with normal to dry skin should choose a hydrating cleanser,” says Alexiades. “If you strip the skin with an alpha hydroxy acid cleanser, it may be too dry and the Differin gel will further peel the skin and result in itchiness and flaking.”
If you have oily skin, “a sulfur or acid cleanser may be okay to prep the skin before your topicals,” she explains, while noting that with serious breakouts, a medicated cleanser may be prescribed and should only be used at night.
Step 2: Any topical treatment
Just like in the morning, “a pea-sized amount of (in this case) Differin should be first on cleansed skin and then layer creamier formulations on top,” says MacGregor. Be sure to apply Differin all over your face rather than as a spot-treatment to defend against future breakouts.
Step 3: Serum
When treating acne with a topical product, there is truth to the “too much of a good thing” saying. Dr. Alexiades says to definitely avoid using retinol, Retin A, or other retinoids, and think twice before adding chemical exfoliants or peel pads to the mix. “If you use a benzoyl peroxide or acid, beware that your skin may get too raw, dry and inflamed,” she warns.
An ultra-nourishing and replenishing serum is your best — and safest — move for a bedtime serum after a topical. Go with a formula that has soothing, hydrating ingredients to bind moisture to skin without clogging pores, like SkinCeuticals Hydrating B5 Gel.
Step 4: Eye Serum
“Always use an eye repair serum, since this is one of the more sensitive parts of the face and ages faster than other areas,” says Dr. Marmur. “People may habitually itch and rub their eyes during the day due to dryness or just pure stress.”Elemis’ Absolute Eye Serum is designed to reduce dark circles and puffiness while keeping the entire area soft and smooth.
Step 5: Moisturizer
Nighttime is when you can use a moisturizer that’s richer than what you would typically use in the morning. “This will keep your skin hydrated throughout the nighttime and ready for the morning,” explains Dr. Marmur. “Look for a moisturizer that’s oil-free in order to not add to the amount of natural oil your body produces when you’re sleeping.”
Ah yes, it’s winter again. Forget your bones, you can probably feel it on your face, now home to dry, flaky skin. Seeking solace in a favourite face oil or moisturiser might seem like the only answer (and they can help, more on this later), but there are a number of other things to be aware of when it comes to your winter skincare regime. If you refuse to let your skin suffer as a result of plummeting temperatures this year, read British Vogue’s seven rules of winter skincare – they’re simpler than you might think.
Keep your skin barrier strong
“As we move into winter, our skin is exposed to variations in temperature and humidity, as well as wind and rain, which can place stress on our delicate skin barrier. It’s the perfect time to rethink your skincare routine to battle environmental stresses,” explains consultant dermatologist Dr Thivi Maruthappu. The key indicators of skin barrier disruption are tight, irritated, itchy, and dehydrated skin.
Even in the months when the weather is less temperamental, our skin barrier is subject to disruption – excess use of stripping skincare products and external aggressors like pollution can all affect it – but it’s especially important it’s looked after in winter. Look for skincare that contains ingredients like niacinamide (try Paula’s Choice Clinical 20% Niacinamide Treatment), which “increases ceramide production in the skin, is anti-inflammatory and fights uneven pigmentation”, explains Maruthappu, as well as ceramides themselves (check out CeraVe), lipids, and richer creams that lock moisture in.
Medik8’s new H.E.O. Mask is exactly the tonic for winter skin, as it contains humectants, emollients and occlusives in optimal ratios, to first deeply hydrate, and then lock in moisture. Use it once or twice a week to tackle dehydration and dryness. Maruthappu is also keen to point out that upping your intake of healthy fats helps moisturise the skin from within – look to her Instagram page for sources of barrier-boosting fatty acids. “Look after your skin barrier and it looks after you,” she says simply.
