Cleanse, tone, moisturise—the classic skincare ritual is embedded in our brains, even if we don’t always follow it precisely.

Moisturisers have long been a part of our daily skincare routines—even Cleopatra was said to bathe in milk for its moisturising qualities.

Moisturisers have been shown to increase the water content in the stratum corneum, the skin’s outermost layer. Said to relieve dryness and fight signs of ageing, but how much do we really know about moisturising, and does moisturising actually work?

What does moisturiser consist of?
When asking the question, does moisturising work? What we should first understand is what moisturisers consist of. Cosmetic moisturisers designed to encourage skin hydration will be made from water and humectants, blended with oils to form a liquid or cream.
Many moisturisers can be harmful, so you should always invest in high-quality skincare.

History of moisturiser
The use of moisturiser-like solutions can be traced to the Ancient Sumerians and the Ancient Egyptians in 3000 B.C. Of course, everything was made of natural ingredients such as animal fats, oils and honey.
Skincare and skin protection were vital for civilisations like the Ancient Egyptians, who lived in harsh climates, exposed to extreme heat and wind. They knew the importance of taking care of their skin. Over time, different cultures added herbs and fragrances from flowers and fruits to the lotions and skin care salves to make them smell pleasant and add tinting abilities.
Lotions and skin care creams were homemade and stored in containers with a much shorter shelf-life. It wasn’t until the late 19th century that the invention of modern commercially manufactured lotions contained preservatives to help them last longer. Then throughout the early 1900s, big brand names like Estée Lauder and Clinique emerged, and skin care became much more accessible.
While we have come a long way from smearing mashed-up bread and milk all over our faces, one thing remains. Our skin plays such a vital role in our overall health that we should continue to make it a priority.

When and how to moisturise?
Generally, you should apply moisturiser after cleansing, which can be done twice daily, morning and night. Cleansing and exfoliating your face before moisturising will help to remove any dead skin cells, allowing the product to penetrate. Plus, moisturising immediately after bathing or showering will help to seal in moisture.
You should then apply a pea-sized amount of moisturiser using your fingertips and lightly rub using circular motions until it’s all absorbed.

Why it matters?
When the skin doesn’t retain adequate moisture, it can become dry or rough. This can occur because of environmental influences, frequent cleansing or bathing, or medical conditions.
Applying moisturiser to your face will create a barrier between the skin and climate, protecting the skin from irritation. Moisturiser also helps to rehydrate and enhance the skin's water retention to help reduce the development of dryness or revive your skin from dryness. The repeated application increases the water content and normalises cell turnover.
There are many products specifically designed to rehydrate the outer layer of the skin, seal in moisture and protect against external factors.

How can moisturisers make our skin look visibly better?
Moisturising alone can improve the appearance of your skin. It temporarily plumps the skin, making lines and wrinkles less visible. Moisturisers are lotions, creams, gels and serums made of water, oils and other ingredients, such as proteins, waxes, glycerin, lactate and urea.
Targeted moisturisers often contain active ingredients that offer additional benefits. These added ingredients are intended to improve skin tone, texture, fine lines and wrinkles. The effectiveness of these products depends in part on your skin type and the active ingredient or ingredients.

What to look for in a moisturiser?
Products such as lotions, creams, serums, and ointments are the primary method of adding moisture and treating dry skin. For optimum results, look for moisturisers listing hyaluronic acid, glycerin, ceramides, vitamins, SPF or non-comedogenic on the label.
Non-comedogenic moisturisers won’t clog pores, while products containing SPF will provide better sun protection. For acne-prone skin, choose formulated peptides and broad-spectrum UVA and UVB protection.

Serums, body oils and moisturiser: What is the difference?
Serums and moisturisers are both carefully formulated to contain ingredients to target specific issues. Serums often have a light, fluid texture and can be applied under moisturiser or used independently. Serums can contain active ingredients to target specific issues, such as wrinkles or dark spots.
Both body oil and lotion are great for helping you get smoother, soft skin. But, when it comes to choosing an oil or lotion, you might wonder which product will work best for your skin. Knowing the difference between body oil and lotion can make it easier to give your skin what it needs.
Body oil is made up primarily of—you guessed it—oil. Commonly an ingredient in moisturisers, oil is occlusive and creates a physical barrier on your skin’s surface to prevent water loss. Oil also functions as an emollient. If you don’t have enough water in the top layer of your skin, it can crack and flake, which leaves spaces between skin cells. Applying an emollient fills those spaces with fatty substances called lipids for a softening and soothing effect.
Moisturisers are intended to condition and hydrate the outer layers of skin, leaving it soft and smooth. Largely made up of emollient ingredients, many lotions contain occlusive ingredients, like oil, to help you get the best of both worlds. Moisturiser has a lightweight formula and typically spreads easier. It also penetrates the skin more effectively than oil, offering immediate effects upon application.

As the industry learns more about cell ageing, this knowledge is applied to products designed to minimise the consequences. Whilst we may not be able to literally turn back the clock, we can minimise the impact of normal cellular ageing and make the best of what you have.
Think back to the days when we did not know about the damage from UV rays. We can now prevent this by taking care not to extend our time in the sun and using appropriate sun protection products. Certain types of moisturisers and foundations contain protection from UV rays to support anti-ageing. Purchasing a moisturiser or foundation containing SPF is a lifetime investment in anti-ageing. Turn to everyday products with sun protection for the acute cover you need when sun exposure cannot be avoided.
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