How Do Facial Moisturizers Work?

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Facial moisturizers may seem like a little "miracle in a jar" when considering they can prevent and soften dry skin, protect sensitive skin and even soften fine lines. Moisturizers, as the name implies, can help lock in moisture, which may give your complexion a more pleasing and youthful appearance.


The term "moisturizer" is not a scientific description but rather a word coined by advertisers to suggest such products can actually increase the skin's water content, notes In reality, moisturizers help hold water in the outer layer of the skin, known as the epidermis, and may slow the depletion of existing moisture, thereby preserving hydration.


Humectants, emollients and occlusives typically contained in moisturizers work together to keep skin hydrated. Some facial moisturizers contain proteins like collagen and elastin, which are often purported to promote plump, youthful-looking skin, though it's unclear whether they actually improve hydration. Occlusives such as petroleum jelly trap water in the skin, and humectants like glycerin draw water from deep within tissues up to the surface of the skin, notes the University of Maryland Medical Center. Emollients cover the outer layer of the skin with a protective film to diminish water loss.


The best facial moisturizer for you will depend on your age and whether you have dry, oily, normal or combination skin. The positive effects of anti-aging facial moisturizers won't necessarily be evident overnight. Anti-aging creams can take six weeks to three months to improve the appearance of skin. Overapplying moisturizers in attempt to expedite its effects may only leave you with blotchy skin and clogged pores, cautions, a website published by the American Academy of Dermatology. Burning and stinging are not signs that anti-aging creams are working but only that they are irritating your skin. Using more than one anti-aging moisturizer at a time may also cause irritation.


Facial moisturizers may not fulfill their promises and don't necessarily contain the ingredients listed on the jar or tube. The Food and Drug Administration considers moisturizers to be cosmetics, so they may not be thoroughly tested for safety and efficacy. Talk to your doctor or dermatologist if a facial moisturizer fails to improve the condition of your skin or if a particular product bothers your skin.