Nail your nighttime regime
It’s at night that our skin goes into repair and restore mode, so it’s key to get your evening skincare routine in check. Facialist Debbie Thomas recommends cleansing with a non-drying acid cleanser – “look for polyhydroxy acids (PHAs), as they are the kinder cousins of alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs)” – like Exuviance’s Gentle Cream Cleanser, and then following up with an active product. “I alternate retinol with peptides, which are the second most proven ingredient when it comes to skin health and regeneration after retinol, and then apply a ceramide-rich hydrator to seal in the actives and protect the skin,” she explains.
Thomas is quick to warn about retinol, however, and says that though you might assume winter is the best time to start using it, the skin is already prone to becoming irritated and dry in the cooler months, so it’s important to tread carefully. “It can take several weeks for the skin to acclimatise to retinol use – it’s common to experience some dryness and redness – so if your skin already goes this way in winter, the combination of both could be unbearable and difficult to deal with. My main advice is not to overdo it.” Those already using retinol can continue as normal.
Dial down the exfoliation
When flakes strike, sometimes it feels like the only route is to exfoliate them away. Actually, this can further impair the skin barrier, leading to more skin issues. “I tend to advise reducing the frequency of exfoliation to once or twice a week,” says Maruthappu, “And avoid combining physical exfoliants, like grainy scrubs, with chemical exfoliants, like alpha or beta hydroxy acids, as this can lead to redness and irritation – particularly if you are also using a retinoid product.” The secret? Don’t overdo it with your skincare – less (and gentle) is more.
Load up on antioxidants
One of the biggest challenges for our skin in winter is the constant changes in temperature – moving from the heat to the cold outside wreaks havoc on our skin. Spending time inside with less fresh air also has its issues: “Recycled air has more toxins in it and central heating removes water from the atmosphere, which in turn removes water from the skin,” explains Thomas, who is a big fan of keeping an air purifier in the room you spend the most time in to promote healthy skin.
Antioxidant-rich skincare is also important, as it helps defend the skin against micro-toxins caused by recycled air, as well as those from pollution, UV and blue light damage, all of which are very much real, even in the depths of winter. Look for ingredients like vitamin C, vitamin E, resveratrol and niacinamide.
Avoid oils if you’re oily
Don’t assume that the cold months mean you have to switch your favourite moisturisers for face oils. While drier skin types can benefit, oilier ones should steer clear. “I generally recommend face oils for those with dry skin, as oils tend to sit on the skin surface and prevent further moisture loss,” says Maruthappu. “But the added benefit of a separate moisturiser can help to moisturise deeper layers of the skin. I tend to advise against oils in oily or acne-prone skin, as this can trigger breakouts by causing further congestion.” Those with oily skins should instead stick to non-comedogenic formulas that contain ingredients like dimethicone, ceramides or hyaluronic acid.
Heavier isn’t necessarily better
Just as with oils, thick and heavy formulas aren’t always best for the skin – although they do have their place in some skincare regimes. Thick, nourishing balm cleansers are a wonderful way to treat skin to some pamper time – try Chantecaille Rose De Mai Cleansing Balm – but they won’t necessarily hydrate skin. “If you apply a lot of heavy products to the surface, your skin’s sensors read this as not requiring true hydration, so they won’t absorb the required water into the deeper layers of skin,” explains Thomas. “After a time, the deeper layers become lazy and unhealthy, which eventually means more dryness and more irritation on the upper layers.” To remedy this, look to lots of hydrating ingredients like hyaluronic acid (a popular one is Oskia’s Isotonic Hydra Serum), and squalane, and simply seal them in with good hydrators, as mentioned earlier. “The best way to hydrate your skin is from within, so drink lots of water too,” advises Thomas.
Vitamin D supplements are a must
If you’re already an avid British Vogue reader, you’ll know the importance of taking a vitamin D supplement in winter; most in the UK aren’t getting enough year-round, let alone in the colder months when the days are shorter and darker. It’s important for our skin, too. “Vitamin D is key for the skin’s defences,” says Thomas. “Inflammatory conditions, like acne, rosacea, and eczema often flare up when we are deficient in it.” On top of that, a lack of it can negatively affect our mood, causing further hormonal imbalances, and meaning our skin is infinitely more likely to misbehave.
It’s a tale as old as time for anyone with sensitive skin: One of your favorite brands has come out with a new moisturizer. The ingredient list? Intriguing and full of potential benefits for your skin. The packaging? Ridiculously cute and would look great alongside the products in your medicine cabinet. So, you add it to your cart.
For sensitive skin, finding staple products for your routine that are effective, fun to use, and non-irritating can feel like an impossible feat — especially since sensitivity manifests itself in a few different ways and there are multiple causes of it.
Dr. Morgan Rabach, board-certified dermatologist and co-founder of LM Medical in New York City, says “skin that reacts strongly to most stimui, including environmental and temperature, products, skin with a decreased barrier function, and allergic skin (like ezcema which also has a decreased barrier function),” can all be categorized as sensitive skin.
To top it off, not all skincare products are created equal. But figuring out what type of sensitive skin you have is the first step to finding a moisturizer that won’t result in instant irritation such as redness, burning, itching, which can be followed by peeling or a breakout.
“Look for a moisturizer with few ingredients and with active ones including ceramides, which help seal the outer layers of skin, and hyaluronic acid,” says Dr. Rabach.
She also recommends avoiding formulas with fragrance, preservatives, and dyes, which are all common triggers for sensitive skin. Isopropyl alcohol, exfoliants like AHA acids, retinol, and added sunscreens (especially chemical ones) can also cause irritation.
With so many potentially irritating ingredients to look out for, finding a moisturizer that isn’t going to piss off sensitive skin can feel like a full-time job.
Here are 8 super hydrating moisturizers that are gentle enough for sensitive, reactive skin.
This wildly affordable, gentle moisturizer is safe for reactive skin, and anyone who prefers a lotion over a cream. With zero fragrance, oil, and alcohol in the formula, there’s no need to stress over potential irritation or greasy residue.
Don’t underestimate this little tube, it packs a serious dose of moisture. In addition to leaving the surface of the skin soft and smooth, Kiehl’s hypoallergenic, fragrance, and alcohol-free moisturizer repairs the skin barrier to prevent future dryness and helps reduce visible redness and fine lines.
With an allergy-tested formula, Obagi’s Hydrate Facial Moisturizer is even less likely to cause irritation. Powered by hydromanil, a super nourishing plant-based ingredient, this moisturizer retains hydration while simultaneously improving the appearance of hyperpigmentation and wrinkles.
For oily, acne-prone skin that also leans on the sensitive side, opt for a lightweight oil-free moisturizer that won’t further clog your pores or leave a greasy film on your face. Shani Darden’s fragrance-free, oil-free moisturizer has a silky serum-like texture that quickly absorbs into skin with a shine-free finish.
While retinol is commonly touted as *the* holy grail of anti-aging ingredients, the skin-renewing ingredient can be too harsh for reactive skin, and those with conditions such as eczema and psoriasis. That’s where peptides, the hero ingredient of Drunk Elephant’s rich moisturizer, enter the picture. Peptides are the building blocks of proteins, such as collagen and keratin, which help keep skin firm and smooth. Plant-derived antioxidants and nutrients round out the formula to improve skin texture and tone.
Don’t want to spend a ton of money on a moisturizer that won’t set off your sensitive skin? Look no further than CeraVe’s tried-and-true cream, available at any drugstore. Formulated with hydrating hyaluronic acid and skin barrier-strengthening ceramides, it seals in moisture, which is key for preventing reactions and flareups of skin conditions such as eczema. No wonder this moisturizer has earned the National Eczema association’s seal of approval.
Most heavy-duty moisturizers are thick, rich creams that never fully absorb into skin — meet the exception. Known the “melting moisturizer,” this EltaMD formula soaks into skin and maintains hydration for up to 12 hours, plus it relieves redness and irritation. Consider it a foolproof pick for sensitive skin types that also suffer from excessive dryness.
On top of hydrating skin with a mix of nourishing and soothing colloidal oatmeal, avocado oil, and shea butter, this lightweight moisturizer leaves skin smooth like a primer, which makes it ideal for wearing under makeup.